The lomg, long bridge to Hong Kong

Authorities overseeing construction of the world’s longest sea bridge are working to allay concerns that parts of the massive structure are starting to drift away in the sea.

Construction of the 55km bridge connecting Hong Kong, Macau, and mainland China involves the building of artificial islands, new roads, and an undersea tunnel. Photos taken earlier this month showed a jagged shoreline around one of the islands as wave-absorbing concrete blocks appeared separated from the protective barrier and partly submerged.

The photos have prompted concern about the structural integrity of the island, built by a Chinese contractor, which connects the bridge to an undersea tunnel. Hong Kong’s highway department sent its director of highways to the mainland city of Zhuhai to meet project officials, and has said it would monitor the works of the bridge to ensure “quality meets the relevant requirements”.

In response to the release of the photos, officials at the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge Authority in Zhuhai said the placement of the blocks was by design.

“We have our ways to do it, and you [Hong Kong] may have your ways to do it. You seem to presume that part of the structure had sunk … but it has been designed as such. We do not think there is any problem with that. There are rules and standards for us to follow,” said the authority’s deputy director Yu Lie, according to the Hong Kong-based paper, the South China Morning Post.

Previously the bridge authority said the blocks, known as “dolosse” were purposely arranged in a “random manner” to alleviate pressure on the undersea tunnel.

The project, now in construction for nine years, has been dogged by delays, lawsuits and budget overruns. The bridge, originally slated to open in 2016, is expected to be operational sometime this year, according to Hong Kong officials.

map (*)

Supporters of the project say that by connecting the three cities of Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai to China’s Pearl River Delta region, the area will emerge as a major economic hub. Critics say the bridge is just another way for China to tighten its hold over Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous special administrative region that has chafed under Beijing’s authority.

The bridge authority also released photos of the island before and after the deadly Typhoon Hato last August to show that the blocks’ protective functions had worked.

Hong Kong’s top official has also tried to assuage concerns. Chief executive Carrie Lam said on Friday that the “stability of construction works is a scientifically proven thing.”

“I hope that just because some individuals have taken photos or made some comments, that everyone will not jump in and doubt the project’s design,” she said.

A manmade island which is part of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, where wave-absorbing concrete blocks appear to be separated from the protective barrier.

An artistic rendering of part of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge.

The Guardian, Last modified on Tue 10 Apr 2018 10.18 BST
Fears parts of world's longest sea bridge are floating away

Construction of 55km bridge connecting Hong Kong, Macau and China involves building artificial islands, parts of which seem to be coming unstuck
By Lily Kuo

(*) map
Hong Kong ‑Zhuhai ‑Macao Bridge - Macao Magazine

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Sugar tax

THE UK is all set to bring its sugar tax into force on April 6. Fizzy drinks with their high sugar content and sweetened drinks will cost more with a levy of 18p or 24p per litre imposed based on sugar content.

Fizzy drink makers have reformulated their recipes and reduced the sugar content in their products.

The British government says this move will help combat obesity.

I have been following the sugar story from its early days and one thing that struck me was how chef Jamie Oliver pushed for this cause.

The "Naked Chef" was ahead of his game when the government was still mulling over the tax.

He had imposed a 10p levy on sugary drinks served in his restaurants since June 2015.

The Daily Mail reported that the move was successful as sales of fizzy drinks including his home-made lemonade declined by 11% in 12 weeks.

In our own shores, the removal of the sugar subsidy was supposed to reduce consumption. After all, diabetes and obesity are common health problems in Malaysia. Media reports say consumption has not decreased.

There had also been talk of a sugar tax. If it does happen, it would be interesting to see how this comes into place and what would be the food and drinks taxed.

This brings me back to discussions with a nutritionist on high sugar intake.

The nutritionist said though sugary drinks do contribute to superfluous calories and obesity, it is not the primary cause of ill health.

"Sugary drinks don't stand on their own. It is an added calorie that you don't need. If the diet is high in fat, that too can be a driving force."

She said controlling sugar intake alone is pointless, if one is indulging in fatty food. She said the rich content of carbohydrates and shortage of protein is also an issue when asked if a sugar tax will be relevant in the Malaysian context?

She did not rule out the relevance of such taxes but said the success rate cannot be ascertained.

While I don't have a sweet tooth, my weaknesses are Nescafe tarik and Milo ice, which are made with condensed milk.

In many outlets kurang manis (less sweet) is far from what I understand it to be. It does not mean less condensed milk; instead they dilute three tablespoons of condensed milk with boiling water to reduce the consistency and give it a "less sweetened" taste.

This was alarming. Kurang manis or not, we still get at least two tablespoons of condensed milk if not more in a cup of coffee or tea or any other drink.

I have had to explain that kurang manis is half a tablespoon of condensed milk, but it is often ignored at outlets.

I recently switched to Nescafe O' with less sugar, and Milo kosong. This may not be much of a shift but it is a step forward for me.

The SunDaily, Posted on 4 April 2018 - 08:07am
Kurang manis, please
By V. Ragananthini

What is the sugar tax?

The sugar tax is a levy put on drinks companies to crack down on high sugar levels in soft drinks.

Companies are now taxed according to the sugar content of their wares.

One is for drinks with a total sugar content of more than 5g per 100ml, while a second, higher levy is imposed on drinks with 8g per 100ml or more.

When did the price of fizzy drinks increase?

The sugar tax came into force on April 6, 2018, after hopes of a U-turn by PM Theresa May were dashed.

The tax is estimated to raise around £520 million which will be used to fund sports in primary schools.

How much will fizzy drinks increase by?

A standard can of regular coke has gone up by around 8p for a 70p can.

A 1.75ml bottle of coke has increased from roughly £1.25 to £1.49.

Scots favourite Irn Bru (10.5g per 100ml) will face a similar increase to Coke along with Red Bull (11g per 100ml), Dr Pepper (10.3g per 100ml) and Old Jamaica Ginger Beer (15.2g per 100ml).

Iru Bru announced in January 2018 that they will be producing a new sweetener-laced version of the fizzy favourite, which will see sugar content slashed by 54 per cent.

Pure fruit juice has been exempted from the tax but fans of a refreshing G&T could feel the pinch as Fever Tree Indian tonic water falls into the highest band with 8g per 100ml.

Drinks with a high milk content are exempt due to their calcium content.

Sugar-free soft drinks such as Diet Coke and Coca-Cola Zero are not subject to the tax.

Will the sugar tax work?

Other countries have introduced similar measures and have seen some success in reducing the drinking of fizzy drinks.

Mexico introduced a 10 per cent tax on sugary drinks in 2014 and saw a 12 per cent reduction over the first year.

Hungary brought in a tax on the drinks companies and saw a 40 per cent decrease in the amount of sugar in the products.

Brits have joined some of our European neighbours with the move with similar measures in place on drinks in France and Finland and the Norwegians chocolate tax.

But the tax has been met with furious resistance from some quarters with opponents saying it will hit the poor hardest and actually misses out some of the most sugary drinks.

Are chocolate and sweets included in the sugar tax?

Health campaigners have said the fizzy drinks tax should be extended to cover all chocolate, sweets and other confectionery containing the highest levels of sugar.

Chocolate and sweets are already included in Public Health England’s programme aiming for a 20 per cent reduction in sugar by 2020.

But Action on Sugar is urging a mandatory levy set at a minimum of 20 per cent on all confectionery products that contain high levels of sugar.

That includes all those those sold in coffee shops and restaurants.

The six-point manifesto is designed to help tackle the obesity and type 2 diabetes crisis, campaigners said.

The Sun, Updated: 6th June 2018, 10:52 pm
Sugar tax 2018 explained – what is it, when did it start, how much is the new fizzy drinks tax and is Coke more expensive?

By Guy Birchall, Ellie Cambridge, Lauren Fruen and Danny De Vaal

An independent panel advising the World Health Organization has stopped short of recommending taxing sugary drinks to reduce obesity after failing to reach a consensus.

Some countries, such as Mexico, France and Britain, are already taxing sugary drinks and the WHO made a non-binding recommendation in October 2016 that governments should impose a 20% tax. While the industry called this “discriminatory” and “unproven”, activists had hoped for a strong endorsement from the panel, which includes heads of states and health ministers.

The panel on Friday called on governments to increase efforts to fight an epidemic of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in low- and middle-income countries, which account for 71% of all deaths globally, or 41 million deaths a year.

WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, established the WHO Independent High-Level Commission on Noncommunicable Diseases last year to provide advice on how to reduce premature deaths from such diseases by a third by 2030.

To achieve progress, “governments should work with: food and non-alcoholic beverage companies in areas such as reformulation, labelling, and regulating marketing”, said its report, which goes to a United Nations summit in September.

The commission made six recommendations in its report, including for government heads to take responsibility for disease reduction and to increase regulation. It did not mention taxes specifically. The panel said its 21 members represented “rich and diverse views”, but that some views were “conflicting”.

As a result, it said recommendations around sugar taxes and the accountability of the private sector could not be reflected in the report, despite broad support from many commissioners.

A WHO spokesman insisted it still supported taxing sugary drinks. He said: “This is a report by an independent commission, not WHO. WHO stands by its evidence-based guidance, including on the benefits of using fiscal policies to reduce exposure to harmful products, including sugar-sweetened beverages.”

Ghebreyesus added: “WHO’s position cannot change because of this report. What WHO said some years ago holds, because consumption of sugar is associated with obesity and at the same time, taxing sugar was shown to reduce consumption in many countries.”

NCDs are what health experts call illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, heart conditions, obesity and breathing problems that are not caused by infections and cannot be passed from person to person. Between them, they kill 41 million people a year worldwide.

The view of the commission, set up to advise the WHO on how to tackle some of the world’s most preventable killer diseases, is at odds with the WHO’s previously strong support for sugar taxes.

In 2016, it enthusiastically endorsed sugary drink taxes as a way of driving down sales, reducing their consumption and saving lives. Countries should consider introducing a tax on sugary drinks and set it at 20%, the WHO said.

“If governments tax products like sugary drinks, they can reduce suffering and save lives. They can also cut healthcare costs and increase revenues to increase in health services,” Dr Douglas Bettcher, the director of the WHO’s department for the prevention of non-communicable diseases, said at the time.

But the commission’s report, released on Friday in Geneva and called Time to Deliver, explains that it does not include a sugar tax among its recommendations to reduce NCDs – aimed at governments and heads of state worldwide – because its members disagreed about it.

In a message from its five co-chairs they admit: “There was broad agreement in most areas, but some views were conflicting and could not be resolved. As such, some recommendations, such as reducing sugar consumption through effective taxation on sugar-sweetened beverages and the accountability of the private sector, could not be reflected in this report, despite broad support from many [of the 21] commissioners.”

Anti-obesity campaigners reacted with dismay to the WHO commission’s stance.

Graham MacGregor, the chair of Action on Sugar, a London-based health charity, who is also a professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London, said: “While the report makes a recommendation for governments to employ their regulatory and legislative powers to protect their populations, especially among children, the WHO has completely ignored any mention of a sugar tax on sugary drinks, despite a call by them for a 20% tax in 2016, which is completely scandalous and a very worrying U-turn.

“They should also be recommending a 20% tax on all sweet and chocolate confectionery, the highest contributors of sugar in the British diet, and not pander to corporate lobbying.”

The Children’s Food Campaign, a London-based alliance of health, education and children’s organisations, called the failure to support a sugary drinks tax as “a startling omission”.

It said: “There is a startling omission in relation to the turbo-charging power of fiscal measures such as the UK’s soft drinks levy or sugary drinks tax which, according to Public Health England, has already achieved an 11% reduction in sugar levels in that category since 2015, compared to a pitiful 2% average reduction in sugar through the government’s voluntary targets for the private sector.

“This report appears to be rather sugar-shy when it comes to the bold recommendations the WHO director-general has called for.”

It dismissed the commission’s recommendations as “vague and lacklustre” and out of step with the growing crackdown worldwide on sugar and junk food.

In an evidence review it published in 2014 the WHO had also specifically endorsed a tax on sugary drinks, given their association with avoidable mortality from diabetes, stroke, heart attacks and cancer. “Particular attention has been paid to taxing sugar-sweetened beverages as evidence suggests that such taxes could substantially reduce consumption and may contribute to a reduction in overweight and obesity”, it concluded.

The commission’s five co-chairs were the presidents of Finland, Sri Lanka and Uruguay, a Russian health minister and former minister in Pakistan’s government. The 21 commissioners included presidents, ex-presidents, current and former government ministers, academics, doctors and health experts from across the globe. They included Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York in 2001-13, who is now the WHO’s global ambassador for NCDs and injuries.

Countries should consider introducing a tax on sugary drinks and set it at 20%, the WHO said in 2016.

The Guardian, Last modified on Fri 1 Jun 2018 22.00 BST
Sugary drinks: panel advising WHO stops short of recommending tax

WHO says it still supports tax but activists had hoped panel would give strong endorsement
By Denis Campbell, Health policy editor and agencies

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The Shinkansen experience

MENTION "bullet train" and the word Shinkansen comes to mind. The phrase "bullet train" was born out of the high-speed and ergonomic shape of the train translated from the Japanese description.

The idea captured the world's imagination in 1964 when Japan launched the world's fastest train on the Tokyo to Shin-Osaka (515km) line after heated political debates and resignations leading to a "new trunk line" (which is what Shinkansen means) specifically named New Tokaido Line. It remains the world's busiest route and has not stopped expanding. In 2015, a new train set (the 7 series) set a record as the fastest in the world.

While the US was busy gunning for the Moon in the 60s, Japan had its feet firmly on the ground providing mobility solutions for millions of people. If you think that this is just another technological marvel that Japan is noted for, think again. It has grown into a culture that has far surpassed the technology.

Historically similar to the invention of the steam engine in Europe, it too brought many ruptures notably in economic terms that helped Japan surge forward as a community with bold innovative mindsets. After all the pioneering "architects" were aircraft designers during WWII. The stark difference is that the speedy train is cleaner in all counts. So much so others are imitating and competing while Japan continues to lead. And other technologically less capable nations also desire it for some reason.

While all these are commendable developments, it is the easier part. More challenging is to emulate the experiences that make the Shinkansen a cut above the rest. It is not just about being top-speed and efficiently so, but more to be culturally connected and relevant to all things Japanese that others, especially the non-Japanese, would find hard to match. For another, one would be hard pressed to cite an example where a transport organisation apologises to its commuters because the train left the station 20 seconds early. This can only happen in Japan as it did lately which at once reaffirmed the "on time" and "meet need" promises differentiating it from other railway experiences worldwide.

Such is the standard accultured by the Japanese where technology and cultural values are fused and practised side by side seamlessly. Travelling on the Shinkansen makes this apparent right from the moment passengers queue. The etiquette and impeccable service make the journey a restful and secure one. More so in the silent coach that tolerates no unwarranted sound even as faint as flipping a page. What more whispering into a phone because it invades the privacy of others. This is frowned upon on all Japanese public transport.

All these acts are difficult to follow if not culturally embedded as habits the way the Japanese have done it. Otherwise it becomes a farce that misses the features central to the Shinkansen experience reducing it to a frivolous technological ride sans the human touch. Along with it comes several disturbing acts as seen during the MRT launch. We forgot that technology is for people and put technology before people.

This should be noted for the southbound HSR project. Can the "fusion" be achieved as the Japanese have impressively shown? Or are we going to see other unacceptable behaviour like beating the queue. In short, have all these been thought through in formulating the type of training or is it just about technical transfer. How about the socio-cultural aspects which can be undertaken by local institutions working with the technical vendors.

Japan has a wealth of experience based on the Look East Policy that took off in the late 1970s, and kept fresh through trust and relationships built over more than 30 years. Under the policy, one cannot help recognise how much the exchanges benefited the youth leaders, academics, professionals and also those from other Asean nations. All these are pluses that underscore the understanding forged with Japan as both countries enjoyed 60 years of cordial diplomatic relationship since Merdeka in 1957 – incidentally the same year the bullet train was first mooted. And speaking about "trust", Japan again stands out relative to others that are either embroiled in massive corrupt practices or bizarre socio-political intrusions.

Malaysia must therefore set its sights high to ensure that similar Shinkansen-type experiences will be sampled by our commuters as the hallmark of a truly advanced nation come 2020.

The Japanese dubbed theirs as the "super express of dreams" attributed to "the wisdom and effort of the Japanese people" as engraved on the launch plaque on Oct 1, 1964 just before the Tokyo Olympics.

How different will ours be?

The SunDaily, Posted on 4 April 2018 - 08:07am
The Shinkansen experience
By Dzulkifli Abdul Razak

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※AERA 7月2日号







※AERA 7月2日号







※AERA 7月2日号












AERA 2018年7月2日号

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1973年、沖縄県生まれ。横浜国立大学経済学部卒。ライター、編集者、構成作家。NHK国際放送の番組制作にも携わる。長年、日本在住の外国人の問題を取材してきた。著書に『血と水の一滴 沖縄に散った青年軍医』、共著に『死後離婚』などがある。

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9月10日(日)午後9時から放送するNHKスペシャル『スクープドキュメント 沖縄と核』取材班は、日本とアメリカで1500点を超える資料を収集し、沖縄での核兵器の運用にかかわった元兵士たちへの取材を重ねた。





















NHKスペシャル『スクープドキュメント 沖縄と核』取材班

projim、2:22 PM - 27 Jun 2018

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BBCは28日夜、強姦されたと名乗りを上げて話題になった伊藤詩織氏を取材した「Japan's Secret Shame(日本の秘められた恥)」を放送した。約1時間に及ぶ番組は、伊藤氏本人のほか、支援と批判の双方の意見を取り上げながら、日本の司法や警察、政府の対応などの問題に深く切り込んだ。制作会社「True Vision」が数カ月にわたり密着取材したドキュメンタリーを、BBCの英国向けテレビチャンネルBBC Twoが放送した。

The Guardian, Published: Thu 28 Jun 2018 22.00 BST
Japan’s Secret Shame review - breaking a nation’s taboo about rape

This important film focuses on allegations by Shiori Ito to tell the wider but hidden story of violence towards Japanese women
By Rebecca Nicholson

[Red more]


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Mexican presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador

Mexico's presidential campaign ended with a fiesta of rallies Wednesday, as establishment candidates made last-ditch pleas for voters to reject the radical break with the past promised by leftist front-runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

All four candidates held a series of huge rallies around the country -- none more festive than Lopez Obrador's in Mexico City's Azteca Stadium, where an A-list of Mexican musicians performed before his speech.

With his anti-corruption platform, the fiery former Mexico City mayor, widely known as "AMLO," looks virtually unstoppable heading into Sunday's vote.

Opinion polls have given him a double-digit lead for months. Two polls released Wednesday -- the final day for campaigning and polls -- put his advantage at more than 20 points.

Sick of endemic corruption and horrific violence fueled by the country's powerful drug cartels, many Mexicans are keen for any alternative to the two parties that have governed for nearly a century: the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the conservative National Action Party (PAN).

"The policies we've been applying for the past 30 years haven't worked. We haven't even had economic growth," Lopez Obrador told thousands of cheering supporters as he wrapped up his campaign.

"What's grown is corruption, poverty, crime and violence. That's why we're going to send their policies to the dustbin of history."

Such attacks have left Lopez Obrador's rivals scrambling to distance themselves from their parties' legacies, while also warning that Lopez Obrador's ideas are dangerous for the country.

Judging by the opinion polls, the PRI and PAN candidates -- ex-finance minister Jose Antonio Meade and former speaker of Congress Ricardo Anaya, respectively -- are having a hard time selling that message.

Both were holding out hope they would manage to unite the anti-AMLO vote and win.

"Our coalition is the only one that can beat Lopez Obrador," Anaya, 39, said at his final rally in the central city of Leon.

"I'm calling on all good people, including those in other parties, those with no party.... I am explicitly calling on you to cast a pragmatic vote."

Meade, 49, meanwhile insisted: "the silent majority will win us this election."

- Man of mystery -

Lopez Obrador, 64, has clashed with Mexico's business community, with some warning he might pursue Venezuela-style socialist policies that could wreck Latin America's second-largest economy.

Seeking to soothe the markets, he has backpedalled on some of his most controversial proposals.

Instead of reversing outgoing President Enrique Pena Nieto's landmark energy reform, he now proposes simply reviewing the existing contracts privatizing the oil sector.

And he has remained vague on a proposed amnesty for criminals, his idea to deal with violence that left a record 25,000 murders last year.

Many of Mexico's 88 million voters are not quite sure what Lopez Obrador represents, other than something new. But in these elections, that may be enough.

"Who cares if they say he's going to do a bad job running the country? These other politicians have experience, they speak who knows how many languages, and look where that got us. They robbed us, they're corrupt," said Teresa Rivera, 68, a maid who had been standing in line since 5:00 am to see Lopez Obrador's evening rally.

- Mexican Trump? -

Mexico's next president faces a laundry list of challenges, including crime, corruption, a lackluster economy and a complicated relationship with the United States under President Donald Trump, whose anti-trade and anti-immigration policies have turned diplomacy with Mexico's largest trading partner into a minefield.

Lopez Obrador has vowed to "put (Trump) in his place."

Ironically, some commentators have drawn parallels between the two: both are free-trade skeptics who have fired up a disgruntled base with anti-establishment campaigns.

But unlike the American billionaire, Lopez Obrador has built an image as an ascetic everyman.

"I'm going to halve the presidential salary and continue living in my own house," he said in a widely circulated campaign video.

"I'm going to govern by example, with austerity."

Supporters of Mexican presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador arrive for their candidate's closing campaign rally at the Azteca stadium in Mexico City

Electoral workers prepare material, which reads "the vote is free and secret," ahead of Mexico's presidential ballot

Campaign signs for Mexican presidential candidate Jose Antonio Meade, a former finance minister

AFP, Published: 28 JUN 2018
Mexico campaign closes with leftist 'AMLO' looking unstoppable

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The Travel Hunter

The saying is “beauty lies in the eye of the beholder”. But Erica Lim says, “When I travel, everything is beautiful in my eyes”.

“Kaka The Travel Hunter”, as Lim styles herself online, began her working life in the creative arts, doing everything from illustration and animation to graphic design and even mural painting.

But desk-bound jobs, no matter how creative, threatened to curb her wanderlust, so she turned to project work and became an insurance agent, which accords her the freedom to take longer trips so that she can “explore and experience the world” to her heart’s content.

“I love my job. It is the best job in the world. In between helping my friends to get a good protection plan, I can also do more travelling and continue to do all the things that I like,” says Lim, 38, who hails from Sandakan, Sabah.

Currently based in Kuala Lumpur, Lim has a stylish pad in the heart of the city, where she displays all manner of assorted trinkets and colourful curios she has collected from her various travels.

“When I first started travelling, I did not even have a camera or a phone. But now with social media and a smartphone, I can easily document my experiences.”

Lots of people think that travelling requires spending a lot of money on accommodation, but the denim-and-boots-wearing lass begs to differ. Calling herself a budget-conscious backpacker, Lim shares how she saves money on her travels, beginning with choosing not to stay in hotels.

“I like to completely immerse myself in new cultures, so I choose to stay in the homes of locals,” she says, adding that she has no problems making herself comfortable on couches in the living rooms of strangers she has just met online.

Lim also says she does not feel the need for company when she travels so she often goes backpacking alone or arranges to meet a friend or two along the way. But when she decides to go hiking or trekking, then she usually travels in a group.

“When I went Nepal, it was with four friends. And my largest group expedition was to Egypt, which was with 12 friends.”

Most of her trips last a month or so, as she prefers to explore at a leisurely pace to take in all the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. Hiking expeditions take more planning so she spends only about two weeks on those each time.

Some of the countries she has explored include Australia, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, New Zealand, South Korea and Vietnam.

Like other budget travellers, Lim enjoys couch-surfing which she says gives a more meaningful experience compared to staying in backpacker lodges.

“Apart from not having to spend any money on accommodation, what I like most about staying in other people’s homes is the cultural exchange. We learn about others as they go about their daily activities,” shares Lim, who reminisced about her varied couch-surfing experiences in Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Vietnam.

“I’ve been to Hong Kong many times. During my first trip there in 2011, I stayed on top of a factory in Tsuen Wan. I slept on a sofa there for one whole month. I did not have a camera or a phone then, and there was only one other person there in that warehouse.

“Sure, backpacking can sometimes be a scary experience, but it saves a lot of money and I even got to visit Macau that time,” says Lim, whose own couch at home is a cosy sofa covered with soft blankets as well as small cushions and plushies.

“In Australia, my hosts were a warm and welcoming Caucasian couple who also wanted to get to know other cultures. We even shared recipes. They liked to use the oven a lot, whether to bake their chicken or steaks. I showed them how to make simple homey dishes like ABC soup (clear boiled soup made with chunks of carrot, tomato, potato and onions),” says Lim, who even helped to cut the grass and walk their dog.

“In Vietnam, I was lucky to get to stay in a room; while in New Zealand, I stayed in the outskirts where I discovered it was true that there are more sheep than people!”

Her next stop is Lombok, an Indonesian island that lies east of Bali and west of Sumbawa. She is planning to trek up Mount Rinjani, which at 3,726m is the second highest volcano in Indonesia.

“I will be going hiking with a group of friends. There are six of us and we plan to go for a week-long excursion around mid-September.”

As for future plans, Lim is now eyeing the beautiful cities of Europe.

“I want to live a fruitful life. And life experience is a treasure that money can’t buy.”

Scaling Mount Kinabalu one misty morning.

Checking another item off her bucket list: travel to Egypt to see the Great Sphinx of Giza and the Great Pyramid.

Lim loves making friends on her travels, as she’s doing here with a little Nepalese boy.

Lim trying her hand at goat herding. I love animals, and they love me too, she says.

The Star2, Published: June 27, 2018
Experiencing the world, one trip at a time

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Little House On The Prairie

Welcome to the official Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum website.
The Laura Ingalls Wilder House is a historic house museum at 3060 Highway A in Mansfield, Missouri. Also known as Rocky Ridge Farm, it was the home of author Laura Ingalls Wilder from 1896 until her death in 1957.

The American Library Association (ALA) has stressed that its decision to drop Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from its children’s literature award due to racist sentiments in her books is not “an attempt to censor, limit, or deter access” to the Little House on the Prairie author’s books.

The organisation announced on Sunday that the board of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) had voted 12 to zero in favour of changing the name of the Laura Ingalls Wilder award to the Children’s literature legacy award. The prize was first awarded in 1954 to Wilder herself, and has been won by some of America’s best-loved children’s authors, from EB White to Beverly Cleary.

The ALA first proposed a possible name change in 2017, feeling that its values of diversity and inclusion were not consistent with the “complex legacy” of Wilder, “as her books reflect racist and anti-Native sentiments and are not universally embraced”.

Wilder’s legacy has long been controversial due to the attitudes in her autobiographical novels. The phrase “the only good Indian is a dead Indian”, is repeated three times in Little House on the Prairie, while in On the Banks of Plum Creek, Mary tells Laura: “You’ll be brown as an Indian, and what will the town girls think of us?” In Little Town on the Prairie, Laura’s father takes part in a minstrel show, while Laura’s mother’s dislike of Native Americans is made clear: “She looked as if she were smelling the smell of an Indian whenever she said the word. Ma despised Indians. She was afraid of them, too.”

The ALA cited an article by the academic Frances Kaye in its decision where she wrote: “I honestly cannot read Little House on the Prairie as other than apology for the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of the Great Plains.”

Another academic, Debbie Reese, whose focus is the representation of Native Americans in children’s books, responded to the ALA’s decision: “Wilder’s depictions of African Americans and Native people are flawed and racist. Some will argue that at the time she wrote the books, things like blackface and stereotyping weren’t seen as wrong. But, of course, African Americans and Native peoples knew them to be wrong.”

In a survey of librarians, around 300 ALA members said the prize’s name should be changed, and around 150 said it should not. Those who supported the change cited racism and the negative impact of Wilder’s books on child readers amongst their reasons. Those against changing the name cited censorship, “bowing to PC pressure”, and not judging people from the past by today’s standards.

In a joint statement by ALA president Jim Neal and ALSC president Nina Lindsay acknowledged that Wilder’s books were “deeply meaningful to many readers”, and that the series “holds a significant place in the history of children’s literature”. But they said the books are also “a product of [Wilder’s] life experiences and perspective as a settler in America’s 1800s”, and therefore “reflect dated cultural attitudes toward indigenous people and people of colour that contradict modern acceptance, celebration, and understanding of diverse communities”.

Neal and Lindsay said changing the name of the award should not be viewed as an attempt to censor Wilder’s books, “but rather as an effort to align the award’s title with ALSC’s core values”, stressing that the change “should not be viewed as a call for readers to change their personal relationship with or feelings about Wilder’s books”.

“We are not demanding that anyone stop reading Wilder’s books, talking about them, or making them available to children. We hope adults think critically about Wilder’s books and the discussions that can take place around them,” they said.

The ALA is now looking to examine its other prizes, including the Geisel award, to see if further changes need to be made. Geisel, named for Theodore Geisel or The Cat in the Hat author Dr Seuss, has also come under recent scrutiny, with a US librarian arguing last year that his illustrations “are steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes”.

In 2015, HP Lovecraft was dropped as the image of the World Fantasy award after a campaign described the Cthulhu author as an “avowed racist” with “hideous opinions”.

‘Dated cultural attitudes’ … Laura Ingalls Wilder

The Guardian, Last modified on Tue 26 Jun 2018 17.07 BST
American librarians defend renaming Laura Ingalls Wilder award

Professional body the ALA says the Little House on the Prairie author’s ‘complex legacy’ of racist attitudes was not consistent with its values
By Alison Flood

Once upon a time, we were able to realize that honors didn’t equal an endorsement of every single part of a person’s life.

Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the beloved “Little House on the Prairie” books, is the latest American icon to fall under the tomahawk − if that’s a term Wilder’s critics will still permit me to use.

Wilder’s sin? “This decision was made in consideration of the fact that Wilder’s legacy, as represented by her body of work, includes expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with (Association for Library Service to Children’s) values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness,” wrote the organization about its decision to rename the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award the Children’s Literature Legacy Award. In a February post about potentially renaming the award, the organization was less oblique, writing about “anti-Native and anti-Black sentiments in her work.”

Yes, there are sentiments in the Wilder books that are concerning. Laura’s adored father wears blackface, and a couple, the Scotts, in “Little House on the Prairie” seems to hate Native Americans, with the husband saying at one point, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.” Although now altered, a sentence, also in “Little House on the Prairie,” read for years, “… there were no people. Only Indians lived there.”

But delve into the books themselves and there’s nuance. Wilder writes, after the “dead Indian” quote, that “Pa said he didn’t know about that. He figured that Indians would be as peaceable as anybody else if they were left alone.”

Wilder also attributes the lives of herself, her sisters, and her parents being saved by the intervention of an African-American doctor:

“Then the doctor came. And he was the black man. Laura had never seen a black man before and she could not take her eyes off Dr. Tan. He was so very black. She would have been afraid of him if she had not liked him so much. He smiled at her with all his white teeth. He talked with Pa and Ma, and laughed a rolling, jolly laugh. They all wanted him to stay longer, but he had to hurry away.”

And that sentence that implied Native Americans weren’t people? Well, in 1952, when an editor passed on to Wilder herself a reader’s concern about it, Wilder responded greenlighting changing the sentence, which became “… there were no settlers.” She wrote to the editor, “It was a stupid blunder of mine. Of course Indians are people and I did not intend to imply they were not."

So while Wilder doesn’t always seem sensitive to the pain caused by racism in the United States, neither is she some racist caricature.

And there’s much to admire in the “Little House” books.

As a girl, I read and re-read the books. I marveled that Laura thought an orange was an amazing Christmas gift. I wondered at how her family lived in a home dug into a dirt hill. I couldn’t believe the amount of work she and her family had to daily do just to keep up a meager existence as a farmer’s family with clean clothes and food on the table. Growing up in a suburban neighborhood, I tried to imagine the vast loneliness of the prairie.

But there were also deeper lessons. The “Little House” books, the first volumes published in the 1930s amid the depression but also amid technological advances, preserve an American culture that seemed to be slipping away, that of the hard-working pioneer family.

And like any good writer, Wilder allowed there to be ambiguity. Throughout the series, there is tension between Laura’s parents − her dad, Charles, who always wants to go to the next frontier, and her mother, Caroline, who wants to live with other families and be part of a larger community. There’s also the poignant tragedy of Laura’s sister, Mary, losing her sight − a tragedy that foisted additional responsibility on Laura and seemed to belie a perfect happily ever after for the Ingalls family.

And don’t think that Laura Ingalls Wilder will be the last writer to be hunted down in the ongoing cultural purge. If we’re learning anything in our “woke” times, it’s that nothing is sacred. Even shows like “Friends” and “Sex and the City” − liberal, progressive shows that challenged cultural norms, arguably successfully − are now, two decades from their beginnings, being described as problematic.

Today, Wilder is only being denied an award named after her, but tomorrow, she may well be seen as unfit to read.

Wilder − an amazing writer who poignantly and vividly depicted a crucial part of American history − deserves to remain honored as an icon of American children’s literature. By all means, let’s pair reading her with conversations about America’s past and what was right and what was not and what remains debated.

But let’s encourage critical thinking, not purging.

USA Today, Updated: 3:06 p.m. ET June 28, 2018
Will 'woke' America purge Laura Ingalls Wilder's 'Little House on the Prairie' next?

Sure, some of the things she wrote were problematic. But Laura Ingalls Wilder's 'Little House' books inspire children and provide them with a nuanced perspective.
By Katrina Trinko, Opinion columnist

Should writers who wrote long ago, describing life in the past, be held to 21st century standards of political correctness? The question has arisen many times – most recently about Laura Ingalls Wilder, who was born in 1867 and died in 1957. She is best known for writing the “Little House on the Prairie” children’s books, which became the basis for a popular TV series that aired in the 1970s and 80s.

In recent years, the question of judging past writing by today’s standards has come up dealing with Mark Twain’s use of a racist term for black people in “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” claims that Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” was anti-Semitic, and hostility that Ernest Hemingway expressed toward homosexuals. It also came up with many other examples of works of literature that perpetuated negative stereotypes about women and just about every minority group – stereotypes that many people find offensive today.

The Association of Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, voted Saturday to rename its Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. The award had previously “honored an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a significant and lasting contribution to children's literature through books.” After Wilder’s name was removed from the award the line “that demonstrate integrity and respect for all children's lives and experiences” was added to that description.

Presumably, Wilder had failed to demonstrate integrity and respect for all children’s lives and experiences in her books written about 19th century America.

Wilder’s name was stripped from the award because her work contains “expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC’s core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness,” the association said.

Should writers who wrote long ago, describing life in the past, be held to 21st century standards of political correctness? The question has arisen many times – most recently about Laura Ingalls Wilder, who was born in 1867 and died in 1957. She is best known for writing the “Little House on the Prairie” children’s books, which became the basis for a popular TV series that aired in the 1970s and 80s.

In recent years, the question of judging past writing by today’s standards has come up dealing with Mark Twain’s use of a racist term for black people in “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” claims that Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” was anti-Semitic, and hostility that Ernest Hemingway expressed toward homosexuals. It also came up with many other examples of works of literature that perpetuated negative stereotypes about women and just about every minority group – stereotypes that many people find offensive today.

The Association of Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, voted Saturday to rename its Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. The award had previously “honored an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a significant and lasting contribution to children's literature through books.” After Wilder’s name was removed from the award the line “that demonstrate integrity and respect for all children's lives and experiences” was added to that description.

Presumably, Wilder had failed to demonstrate integrity and respect for all children’s lives and experiences in her books written about 19th century America.

Wilder’s name was stripped from the award because her work contains “expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC’s core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness,” the association said.

Fox News, Opinion, Published: June 27, 2018
Do we have to erase the name of Laura Ingalls Wilder to ‘fix’ history? And who will be next?
By Karol Markowicz

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The new world disorder

THE world is getting cruel by the day. No, it is not just the cause of one man’s animus for everybody south of the border. The animus is spreading everywhere.There is something rotten in the state of the world.

In one sense, we are well wired and connected. In a deeper, despondent sense, we have lost the loving feeeling. Misanthropy is on the rise.

Consider the case of the Roma and Rohingya, two members of the human race who have been driven out of their homes and made stateless. They are even being given a cruel label: dispersed people. It is cruel because in one sense “disperse” means cause to thin out or disappear. Instead of competing to outdo each other in compassionate virtues, countries of the world are competing to outdo each other in vicious brutality.

We may locate this callous indifference to suffering as a congenital western disorder. But that is only half the tale. The narrative is equally nasty in Asia. But let’s finish the European story first.

There are actually two Romas. One is loved; the other despised. Roma the football club is a rage of love with the Italians while our human Roma are the brunt of vicious attacks. Yes, we have come to this: we show compassion to inanimate things at the expense of our own human race. We will find all manner of things that differentiate to discriminate. It can be the colour of the skin. It could be race. Or religion. Or even the shape of one’s nose. Any difference counts. Perhaps these are signs of the End Times. The journey to dystopia has begun.

More and more people are on a mission to exclude. Getting rid of a people is in vogue in the fashion nation of Italy. The latest to pour out his venom, copiously it must be added, is the newly minted interior minister Matteo Salvini. He was already a venomous fella long before that. During his campaign trail, he called immigrants a “social bomb”, with all its implications. He has gone on record as having asked for the interior ministry’s job so that he can clean up Italy of “unwanted” people. Now that he has got the job, Salvini is driving the Roma out of Italy from north to south of the country.

The Roma are Europe’s largest minority but no one wants them. No one speaks for them. They are like the Rohingya, the world’s most persecuted people. No official census exists but one estimate says there are 12 million worldwide. And 11 million of them are in Europe. They are said to be from northwestern India from where they migrated to all over the world 1,500 years ago. India is paradoxically claiming them as Indian diaspora while “othering” some who are already within its borders.

The Dutch have their Salvini, too. Geert Wilders, the leader of the extremist right Party for Freedom or PVV, is part of a European nativism movement that is taking the troubled continent on a path to ruin.

If the Europeans push the idea of nativism to its extreme, one doesn’t need Brexit to disintegrate the European Union.

But the more frightening prospect is the extension of nativism to religion, race, class and perhaps gender. It is a deeply disturbing notion. Hitler’s Nazism began with nativism, albeit Aryan racial nativism. If the trend continues, we will have yet another Holocaust, only this time without Hitler being around.

The disturbing news is that there is not just one Salvini or Wilders. There is a coming together of a huge wave of animus across continents and subcontinents. They coalesce, converge into mega misanthropy. The number of misanthropes who live in this confluence is increasing.

In America, they erect walls to keep people out. And if the immigrants somehow make their way into the United States, they are caged like animals. It seems being Latin isn’t American enough. The cage is your Latin quarters.

We Asians, too, have shame at our doorstep where Southeast Asia’s third world Myanmar is fanning nativism in Geertesque ways. Rohingya aren’t its only problem. Myanmar has been at war with itself since time immemorial.

The Karen conflict is the world’s longest running civil war in the world. Syrian and Yemen conflicts pale into insignificance when compared to this raging rivalry that has been going on since 1949. Maybe in terms of the maimed and murdered, Syria and Yemen are worse off, but in terms of dispersed and indeterminate lives, Myanmar takes the honour. Or shall we say dishonour. There are close to two million internally displaced people in Myanmar. Millions more displaced and dispersed outside its border.

Myanmar is home to 135 ethnic groups, and, it seems multiplicity and Myanmar can’t go together. The Burmans who make up about 60 per cent of the population want it all. No nation in the world which has ruled and reigned by exclusion has survived. The most recent example of a nation which tried to do that − the Sudan − ended in being divided into two countries: Sudan and South Sudan. South Sudan is repeating the mistake of North Sudan. There is a lesson for us all in this.

Malaysia may not have 135 ethnic groups but Myanmar may want to take a leaf out of Malaysia’s book.

There is of course the sad episode of May 13, 1969, but which country hasn’t.

Malaysia doesn’t have a Roma or Rohingya problem. It must not have.

The Earth is big enough for everybody. What is needed is a big heart.

French policeman stand guard in a Roma expulsion operation.

New Straits Times, Published: June 28, 2018 - 7:31am
The new world disorder
By Abdul Rahim Mydin, NST’s leader writer

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Pray for Earth

OF late, thunderstorms have become a scary thing for me. A recent drive home through fierce rain with repeated lightning flashes and ear-splitting thunder left me quite unnerved.

And that was quite unexpected as I am no stranger to stormy weather since I am a person who has lived her whole life in the tropics. In fact, I used to be quite amused that people from temperate countries were so awed by tropical thunderstorms.

This was especially so after my encounter with a tropical storm in the United States. That was in September 1999. I was in New York on assignment to cover the launch of a new skincare product.

Two weeks earlier, Hurricane Floyd had built up in the Caribbean and moved towards the US Eastern Seaboard. It hit the Bahamas as a Category Four hurricane, but progressively lost steam and was downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it reached the mid-Atlantic states.

But the authorities took no chances. New York City stopped the subway, non-emergency city workers were ordered to go home and schools and businesses closed early.

My media event was cancelled and us journalists were told to stay put in our hotel – the Plaza next to Central Park, no less. With the extreme state of precautions taken and dire warnings, I imagined a storm of immense proportions. So, I pulled back the curtains and waited in great anticipation.

And raindrops fell very gently against my window. I didn’t see anything flying or crashing around. The sky did not light up with terrifying lightning and I don’t recall hearing thunder.

And that was it. Tropical Storm Floyd came and went and seemed like a complete washout to me. Thankfully so, because the rain stopped in time for me to watch Lion King on Broadway.

Although I wasn’t impressed by Floyd as it passed over Manhattan, the tropical storm caused extensive flooding and damage in New Jersey and New York. Many people had to evacuate their homes and highways closed for weeks.

That was 19 years ago and the weather has changed drastically. Climate change is upon us, brought about by global warming.

Earth’s surface temperature has gone up in the last 150 years, so much so that even the oceans are experiencing more heat waves that last longer and of course spell bad news for coral reefs, ice caps and marine life.

What’s more, the highest temperature ever measured anywhere for the month of April was recorded in the Pakistani city of Nawabshah: 50.2°C.

And with higher temperatures come more thunderstorms. That’s because the greater heat evaporates more water vapour into the atmosphere, which fuels storms.

Climate change has also produced more lightning strikes, a phenomenon that has led to more fires, even in high latitudes. Between 1975 and 2015, researchers found that 87% of large fires in interior Alaska were caused by lightning. Such lightning strikes are predicted to increase by 59% by the middle of this century.

Such findings should make us sit up because Malaysia, with Subang in the Klang Valley as the epicentre, already has the third highest number of lightning strikes in the world, after Venezuela and Congo.

Apart from increased lightning, storms also bring strong winds.

The Guardian reported that the United Kingdom is facing a sharp rise in wind storms, resulting in huge damage to property. A study by the insurance industry estimated that global warming could increase windstorm destruction by over 50% across the nation.

We got a taste of that too when strong winds during thunderstorms shattered glass panels at the Bukit Mertajam KTM station on May 29, ripped off the roof of a school in Telupid, Sabah on June 18 and uprooted large, old trees in Petaling Jaya’s Taman Jaya Park on June 22.

Clearly, 21st century storms are no laughing matter because they are a clear manifestation of global warming.

Malaysia’s mean surface temperatures have also increased from 0.6°C to 1.2°C over 50 years (1969-2009) and are projected to rise from 1.5-2°C by 2050, according to Dr Rawshan Ara Begum from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Institute of Climate Change.

Dr Rawshan reports that Malaysia, as a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement on carbon emission reductions, has achieved about 33% reduction of carbon emission intensity per unit of GDP.

This was made possible by mitigation actions such as implementing renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives, green technologies, sustainable forest management and sustainable waste management through recycling and effluent treatment under national policies like the National Policy on Climate Change and National Green Technology Policy.

All this was under what was known as the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry. We have yet to see what form and function this ministry will take under the Pakatan Harapan government, but I do hope it will be given more clout and eminence, and will be headed by a truly environment-conscious minister.

We may be a small country, but we need to do our part because scientists believe they know how our planet will eventually end up if temperatures keep rising.

Earth will be like Venus, the planet next door whose size and mass are so similar to our planet, it’s called Earth’s twin.

According to Smithsonian.com, Venus is believed to have once had a liquid ocean that lasted for billions of years and could have easily harboured life forms. A build-up of carbon dioxide triggered an extreme global warming effect and destroyed its most habitable regions. Sound familiar?

Today, the surface temperature of Venus is 470°C and it is covered by clouds of sulphuric acid.

Earth already has acid rain because of the sulphuric dioxide emissions from power stations, airplanes and vehicles.

To me, it doesn’t seem far-fetched to think that Venus was destroyed by its inhabitants, who couldn’t stop spewing carbon dioxide and sulphuric acid into their planet’s atmosphere.

The next time it rains furiously with plenty of lightning, think of Venus and pray for Earth.

The Star, Published: Wednesday, 27 Jun 2018
Can we weather this hot topic?
by June H.L. Wong
The new environment minister will be announced next week; Aunty hopes the person can take the heat.

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Sit less

Exercise alone is probably not enough for us to achieve and maintain good health.

We must also try to sit less, according to a fascinating new study of the separate physiological effects that exercise and light, almost-incidental activities, such as standing up, can have on our bodies. By now, we all know that regular exercise is good for us. The United States national exercise guidelines, which are based on a wealth of scientific evidence, recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week in order to lengthen our life spans and reduce our risks of a variety of diseases.

In practice, this recommendation translates into 30 minutes almost daily of exercise that should be brisk enough to raise our heart rates and make us gasp a bit for breath.

But exercising 30 minutes a day leaves us plenty of time for other activities, the primary one of which (apart from sleeping) tends to be sitting. A typical office worker can easily log more than 10 or 11 hours a day in a chair, according to studies of how we spend our time.

These long stretches of sitting have been associated with a variety of health concerns, including increased risks for diabetes, obesity and poor cholesterol profiles.

But whether a single session of exercise most days can reduce or cancel out those risks or whether we also need to find ways to sit less has remained scientifically uncertain.

So for the new study, which was published this month in Scientific Reports, researchers at Maastricht University in the Netherlands decided to ask several groups of men and women to upend their lives temporarily for science.

Some of the 61 adults whom the scientists recruited were normal weight and generally healthy; others were overweight; and still others both overweight and diabetic. None exercised regularly.

The scientists invited these men and women to the university performance lab and tested them for various markers of cardiac and metabolic health, including insulin resistance and cholesterol levels.

Then the researchers had each volunteer complete three distinct, four-day sessions of living calculatedly exaggerated lifestyles.

During one, the men and women sat for 14 hours a day, their chair time interrupted only by bathroom breaks.

During another of the four-day sessions, they substituted one hour of their sitting time with exercise, pedaling a stationary bicycle at a moderate pace for an hour. The other 13 hours, they were back in a chair.

Finally, for the third of the sessions, they sat for about eight hours a day but spent the other five or six hours of their waking time standing or strolling about at a casual, meandering pace.

The calories that they burned during these activities, whether cycling or standing and light walking, were about the same.

After each four-day block, the scientists repeated the health tests from the start and then compared them.

The results diverged in illuminating ways after each session.

After four days of sitting nonstop, the men and women showed greater insulin resistance and undesirable changes in their cholesterol levels. They also had blood markers showing detrimental changes to their endothelial cells, which line our blood vessels, including our arteries; when those cells are unhealthy, the risk of cardiac disease rises.

In effect, four days of uninterrupted sitting seemed to be undermining the volunteers’ metabolic and heart health, including among those who had no symptoms of metabolic problems at the start.

But after four days that included moderate bicycling, the volunteers displayed enhanced endothelial cell health, compared to when they had sat nonstop.

Their insulin sensitivity and cholesterol profiles were unchanged, though.

On the other hand, insulin and cholesterol levels both were better after four days of standing or strolling for at least five hours a day, the scientists found.

But the volunteers’ endothelial-cell health had not budged. The light activity seemed not to have affected that marker of heart health.

Over all, the results suggest that exercise and standing up have distinct effects on the body, says Bernard Duvivier, a postdoctoral researcher at Maastricht University, who led the new study.

Moderate exercise seems to hone endothelial and cardiac health, he says, probably in large part by increasing the flow of blood through blood vessels.

Standing up, on the other hand, may have a more pronounced and positive impact on metabolism, he says, perhaps by increasing the number of muscular contractions that occur throughout the day. Busy muscles burn blood sugar for fuel, which helps to keep insulin levels steady, and release chemicals that can reduce bad cholesterol.

Of course, this study was small and quite short-term, with each session lasting only four days. Over a longer period of time, the biological impacts of both moderate exercise and less sitting would likely become broader and more encompassing.

But even so, the findings are compelling, Dr. Duvivier says, especially for those of us who often are deskbound.

“People should understand,” he says, “that only moderate exercise is not enough and it’s also necessary to reduce prolonged sitting.”

Eric L. Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, uses a standing desk as part of his fitness routine.

The New York Times, Published: June 13, 2018
Exercise vs. Standing?
You Probably Need to Do Both
Moderate exercise does different things to the body than incidental activities like standing up.

By Gretchen Reynolds

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The 7 countries banned by Trump

To President Trump’s supporters, the Supreme Court decision upholding his travel ban from seven countries − five with Muslim majorities − was an affirmation by the highest court in the land of his right to secure America’s borders and protect it from terrorism.

To opponents, the ruling validated an anti-Muslim agenda that betrayed American ideals, subverted the Constitution and upended the hopes of thousands of families separated by war and deprivation.

Here are three outcomes of the decision, which bans or severely restricts entry into the United States by people from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen.

There Is No Escape to America

The ruling sends a blunt message of rejection to visa seekers from some of the most destitute and dysfunctional countries. Immigration and civil-rights lawyers fear that it slams the door on many desperate people from the Muslim-majority countries that were affected, particularly those with relatives in the United States, who saw the Supreme Court as their last hope.

The timing of the ruling, as European Union countries are toughening policies toward refugees and asylum seekers, reinforced an atmosphere of a Western backlash to migrants, even as the global population of forcibly displaced people grows.

Three of the Muslim-majority countries affected by Mr. Trump’s order − Libya, Yemen and Syria − have known only war for years. A fourth, Somalia, has suffered through varying degrees of mayhem for decades. While antiterrorism experts consider the countries to be breeding grounds for violent extremism, the Supreme Court’s ruling will do nothing to hasten the end of the underlying conflicts there.

Although Mr. Trump’s executive order allows for granting exceptions on a case-by-case basis, lawyers said they had seen little or no evidence of such a process. Hundreds of Yemeni families with American relatives, for example, who have fled to Djibouti, a tiny country in the Horn of Africa, to file waiver applications for visas because the United States Embassy in Yemen is closed, have been summarily denied waivers and remain stranded there.

“All of them were hanging their hopes on the Supreme Court decision,” said Diala Shamas, a staff lawyer for the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based advocacy group that sent investigators to Djibouti and produced a report with the Rule of Law Clinic at Yale Law School about the stranded families.

“All of those people who were holding their breath are now facing the difficult choice of either permanent separation from their families or returning to Yemen,” she said.

Mohamud Noor, a Somali-American activist in the Minneapolis area, home to one of the largest Somali immigrant communities, said the Supreme Court decision was devastating to many who wanted relatives in their homeland to legally join them.

“I think we were expecting the Supreme Court would stand on moral grounds,” Mr. Noor said. “We live in America. This is a land of immigrants.”

Iranians Could Be Most Affected

The Muslim-majority country facing the most disruption is Iran, which historically has led the others in nonimmigrant visas to the United States, despite the estrangement in relations since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

By some estimates one million American citizens of Iranian descent live in the United States, and many have traveled to Iran for family visits. But it is difficult to see how their Iran-based relatives can visit them.

Fear first rippled through the Iranian-American community with Mr. Trump’s initial iteration of a travel ban 18 months ago, which caused chaos in its disorganized rollout and was blocked by the courts.

But the angst has returned with the latest iteration, especially now that it has been validated by the Supreme Court, said Jamal Abdi, vice president of policy at the National Iranian American Council, a Washington-based advocacy group.

“Iranians cannot travel here unless they get a waiver. The waiver process is unpredictable, with no explanation of how it will be implemented,” he said. “So there is extreme uncertainty. I think a lot of people are living with this.”

The impact is likely to further anger Iran’s hard-line opponents to Mr. Trump as he has moved to isolate the country. Iran already is feeling the ill effects of Mr. Trump’s decision last month to withdraw the United States from the 2015 nuclear agreement and reimpose economic sanctions, which penalize businesses in other countries for doing business with Iran.

The Supreme Court decision came the same day the State Department said it expected all countries to cut their imports of Iranian oil to zero under the reimposed sanctions that take effect in November.

Least Hurt: Venezuela and North Korea

The practical effects on the two non-Muslim majority nations on Mr. Trump’s travel ban − Venezuela and North Korea − are minimal, lending weight to critics who said their inclusion was meant to mask what was essentially a ban that affected Muslims.

The restrictions on Venezuelans apply only to a narrow category of government officials deemed responsible for failing to cooperate with the Department of Homeland Security in identifying visa seekers who are security risks.

While the restrictions on North Koreans apply to all, there are hardly any who are allowed by their government to come to the United States.

“Most people have forgotten that North Korea was added to the list of countries subject to the ban, mostly as a way of making it look less like an anti-Muslim measure,” said Evans J.R. Revere, a former State Department diplomat who is an expert on North Korea.

While North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, may regard North Korea’s inclusion on the travel ban as an unfriendly act, he is far more concerned with all of the other sanctions imposed on North Korea because of the country’s nuclear and ballistic missile development.

Mr. Trump, who met with Mr. Kim at a groundbreaking summit meeting in Singapore on June 12, has said the North Korean leader is committed to denuclearization, but large questions remain over how, when or even whether it will happen.

Sung-Yoon Lee, a professor of Korean studies at Tufts University, said “the inclusion of North Korea is likely to be reversed by the administration − that is, used as a chip in further advancing the illusion of rapprochement.”

Lawyers offering assistance to international travelers at Los Angeles International Airport last year after the ban had been imposed.Credit

A house after an airstrike by Syrian forces on the town of Busra al-Harir. Three countries affected by the travel ban − Libya, Yemen and Syria − have known only war for years.

The grand bazaar area of Tehran. Iran is the Muslim-majority country facing the most disruption from the travel ban.

The New York Times, Published: June 26, 2018
Trump Travel Ban: How It Affects the Countries
By Rick Gladstone

[See more]
The seven countries banned by Trump
Do you know why people are leaving the seven countries that President Trump banned from traveling to the US?

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Iran’s foreign minister

FOLLOWING the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris Climate Accord, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is the third multilateral agreement that the current United States administration has withdrawn from.

The administration has also put in jeopardy other multilateral arrangements such as NAFTA, the global trade system, and parts of the United Nations system, thus inflicting considerable damage to multilateralism, and the prospects for resolving disputes through diplomacy.

The announcement on May 8 of United States’ withdrawal from the JCPOA and the unilateral and unlawful re-imposition of nuclear sanctions − a decision opposed by majority of the American people − was the culmination of a series of violations of the terms of the accord by this administration. This is despite the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency, as the sole competent international authority, had repeatedly verified Iran’s compliance with its commitments under the accord. The US decision was rejected by the international community and even its closest allies, including the European Union , Britain , France and Germany.

On May 21, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a baseless and insulting statement, issued a number of demands of and threats against Iran in brazen contravention of international law, well-established international norms, and civilised behaviour. His statement reflected a desperate reaction by the US administration to the overwhelming opposition of the international community to the persistent efforts by the White House to kill the JCPOA, and the ensuing Washington’s isolation.

It is regrettable that in the past one-and-a-half years of US foreign policy, if we can call it that , including its policy towards Iran, it has been predicated on flawed assumptions and illusions if not actual delusions. The US president and his Secretary of State have persistently made baseless and provocative allegations against Iran that constitute a blatant intervention in Iran’s domestic affairs, and unlawful threats against a UN Member State, and violate the United States’ international obligations under the UN Charter, the 1955 Treaty, and the 1981 Algiers Accord.

I seriously doubt that had the US Secretary of State even had a slight knowledge of Iran’s history and culture and the Iranian people’s struggle for independence and freedom, and had he known that Iran’s political system − in contrast to those of the American allies in the region − is based on a popular revolution and the people’s will, would he have delivered such an outlandish statement.

He should, however, know that ending foreign intervention into Iran’s domestic affairs, which culminated in the 25-year period following the US-orchestrated coup in 1953, had always been one of the Iranian people’s main demands since well before the Islamic Revolution. He should also be aware that in the past 40 years the Iranian people have heroically resisted and foiled aggressions and pressures by the US, including its coup attempts, military interventions, support of the aggressor in an eight-year war, imposition of unilateral, extraterritorial and even multilateral sanctions, and even going as far as shooting down an Iranian passenger plane in the Persian Gulf in 1987. “Never forget” is our mantra, too.

Iran has ensured its security and stability in the past four decades on the basis of its inherent domestic capabilities and its reliance on the great Iranian people, not on any foreign power’s benevolence or patronage. Despite foreign pressure and while expending comparatively the least amount in the region on armaments, it has become stronger, more stable and more advanced by the day.

It believes that the era of regional and global hegemony has long passed, and any effort by any power to achieve it is futile. Instead of yielding to foreign domination or trying to dominate others, countries in our region should seek to create a stronger, more prosperous and more stable region.

We, in Iran, view our security and stability as inseparable from those of our neighbours. We have a common history and culture as well as indivisible opportunities and challenges, and can only enjoy security and stability at home, if and only if our neighbours enjoy internal and international stability and security. We expect other regional countries to adopt a similar approach, and instead of insisting on the failed experiment of “trying to purchase or outsource security, concentrate on dialogue, mutual understanding, confidence building, and cooperation with neighbours.

The Islamic Republic of Iran views the establishment of a “Regional Dialogue Forum” in the Persian Gulf as the best means to resolve regional crises and create a stronger region.

We can begin adopting confidence-building measures to bring regional countries closer to each other on the basis of such principles as the sovereign equality of states, non-resort to the threat or use of force, peaceful settlement of disputes, respect for territorial integrity of other states, inviolability of international boundaries, non-intervention in domestic affairs of others, and respect for the right of peoples to self-determination.

By fostering common understanding about threats and opportunities at the regional and global levels, we can move towards achieving a non-aggression pact and creating common mechanisms for regional cooperation.

We firmly believe that we, regionally − as the inheritors of the richest civilisation the world has ever known − should stand tall and can solve our own problems amongst ourselves and secure a better future for all of our children without outside interference and patronage, both of which come at a heavy cost to our collective dignity as well as our future development.

New Straits Times, Published: June 28, 2018 - 8:12am
It is the people's will ...
By MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, Iran’s foreign minister

[Read more]
Iran Daily, Published: 0555 GMT June 20, 2018
Following is the response of Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s 12 demands from Iran. On May 21, Pompeo set 12 conditions for Iran to follow in order for the United States to agree to a new nuclear deal with Tehran.

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Malaysian filmmaker Zan Azlee

Further to Mr Yahho's today's Blog under the title of "the Myanmar military", following might be interesting to all of you:

The Refugee Fest in KL is a unique all-embracing event, a celebration of the contributions that refugees and asylum seekers make to life in Malaysia.

It is supported by various refugee communities and volunteers, all working together to present an artistic, cultural and educational festival experience for the masses.

The festival, now in its third year, was created as a platform for refugees to showcase their talents, share traditions and culture.

This year’s theme is “Sharing A Global Responsibility”, with activities, talks and exhibitions for the Refugee Fest taking place at the White and Black Box venues in Publika, KL, starting June 28.

“I believe people only fear something when they don’t understand it in its entirety. And therefore I have a role to play in helping Malaysians to get to know the refugees,” says Mahi Ramakrishnan, the Refugee Fest director.

“All it takes is for you to sit down with them, have coffee or teh tarik and listen to them. You would then realise that the refugees are just like you and me, with the same hopes and aspirations for themselves. With the same dreams for their children,” she adds.

One of the main reasons behind the Refugee Fest is to offer people from different backgrounds the opportunity to meet and celebrate together.

“It’s important that we embrace them (refugees) as a part of our society, not just as a global responsibility but also because the refugees contribute effectively to our society as artists, poets, engineers, teachers and so on,” says Mahi.

As of May this year, there are some 157,580 refugees registered with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Malaysia, and of the figure, 72,490 or 46%, are Rohingya refugees.

Here are some of the events – all free admission – that you can look forward to during the festival:

Waiting For The Rain photo exhibition

Award-wining Belgian photojournalist David Verbeckt will be in town to talk about his photo documentary series on the plight of climate refugees in Somalia. He is also involved in two another exhibition/talks during the festival, which chart the course of the violence against the Rohingya from Myanmar to Malaysia to India. Where: White Box, Publika. When: June 28, 3.20pm.

From Exile With Love book launch

From Exile With Love is a collection of poetry from eight poets from Pakistan, Syria and Sri Lanka who comprise the Refugee Poets Society. The book is supported by the European Union Delegation to Malaysia. Where: Black Box, Publika. When: June 28, 3pm.

We Are Animals film screening

Malaysian filmmaker Zan Azlee (*) spent several weeks at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh documenting the lives of the Rohingya refugees. He assisted a group of medical volunteers and headed to the Myanmar/Bangladesh border to witness several hundred Rohingya plead for safe passage and refuge. There will be a Q&A with the director after the screening. Where: Black Box, Publika. When: June 28, 4.45pm.

Screaming In Silence theatre show

A play on child marriages in Afghanistan, presented by Parastoo Theatre (a refugee theatre group) and helmed by Saleh Sepas, a Kabul-born professional theatre director, writer and refugee now based in KL. He is also a firm believer of the Theatre of the Oppressed, a form of popular community-based education that uses theatre as a tool for social change. The show will be followed by a Q&A session. Where: Black Box, Publika. When: July 1, 4pm.

From The Killing Fields To The Playing Fields film screening

It’s football season but with a “stateless” twist. From The Killing Fields To The Playing Fields is author-turned filmmaker JK Asher’s movie about Rohingya refugees in Malaysia and Australia training at football for the Conifa games, which is an equivalent of the World Cup but played by stateless persons. Last year, Asher released her book The Inverted Banyan Tree. Where: Black Box, Publika. Where: July 1, 7pm.

FB: The Refugee Fest: Inclusion For A Better World. Festival opens 3pm and ends 8pm on June 28, the launch day, while opening times for June 29-July 1 are 4pm-8pm. An arts and crafts bazaar will be open daily at the White Box, Publika.

For these refugees, the show must go on

Verberckt’s Waiting For The Rain photo exhibition is about displaced communities in Somaliland and other regions of the Horn of Africa affected by drought.

The Star, Published: June 26, 2018
Five things to catch at the Refugee Fest in KL

(*) Malaysian filmmaker Zan Azlee

THE ROHINGYA refugee crisis is the main focus of a new documentary by former journalist, author and filmmaker Zan Azlee, who feels as a journalist, he should be telling stories that affect his region, Southeast Asia.

The hour-long documentary, We are Animals, will give audiences a glimpse into life in the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh, inhabited mostly by Rohingya Muslims who fled from persecution in Myanmar.

"Kutupalong is said to be one of the biggest refugee camp in the world, and the camp has one million refugees," says Zan, 40, on his latest work.

Last October, Zan followed non-profit organisation Mercy Malaysia to the camp as part of a mission to provide humanitarian aid. "I spent two weeks in the camp," he adds.

The result is his documentary, which focuses on two residents of the camp – 22-year-old Hafes Ullah who was born and raised in refugee camps in Bangladesh, and Muhammad Ishak in his 50s who had witnessed the murder of his parents in Myanmar.

Zan says the idea for the title of documentary was, in fact, inspired by something Hafes said in his interview. "He said: 'We live worse than animals. Even dogs have more rights than us'."

Zan adds: "Hafes has never seen the world [outside the camps]. Despite his circumstance, he is not bitter. He has a positive outlook in life.

"If I had grown up in his shoes, I would probably have joined some rebel army.

"But Hafes is convinced that he will see the outside world. In fact, he is trying to get an international passport."

Zan is also impressed by this young man's fluency in English, which is good enough for him to act as an interpreter for foreign journalists who came to the camp to interview the refugees.

"Hafes learned English just from reading magazines," Zan says in admiration.

The filmmaker is also impressed by his other key character, Muhammad, who sells vegetables in the camp to earn some money.

"Ishak never harps on his difficulties, and he always make the best of his situation," he adds.

While the majority of the foreign journalists were looking into rumours of refugees being involved in prostitution, Zan says he was more keen on showing the daily lives of these refugees.

"I was not looking for a sensational story about the camp," he explains. "I wanted to do a normal everyday story. I want my audience to see how the two men go about their daily lives while caught in an extraordinary circumstance.

"I want to show that even though they live in a camp, they are no different from us. They have dreams and want a better life, just like us. Unfortunately, their circumstances do not allow them to fulfil their dreams."

Indeed, both men featured in the documentary present an interesting paradox.

One was born in a refugee camp, while the other was brought to a camp, and their different background offers audiences different insights into the lives of these refugees.

As to the many negative assumptions that refugees can ruin a country as they will "steal jobs from locals" and create more crimes and social issues, Zan does not share these sentiments.

"[In our country] refugees and immigrants are taking up jobs that we Malaysians do not want to do," he says. "They are not recognised as refugees. They are seen as pendatang haram (illegals).

"When you are a pendatang haram, it is difficult to earn a living. When these illegals cannot earn a living, they might resort to crimes such as stealing."

Zan advocates that Malaysia recognises these people as refugees, and use them for as a positive work force.

We are Animals will première this Thursday at 4.30pm at The Refugee Fest at Black Box Publika.

For more, visit The Refugee Fest website.

The SunDaily, Posted on 26 June 2018 - 11:30am
Caged like animals
By Bissme S.

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Disgraceful behaviour

LONDON: A court in Britain on Tuesday banned two football fans from attending England matches for three years after a video emerged of them singing an anti-Semitic song at the World Cup in Russia.

David Batty, 58, and 52-year-old Michael Burns both received the three-year banning orders after they returned from Russia and appeared before a court in Leeds in northern England.

District judge Charlotte Holland described their behaviour as “disgraceful.”

The court heard the duo had tickets for upcoming matches at the World Cup, which the judge said they would not now attend in an “unfortunate consequence of their actions.”

British police tracked them down after a video circulated online showing them singing anti-Semitic songs and making Nazi gestures at a bar in the Russian city of Volgograd, where England played Tunisia in the tournament last week.

Volgograd, formerly known as Stalingrad, was the site of one of the bloodiest battles in history when Soviet soldiers repelled Hitler’s army during World War II.

Under the banning orders, the pair cannot be within a two-mile radius of any England football matches until 2021.

A third man, 57-year-old Michael Herbert, was handed a five-year banning order by another British court on Saturday related to behaviour in the video, according to UK police.

A spokesman for Britain’s Football Association condemned “the actions of the people in this video.”

“The disgraceful conduct of the individuals in this video does not represent the values of the majority of English football fans supporting the team in Russia.”

Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts, Britain’s top football police official, added the behaviour of almost all England fans in Russia had been “excellent.”

“They are making friends wherever they are going,” he said in a statement.

“Where there have been incidents in Russia, swift action on their return has resulted.”

England fans celebrate victory after the match.

New Straits Times, Published: June 27, 2018 - 5:54am
England fans banned after singing anti-Semitic song in Russia

THERE are certain melodies that waft through history. One is the cultural contrast between Athens and Jerusalem. This contrast has many meanings, but the most germane one for our day is the contrast between the competitive virtues and the compassionate virtues.

Athens − think of Achilles − stands for the competitive virtues: strength, toughness, prowess, righteous indignation, the capacity to smite your foes and win eternal fame. Jerusalem − think of Moses or Jesus − stands for the cooperative virtues: humility, love, faithfulness, grace, mercy, forgiveness, answering a harsh word with a gentle response.

These two sets of virtues get communicated in different literary forms. The competitive virtues of Athens are usually narrated in myth while the compassionate virtues of Jerusalem often get narrated in parable.

Myth is a specific kind of story. Myths are generally set in a timeless Perilous Realm. The Perilous Realm usually has different rules than the normal world. Creatures have different superpowers, like the ability to fly or throw shafts of lightning. And those rules are taken very seriously. Within the Perilous Realm everything that happens in myth is “true”, in the sense that everything obeys the rules of that other world.

Myths respond to our hunger to do something heroic. Whether it is Zeus, Thor, Luke Skywalker or Wonder Woman, myths trace the archetypal chapters of the heroic quest or combat: refusing the call, the meeting of the mentor, the ordeal, seizing the sword and so on.

The core drama is external: fighting the forces of evil, enduring the harsh journey, developing the skills that make you the best.

Parable is a different kind of story. Parables are usually set in normal time and reality. Parables have ordinary human characters, never superheroes. The word parable comes from the Greek word meaning comparison. Parables are meant to be relatable and didactic.

Parables respond to our deep hunger to be in close relationship. Parables − think of the good Samaritan, the emperor’s new clothes, the prodigal son or the story of Ruth, Naomi and Boaz − are mostly about inner states, not external combat. Characters are presented with a moral dilemma or a moral occasion, and the key question is whether they express charity, faithfulness, forgiveness, commitment and love.

Myths tend to celebrate grandeur and heroic superiority; parables tend to puncture the pretensions of superiority and celebrate humility and service to others.

All of a sudden, we are surrounded by myth. As parable-based religion has receded from the public square, heroic myth, and the competitive virtues it celebrates, has rushed in to fill.

I’ll just mention three forms that are immensely popular today. The first is mythic movies: Avengers, X-Men, Star Wars, Transformers, Justice League and the rest. The Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC Extended Universe franchises alone have grossed about US$20 billion (RM80 billion) at the box office worldwide.

I regularly run into people (men, mostly) who are deeply immersed in these mythic worlds, who can entertain you with long disquisitions on the merits of different characters, the moral lessons of each film, whether Black Panther, say, is an accurate rendition of injustice today.

Then there are video games, which are myths you can enter into through technology. The video game industry is two or three times bigger than the movie industry. Gamers don’t only play; they gather to watch others play. Last year, according to Rolling Stone, 360 million people watched the League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational (an audience three times larger than the Super Bowl).

Finally, there are sporting events like the World Cup. Sport is living myth. Like video games and superhero movies, it gives the way myth gives. It gives people a sense of the heroic. It is the stage upon which great acts of prowess, courage and shame play out − Ronaldo rising to the occasion, Messi choking under pressure.

Like myth, sport takes place in a Perilous Realm where special rules apply. Also like myth, sport requires a great suspension of disbelief. The viewer has to pretend that it really matters which group of men puts a ball in a net.

Myths are moral narratives − they describe one interpretation of the moral landscape of reality and offer a model of how to be a sanctified person in that landscape. You might say that America’s Fourth Great Spiritual Awakening has come in the form of this mythic revival.

There are many virtues to the mythic worldview − to stand heroically for justice, to be loyal to friends and fierce against foes. But history does offer some sobering lessons about societies that relied too heavily on the competitive virtues.

They tend to give short shrift to relationships, which depend on the fragile, intimate bonds of vulnerability, trust, compassion and selfless love. They tend to see life as an eternal competition between warring tribes. They tend to see the line between good and evil as running between groups, not, as in parable, down the middle of every human heart.

We’re spiritual creatures; our lives are shaped by the moral landscapes and ideals we inherit and absorb. I’d say our politics and our society are coming to resemble the competitive mythic ethos that is suddenly all around.

Suddenly we are surrounded by myth, like the movie ‘Avengers: Infinity War’.

New Straits Times, Published: June 27, 2018 - 7:43am
The fourth great awakening
By David Brooks -- NYT

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Japan's #MeToo

Japan’s most senior finance ministry bureaucrat has resigned over allegations of sexual misconduct, in what is being described as the country’s #MeToo moment.

Junichi Fukuda, the vice minister of finance, said he would quit after a weekly magazine published allegations he had sexually harassed a female reporter.

Fukuda’s resignation will come as a further embarrassment to the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, who is struggling to contain a cronyism scandal that centres on finance ministry officials.
Japan's Shinzo Abe tipped to resign in June as cronyism scandals take toll
Read more

Fukuda has denied allegations carried in last week’s Weekly Shincho magazine that he sexually harassed a reporter in a bar.

The magazine, which also released an audio clip of the incident, claimed he told the journalist he wanted to kiss her. “I’ll tie up your hands. Can I touch your breasts?” a voice allegedly belonging to Fukuda is heard saying on the recording. “Shall we have an affair once the budget is approved?”

The magazine alleged Fukuda made similarly inappropriate remarks to other female journalists covering the ministry.

The finance minister, Taro Aso, drew widespread criticism for resisting calls to sack Fukuda, who initially said he would launch a libel suit against the magazine.

On Wednesday, Fukuda said he would step down because the allegations were affecting his ability to do his job. He told reporters he could not confirm if it was his voice in the audio clip. “But at least I have no recollection of making an outrageous conversation like that,” he said. “I am not aware of making any remark that could be taken as sexual harassment.”

The finance ministry has launched an investigation and urged the alleged victim to come forward so it can determine if Fukuda was guilty of sexual misconduct.

Aso, who conceded the remarks on the audio were unacceptable, said Fukuda could not be accused of sexual misconduct until the unnamed female reporter, an employee of the private broadcaster TV Asahi, comes forward.

“Because no victim has come out, only the wrongdoer has been put on the spot and it’s a one-sided story,” Aso said. “Fukuda could be the victim instead of a wrongdoer.”

In another allegation of sexual impropriety, the governor of Niigata prefecture, Ryuichi Yoneyama, said he would resign over claims in another magazine that he had paid money and given gifts to women with whom he had sex after meeting them on an internet dating site.

Yoneyama, who is single, insisted he had not paid for sex with the women, but acknowledged his actions could “look to some like prostitution”.

His resignation could create confusion over contentious plans to restart a nuclear power plant in his prefecture. Yoneyama has said he will resist the restart of two reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa – the world’s biggest nuclear power plant – until a prefectural panel has completed its investigation into the cause of the March 2011 triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Both plants are operated by Tokyo Electric Power.

The #MeToo movement has been slow to gain traction in Japan, where victims are often reluctant to speak out. But criticism of how the country’s authorities handle allegations of sexual harassment and violence has risen since last year, when Shiori Ito, a journalist, claimed she had been raped by a high-profile TV journalist with close ties to Shinzo Abe.

The police suddenly dropped their investigation into the case and Ito is now suing her alleged attacker, Noriyuki Yamaguchi, in a civil lawsuit.

She claims Yamaguchi raped her in a hotel room in 2015 after they had met for a meal and drinks to discuss a job opportunity. She alleges Yamaguchi dragged her to the hotel room and sexually assaulted her after she passed out while they were dining.

Junichi Fukuda, the top bureaucrat at Japan’s finance ministry, has quit following allegations he sexually harassed female reporters, which he denies.

The Guardian, Last modified on Thu 19 Apr 2018 22.00 BST
Japan's #MeToo:
Senior bureaucrat resigns over sexual misconduct allegations

Junichi Fukuda’s resignation is further embarrassment to Shinzo Abe, who is struggling to contain a cronyism scandal

By Justin McCurry in Tokyo




沖縄タイムス、2018年6月26日 17:03
二階氏「産まない」は勝手な考え 都内で講演、少子化問題巡り発言


藤田孝典、5:43 PM - 26 Jun 2018

→ [photo]
941,000 children were born in Japan last year, the lowest number since records began in 1899.

The Guardian, Last modified on Wed 27 Jun 2018 05.43 BST
Childless couples are 'selfish' says Japanese political chief

Toshihiro Nikai is the latest politician to criticise people without children, amid low birthrates in the country

Justin McCurry in Tokyo

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India, most dangerous country for women

London: India is the world's most dangerous country for women due to the high risk of sexual violence and being forced into slave labour, according to a poll of global experts released on Tuesday.

War-torn Afghanistan and Syria ranked second and third in the Thomson Reuters Foundation survey of about 550 experts on women's issues, followed by Somalia and Saudi Arabia.

The only western nation in the top 10 was the United States, which ranked joint third when respondents were asked where women were most at risk of sexual violence, harassment and being coerced into sex.

The poll was a repeat of a survey in 2011 that found experts saw Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, India, and Somalia as the most dangerous countries for women.

Experts said India moving to the top of poll showed not enough was being done to tackle the danger women faced, more than five years after the rape and murder of a student on a bus in Delhi made violence against women a national priority.

"India has shown utter disregard and disrespect for women ... rape, marital rapes, sexual assault and harassment, female infanticide has gone unabated," said Manjunath Gangadhara, a Karnataka government official.

"The (world's) fastest growing economy and leader in space and technology is shamed for violence committed against women."

Government data shows reported cases of crime against women rose by 83 percent between 2007 and 2016, when there were four cases of rape reported every hour.

The survey asked respondents which five of the 193 United Nations member states they thought were most dangerous for women and which country was worst in terms of healthcare, economic resources, cultural or traditional practices, sexual violence and harassment, non-sexual violence and human trafficking.

Respondents also ranked India the most dangerous country for women in terms of human trafficking, including sex slavery and domestic servitude, and for customary practices such as forced marriage, stoning and female infanticide.

India's Ministry of Women and Child Development declined to comment on the survey results.

Trapped By War

Afghanistan fared worst in four of the seven questions, with concerns over healthcare and conflict-related violence.

Kimberly Otis, director of advancement at Women for Afghan Women, said women and girls faced severe gender-based violence, abuse, illiteracy, poverty, and other human rights offences.

"The ongoing war and conflict are getting worse in Afghanistan, which puts the lives of women and girls at increasing risk," said US-based Otis, a survey participant.

Afghanistan's Public Health Minister Ferozuddin Feroz said the deteriorating security situation was making life difficult for women, with large parts of the country still in the control of Taliban fighters after nearly 17 years of war.

"Nowadays, suicide bombings and armed conflict is the third (highest) cause of deaths and disability in Afghanistan," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview in London.

"Instead of focusing (spending) on maternal health, on nutritional status, we spend it on trauma."

The impact of a seven-year war drove Syria into third place in the survey, amid concerns over access to healthcare and both sexual and non-sexual violence.

"There are so many dangers for girls and women," said Maria Al Abdeh, executive director of Women Now For Development, which supports women's centres in Syria.

"There is sexual violence by government forces. Domestic violence and child marriage are increasing and more women are dying in childbirth. The tragedy is nowhere near an end."

Somalia, where more than two decades of war has fuelled a culture of violence and weakened institutions meant to uphold the law, was again named as one of the five most dangerous countries for women.

Saudi Arabia ranked fifth, with women's rights experts saying there had been some progress in recent years, but the recent arrests of female activists ahead of the lifting of a ban on women driving showed much more needed to be done.

"One of the worst laws that prevent women from having equal opportunities is guardianship - because every woman is subjected to a male guardian. She cannot get a passport, cannot travel, sometimes she cannot work," said Ahlam Akram, founder of BASIRA (British Arabs Supporting Universal Women's Rights) in the UK.

"We need to completely obliterate this system. I think change is coming, but it takes time."

#MeToo Puts US On List

Experts said the surprise addition of the United States in the top 10 most dangerous countries for women came down to the #MeToo and Time's Up campaigns against sexual harassment and violence that have dominated headlines for months.

"People want to think income means you're protected from misogyny, and sadly that's not the case," said Cindy Southworth, executive vice president of the Washington-based National Network to End Domestic Violence.

"We are going to look back and see this as a very powerful tipping point ... We're blowing the lid off and saying '#Metoo and Time's Up'."

Rounding out the top 10 most dangerous countries for women were Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen and Nigeria.

India, Libya and Myanmar were considered the world's most dangerous nations for women exploited by human traffickers in a global crime worth an estimated $150 billion a year.

"In many countries the simple fact of being female creates a heightened risk of becoming a victim of slavery," said Nick Grono, chief executive of the Freedom Fund, the first private donor fund dedicated to ending slavery.

The poll of 548 people was conducted online, by phone and in person between March 26 and May 4 with an even spread across Europe, Africa, the Americas, South East Asia, South Asia and the Pacific.

Respondents included aid professionals, academics, healthcare staff, non-government organisation workers, policy-makers, development specialists and social commentators.

India is world's most dangerous country for women due to high risk of sexual violence

NDTV, Updated: June 26, 2018 21:47 IST
India Most Dangerous Country For Women, US In 10 Worst: Survey

War-torn Afghanistan and Syria ranked second and third in the Thomson Reuters Foundation survey of about 550 experts on women's issues, followed by Somalia and Saudi Arabia.
By Reuters

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the Myanmar military

LUXEMBOURG/YANGON (Reuters) - The European Union and Canada imposed sanctions on seven senior military officials from Myanmar on Monday, including the general in charge of an operation accused of driving more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh.

Within hours of the EU announcement, the Myanmar military announced that one of the sanctioned generals had been fired on Monday and another had left the army last month after being removed from his post.

The seven face asset freezes and are banned from traveling to the EU, after the bloc extended an arms embargo and prohibited any training of, or cooperation with, Myanmar’s armed forces.

The EU sanctions, first reported by Reuters in April, also mark a shift in diplomacy by the European bloc, which suspended its restrictive measures on Myanmar in 2012 to support its partial shift to democratic governance in recent years.

The crackdown on the Rohingya in northwestern Rakhine State, which the United Nations denounced as “ethnic cleansing” by the military, has soured relations.

Myanmar rejects almost all accusations of wrongdoing and says it launched a legitimate counter-insurgency operation after coming under attack by Rohingya militants last August.

One of the officers sanctioned by the EU, Major General Maung Maung Soe, had already been sanctioned by the United States last December. He was transferred late last year from his post as the head of Western Command in Rakhine, where Myanmar’s military launched its ferocious counter-offensive.

“He is responsible for the atrocities and serious human rights violations committed against (the) Rohingya population in Rakhine State by the Western Command during that period,” the EU said in a statement.

Hours later, the Myanmar army said in a statement that Maung Maung Soe had been fired on Monday from the military for underperformance when responding to Rohingya militant attacks.

It also said that another sanctioned commander − Lieutenant General Aung Kyaw Zaw, whose Bureau of Special Operations No. 3 oversaw the Western Command − was “given permission to resign” in May. He had also been earlier moved from his original post. The army said it found “some flaws” in his performance.

It did not refer to the EU sanctions in its statement.

Thant Zin Oo, the commander of the 8th Security Police Battalion, was also sanctioned. The EU accused him of “serious human rights violations (that) include unlawful killings and systematic burning of Rohingya houses and buildings.” Four other senior military staff were named, all generals.

Canada sanctioned the same seven officers shortly after the EU announcement. Its sanctions impose asset freezes and bar Canadians and people in Canada from dealing with the listed officers “or providing financial or related services to them”.

Canada first imposed sanctions related to the Rohingya crisis in February, when Reuters reported on events in the village of Inn Din where 10 Rohingya men were killed by Rakhine Buddhists and security force members. Reuters named and detailed Thant Zin Oo’s role in Rakhine in that story for the first time.

Two Reuters journalists were jailed while reporting the story and remain in prison in Yangon, where they face up to 14 years behind bars for violating Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act.

A Rohingya refugee is seen in Balukhali refugee camp at dawn near Cox's Bazaar, Bangladesh, March 28, 2018.

Reuters, Published: June 25, 2018 / 4:51 PM
EU, Canada sanction Myanmar generals over Rohingya; Myanmar says two are fired
By Robin Emmott, Antoni Slodkowski

THREE years ago, Malaysian documentary maker and freelance journalist Mahi Ramakrishnan started The Refugees Fest with the aim of showcasing the talents and abilities of refugees.

This year, the event – with the theme, Inclusion for a Better World – is happening from tomorrow to Sunday at MAP in Publika, Kuala Lumpur.

There will be activities ranging from film screenings to theatre performances, and book launches at MAP’s White Box and Black Box spaces.

“This is a cultural festival for the refugees,” says Mahi, adding that the fest is also held “to continue building bridges between Malaysian society and different refugee communities in the country”.

She hopes Malaysians will come out in full force to lend support to the festival and to mingle with the refugees.

Mahi says she understands why some Malaysians are hostile towards refugees, because they believe that refugees only bring problems to the country.

But she adds: “You must understand that [these people] were forced to flee their country because they faced persecution there.

“If they had remained in their country, they would have been killed. They had no choice [but to leave].

“Once you meet them, you will realise they are no different from us. All they want is a better life for themselves and their families.”

Mahi adds that one of the highlights of the fest is the launch of a book of 14 poems, From Exile With Love, penned by refugees from Syria, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka who are living here.

The poems were written in the poets’ native language, and published together with an English translation, she says, adding that they wrote about “war, violence, persecution, loss, love and hope”.

The book is available at the fest upon a minimum donation of RM30.

Well-known Hungarian photojournalist David Verberckt will also be at the fest with his photo exhibition featuring Rohingya refugees.

Verberckt, who has been covering the Rohingya crisis for more than 10 years now, will also be conducting two free photography workshops for refugee children.

Mahi hopes that these children will later use the skills they learn from this workshop to tell their stories, and possibly feature their work in next year’s fest.

Among the films being showcased at the fest are two films by Indian filmmaker Fazil N.C.

The first, Road to Biate looks at the stateless Biate community who had fled from Tibet to Meghalaya in India years ago. The Biates speak Tibetan and Burmese, but remain a people without a country.

His second documentary, In the Shade of the Fallen Chinar 2, looks at the struggles of the Kashmiri people under the control of India’s military.

Meanwhile, author J.K. Asher, who lives in both Malaysia and Australia, will be premiering her debut film, From Killing Fields to the Playing Fields.

The film is about the young Rohingya football players in Australia and Malaysia who are training hard for the Conifa Games, a tournament set up for stateless people.

The fest will also feature two theatre productions by the refugees, including their children.

The first shows the refugees talking about their experiences, and the second focuses on the issue of child marriages among Afghans.

“We are also holding friendly football matches between different Rohingya teams in Ampang,” Mahi says.

For more, visit The Refugees Fest Facebook page.

The SunDaily, Posted on 27 June 2018 - 10:50am
Spotlight on the stateless
By Bissme S.

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Killed after giving talk on how to manage disputes

A blogger and cybercrime specialist was stabbed to death in Japan moments after giving a seminar where he talked about how to manage online disputes.

Kenichiro Okamoto, known to web users as Hagex, had been arguing with a 42-year-old internet troll who turned himself in after the murder.

Okamoto was followed to the toilets after giving his speech and was stabbed several times in the back at the conference in Fukuoka, according to local media.

The suspect apparently wrote after the attack that he had 'graduated from being just a keyboard warrior'.

Okamoto, 41, had wanted to 'share his experiences about quarrels online and how to deal with them' at the talk.

He was left for dead while his attacker fled on bicycle.

A man confessed to the crime hours later saying he 'hated' Okamoto, despite never meeting him in person.

Mainichi Shimbun reported that an anonymous internet user posted a message about graduating from 'keyboard warrior' around 20 minutes before a suspect turned himself into the police.

It is believed the suspected killer may have held a grudge against Okamoto for reporting him to website administrators of a bulletin he monitored.

The internet user would troll others on the site, Okamoto included.

Okamoto was an internet security consultant based in Tokyo who had appeared several times on television to talk about the internet in Japan.

A well-known blogger was stabbed to death in Fukuoka after giving a seminar on settling online disputes with other internet users

Cybercrime specialist Kenichiro Okamoto had appeared several times on television to talk about the internet in Japan

Okamoto, known online as 'Hagex', had reported an internet user for trolling others on a bulletin he monitored

The blog run by Okamoto, where he shared his desire to talk about dealing with online quarrels

MailOnline, Updated: 19:33 BST, 26 June 2018
Japanese blogger, 41, is killed by an internet user moments after giving a talk on 'how to manage disputes online'

* Kenichiro Okamoto was stabbed to death after being followed by an online hater
* The blogger had given a talk about how to deal with online quarrels
* His killer reportedly bragged that he had just 'graduated' from keyboard warrior
* Okamoto was a specialist in online security and dark web cybercrime

By Jordan Barnes For Mailonline and Afp

[Read more]

Matsumoto, 42, reportedly confessed to stabbing Okamoto, telling police he had grown to “hate” the celebrity blogger and wanted to kill him.

Regarded as a leading expert on cybercrime and the dark web, Okamoto worked for an IT security consulting firm and made regular TV appearances.

Japanese Twitter users paid tribute to the blogger, with many voicing disbelief over the violent nature of his death. “Rest in peace, Hagex,” one user wrote.

The IT journalist Daisuke Tsuda said he was shocked to learn of Okamoto’s death. “How could this have happened?” he wrote.

Online personalities and journalists are often victims of online abuse in Japan, where attempts are being made to crack down on hate speech.

The Guardian, Last modified on Tue 26 Jun 2018 17.25 BST
Japanese blogger stabbed to death after internet abuse seminar

Cybercrime expert Kenichiro Okamoto reportedly killed by man who abused him online

By Justin McCurry in Tokyo

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沖縄タイムス、2018年6月26日 05:00

































HARBOR BUSINESS Online、2018年06月26日






















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Koreas mark war anniversary

The two Koreas Monday marked their war anniversary in a mood of detente, with Pyongyang dropping its customary anti-US rhetoric and Seoul saying talks have begun on moving the North's artillery back from the tense border.

Pyongyang's tightly controlled official media are normally packed with anti-American invective on June 25, when the North launched a mass invasion of the South in 1950.

But this year proved to be a marked exception in the wake of the historic Singapore summit.

In the South, Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon said discussions were taking place about relocating Pyongyang's long-range artillery away from their border.

North Korea is estimated to have around 1,000 artillery pieces along the frontier, threatening much of the South's capital Seoul only 50 kilometres (30 miles) away.

The North has long accused the US of provoking the 1950-53 Korean War as part of a plan for global domination and blames it for the division of the peninsula, agreed between Moscow and Washington in the closing days of World War II.

A US-led 16-country United Nations force supported the South in the conflict while China backed the North.

"Every year on this day, our army and people row the boat of memories, full of creed and determination to defend the nation," read a report in the North's state-run Rodong Sinmun.

"What surprised the world even more was... our people's solidarity to annihilate the enemy," it added -- without identifying the enemy by name in any of its coverage.

In stark contrast, all six pages of the newspaper last year were filled with colourful criticisms of the "US imperialists", blaming Americans for "a holocaust in which they massacred countless Koreans in the most brutal and barbarous way".

This year's anniversary comes less than two weeks after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump shook hands at the unprecedented summit in Singapore.

More virulent forms of anti-US propaganda have been disappearing from the streets of Pyongyang, while images of missile launches and military formations on a prominent site outside the city train station have been replaced with visuals of industry and agriculture.

Analysts say the rare omission of the US in North Korean media coverage of the anniversary may be part of the regime's efforts to maintain the current diplomatic momentum.

"It's remarkable," said Peter Ward, a North Korea researcher at Seoul National University. "On this day of all days it's nowhere to be found."

"North Korean anti-Americanism may have popular roots (nourished by decades of agitprop), but what we see is what the state wants us to," he added.

Across the border at a war anniversary ceremony in Seoul, Prime Minister Lee acknowledged that the conflict began "due to North Korea's invasion".

But Lee noted the diplomatic rapprochement on the peninsula, with two inter-Korean summits preceding the meeting in Singapore -- after which Trump announced the suspension of joint military exercises with the South, the US's security ally.

In Singapore Kim and Trump signed a joint statement in which Pyongyang committed to "work toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula".

But critics have said the encounter between the two mercurial leaders was more style than substance, producing a document short on details about the key issue of the North's atomic weapons.

Less than a year ago, Pyongyang hosted this rally in support of North Korea's stance against the US

AFP, Published: 25 JUN 2018
Koreas mark war anniversary in mood of detente, North drops anti-US rhetoric

Brigette Baxter Ortiz was just 4 years old when her father, U.S. Army Capt. Samuel Baxter III, left their Glendora home to fly reconnaissance missions in the Korean War.

He died there, and his body never came home.

Already a World War II flying veteran at age 30 − he had been held by the Germans as a prisoner of war − Baxter was shot down in November 1951.

He became one of about 7,600 troops from the three-year conflict whose remains were never recovered, about 600 of whom came from California, military records show.

Now, U.S. military officials expect North Korea will soon turn over potentially hundreds of those remains in the coming days − the first sign that the totalitarian nation plans to comply with an agreement signed on June 12 by its leader, Kim Jong Un, and President Trump, during a historic summit in Singapore.

Baxter’s two children, who barely knew their father but have carried his memory for six decades, still wonder whether they might someday get their father’s remains home.

“He’s ever present in my mind and in my memory,” said Ortiz, of Temecula.

Military officials in Seoul said the transfer could occur any day, likely at the truce village known as Panmunjom, a remote outpost along the tense border between North and South Korea, estranged nations still technically at war but recently exploring peace. It’s the same location where Kim recently held two historic summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

When Trump met Kim in Singapore, the issue of missing troops became part of their negotiations and ultimately their agreement, which also focused on denuclearization. In a news conference afterward, Trump said the families want the “remains of their fathers, and mothers, and all of the people that got caught into that really brutal war.”

More than 36,000 Americans perished in the 1950-53 war, U.S. military data show. North Korean officials have indicated in the past that the North still has the remains of as many as 200 American troops.

The remains, if and when they are received, were expected to be sent to Osan Air Base, south of Seoul, for initial inspection before being moved to Hawaii for a more detailed analysis supervised by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, which uses scientists and forensic photographers to catalog lost remains from multiple past wars, including Vietnam.

The return of as many as 200 sets of remains would be the latest in a decades-long process to bring troops home from the war. The process stalled in 2012 amid tensions between North Korea and the United States.

U.S. Army Col. Chad Carroll, a spokesman for United States Forces Korea, said military officials were working closely with the agency to prepare to receive the remains, though he declined to comment on the timing of any transfer.

“We owe a profound debt of gratitude to U.S. service members who gave their lives in service to their country and we are working diligently to bring them home,” he said.

Military officials here said they expected any remains returned would be received with the same protocols as any other military casualty, with high-ranking officers and honor guards in attendance.

It’s unknown, and maybe unlikely, that Baxter’s remains would be among those returned.

According to an Air Force report, Baxter left on his final mission from Pyeongtaek, South Korea, about 6:30 a.m. on Nov. 14, 1951.

He flew a single-engine LT-6D plane on a reconnaissance mission under the pilot call sign “Superman 1.”

About 90 minutes later, now over enemy territory, Baxter’s small plane swooped east. During the turn, he took fire from machine guns on the ground. The plane emitted smoke, caught fire and crashed, according to military documents.

No one recalled seeing parachutes, and other pilots saw the plane mangled, its wings torn off, in flames on the ground. Another airman, Maj. Harold Vizina of Washington state, also died in the incident, and his remains also were not recovered, according to military records.

Family members recall Baxter as a kind, fair-haired man who attended Citrus College briefly before joining the Army during World War II.

“We are hoping that we can find something left of him to come home,” said Ortiz, now 71. The family hopes to have a permanent memorial for Baxter at a military airfield in Riverside.

After Baxter was shot down, Ortiz’s mother kept pictures and ensured that the children, who include retired West Hollywood Assistant City Manager Sam Baxter IV, would remember him. Sam Baxter V, the fallen airman’s grandson, is the chef at Connie & Ted’s, a restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard.

Ortiz has one vivid memory, though, a rainy night riding in the backseat of an Army jeep, her father at the wheel with his peaked captain’s hat.

“I could see his profile, when he turned, with the rain. To be honest, that’s all I can remember,” she said. “I was so young, and you learn about the type of person he was from family members − and of course the tragedy of his death.”

Brigette Baxter Ortiz was 4 when her father, Samuel Baxter, died in the Korean War.

A portrait of Capt. Samuel Baxter, who flew reconnaissance missions during the Korean War.

Los Angeles Times, Published: JUN 22, 2018 - 11:00 AM
North Korea is expected to turn over remains of war casualties. One California woman hopes her father's are among them

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Be 'brave' in #MeToo era!

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia plans to tighten existing laws protecting children against sexual violence and hold guardians and teachers accountable for ignoring telltale signs of abuse, the nation’s first female Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said.

An act on sexual offences against children was passed last year under the former government of ex-premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

It aims to protect minors below 18 years old and makes child pornography and sexually communicating with a child an offense.

Wan Azizah, who holds a second portfolio as the minister of women, family and community development, said there’s room to strengthen the law to make it more effective.

“Ultimately there have to be laws to hold primary caregivers ignoring child abuse incidences accountable,” Wan Azizah, who has nine grandchildren, said in an interview at her office in Putrajaya.

“They are supposed to be the guardians of it, you have to sensitize them to look for telltale signs or be aware and be more attentive,” Wan Azizah said.

“I’ve been told horror stories.”

The wife of former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Wan Azizah first entered politics two decades ago when Anwar was jailed on what he described as trumped up sodomy charges.

The trained eye surgeon, who has spent much of her married life as a housewife, went on to establish the forerunner of what is now known as the People’s Justice Party (PKR), of which she is president.

About a month after Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad swept to power, his government has moved swiftly to fulfill campaign pledges including scrapping a goods and services tax and shelving infrastructure projects.

For her part, Wan Azizah said her ministry is looking at bolstering regulations against domestic violence and sexual harassment, while promoting gender equality, also part of Mahathir’s election promises.

Wan Azizah, who holds a second portfolio as the minister of women, family and community development, said there’s room to strengthen the law to make it more effective.

New Straits Times, Published: June 12, 2018 - 12:33pm
Wan Azizah seeks tighter child abuse laws

TAIPEI: Soft-spoken and naturally shy, Taiwan's first female leader President Tsai Ing-wen was not an obvious trailblazer.

But after taking over a party once seen as chauvinist and defying sexist critics, she calls on other women to shrug off self-doubt and be "brave" in the #MeToo era.

In an exclusive interview with AFP, Tsai, 61, described the difficulties she faced in countering "traditional" attitudes among voters and party members who did not believe she was up to the job because of her gender.

"This is, in a way, a very traditional society," Tsai told AFP at her residence in central Taipei, two years after her election as president.

"People think that women tend to be weaker, tend to be less resilient, and people usually have this question of whether a woman can exercise leadership like a man."

The former law professor worked as an international trade negotiator before taking on her first major public role in 2000, when she headed the body that deals with Taiwan's relations with Beijing.

It was not until 2008 that she entered frontline party politics, becoming chair of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its first female leader.

It was not an easy fit, she says.

Tsai has described herself as introverted as a child and never liked spending time with large groups - a challenge when she first started campaigning as party leader.

"I was not speaking loud enough, and I was not speaking with big body language and I was not able to communicate with the public in a language they were familiar with," she admits.

When she took on the leadership, the DPP was in disarray after losing the presidency and was perceived as "chauvinist", she adds.

"I think at the beginning (party supporters) had doubts whether this woman would be able to lead them."

But Tsai says she countered the doubters and her own lack of experience by making a determined push to meet voters and re-learn Taiwanese, spoken in the DPP's southern heartland, rather than Taiwan's dominant Mandarin Chinese.

Nowadays she says she likes to interact with people "to a certain extent".

"When you look into the eyes of people after this interaction they look more confident and feel more secure and that is a time that I feel that this is all worthwhile."


Tsai, who has faced sexist comments from some critics attacking her status as a single childless woman, praises the global #MeToo movement highlighting gender discrimination and harassment.

"I think #MeToo is good to tell the male side that there are things that are important to females and therefore you have to be more aware of these issues," she says.

"The same applies to women - they should be told they should be brave and they should not be shy. They should come out and speak what they want to say."

In Taiwan's parliament, 38 per cent of legislators are women, a higher percentage than in China, Japan and South Korea as well as the United States and Britain.

Tsai says the number of women serving in Taiwan's military is also growing.

But despite changing attitudes, Tsai, like other women in power, faces regular questions about her wardrobe, particularly about why she never wears a skirt - favouring dark-coloured trouser suits instead.

She says it does not bother her, although she believes appearance plays a part in political life across gender lines.

"The sense is that you have to look pleasant in front of the public. You have to appear to be very confident in yourself."

Tsai earned a reputation as a "cat lady" during her 2016 presidential campaign, after her pets Hsiang-hsiang and Ah Tsai featured on her social media streams.

Since then she has adopted three retired guide dogs which have also appeared on the presidential Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Tsai says she grew up surrounded by animals and finds their presence calming.

"Sometimes, if you are thinking about things or are under a lot of pressure, you will just stand there and look at those cats," she says.

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen smiles during a interview with AFP at the presidential residence

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen with her pet dogs

25 Jun 2018 08:06PM
Taiwan's Tsai on brave women, #MeToo and self-confidence

Soft-spoken and naturally shy, Taiwan's first female leader President Tsai Ing-wen was not an obvious trailblazer.

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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed her newborn daughter would be called Neve as she left an Auckland hospital Sunday, and expressed hope that one day a woman giving birth in office would no longer be a "novelty".

Speaking publicly for the first time since her delivery on Thursday -- which made waves around the world -- Ardern said she and her partner Clarke Gayford had settled on the full name of Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford for their first child.

"We chose Neve because we just liked it, and when we met her we thought she looked like she suited the name," the 37-year-old told reporters as she cradled her daughter in her arms.

Ardern, who said the couple kept a short list of names, added that Neve meant "bright and radiant and snow", while Te Aroha was the name of a rural town some 140 kilometres (90 miles) southeast of Auckland where her family is from.

The New Zealand leader said she was blown away by well-wishes locally and internationally, including from Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan.

"We wanted to say thank you (to New Zealanders for their support) and we are all doing really well. Sleep deprived, but super well," she said.

Ardern is only the second world leader to give birth while in office, after former Pakistan PM Benazir Bhutto, and said she hoped such experiences would not be unusual in the future.

"Hopefully, these things said in these moments now, I guess for want of a better word -- novelty, they are still new -- that one day they aren't new anymore," she said.

"And that it's generally accepted, not just that women can make choices, but actually that men can too," Ardern added, referring to Gayford, who was standing beside her.

Her partner, a 40-year-old television fishing personality, will be a stay-at-home dad while the prime minister will return to work after six weeks' maternity leave.

"Clarke's been as much of a role model here as I am, and that's something that I think a lot of people talk about too and it's true," Ardern said.

"So I hope for little girls and boys that actually there's a future where they can make choices about how they raise their family and what kind of career they have that is just based on what they want and it makes them happy."

Former New Zealand PM Helen Clark had said the couple was sending sent a significant message to the world and were "inspirational" for younger men and women.

The birth capped an eventful year for Ardern, who became prime minister in October just three months after taking charge of the Labour Party as it languished in the polls.

Her deputy Winston Peters is now acting prime minister, although Ardern will continue to be consulted on significant issues.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was blown away by well-wishes from around the world

PM Ardern and her partner have named their daughter Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford

PM Ardern's partner Clarke Gayford will be a stay-at-home dad

AFP, Published: 24 JUN 2018
N. Zealand PM hopes for new world for daughter Neve

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Raya, holiday season

RAYA is awesome.

It’s that time of the year when you can eat five big meals a day and endless amounts of cookies without anyone judging you.

It’s the holiday season where you get to meet all your relatives, including you cousins, your cousins’ neighbours, and your cousins’ neighbours’ in-laws (this happened last year).

It’s a chance to visit people’s homes for open houses, which is also an opportunity to judge their interior decorating skills.Raya is a time most of us look forward to. But like all good things, sometimes there is a catch.

In my case, meeting family and friends I seldom get the chance to see, also means that I am inevitably stuck with the awkward conversation starter most unmarried people have to endure.

“When are you getting married?”

In my experience, Raya only comes second to the most common time people ask this question (the first being at weddings). Perhaps it’s the festive mood, or perhaps it’s the fact that some of us only see each other at this time of the year. In any case, it seems to prompt a lot of people to ask and be curious about when, how and whom you’ll be marrying.

For the most part these questions are asked in the spirit of good humour and casual conversation but sometimes they can get a little awkward. On one memorable occasion, I was just about to leave my Opah’s house (Opah is my 80-something year-old nanny who used to take care of me when I was little) when she stopped me before I drove off. “I have a request,” she said. “I want to see you get married before I die.”

Well, no pressure Amal.

Handle It Like A Pro

There are different ways to look at this. The truth is, sometimes, these questions are nothing more than mindless conversation starters. After all, if you rarely meet someone and the context of the meet-up is a loud, crowded house with a mix of family and friends with all kinds of jobs and lifestyles, what else are you going to ask them about?

Soon you’ll exhaust the mundane topics like the weather or the last general election. So, asking about your marital status is one of the few ‘safe’ questions which won’t offend anyone’s ideology or life choices. And let’s be honest, people are sensitive about pretty much everything these days, so that doesn’t leave a lot of room for topics of discussion.

From another perspective, sometimes people ask because they are genuinely interested. There are people who would really like to know how your social life is progressing, and are not merely asking out of boredom.Whichever the case, I think it doesn’t matter who is asking or why they’re asking the question.

As always, you can’t control the situation, but you can certainly control your reaction to it.

Throughout the Raya break, I indulged in people’s observations and reactions to being asked this very common question. Through social media, some responded with disdain over the pressure, some were cool as cucumbers and some were enraged at what they felt was an act of intrusion into their private lives.

It is understandable why some of us get irritated by this.We either feel that it is like rubbing salt onto the wound in our challenge to find ‘the person’, or that it wrongly assumes that all of us want to be married off quickly, which is offensive.

If you come from the same cultural background as me, you would’ve probably been probed about it the minute you graduated from college. Therefore, at this point of my life, I daresay that I am a seasoned professional at handling it. As an “expert”, my recommendation would be to first and foremost relax, and take it all with a pinch of salt. We tend to get worked up too easily sometimes.

Secondly, practise the art of diversion. Subtly, change the subject from why you’re not yet married with two kids to one that has nothing to do with your marital status, like politics for example (I find this topic to be a most effective distraction) or food or someone’s recent death (depressing, I know, but it works wonders).

And last but not least, if nothing else works, it’s time for you to get busy. Offer to help clear the dining table, refill the cookie jars or assist an elderly person to walk across the hall.

Focus On Your Personal Goals

My mother used to tell me that the questions would never end. First, it’s “when are you graduating?” Next, it’s “do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend yet?” After that, it’s “when are you getting married?” Then, it’s “when are you having a baby?” Later, it’s “when are you having even more kids?” Eventually, it’s “when are you getting a son/daughter in-law” and “when are you getting a grandchild?”The point is, if you concern yourself too much with people’s questions about how your life is evolving, you’ll be stuck in a vicious cycle.

The Raya scenario of being asked when your wedding invitation card is due serves as a good reminder that we should pursue our personal goals within our own pace and timeline. It will help curb the pressure to fulfil society’s expectations, and allow us to handle these situations with grace and humour instead of resentment.

[photo-1] Opah and I at her home in Kedah.

[photo-2] Raya is a time to catch up and also a popular time to get probed.

Newe Straits Times, Published: June 26, 2018 - 9:00am
The Unavoidable Question
By Amal Ghazali, AMAL MUSES
A geoscientist by day and aspiring writer by night, Amal Ghazali ponders on everything, from perplexing modern-day relationship dilemmas to the fascinating world of women’s health and wellbeing, all done of course, while having a good laugh. Read more of her stories at bootsoverbooks.com

THE post-Raya hangover: You find yourself waking up after at least three days of patchy memories consisting of a swirl of meat, ketupat, meat, icy sweet drinks, meat, coconut milk in everything, meat, Raya cookies and, guess what, even more meat!

Every year, as a result of feeling sluggish over a complete indulgence with almost zero self-control during the Raya season, I would wind back a little via detoxing.

And by detox, I mean eating cautiously for a whole week with absolutely no red meat, fried food, white sugar, carbs, processed food, caffeine and shellfish.

If it sounds like torture to you, that’s because it is. But a beneficial one at that.

To make it interesting this time, I decided to pick out a little competition to keep me motivated.

I scanned potential candidates and eventually settled on a promising nominee − a male colleague named Yoganathan, whom I initially felt I could totally outrun in this little contest.

We agreed to share our gastronomic journey throughout the week to compare ourselves.


I explained the ground rules to Yoga, who seemed unfazed by the menu limitations. This worried me a little.

Day 1 started off positively. As I ate my breakfast granola, I smiled in insincere sympathy over the regret he must be feeling about his own breakfast of apples and a cup of green tea.

For lunch, we both seemed to be doing well, sticking to a vegan menu while Yoga had a steamed salmon.

I was boosting with confidence at my own tenacity, until dinner came and he showed me a picture of some oats he was having.

I was impressed. I could never survive having just oats for dinner.

I woke up on Day 2 feeling a sudden pang of hunger, so I resorted to have a wholemeal toast. I was sure that Yoga would’ve given up by now, his dinner oats sending him off the edge, but he told me his breakfast was a plate of apples and half a boiled corn (are you kidding me?).

This time around, I was pressed for time to make all my own meals due to work, so I resorted to my go-to ready-made arsenal: healthy lunches from La Juiceria’s raw food bar, Jack O’s all-natural chicken patties for dinner, and smoothies from the various health outlets around town.

There is so much access to healthy options these days. Gwyneth (Paltrow), I’m following your advice in resourcing detox food and not using time constraints as an excuse!

The sugar withdrawal was real. Stopping cold turkey after days of eating all sorts of Raya cookies showed its effects on me on Day 3 onwards.

In a moment of temporary relapse, I secretly ate a pineapple tart in my office locker. All right, fine. I actually had two of those. But of course I didn’t tell Yoga about the four pieces of pineapple tarts I ate in disclosure.

The next few days seemed like long days at a barren, blazing hot desert with no end in sight. Or at least that was how it felt in my mind.

I thought about all the rendang I had during Raya, reminiscing the good days when I was eating all the festive dishes five times a day.

On the fourth night, I had only roast veggies for dinner and I went to bed still hungry. I recalled watching a model on TV eating the exact same thing and announcing she was stuffed. What lies!

Another test came in the form of the many, many office Raya parties through the week. It was bad enough that I was missing carbs but the fact that there was an all-day buffet right there in the same room made it so much worse.

On the last day of the detox, Yoga came by and showcased his lunch of just chicken and salad.

I smiled in encouragement as I went ahead for a cold bowl of cendol from the office party, officially ending my detox period with a sweet, calorie-spiked bang.


By the end of the programme, I lost all my Raya weight and no longer felt like a glutton. It is safe to say from this little mission that willpower is always key to plough through this challenge.

I’m sure that the detoxing rules were something unfamiliar to Yoga, but he was determined to be a worthy competitor and I applaud him for all of those nights he settled for just oats for dinner. Even I can’t pull that off.

But most of all, the whole experience is a reminder that a little healthy competition is always an amazing boost to keep ourselves motivated in achieving our goals, even when it’s about getting back on that healthier saddle.

[photo-1] Prepping the ingredients for a week-long detox is no joke but worth it in the end.

[photo-2] Meals we had between us throughout the programme.

New Straits Times, Published: July 25, 2017 - 9:05am
The post-Raya redemption
By Amal Ghazali, AMAL MUSES

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― なんでこんなにアホなのか ―






NHK、2018年6月24日 19時57分
麻生氏 安倍首相の3選支持強調

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Senegal and Japan

Japanese fans further cemented their reputation as one of the politest sets of supporters at World Cups as they were filmed helping to clean up the Mordovia Arena in Saransk after their side’s 2-1 victory over Colombia.

Win, lose or draw, fans of the Samurai Blue clean up after themselves with bin bags they’ve specifically brought into the ground for that purpose. They made headlines around the world with a similar display of tidiness during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. As well as their cleanliness, Japanese fans also lit up the game against Colombia with a wide array of costumes.

The victory lifted spirits at home, after a difficult week for the nation which started on Monday with a 6.1 magnitude earthquake striking Osaka, killing five people and injuring hundreds more.

Fans watching Tuesday’s match at pubs and outdoor bars in downtown Tokyo celebrated when Japan clinched their win, flooding into Shibuya’s famous “scramble crossing,” prompting scores of police to come out to ensure order.

And at the Russian World Cup, this time the Japanese move seems to have started a trend, as Senegalese fans were later seen tidying up after themselves following their victory over Poland.

It all leaves the 15,000 volunteers who are working on the 2018 World Cup with a little less work to do.

But it wasn’t just Senegal’s fans who caught the eye on social media. There was huge interest in the Senegal, coach Aliou Cissé. A veteran of the team that shocked France in the opening game of the 2002 World Cup, people were entranced by his dramatic tactical instructions from the game’s sidelines.

Social media also fell in love with Cissé’s visible rapid mood change at the conclusion of the game.

The world’s tidiest sets of supporters will come face-to-face when Japan and Senegal meet in Ekaterinburg on 24 June, with each side knowing that a win would almost certainly see them through to the next round.

[photo-1] Japanese supporters clean the stand after their match with Colombia.

[photo-2] Japan fans in Saransk ahead of the match with Colombia.

[photo-3] A Japanese football fan celebrates the win.

[photo-4] Japanese supporters cheer at a scramble crossing in front of Shibuya Station in Tokyo.

The Guardian, Last modified on Wed 20 Jun 2018 19.10 BST
Japan and Senegal fans tidy up after themselves at World Cup

Japanese fans set trend with their regular habit of clearing up after supporting the Samurai Blue at World Cups
By Martin Belam and agencies

Japan have taken their oldest ever World Cup squad to Russia and all that experience counted for something as they summoned the spirit and attacking intuition to twice drag themselves back into a match that challenged them in every way.

There had been many a cliche about the stylistic difference between African and Asian football in the pre-match discourse, but Japan’s determination to compete first and then break with conviction was a great leveller.

Senegal’s manager, Aliou Cissé, never really bought the idea that physical power would be the great advantage it was cracked up to be, and Japan’s efforts, their confidence that they could find a way for their own talents to make a difference, pushed them towards another promising result.

Control of Group H – whose qualifiers will meet England and Belgium from Group G in the knockouts – was at stake, and at the end of this topsy-turvy encounter nobody was any the wiser who progress, even though this draw keeps both teams tied on top of the group for now.

Senegal regretted an opportunity missed from a display where they did not hit full stride.

“Honestly we are all a bit disappointed,” said Sadio Mané, who opened the scoring early but by the end of it all could not hide the feeling that his team took a step back after the positivity of a stylish victory in their opening group game.

Cissé could not quite put his finger on the reasons, but he admitted this was not the performance for which he was hoping. “Of course we have regrets but I must say we didn’t see a great Senegal team,” he said. “What I know is that at this level of competition with the players we have here, players who play at world level, we conceded two avoidable goals and we were not very good. The best team, I must admit, was Japan.”

The best team drew. But if Senegal want to take one consolation from the match it is that Japan created the chances to win late on as they finished in the ascendancy.

“Big and strong doesn’t really mean much in football. When it comes to speed and shots the Japanese were very good. I didn’t see much physical differences, commitment levels were 50/50,” noted Cissé. That said, Japan did look a little overawed at the start, standing off any Senegalese advances, and it took only 11 minutes for Japan’s defence to panic and Mané to be the grateful beneficiary.

Genki Haraguchi tried to clear a cross but could only glance a backward header weakly into Youssouf Sabaly’s path. His shot was parried by Japan’s goalkeeper, Eiji Kawashima, straight to the lurking Mané. Liverpool’s attacker didn’t have to do anything except be in the right place at the right time. The ball simply bounced off him and in.

Japan’s equaliser came with a sudden flash of neat, precise football. Yuto Nagatomo burst into the box and controlled a long pass, dinking on for Takashi Inui to set himself to curl a low shot past Kadim Ndiaye. They really grew into the game and conjured two brilliant opportunities to take the lead around the hour mark. So close, but Yuya Osako could only fresh-air kick when he was through, and Inui cracked a shot against the crossbar.

Senegal pulled themselves together and found a moment to express themselves. Mané instigated it all, delaying and cajoling until he found Sabaly running into space. The Bordeaux man danced into position and drilled the ball across goal for Moussa Wagué to hammer in from an acute angle.

Japan again fought their way back into the game. This time Ndiaye, Senegal’s goalkeeper, had a moment to forget as he flapped at a cross, Inui drove the loose ball back, and Keisuke Honda seized the moment to pick his spot.

“We came back from behind twice and each time after conceding the team was calm,” said Akira Nishino. “We could play in our own rhythm, our own way. After we won the first match we wanted to be aggressive towards the second match. We got a point. The result we had is going to have a very positive impact on the third match.”

Overall, Senegal missed some accuracy in their final ball around the box, and Cissé wants them to refocus ahead of the final group game.

“We need to improve the impact, more aggression on the ball. We need to have more concentration. We were getting the ball then losing it,” said Cissé. “There were lot of technical errors – too many. We didn’t play a great game but we didn’t lose.

“We hope to qualify. We have to be concentrated and believe in it. The last day is going to be hard fought.”

Japan’s Yuto Nagatomo vies with Senegal’s Mbaye Niang during the 2-2 draw in Group H at the Ekaterinburg Arena.

The Guardian, Last modified on Mon 25 Jun 2018 00.05 BST
Senegal and Japan keep World Cup knockout hopes alive with 2-2 draw
By Amy Lawrence at the Ekaterinburg Arena


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Brain evolution

For more than 200,000 years, Neanderthals successfully occupied the cold, dark forests and shores of Europe.

Then early humans came along.

Archaeological evidence suggests that human migrants from Africa arrived on the European continent around 40,000 years ago. About that same time, the Neanderthals all died off.

For decades, anthropologists have puzzled over what factors contributed to this rapid and total replacement of Neanderthals by their modern human cousins.

Now, a multi-disciplinary team including mechanical engineers, neuroscientists and physical anthropologists have provided a new clue to this mystery by creating the first digital reconstruction of four Neanderthal brains.

By comparing these brains with an average human brain, the authors suggest that different ways of processing information may have helped humans outcompete their hominid cousins.

The work was published Thursday in Scientific Reports.

To reconstruct a Neanderthal brain, the authors started by measuring the overall shape of the inside of four Neanderthal skulls.

Next, they created an "average" digital modern human brain and skull by combining MRI data of more than 1,000 modern humans.

Once they had these two measurements, they were able to use a computer program to warp the size and shape of the human brain to match the shape of the interior of the Neanderthals' skulls in a process called deformation.

This method is not entirely untested. The authors report that the same process has been shown to effectively re-create the structure of a bonobo brain by morphing a chimpanzee brain, and vice versa.

Using this technique, the researchers discovered that while the two types of brains were about the same size, there was a clear difference in shape.

In particular, the authors found that the cerebellum, a region of the brain that lies toward the lower back of our heads, was significantly larger in humans than in Neanderthals.

This part of the brain is associated with speech comprehension and production, working memory and cognitive flexibility, said Naomichi Ogihara, a mechanical engineer at Keio University in Yokohama, Japan, who worked on the study.

And in this region of the brain, size does matter.

The researchers demonstrated this by looking at data on brain size and abilities from 1,095 people that showed a clear relationship between the size of the cerebellum and language comprehension and cognitive flexibility.

The authors propose that because of their relatively small cerebellums, Neanderthals may have been less able to adapt to changes in the environment compared with the early human invaders, giving the humans a tremendous advantage.

However, the team's reconstructions also suggested Neanderthals did have at least one advantage over early humans. The visual processing center of their brains, known as the occipital lobe, was larger than their human counterparts.

Ogihara said the Neanderthals may have developed this adaptation in response to the low light levels in Europe compared with Africa, but it could have hindered them from expanding the cerebellum.

If that is indeed the case, this volumetric trade-off worked for a very long time − until it didn't.

Oh, and one more thing: Readers should remember, however, that this attempt to reconstruct the brain inside a fossil skull is new to the field, and perhaps could be improved upon in the future, Ogihara said.

"We would like to further elaborate our methodology by exchanging thoughts and ideas with researchers in the related fields working on human brain evolution," he said.

He'd also like to use this method to reconstruct the brains of other hominins in the future.

A reconstructed Neanderthal skeleton, foreground, and a modern human version on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Los Angeles Times, Published: APR 27, 2018 - 3:00 AM
The shape, not size, of our ancestors' brains may have helped them outlast Neanderthals
Deborah Netburn is a science reporter for the Los Angeles Times. She began her journalism career at the New York Observer in 1999, and has covered residential real estate, rich kids in Manhattan, entertainment, home and garden, national news, and technology. She has worked at the Los Angeles Times since 2006.

Paul Boyer, a UCLA biochemist who won the Nobel Prize for discovering the “three-cylinder engine” that powers all life as we know it, has died at his home in Los Angeles.

He was 99 years old when he died Saturday, and would have celebrated his 100th birthday on July 31.

Boyer spent the majority of his career at UCLA, where he became director of the university’s Molecular Biology Institute in 1965. He held the title until 1983. He became professor emeritus in 1990 and published his last paper in 2002.

“It isn’t often that we have a scientist who is so excellent in his scientific work and just as excellent as an administrator,” said his friend and colleague David Eisenberg, a professor of molecular biology at UCLA. “Paul always comported himself with dignity and modesty and a nice sense of humor. Everybody liked him.”

Boyer was one of three scientists awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1997 for revealing the mechanisms by which cells create adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, a molecule known as the energy currency of cells.

All living organisms, from fungi and bacteria to plants and animals, rely on ATP. It captures the chemical energy released by the combustion of nutrients and transfers it for use in other reactions that require energy, such as building bones, contracting muscles and transmitting neurological messages.

Humans produce and use enormous quantities of ATP each day. Indeed, Boyer once said that the amount of ATP created and consumed by a typical graduate student on a typical day is equal to the weight of the student’s body.

ATP was discovered by German chemist Karl Lohmann in 1929. By 1960, scientists had determined that the molecule is synthesized inside cells by an enzyme known as ATP synthase. However, they didn’t know how ATP synthase created ATP.

After decades of research, Boyer theorized that the three distinct parts of the ATP synthase molecule worked together to form a rotating motor structure.

He came to this conclusion in the 1970s after experiments showed that three sites on the enzyme were doing the same reaction in the same way, but at different times.

“All the sites were doing it identically, and one after another,” Boyer told the Times in 1997. “The only way I could see to explain that was internal rotation.”

He also proposed that rather than using energy to link the chemical building blocks of ATP, ATP synthase used energy to pry itself free of the ATP molecules it formed so that they could be used elsewhere. He called that “the binding change mechanism.”

These ideas were initially considered controversial. But in the 1980s, English biologist John E. Walker determined the atomic structure of ATP synthase and found that its overall architecture was exactly as Boyer had predicted.

“It was startling to see that he could deduce all of this from quite indirect measurements,” Eisenberg said. “I attribute it to his marvelous mechanical intuition. He was very gifted with his hands, and I imagine that gift carried over to his scientific work as well.”

Boyer was born in 1918 in Provo, Utah, and earned his undergraduate degree at Brigham Young University, which was just a few blocks from his childhood home. There, he studied chemistry and math and met Lyda Whicker, whom he married in 1939 − the same year he graduated. The couple celebrated their 78th wedding anniversary in August.

“When he graduated from university he won an award for being the most efficient graduating student, which I loved,” Lyda Boyer said. “He was so many more things, but he was efficient too.”

Boyer completed his Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin in 1943 and soon went to work on a project sponsored by the wartime Committee on Medical Research at Stanford University.

The group was tasked with finding a way to stabilize blood plasma proteins so that soldiers could receive lifesaving transfusions in the field. The team succeeded, and the techniques they devised are still in use today.

In 1946, he accepted an appointment in the biochemistry department at the University of Minnesota, where he remained until 1963, when he was recruited by UCLA.

Throughout his career, Boyer remained fascinated by the inner workings of living things.

“The study of life processes has given me a deep appreciation for the marvel of the living cell,” he wrote in an autobiographical statement for the Nobel Foundation. “The beauty, the design and the controls honed by years of evolution … are wonderful to contemplate.”

His daughter, Gail Boyer Hayes, said her father talked that way his whole life.

“He would always say, ‘We are such elegant organisms,’” she said.

Boyer received many honors and awards over the course of his career. He won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1955 and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1970. He served a term as chairman of the biochemistry section of the American Chemical Society and was president of the American Society of Biological Chemists.

He and Lyda also traveled widely, with many of their trips connected to his work. They were guests of the king of Jordan and the shah of Iran, and they led a delegation of scientists who visited China shortly after the Cultural Revolution.

Hayes described her father as modest, honest, generous, and a skilled craftsman who built two homes from the ground up and filled them with furniture he constructed.

“He could do electrical things and plumbing things,” she said. “I don’t remember any repair people ever coming to the house. They were very thrifty that way.”

She added that although her parents left the Mormon church shortly after leaving Utah, they retained Mormon values like education, honesty and family.

“He really believed in humans, and he believed in the ability of science to help humans live better lives,” she said.

In his final contribution to science, Boyer donated his brain to UCLA so that researchers could use it to study Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, although Hayes said it is unclear if he suffered from the condition. The cause of his death was respiratory failure.

In addition to his wife Lyda and his daughter Hayes, Boyer is survived by daughter Alexandra Boyer, eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. His son, Dr. Doug Boyer, died of cancer in 2001.

UCLA said it is planning a memorial service in Boyer’s honor. Details will be posted on the UCLA Chemistry and Biochemistry website.

Paul Boyer, center, surrounded by his wife and three children just before the Nobel ceremony in 1997.

Paul and Lyda Boyer on the day he won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1997.

Paul and Lyda Boyer on their wedding day, Aug. 30 1939.

Paul and Lyda Boyer with their family after purchasing a new house in Minnesota in the 1950s.

Los Angeles Times, Published: JUN 07, 2018 - 8:35 AM
Paul Boyer, who was awed by cells and won a Nobel Prize for deducing how they use energy, dies at 99

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Have a blessed Aidil Fitri.

THIS is the season when Muslims all over the world celebrate their efforts at controlling their worldly desires after a soul-cleaning month of dawn to dusk fasting during Ramadan.

Aidil Fitri is also known as “going back to nature or innocence” when people take the opportunity to seek and mete out forgiveness, with the hope that their own slates will be wiped clean in the process.

Never underestimate the power of forgiveness. Recently, there was a viral video about a group of Poslaju employees carelessly tossing packages around. It drew the ire of netizens who weren’t happy with their irresponsible actions. All sorts of comments were made − mostly condemning the actions of the errant employees − while a few tried to defend the tired-looking mailmen.

Then something amazing happened.

The Pos Malaysia CEO saw this as an opportunity to ask for forgiveness from Malaysians. He went undercover to the location and met with the postmen. He didn’t scold them. Instead, he had a very positive dialogue session with them where they admitted and regretted their mistakes. They were exhausted after dealing with an influx of mail and packages that poured in as a result of the unexpected long holidays after the general elections.

Together, the postmen and their CEO asked for forgiveness from the rakyat.


To me, this was simply the best Raya “advertisement” this year. The second post went viral again − but this time, it garnered positive feedback from the public. I could see how Pos Malaysia liberated itself from its previous mistake.

All that was needed was for the guilty party to own up, admit the mistake and apologise. No one was asking for them to be punished. Once the apology came, the public quickly forgot the whole fiasco and moved on.

Let’s remember that we too make mistakes. The good news is that resolving the issue isn’t that difficult. All we need to do is utter the three magic words: “I am sorry!”

More often than not, the smiles will return and relationships can be restored. It takes a lot of courage to own up and sincerely utter those powerful words but the outcome is worth it. Almost immediately, we liberate the other party from misery, confusion and bitterness.

Be a better person by seeking forgiveness. Shake that hand. Close that gap. Remove their burden and yours. Enjoy the lightness once the burdens are removed.

Continue to forgive others on a daily basis long after Hari Raya is over. If you can open up and admit how much they’ve hurt you, do so. An open conversation can lead to healing and forgiveness. If no forgiveness is forthcoming on their part, just tell yourself that it’s their problem with God and not with you. Then move on.

Keep your soul clean and positive. This will give you that million-dollar feeling of happiness and contentment. You can smile easier and laugh even more. Start each day anew by forgiving everyone and everything around you.

Soon, you’ll find that true love begins with forgiveness. That’s the best gift you can give to yourself.

Selamat Hari Raya, Maaf Zahir dan Batin!

New Straits Times, Published: June 23, 2018 - 2:02pm
Power of forgiveness
By Zaid Mohamad
Zaid Mohamad coaches and trains parents to experience happier homes and more productive workplaces.

It’s Hari Raya and you’re in the mood of celebrating.

You want to make this Raya a memorable one for yourself and your ailing loved one in your care.

However despite your best-laid plans, it somehow doesn’t turn out the way you’d like it to.

There are so many things on your to-do list running up to the big day. You’ve prepared everything in advance. All you need is to have your loved one step into the special day you’ve painstakingly planned - perhaps going to the mosque for prayers, to the cemetery before that and visiting relatives at their open houses later in the day.

Maybe you’ve also planned to host at home because your loved one isn’t well enough to venture out of the house. So you’ve invited relatives and closest friends over.

These plans may sound quite straightforward since you’ve done this for years. All of a sudden, this year turns out differently because your loved one has somehow changed.

An elderly loved one may be less cognitive and more forgetful now as compared to last year. Maybe your ailing significant other places his or her comfort ahead of others, so you may have to adjust to his/her level of comfort much to the discomfort of your visitors.

When you are unwell and in pain, it’s really so much harder to think of others. As a caregiver, try not to feel guilty over things you can’t control. Indeed you’re irritated and frustrated that things do not go according to your well-laid plans. You can’t help it. You can only do so much. But not everyone understands it.

I’ve found that through my years as a caregiver, only a fellow caregiver can understand your situation. Those who have not walked this path cannot fathom the depth of the situation you’re in. They tend to react based on logic of action and reaction. They simply cannot see why you’re struggling. They may even venture to dish out advice to you that sounds sensible but totally impractical.

They forget that when the heart and feelings are involved, the lines get inevitably blurred; there’s so much grey area that sometimes you dare not even give voice to your frustrations. It seems so disloyal to do so. Most times, you just have to shrug it off, not internalise such moments and move on.


During the festive season when you have such gatherings, the focus would naturally fall on your ailing loved one.

People who have not seen him or her in a while would be excited to catch up during the reunion. They may ask your loved one questions that you’d end up replying. You have become his or her voice. It comes naturally because these are straightforward questions that your loved one would struggle to reply.

I see this happening with my friend Joe (not his real name) and his mother who’s now going further into dementia. Fortunately, she’s not affected when this happens. She’d smile sweetly and nod her head in agreement, quite relieved that she doesn’t have to think too much about these things.

“That’s the least of my problems,” says Joe. “These days it’s harder to get her ready to go out. She would only be partially ready. For example, she would be dressed up and then suddenly, she needs to use the toilet.” He goes on to tell me that her clothes would get soiled, leading to her needing a fresh change of clothes. This, he says, is difficult for her because she simply can’t decide. “I can’t just choose one for her because whatever I suggest will not be good enough. In between all that, she’d need to use the bathroom again!” he recounts exasperatedly.

Adds Joe: “By the time she is finally dressed and ready to go out, a few hours would’ve passed by and visitation time would be over. Sometimes the whole day is caught in that loop of her trying to get ready but failing. She gets distracted and can’t be coaxed to complete what she’s supposed to do.”

Talk about deflated plans and expectations!

These are some of the things that have become a new normal amongst some caregivers. You just have to be flexible and adaptable, and most importantly − have a sense of humour, albeit a warped one!

I think caregivers should simply learn to relax and enjoy the festivities too. This isn’t easy to do because most experience burnout and depression when they feel overwhelmed.

When your loved one refuses to cooperate, it throws a spanner in the works. But what can you do? You’ll just have to understand the fact that you’re not responsible for their moods. Sometimes they just won’t be able to recognise or understand what’s going on. If they decide to be in a negative mood, you can’t change their minds to behave otherwise.

Sometimes we try too hard. Maybe it’s time we learn to give ourselves permission to do less. We just need to be more realistic and stop feeling guilty over things we can’t control.

Have a blessed Aidil Fitri.

New Straits Times, Published: June 23, 2018 - 2:01pm
When your sick loved ones become tough to handle
By Putri Juneita Johari
Putri Juneita Johari volunteers for the Special Children Society of Ampang.

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Men's Health Week

Diabetes is on the rise in the United Kingdom, but Men’s Health Week is hoping to change that.

The chronic condition is the focus of this year’s awareness event. The aim of Men’s Health Week 2018 is to spread awareness about diabetes, who it’s affecting, the signs and symptoms, prevention and how to live a long, healthy life with it.

Due to the fact that this year’s Men’s Health Week coincided with Diabetes Week, the Men’s Health Forum decided to highlight ‘how men are affected’.

‘Men are more likely to get diabetes than women, more likely to experience complications like leg amputation and more likely to die from the condition,’ the Men’s Health Forum website reads.

One in 10 men in the UK will contract diabetes.

Men’s Health Week 2018

Men’s Health Week is an annual observance in the United Kingdom, celebrated the week before Father’s Day. Each year, it focuses on a disease affecting men.

The aim of Men’s Health Week is to spread awareness, discuss prevention, identify the signs and symptoms and teach people how to live with their disease.

When is Men’s Health Week?

This year, Men’s Health Week will be Monday, June 11, 2018 to Sunday, June 17, 2018.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes, or Diabetes Mellitus, is a chronic illness that results in too much sugar in the blood or high blood glucose. There are two main types of diabetes, both of which differ slightly.

Types of Diabetes

Diabetes is broken into two main types − Type One Diabetes and Type Two Diabetes.

Type One diabetes is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces very little or no insulin at all. This ailment is generally diagnosed in children and young adults and cannot be cured.

According to the American Diabetes Association, Type One Diabetes is managed by manually injecting insulin daily, taking medications like dietary supplements and hormones and watching what you eat. It will also require regular visits to specialists including endocrinologists, nutritionists, and paediatricians.

Type Two Diabetes, on the other hand, is a chronic condition that affects the way your body processes glucose. It’s most often diagnosed in adults.

People who are older, overweight and have a family history of diabetes are more at risk for contracting Type Two diabetes.

Type Two Diabetes is treated with regular blood glucose testing an insulin shots, medications and working closely with your doctors. It also requires that those with the disease make smart choices about what they eat.

Difference between type 1 and 2 diabetes?

Healthline reports that there are two main differences between Type One and Type Two Diabetes. The first is the age at which you contract either disease. As a rule, Type One Diabetes is most commonly diagnosed in children while Type Two is diagnosed in older people.

The other difference is how the disease affects your body. People with Type One Diabetes don’t produce insulin, while people with Type Two simply don’t respond to insulin and don’t make enough of it.

With Type One Diabetes, the immune system attacks the body’s own cells. With Type Two, the body is producing insulin but can’t properly use it which causes glucose to build up in the blood.

Symptoms of Diabetes

Symptoms of both Type One and Type Two Diabetes are similar, on the whole.

People with Type One and Type Two Diabetes may experience:

* Frequent urination

* Extreme thirst and/or drinking a lot

* Extreme hunger

* Exhaustion

* Blurred vision

* Cuts and/or sores that won’t heal

People with Type 1 Diabetes may also experience irritability and mood swings. Those with Type 2 Diabetes may find that they have numbness and tingling in their hands and feet.

Diabetes Week

This year, Diabetes Week aligns with Men’s Health Week. It’ll be from Monday, June 11, 2018 to Sunday, June 17, 2018.

How common is Diabetes?

According to Diabetes.Org, more people than ever are living with diabetes in the United Kingdom.

Nearly 3.7 million people have it while 12.3 million people are at an increased risk of contracting Type Two Diabetes.

About one in every 10 men has diabetes and that figure is expected to rise over the course of the next two decades.

MailOnline, UPDATED: 10:26 BST, 11 June 2018
Men's Health Week 2018: All you need to know

# Men's Health Week is celebrated annually the week before Father's Day, June 17
# This year, Men's Health Week begins on June 11, 2018 and ends on June 17, 2018
# The focus of Men's Health Week 2018 is Diabetes, which one in 10 men now have


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復興政策については拙著(『「復興」が奪う地域の未来』岩波書店)に、また地域政策の現状については、近著(『「都市の正義」が地方を壊す 地方創生の隘路を抜けて』PHP新書)にもまとめたのでぜひご参照頂きたい。



































































山下 祐介、首都大学東京教授、社会学者

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A third of the world's population resides in countries where democracy is in retreat, including India, Turkey, Brazil, Poland, Russia and the United States, researchers reported Thursday.

"While most people in the world still live in democracies in 2017, democracy has declined in 24 countries home to 2.6 billion people," they reported in the journal Democratization.

The drift toward autocratic rule -- under which checks against executive power are weakened -- occurred mainly in democratic regions, notably Western and Eastern Europe and the United States.

"Media autonomy, freedom of expression, and the rule of law have undergone the greatest declines," said lead author Anna Luhrmann, a political scientist at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

"This worrisome trend makes elections less meaningful across the world."

People in countries backsliding on liberal democracy by far outnumber those living in nations making progress, she noted.

The only region bucking the global trend is Africa, which has shown incremental but significant growth in democracy in recent years.

The study is based on the latest update of the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) dataset, a resource compiled by 3,000 experts worldwide that includes hundreds of variables and millions of data points reaching back half-a-century.

The database tracks changes in nearly 180 countries divided into four categories, depending on the robustness of their democratic institutions.

In "liberal democracies", uncorrupted multiparty elections are bolstered by a robust rule of law, an independent media, as well as strong judicial and legislative branches.

The next step down is "electoral democracies," in which these checks to strongman rule are less effective, even if elections remain reasonably free-and-fair.

- Africa bucks the trend -

Last year, just over half the world's population lived in one or the other of these systems, though only 14 percent resided in liberal democracies.

In "electoral autocracies," multiparty elections and limited civil liberties are undermined by repression, censorship and intimidation, while in "closed autocracies" outright dictatorship is, at best, dressed in a fig leaf of rigged elections.

Over the past decade, 20 countries have slipped a notch in the V-Dem ranking, including four in the European Union: Hungary, Poland, Lithuania and Slovakia were all downgraded from "liberal" to "electoral" democracies.

Israel, Mauritius and South Africa also strayed further from democratic ideals.

In 2017, "we are back to the global level of democracy recorded shortly after the end of the Soviet Union in 1991," the study found. "The last six years alone have unfortunately brought us back 25 years in time."

Among the 17 countries that transitioned upward since 2008 toward a more political system, Tunisia is the only one to move from autocracy to liberal democracy.

Four nations in sub-Saharan Africa -- Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Malawi and Nigeria -- shifted from electoral autocracy to electoral democracy.

Globally, the percentage of people living in societies tending toward democracy increased gradually -- with the exception of central Europe and central Asia, which saw a sharp jump after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 -- from the late 1970s until around 2012.

Since then, it has declined in all regions, except Africa.

The study also found that two billion people lived in countries where wealthy elites gained more political power in the last ten years, including the United States.

Attorney for Donald Trump's former campaign chief Paul Manafort arrives at a Washington courthouse last week. Manafort was detained pending trial on a series of federal charges

France 24, Published: 21 June 2018 - 19H19
Democracy in decline around the world, including US: study
[Source] AFP

【6月22日 AFP】民主主義が後退している国々に居住している人が世界人口の3分の1に上ることが、21日に発表された研究で明らかになった。民主主義が後退している国には、インド、トルコ、ブラジル、ポーランド、ロシアなどの他、米国も含まれている。



 論文の筆頭著者でスウェーデンのヨーテボリ大学(University of Gothenburg)の政治学者アナ・ルーマン(Anna Luhrmann)氏は「メディアの独立性、表現の自由、法の支配が大きく低下している」と指摘し、「この懸念すべき傾向は、世界的に選挙の意義を失わせる」と警鐘を鳴らした。





民主主義が世界的に後退、欧州や米国で顕著 研究

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Senegalese immigrants

BUENOS AIRES, Jun 22 2018 (IPS) - Senegalese immigrants began to arrive in Argentina in the 1990s and most of them joined the group of street vendors in Buenos Aires and other cities. But in recent months, they have suffered police brutality, denounced as a campaign of racial persecution.

“We always had a good relationship with the police. They even looked after my merchandise when I had to go to the bathroom. But lately everything has changed,” 35-year-old Moussa Sow, from Senegal, who has lived in Argentina for 11 years, told IPS.

“They take everything we have from us blacks, they often beat us, while they do not touch the things of those who are selling next to us,” added Sow, who is married to an Argentine woman and moves around the vast geography of Buenos Aires and its suburbs, depending on where he finds the smallest police presence, selling jewelry, eyewear and watches.

Sow was the only Senegalese present at a demonstration organised by young Argentines and non-African immigrants to denounce what is happening and demand that they be allowed to work, on Saturday Jun. 16 in front of the Obelisk, the most emblematic monument in downtown Buenos Aires.

“The Senegalese didn’t come (to the demonstration) because they’re afraid. It is clear that since last year there has been an order to persecute Africans, on the grounds that they are infringing the trademark law or conducting business in public places,” said Nengumbi Sukama, a human rights activist born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who has lived in Argentina since 1995.

Earlier this month, the photo of Serigne Dame Kame, lying with a wounded arm in a pool of blood on the ground, surrounded by police officers, was widely disseminated on social networks. The 30-year-old Senegalese man was hospitalised and underwent emergency surgery, although he was detained.

The incident occurred on Avellaneda Avenue, a traditional shopping area in the Flores neighbourhood in Buenos Aires, and according to the version of the local police, Dame Kame fell into a shop window when he tried to escape from being arrested for trademark infringement.

But witnesses said that the police beat the immigrant and that one of them cut his arm with a knife and then quickly hid it in his uniform.

The situation was denounced by a group of human rights organisations, including the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), one of the leading human rights groups, and Amnesty International.

The cities of Buenos Aires and La Plata, 55 km away, have seen “disproportionate police operations in recent months to pursue street vendors, mainly of Senegalese nationality, violent and unjustified raids, constant intimidation, harassment and repeated episodes of physical and verbal violence against Senegalese workers,” said the human rights organisations in a statement.

“Both police and prosecutors use racial profiling to criminalise Senegalese workers,” they added.

There are no recent official figures on the number of African immigrants in Argentina. The latest census, in 2010, counted just 2,738 people from that continent, but experts say a large majority were not registered.

The National Migration Office provided IPS with data that show that over half of the African immigrants in Argentina are from Senegal, and that they are the only nationality from that continent with a significant community here.

Between 2004 and July 2017, permanent residence was granted to 2,380 people from Africa, 62 percent of them from Senegal, while temporary residency permits were issued for 5,536, 79 percent of them from Senegal.

Arfang Diedhiou, president of the Association of Senegalese Residents in Argentina (Arsa), told IPS that he estimates there are some 5,000 people from his country living here, a figure generally endorsed by academic researchers. He added that they continue to arrive.

In addition, the National Migration Office reported in 2017 that in the first five years of this decade the influx of sub-Saharan migrants, from Senegal as well as Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana and the Gambia, grew by more than 80 percent.

Police attacks on Senegalese and other African migrants seem to be linked to the stiffening of policies against street vendors since 2016, under pressure from chambers of commerce. In fact, there are no reports of police brutality against African immigrants who are not street vendors.

The story began in the 1990s

According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), this South American country is the largest recipient of migrants in Latin America, in proportion to its population of 44 million inhabitants, with 4.8 percent of them born abroad.

A document published in 2017 by the UN agency states that the influx of Senegalese migrants began with a few “pioneers” in the 1990s and that since then, more and more immigrants have come by “word of mouth”, which is more important to the Senegalese than information that circulates through institutional channels.

Other contributing factors were the growing obstacles to enter European Union countries in recent years.

When they arrived, the only thing many Senegalese knew about Argentina was that it was the land of football star Diego Maradona.

Most of the immigrants are young, single men aiming to bring their families over, which usually takes many years to bring about. Of the Senegalese living in Buenos Aires, the IOM says, 63.74 per cent are between the ages of 20 and 34. Only 1.19 percent are over 60.

Sociologist Gisele Kleidermacher, who has been researching for years the integration of Senegalese immigrants in Argentina, told IPS that “they mostly live off street vending here because this is a traditional activity in their country, which has a large informal economy.

“In addition, they have difficulties in finding jobs, because they do not know the language and because they generally have a precarious immigration status,” she said.

Kleidermarcher added: “While there has been a major escalation of violence in recent months, the situation is not entirely new. Several years ago three police officers stood trial for assaulting Senegalese immigrants and the court warned the officers about their racial bias.”

In January 2013, thanks to pressure from a working group made up of civil society organisations, the Argentine government launched a migration status regularisation plan especially designed for Senegalese and Dominican immigrants.

During the six months the programme was in force, some 1,000 Senegalese were able to regularise their immigration status.

Since then, “all those who arrived are undocumented,” said Diadhiou, a father of three children, one of whom was born in Argentina.

Many say that a government decree amending the Migration Act, issued earlier last year, helped trigger the climate of police brutality against Senegalese immigrants.

The new regulation speeds up the procedures for deporting foreign nationals accused of committing a crime and restricts access to Argentine citizenship.

The decree was challenged by human rights groups, which said it links migrants with criminality.

Several organisations took legal action and obtained a declaration of unconstitutionality from an appeals court in March. But the Supreme Court will have the final word.

Demián Zayat, coordinator of the institutionalised violence programme at the Buenos Aires ombudsman’s office, told IPS that “lately police have been seeking conflicts with Senegalese immigrants. They try to seize their goods, and when the vendors defend themselves, they are arrested on charges of resisting arrest.

“We believe that there is a strategy of bringing criminal charges against them, which complicates their situation because most of them are undocumented immigrants,” added Zayat.

He said that many Senegalese immigrants have reported that they were victims of police brutality, and that the ombudsman’s office is preparing a complaint, based on a number of cases.

“We will do it this way because obviously no one wants to make an individual complaint, because they are afraid of reprisals,” he explained.

Police brutality against Senegalese street vendors in recent months has outraged Argentines and immigrants who demonstrated on Jun. 16 in Buenos Aires, carrying signs reading "Let the Senegalese work" and "Fed up with racist persecution".

This photo of Senegalese immigrant Serigne Dame Kame, lying on the ground in a pool of blood with a wounded arm and surrounded by police officers, went viral in the social media and provoked outrage among the people of Buenos Aires.

“No human being is illegal,” reads a banner with the Argentine flag in the background in the Jun. 16 demonstration against police brutality towards Senegalese street vendors in front of the Obelisk in Buenos Aires. Almost no Senegalese immigrants participated, apparently for fear of police repression.

Moussa Sow, an immigrant who has been working as a street vendor in the Greater Buenos Aires area for 12 years, is photographed with his Argentine wife, Aldana Paviolo. Sow says that until recently he had a good relationship with the police in the Argentine capital, but that now he has been a victim of police brutality.

Inter Press Service (IPS), Published: Jun 22 2018
Senegalese Immigrants Face Police Brutality in Argentina
By Daniel Gutman

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World Cup fever

IT’S World Cup Fever again; perhaps more so in some countries than in others. In Malaysia, the time difference between Kuala Lumpur and Moscow means that matches take place at 8pm, 11pm or 2am Malaysian time. In Dakar, the hours are more agreeable − noon, 3pm, and 6pm. But the major difference is that Senegal is competing in the World Cup, while yet again, Malaysia is a mere observer.

Having never lived in a country that has qualified for the World Cup in a year when the World Cup is being held, I find the whole experience of being in Senegal at this particular time exciting, to say the least. Even though the matches officially kicked off on June 12, 2018, it was not until June 19 that this West African nation finally fully succumbed to football fever.

That was the day when Senegal began its campaign in the World Cup, with a 3pm match against Poland. The other two teams in Senegal’s Group H are Japan and Colombia, who had played against each other earlier with Japan picking up the three points.

It was not as if before that first match Senegal was oblivious to the World Cup; it was just that there was not as much publicity as one would have expected from a World Cup qualifier. A few billboards had gone up, wishing the Teranga Lions well, and people were generally happy that Senegal had again qualified to play in the biggest and most coveted football league in the world. But there were no lavish display of the national flag, or football keepsakes, and peddlers were not trying to sell those small flags that you can wave in the air to show your support for the national football team.

The Senegalese were, by and large, not getting excited over what Malaysians would have swooned over for days on end had it been the Malaysian team that qualified for the World Cup.

All that changed on June 19. Suddenly the country was enveloped in football fever. There were people on the streets selling flags, T-shirts, wristbands, and mufflers, while cafes and bars had overnight put up mega TV screens.

The last time Senegal was in the World Cup was 2002, and it was also the first time ever that they had qualified for the event. That was the year when Japan and the Republic of Korea co-hosted the World Cup. That year, Senegal made it all the way to the quarterfinals before losing to Turkey by a single goal. The team went home happy − they had stamped their name on the world stage.

Over the next few years, Senegal’s brightest and best football players were courted by European clubs. If prior to 2002, most of the players were only known to the French clubs, by the end of the 2002 World Cup, international clubs began wooing Senegal footballers.

This year’s big names in the Senegalese squad play for Everton (Gueye), Liverpool (Manè) and Westham United (Kouyatè). The others play for other clubs in England, Germany, Italy, Monaco and Turkey, in addition to their traditional clubs in France.

The Teranga Lions did not disappoint in their opening match against Poland. Since my Senegalese friends did not invite me to watch the match with them, I happily went to one of the cafes with my Polish friends and their families. Fortunately, sports is one of those occasions when diplomacy does not have to be exercised, especially when you’re rooting for a team that your host isn’t.

Senegal became the only African country at this 2018 World Cup to win their opening match − a feat that all the commentators have touted, and which Senegal is rightly proud of. More and more the talk at the social places centred on the World Cup and Senegal in particular. There is hope in the air that this team might be able to deliver more than what they were expected to.

I had the opportunity to speak to one of the Senegal politicians at the beginning of this year. At a friend’s urging, I introduced the subject of Senegal and the World Cup. A few exchanges later and we were talking animatedly about Malaysian football, Senegalese players, and the possibility of Senegal helping to coach Malaysian talent. As far as conversation-starters go, who would have thought that starting a conversation about football would be so successful? (Thanks, Colonel Norsham, for that tip.)

Senegal is not a football-crazy nation the way Malaysia is. We live, breathe, passionately follow, and then get into heated arguments over football clubs and their players. And yet we have yet to qualify for the World Cup. Like Malaysia, Senegal trains its young football talents and nurtures them. It has now twice qualified for the world’s biggest sporting event. Perhaps there is much we can learn from this West African nation after all.

Senegalese players celebrating after the FIFA World Cup 2018 group H preliminary round football match between Poland and Senegal in Moscow.

New Straits Times, Published: June 23, 2018 - 8:54am
World Cup fever
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.

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Asia's ageing population

WHILE populations have seen and undergone changes since the beginning of time, one trend in particular is unfolding across the world: less children, older people. In an effort to tackle the complex issue in Asia, government officials are convening to help create a sustainable society where no one is left behind.

In Mongolia’s capital of Ulaanbaatar, 40 members of parliament are gathered to discuss sound policy approaches to population issues such as ageing and fertility transition which threaten the future of many Asian nations.

“This is an essential step to mitigating the impact of ageing on social systems and structures to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” the United Nations Population Fund Mongolia’s director Naomi Kitahara said.

By 2030, Asia could be home to over 60 per cent of the total population aged 65 years or older worldwide, consulting group Deloitte calculated.

According to the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, East and Northeast Asian countries have the largest such population, accounting for 56 per cent of all older persons in the Asia-Pacific region and 32 per cent in the world.

Not only is the scale of population ageing in Asia unprecedented, but so is its speed.

In France, the percentage of older people grew from seven per cent to 20 per cent in approximately 150 years. However, the same demographic shift was seen in Japan within just 40 years.

Kitahara particularly pointed to Japan’s case as a prime example of population issues and their repercussions.

According to the UN, Japan’s fertility rates were approximately 2.7 children per woman in the 1950s, well above the total fertility rate of 2.1 which has been determined to help sustain stable populations.

Today, Japan’s birth rate is 1.4 children per woman.

The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research found that if such trends continue, Japan’s population is expected to decrease from 126 million today to 88 million in 2065 and 51 million by 2115.

With fewer children and young adults, a vicious cycle is set in motion: a smaller labour force and spending decreases which weaken the economy and discourage families from having children, which then weakens the economy further.

“Without the younger generation, this system will not be able to maintain,” secretary-general of the Asian Population Development Association Dr Osamu Kusumoto said, highlighting the importance of fertility research.

“To achieve the SDGs, an understanding of fertility transition is essential. Proper social policies on fertility to mitigate rapid changes have to be considered,” Dr Kusumoto said. “High fertility and extremely low fertility may harm the society.”

At the same time, as people have a higher life expectancy, the elderly now make up 27 per cent of Japan’s population in comparison to 15 per cent in the United States.

This means less revenues and higher expenditures for the government, and when the number of older persons grows faster than the working-age population, there are less funds for pensions and social security, thus creating an even weaker economy.

As many Asian countries are expected to follow in Japan’s footsteps, the parliamentarian gathering seems to have come at a critical juncture.

“This meeting gives countries the opportunity to learn from Japan’s current challenges, as well as successes… [it] provides an opportunity for other countries to share their experience,” Kitahara said.

And it is no coincidence that the meeting took place in Mongolia.

Mongolia, unlike many other Asian nations, has had a stable fertility rate of 3.1 and a slowly ageing population of six per cent. This is in large part due to its population policies which have allowed for not only population growth, but also economic growth.

For instance, the recently approved Youth Development Law supports young Mongolians’ needs in relation to the economy, employment, health, and education, including through the Youth Development Fund which provides access to development fund opportunities.

The new policy has also led to the establishment of youth development centres across the country which focus on skills development, helping young people grow into resilient and self-sufficient adults.

The East Asian nation is among the few countries in the region to have a law designated specifically for young people.

However, more must be done in Mongolia, Kitahara noted.

“To achieve the SDGs by 2030, Mongolia must give more attention to social and demographic issues, as well as giving and spending budgets for social and environmental aspects of sustainable development,” she said.

The role of parliamentarians is therefore critical in not only making laws, but also providing state budgets and fiscal management, issues that were on the agenda during the meeting in Ulaanbaatar.

Kitahara also emphasised the need to employ a human rights lens in population policies and programs, giving individuals and couples to choose when and how many children they wish to have.

In an effort to address its ageing population and a shrinking labour force, China is now considering abandoning its two-child policy which put a cap on a family’s size.

The controversial policy contributed to its uneven demographics as the East Asian nation predicts that approximately a quarter of the population will be over the age of 60 by 2030.

It has also led to a gender imbalance with over 30 million more men than women.

Organised by the Asian Population and Development Association, the “Strengthening the Capacity of Parliamentarians for the Achievement of the SDGs: Ageing, Fertility and Youth Empowerment” meeting was also supported by the UN Population Fund and the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

Among the countries that participated in the June 12-13 meeting was Bhutan, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Lao, Japan, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

A 70-year-old woman laughs with family members inside a grocery store in Tachilek, Myanmar.

New Straits Times, Published: June 23, 2018 - 8:33am
Asia's ageing population

[Read more]

UNITED NATIONS, May 11 2018 (IPS) - While the world’s population has changed dramatically over the last 50 years, little is still understood about fertility transition and the reasons behind it.

Over the last half a century, the global fertility rate has halved, reaching a level of 2.5 births per woman.

At the same time, the UN estimates that there will be 11 billion people in the world by 2100.

Given such trends, more needs to be understood about the factors that influence fertility rates, but not enough is known about it, Secretary-General of the Asian Population Development Association (APDA) Dr. Osamu Kusumoto told IPS.

“In general, fertility transition is not properly examined yet. Demographers usually analyze statistics over the cause of statistics,” he said.

But what exactly is fertility transition?

The phenomenon refers to the shift from high fertility to low fertility which first began in North America and Western Europe in the nineteenth century. A similar process was then seen across developing countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.

While some believe that the shift was a response to declining mortality rates, others have looked to culture and socioeconomic factors as driving fertility transition.

“Value determines the behavior,” Dr. Kusumoto told IPS, pointing to Mongolia as an example.

In the 1950s, Mongolia accelerated its social development with help from the Soviet Union.

Following socialist economic models, significant progress was also made in education and health and pro-natalist policies were implemented, leading to an unprecedented rise in fertility rates.

Between the late 1950s to the 1980s alone, Mongolia’s population doubled from 780,000 to 2 million.

However, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mongolia’s birth rates plummeted−a rare occurrence for a country in poverty and seemingly a response to the country’s poor socioeconomic conditions.
Many researchers including Dr. Kusumoto also believe the Central Asian nation’s transition to democracy and a market economy have also influenced fertility rates.

For instance, with more freedoms and improved access to education, women have become more empowered.

Unlike many developing countries, Mongolian women are better educated than men, comprising 62 percent of higher education graduates in 2015. They also have lower rates of unemployment than their male counterparts.

While Mongolians postponed childbearing during the chaos of the 1990s, the rise in female education has led to delays in marriage along with delays in having children.

With the globally adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), future demographic trends may be affected around the world.

The SDGs include specific targets on mortality, health, and education, and researchers believe that its implementation can help reduce population growth.

However, in order to achieve the SDGs, fertility research is needed.

“To achieve the SDGs, an understanding of fertility transition is essential. Proper social policies on fertility to mitigate rapid changes have to be considered,” Dr. Kusumoto said.

“Proper fertility is essential, high fertility and extremely low fertility may harm the society,” he added.

Though they are one of the most prosperous nations in Asia, Japan has seen its fertility rate decline to unsustainable levels and has sparked concerns over the social and economic impact of extremely low fertility.

Today, Japan’s birth rate is 1.44 children per woman which has caused the population to decline by one million in the past five years alone.

The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research found that if such trends continue, Japan’s population is expected to decrease from 126 million today to 88 million in 2065 and 51 million by 2115.

With fewer children and young adults, a vicious cycle is set in motion: spending decreases which weakens the economy, which discourages families from having children, which then weakens the economy further.

At the same time, with a higher life expectancy and a larger ageing population, there are less revenues and higher expenditures for the government, less funds for pensions and social security, and an even weaker economy.

“In Japan, to have children is not rational choice for young individuals because we have social security to support old age…without the younger generation, this system will not be able to maintain…in the future social security that is the supportive condition for their rational choice will be missing,” Dr. Kusumoto said.

At the other end of the scale, African countries such as Nigeria are experiencing the fastest population increases.

By 2050, Nigeria will become the world’s third largest country by population.

The UN predicts that one-third of all people−almost 4 billion−will be African by 2100.

This could hamper efforts to achieve key SDGs such as ending poverty and ensuring peace and prosperity.

“From this point of view, the fertility issue is an equally essential requirement for achieving SDGs,” Dr. Kusumoto reiterated.

Inter Press Service (IPS), Published: May 11 2018
To Have Children or Not: The Importance of Finding a Balance

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What Season Is It? Some Plants and Animals Are Baffled.

Every year, as the seasons change, a complex ballet unfolds around the world. Trees in the Northern Hemisphere leaf out in the spring as frost recedes. Caterpillars hatch to gorge on leaves. Bees and butterflies emerge to pollinate flowers. Birds leave the Southern Hemisphere and fly thousands of miles to lay eggs and feast on insects in the north.

All of these species stay in sync with each other by relying on environmental cues, much as ballet dancers move to orchestral music.

But global warming is changing the music, with spring now arriving several weeks earlier in parts of the world than it did a few decades ago. Not all species are adjusting to this warming at the same rate, and, as a result, some are falling out of step.
Scientists who study the changes in plants and animals triggered by seasons have a term for this: phenological mismatch. And they’re still trying to understand exactly how such mismatches − like the blooming of a flower before its pollinator emerges − might affect ecosystems.

In some cases, species might simply adapt by shifting their ranges, or eating different foods. But if species can’t adapt quickly enough, these mismatches could have “significant negative impacts,” said Madeleine Rubenstein, a biologist at the United States Geological Survey’s National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center.

“If you look at the past history of climate on earth, there has never been such a dramatic, rapid, change in the climate,” said Andrea Santangeli, a postdoctoral researcher at the Finnish Museum of Natural History. “Species have to respond really fast,” he said, “that’s really unprecedented.”

Here are five examples of mismatch, just one of the many threats that species face from global warming, that scientists have discovered so far:

An orchid’s sex life turns bleak

The early spider orchid relies on deception to reproduce. Each spring, the orchid, whose bulbous crimson body looks like an insect, releases a pheromone that tricks solitary male bees into thinking the plant is a mating partner − a key step for pollination.

This ruse, which scientists call pseudocopulation, works because the orchid tends to bloom during a specific window each spring − shortly after lonely male bees emerge from hibernation but before female bees appear.

Yet with spring coming earlier, female bees are now emerging sooner and luring the male bees away from the lovelorn orchid, according to a 2014 study from Britain.

By examining data collected in herbariums and in the field over a century, the researchers found that the gap between the times when male bees and female bees emerge shrinks by about 6.6 days for each degree Celsius of warming, giving the orchid less opportunity to reproduce.

“The main finding is that things are getting increasingly bad for orchid pollination,” said Anthony Davy, a professor of biological science at the University of East Anglia, and the lead author of the paper. For this orchid − which is already rare − the future looks bleak, he said.

Spring comes early, but the flycatcher doesn’t

The European pied flycatcher runs on a tight schedule each spring.

From its wintering grounds in Africa, the bird flies thousands of miles north to Europe to lay eggs in time for the emergence of winter moth caterpillars, which appear for a few weeks each spring to munch on young oak leaves.

By timing this just right, the flycatchers ensure there’s enough food around when their hungry chicks hatch. In a series of studies in the 2000s, however, scientists in the Netherlands showed that many flycatchers were starting to miss this narrow window.

As spring temperatures warmed, oak trees were leafing out earlier and peak caterpillar season was arriving up to two weeks sooner in some places. But many flycatchers, which appear to schedule their departure from Africa based on the length of day there, were not getting to Europe early enough for their spring meals.

In the parts of the Netherlands where peak caterpillar season had advanced the fastest, the scientists later found, flycatcher populations dwindled sharply. “That was the big discovery that suggested this mismatch could have real consequences for populations,” said Christiaan Both, an ecologist at the University of Groningen.

Birds and tractors get too close for comfort

Climate change doesn’t just cause missed connections. In some cases, the advance of warmer weather can lead to perilous meetings.

In Finland, for example, the Northern lapwing and Eurasian curlew have usually built their ground nests on barley fields after farmers have sown their crops in the spring. But as temperatures have risen, the birds are now increasingly laying their eggs before the farmers get to the fields, which means their well-concealed nests are more likely to get destroyed by tractors and other machinery.

Looking at 38 years of data, researchers found that farmers in Finland are now sowing their fields a week earlier in response to warmer temperatures, but the birds are laying their eggs two to three weeks earlier. “This has created a phenological mismatch,” said Mr. Santangeli, the lead author of the study. “The response we’ll see is declines of these birds.”

Caribou show up late for lunch

Caribou in western Greenland follow a strict seasonal diet. In the winter, they eat lichen along the coast. In the spring and summer, they venture inland to give birth to their calves and eat the Arctic plants that grow there.

As Greenland has warmed up and sea ice has declined, however, those inland Arctic plants have been emerging earlier − with some plant species now greening 26 days earlier than they did a decade ago. But the caribou have not shifted their migration as quickly. And scientists have documented a troubling trend in the region: More caribou calves appear to be dying early in years when the spring plant growth preceded the caribou’s calving season.

While that study only found a correlation between warmer temperatures and caribou calf deaths, “it’s consistent with the idea that mismatch is disadvantageous,” said Eric Post, an ecology professor at the University of California, Davis. When Arctic plants green up earlier, they may become tougher and less nutritious by the time the caribou get there and start eating them.

Why don’t the caribou speed up their migration? One possibility is that their reproductive cycles respond most strongly to seasonal signals like the length of the day, whereas plants respond more strongly to local temperatures, which are rising.

In theory, if given enough time, the caribou might eventually adjust as natural selection takes its course and favors individuals that calve earlier. But with the Arctic warming faster than the rest of the globe, Dr. Post said, “the question is whether things are changing too fast for evolution to matter.”

The snowshoe hare has a wardrobe malfunction
Climate change doesn’t just cause mismatches in the spring. Consider the snowshoe hare, whose fur coat has evolved to change from brown to white during the winter for camouflage. As the earth has warmed, however, snow cover in the hare’s habitat melts sooner, leaving the animal more exposed to predators.

“Camouflage is critical to keep prey animals alive,” said L. Scott Mills, a professor of wildlife biology at the University of Montana who studies the impacts of camouflage mismatch on species like the snowshoe hare.

For every week the hare is mismatched, Dr. Mills and his colleagues found, it had a 7 percent higher chance of being killed by predators like the lynx.

Currently, the hare is only mismatched by a week or two. But by midcentury, Dr. Mills said, that could extend up to eight weeks. If that were to happen, he said, the hare “would start declining toward extinction.”

There is some good news for the snowshoe hare, however. Where evolution was previously thought to take millions of years, scientists now think an animal like the hare could adapt in five to 10 generations, especially if those parts of the hare population which are more adaptable are protected.

“It does give us an avenue for hope,” Dr. Mills said. “It’s not a foregone conclusion that species with phenological mismatch are going to go extinct.”

The New York Times, Published: April 4, 2018
5 Plants and Animals Utterly Confused by Climate Change

Global warming is causing spring to arrive early and autumn to come late in many places, and not all species are adapting at the same rate.
By Livia Albeck-Ripka and Brad Plumer
Livia Albeck-Ripka is a reporting fellow at The New York Times. Brad Plumer is a reporter covering climate change, energy policy and other environmental issues for The Times's climate team.

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CHOCOLATE is, without a doubt, one of the most popular guilty pleasures enjoyed by every culture − young and old. Some people love chocolates so much that they have to have some every day!

When it comes to eating healthy, chocolate can be a bone of contention. Many feel conflicted on whether they should indulge in it or not as they are afraid it will derail their good eating habits which they have strived so hard to put into practice. Eating healthy is about moderation, balance and sensible portions. So if you are a fan of chocolate, you may not have to totally deprive yourself, as it is possible to be part of your healthy diet.


Historically, chocolate dates back to as far as 2000 BC, where it is believed that early civilisation Mayans from Central America consumed it as a fermented beverage mixed with spices and wine.

Nowadays, chocolate manufacturers process the cocoa to yield various parts of it. First, they extract the cocoa seeds from the pod, ferment it and roast it to form cocoa beans. From there, the shell of the bean is discarded from the cocoa nibs (also known as the “meat” of the cocoa in the industry).

The cocoa nibs are ground into a liquid known as chocolate liquor, which is then further separated from the fatty part of the cocoa bean, known as cocoa butter.

Manufacturers further process the chocolate liquor to finally get the cocoa solids and chocolate that is used to make chocolate bars.

The other part of the cocoa bean that has the nibs removed is then ground into cocoa powder that is commonly used in baking and for making chocolate beverages. So that’s how we get all the various cocoa products from the different parts of the cocoa bean.


When you go to the confectionery aisle in your supermarket, you will notice the various types of chocolate such as dark, milk and white chocolate.

In industry terms, dark chocolate has an average of 50 to 90 per cent cocoa solids, cocoa butter and sugar.

Milk chocolate has about 10 to 50 per cent cocoa solids, cocoa butter, milk and sugar. As for white chocolate, it does not contain any cocoa solids. Instead it only has cocoa butter, milk and sugar.

I used to like milk chocolates as a child, but now I prefer the bold, bitter taste of dark chocolate more and more.


Nutrition researchers have acknowledged that cocoa is rich in a natural compound known as flavanols. Flavanoids are a group of phytonutrients found in almost all fruit and vegetables. This has spurred nutritional research into the health benefits of cocoa as part of a well balanced diet.

Dark chocolate has about two to three times more flavanol content compared to milk chocolate because it has a higher percentage of cocoa solids.

Research shows that flavanols have heart-protecting qualities. They help to relax blood vessels to improve blood flow in the body, which in turn may help to lower high blood pressure.

A study by Canadian researchers on 44,489 participants who ate chocolate, found that they were 22 per cent less likely to have a stroke compared to those who don’t eat chocolate.

Researchers from the Harvard Medical School found that drinking two cups of hot chocolate a day improved blood flow to the brain. This, they believe, could potentially help reduce the incidence of memory decline as we age.


As the main ingredients in chocolate is usually added fat and sugar, it’s important to know how to choose a better choice.

Read nutrition labels on the packaging and look for a choice that is at least a minimum of 70 per cent cocoa to get the most amount of beneficial flavanols. Plus you don’t have to eat a large amount of chocolate. A sensible serving would be no more than a 30 gramme piece. With its rich flavour, think of savouring it! Here are some serving suggestions:

* Make your own hot chocolate drink by gently warming up a cupful of low fat milk in a small pot on low heat. Just as it starts to bubble at the rim, turn off the heat and whisk in two heaped teaspoons of 100 per cent cocoa powder (which you can buy from the baking section of the supermarket). Lightly sweeten with one to two teaspoons of sugar if you like.

* Melt some dark chocolate with a little milk to make a sauce. Serve it with strawberries for an elegant snack. Or use the sauce as a topping for your home made pancakes, scones, waffles or French toast.

* Grate some chocolate into your hot, steaming bowl of oatmeal, topped with fresh fruit and nuts.

* Mix a tablespoon of chocolate chips with a ¼ cup of baked nuts for a power packed snack.

* Blend chilled milk, cocoa powder and a frozen banana together to make a delicious smoothie.

* Enjoy a small square or two of dark chocolate by letting it slowly melt in your mouth as you relax with a cup of tea.

[photo-1] Chocolate is one of the most popular guilty pleasures

[photo-2] White chocolate only has cocoa butter, milk and sugar

[photo-3] Drinking two cups of hot chocolate a day improves blood flow to the brain

New Straits Times, Published: June 20, 2018 - 10:38am
The goodness of chocolate
By Indra Balaratnam
*Indra Balaratnam is a consultant dietitian who believes in simple practical ways to eating well and living healthy.

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Mahathir's Look East policy

In his commentary, the writer urges Malaysian Prime minister Mahathir Mohamad to pay attention to China as well as he revives his Look East policy.

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has announced that Malaysia is renewing, or to be more precise, upgrading the Look East policy he adopted as a foreign policy 30 years ago.

It was unveiled after he came to power in 1981 and now, as the premier for the second time, he has picked up the pieces of his past and repackaged it.

His inclination to Japan then was understandable since the country was the rising star of Asia.

Although Look East included South Korea and Taiwan, it basically meant Japan.

There were sound reasons to why Dr Mahathir wanted Malaysia to emulate some of the East Asian characteristics, both economically and ethically.

I think any Malaysian who has visited Japan can vouch for the people's work ethic, honesty, orderliness, politeness, punctuality, cleanliness, precision, dedication to excellence, innovation and good manners.

Malaysians in Japan feel safe - they rarely get cheated despite being tourists, which is more than can be said for many countries.

Personally, Japan remains my No. 1 holiday destination. Like Dr Mahathir, I have the highest admiration for the Japanese. They are certainly exemplary, and that is indisputable.

Dr Mahathir has continued to have high regard for the Japanese and history seems to be repeating itself.

His Look East Policy shocked and confused the Malaysian foreign ministry, with many officials viewing it as undefined and vague.

The Ministry being left in the dark about the Prime Minister's move led to it being unaware of how to implement the policy.

Fast forward to 2018.

It's likely that his new batch of ministers were also caught off guard with the revival of the Look East policy, more so when the Foreign Minister has yet to be installed.

Without doubt, Japan is an important partner to Malaysia because we have more than six decades' of ties with the country.

In 2016, Japan ranked Malaysia as its fourth-largest trading partner with bilateral trade standing at RM120 billion (S$40 billion).

The strong trade and investment relations between the nations are also underpinned by the Malaysia-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement.

The latest Malaysia-Japan collaboration includes the Bukit Bintang City Centre project, which has managed to attract the leading real estate group in the Land of the Rising Sun, Mitsui Fudisan Co Ltd, to invest in what will be the mega project's RM1.6 billion retail mall.

But Dr Mahathir's choice of his first foreign visit to Japan as PM has raised many eyebrows.

Perhaps it was just the coincidental timing of the annual Nikkei Conference, which he attends without fail.

I was told that his office had informed the Chinese Embassy here, as a matter of courtesy, to avoid reading into the matter, given the long, bitter rivalry between the two nations.

Dr Mahathir was also visiting Japan after a series of announcements, calling for the review, if not cancellation or postponement, of several mega Chinese-driven projects in Malaysia.

The method of repayments with China, involving huge amounts of money, has, of course, been called into question and condemned.

One critic even described the terms as "strange."

It's apparent the situation is delicate now, and we need to tread carefully because we are dealing with a global leader.

The PM admitted that his government was "dealing with a very powerful country. As such, matters affecting both parties will require friendly discussions".

Former finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin also said that Malaysia will carefully handle business contracts with China made by the previous administration.

In an interview with The Star, Daim admitted that the economic superpower is a friend to Malaysia.

"China is very important to us," the Council of Eminent Persons spokesman said.

"We enjoy very close relations, but unfortunately, under the previous administration, a lot of China contracts are tainted, difficult to understand and the terms are one-sided," said Daim.

There is plenty at stake here.

The world has also changed, and Malaysia needs to be mindful of its diplomatic move.

These are sensitive times, and to the Chinese, the issue of "face" is an important one.

Whether we like it or not, the whole world is looking towards China because this is where the fundamental building blocks of a future global digital economic model is being curated and built.

Japan's economy, on the other hand, has been in regression over the last two decades, and open data is easily available to prove this point.

Just google it.

That aside, China is Malaysia's largest trading partner in Asean, especially after Malaysia-China bilateral transactions rose as much as 28 per cent to RM139.2 billion in 2017's first half.

The Chinese government has been very positive with bilateral relations with Malaysia over the years, and this great foundation is what we must build on.

It doesn't matter who the Malaysian Prime Minister is now.

With Ali Baba and Tencent coming to Malaysia, SMEs - which comprise more than 95 per cent of Malaysian business entities - exporting to China will be a huge foreign trade opportunity.

Of all the Asean nations, Malaysia has the largest pool of businessmen who speak the relevant Chinese dialects and understand the culture.

But it's not just the Malaysian Chinese businessmen who stand to benefit, but other races too.

Let's not forget that China will be under steady stewardship for the coming decade since Xi Jinping has strengthened his position as the premier.

And with Dr Mahathir rightfully announcing that Malaysia will be a neutral country, this will mean a stable foreign policy which is crucial for the rules of engagement.

The same can't be said of Japan, though, as it has a history of turbulent domestic politics, with frequent changes in leadership.

Truth be told, China has outperformed Japan.

The republic has become a model of socio-economic reform that connects, not only the past with the present, but more importantly, can rewrite the history of human development into our common future.

The One Belt, One Road initiative is the future.

It was also reported that China has overtaken Japan in global patent applications filed in 2017 and is closing in on the United States, the long-standing leader, the World Intellectual Property Organization said in a report.

With 48,882 filings, up 13.4 per cent from a year earlier, Chinese entities came closer to their American counterparts, which filed 56,624 applications.

Japanese applicants ranked third with 48,208 demands for patents, up 6.6 per cent from a year ago, the report, released Wednesday, revealed.

According to the Geneva-based institution, China will likely overtake the US as the world's largest patent applicant within three years.

"This rapid rise in Chinese use of the international patent system shows that innovators there are increasingly looking outward, seeking to spread their original ideas into new markets as the Chinese economy continues its rapid transformation," WIPO director-general Francis Gurry said.

The overall filings in 2017 were 243,500, up 4.5 per cent from a year earlier.

Data indicates that China and Japan were key drivers of the surge in applications.

"This is part of a larger shift in the geography of innovation, with half of all international patent applications now originating in East Asia," Gurry reportedly said.

Two Chinese firms topped the list, led by Huawei Technologies Co with 4,024 patent applications and ZTE Corp with 2,965 submissions.

Intel Corp of the United States is placed third with 2,637 filings, followed by Mitsubishi Electric Corp with 2,521.

China has also declared its ambition to equal the US in its AI capability by 2020 and to be number one in the world by 2030.

If there is a single country to take a cue from, then it can only be China.

Look at its growth since 1957, 1967, 1987, 1997 and 2017, and see the strides it has made in the shortest time.

Remember, China was once poor and backwards.

Many Malaysian Chinese used to send money back to their families in China, especially in 1950s and 1960s, and even 1970s.

But look where the country is now.

Malaysia is in pole position to take advantage since our neighbour Singapore has always been perceived to be too US-centric.

It will be a waste if we let politics get in the way, as no one can dispute that China now plays a respected and vital role.

Anyone can tell that China will reshape the new world order.

It is the new Middle Kingdom and is the country to look to.

And Dr Mahathir should pick up on this because at the end of his trip to Japan, the press bombarded him with the predictable and nagging question - when will he be visiting China?

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has continued to have high regard for the Japanese and history seems to be repeating itself.

Straits Times, Published: Jun 18, 2018, 2:37 pm SGT
Mahathir's Look East policy
By Wong Chun Wai
The writer is the group's managing director/chief executive officer. The Star is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media entities.

The Star, Published: Sunday, 17 Jun 2018
Looking East with a twist
By Wong Chun Wai

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - United States President Donald Trump may visit Malaysia after the 33rd Asean Summit in November, a White House official said.

The planned visit was raised by National Security Council senior director for Asian affairs Matthew Pottinger, the first Trump administrator to visit Malaysia since the country's historic general election in May, during a media round-table in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday (June 19).

"Trump looks forward to deepening our comprehensive partnership with Malaysia," said Pottinger.

"We've got the Asean Summit coming up later this year, so we're exploring possibilities for the President's follow-on travel," he added.

The 33rd Asean Summit is to be held from Nov 11 to 15 in Singapore.

Pottinger said he on Tuesday conveyed a letter from Trump to the Malaysian government congratulating Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's Pakatan Harapan coalition on its electoral victory.

Tun Dr Mahathir has previously said that he has no plans to meet Trump and that he does not know how to deal with the US leader's "volatile" personality.

The new Prime Minister's stance is worlds apart from his predecessor Datuk Seri Najib Razak who sought a close relationship with Trump, even travelling to the White House to discuss bilateral ties.

When asked whether Dr Mahathir's negative view of Trump would sour relationships between the two countries, Pottinger said they "look forward to engaging and deepening the bilateral relationships at all levels of government".

On the South China Sea dispute, Pottinger said the United States and its partners would continue responding to China's militarisation of the islands in the area.

In late May, two US warships had sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands, among the disputed islands that China had claimed, in a move that provoked Chinese authorities to respond by dispatching its own warships to confront the US Navy.

Pottinger said the South China Sea is part of the maritime commons and expressed disappointment at China's militarisation of the sea.

"The United States and its partners will all be taking steps in the near and long term to respond to that militarisation. Those kind of steps should be viewed as stabilising the situation and not as provocation," he added.

Dr Mahathir had previously said he did not want any foreign warships in the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca.

He subsequently signed an agreement with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to keep both seas free for navigation for all countries.

Pottinger's visit to Malaysia comes after the Singapore Summit where Trump had met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

US President Donald Trump may visit neighbouring Malaysia after attending the 33rd Asean Summit in Singapore this November.

Straits Times, Published: Jun 20, 2018, 12:18 pm SGT
US President Trump may visit Malaysia after Asean Summit in November, says White House official

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「TOKYO KURDS/東京クルド(2017年)」
















Yahoo! Japan ニュース、3/26(月) 9:00

2006年、ドキュメンタリージャパンに入社。東部紛争下のウクライナで、「国のために戦うべきか」徴兵制度に葛藤する若者たちを追った『銃は取るべきか(NHK BS1)』や在日シリア人“難民”の家族を1年間記録した『となりのシリア人(日本テレビ)』を制作。2017年、18歳の在日クルド人青年のひと夏を描いた「TOKYO KURDS/東京クルド」で、TokyoDocsショートドキュメンタリー・ショーケース優秀賞受賞。2018年、北米最大のドキュメンタリーフェスティバル HOT DOCS正式招待作品に選出

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Japanese work ethic

MANY of us remember the Look East Policy introduced in 1982, after Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad became prime minister a year earlier.

It had a huge impact when the Malaysian government and the private sector looked at
Japan and South Korea as role models for development and work ethic.

During his recent visit to Japan, Dr Mahathir again expressed his confidence that Malaysia would succeed like Japan if its people had a work ethic, mind and value system like the Japanese.

He advised Malaysians to follow the attitude of the Japanese, who feel embarrassed if they failed to perform their duties
or did not do their jobs as expected.

When the Look East Policy was first drafted in the 1980s, it was not just about attracting investments from Japan or going to study in the Land of the Rising Sun.

It was more of an effort to learn the work ethic of the Japanese as well as to develop a sense of shame when failing to perform tasks.

Although many senior citizens had bitter memories of the Japanese occupation, we have to learn from them how they rebuilt their country after World War 2.

Despite being a developed nation, the Japanese maintain their culture and values ​​inherited from generation to generation.

Among them is their respect for others, especially those who are older, by bowing their heads as a sign of respect.

We must emulate their punctuality and cleanliness, which they practise when they are abroad.

Therefore, it is not surprising that their public transport schedules are accurate while their people are seen collecting trash dumped indiscriminately.

They take good care of their environment and nurture the love for nature in schools.

Japanese children are taught to love their country and the patriotic spirit stays with them until they draw their last breath.

Looking at the social problems in our country, it is clear that we need to learn from the Japanese on how to strengthen noble values ​​in our society.

The most basic thing is to strengthen the family institution, which can thwart social ills.

Parents need to be more aware of the quality of family life and instil values in their children.

While law enforcement is important, the ability of each family to prevent social problems from creeping into their homes is more crucial.

We need to empower families so that they can deal with social problems.

This can be done by improving parenting skills and motivating parents to be aware of their children’s whereabouts and help develop them into good people.

Since the majority of Malay-sians are demanding change, we must play our role to take Malaysia to a higher level in national and economic development, including national and social integration, and social justice.

It is vital for Malaysians to practise noble values.

If we do this, we can emulate the Japanese in building a more caring nation.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad being welcomed by his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe in Tokyo last week.

Letter to New Straits Times, Published: June 22, 2018 - 8:36am
Japanese work ethic can make us better nation
By TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE, Senior vice-chairman, Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation

A Japanese city official has been reprimanded and fined for repeatedly leaving his desk during work hours – but only for around three minutes to buy lunch. The official, who works at the waterworks bureau in the western city of Kobe, began his designated lunch break early 26 times over the space of seven months, according to a city spokesman. ‘The lunch break is from noon to 1pm. He left his desk before the break,’ the spokesman told AFP on Thursday.

The official, who works at the waterworks bureau in the western city of Kobe, began his designated lunch break early 26 times over the space of seven months, according to a city spokesman.

‘The lunch break is from noon to 1pm. He left his desk before the break,’ the spokesman told AFP on Thursday.

The official, 64, had half a day’s pay docked as punishment and the bosses called a news conference to apologise.

‘It’s deeply regrettable that this misconduct took place. We’re sorry,’ a bureau official told reporters, bowing deeply.

The worker was in violation of a public service law stating that officials have to concentrate on their jobs, according to the bureau.

The news sparked a heated debate on Japanese social media, with many defending the official.

‘It’s sheer madness. It’s crazy. What about leaving your desk to smoke?’ said one Twitter user.

‘Is this a bad joke? Does this mean we cannot even go to the bathroom?’ said another.

The city had previously suspended another official in February for a month after he had left his office numerous times to buy a ready-made lunch box during work hours.

The official was absent a total of 55 hours over six months, according to the city.

In the TV appearance, a company official said: ‘It’s immensely regrettable that such a scandal took place, and we wish to express our sincere apologies.’

Following the apology, dozens of people leapt to the man’s defence and called the punishment ‘absurd’.

One person wrote: ‘Are people not even allowed to go to the toilet now? This is like workplace slavery or something.’

While another said: ‘The punishment is totally absurd – 26 times over a six-month period means he only left the office once a week.’

‘Absolutely ridiculous – arranging this formal apology with the press would’ve wasted more time than the three minutes he spent buying his lunch every now and then.’

Work culture in Japan is known to be torturous, with employees rarely taking sick days and working incredibly long hours. Though entitled to 20 days leave a year, around 35% don’t take any of it.

metro.co.uk, Published: Thursday 21 Jun 2018 7:30 am
Bosses make public apology for docking worker’s pay for taking lunch early
By Tanveer Mann

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Islamic view

FOOD is an indispensable aspect of any festive celebration in Malaysia. With a happy mix of ethnicities and cultures, the country is a host to numerous varieties of food. During the fasting month of Ramadan, Muslim communities produce and consume a large amount of food as they normally organise iftar (breaking of fast) gatherings.

The advent of Eid al-Fitr does not ease their love for food as the festival demands another set of traditional dishes and delicacies be served to friends and visitors. All this results in a huge amount of food waste. There are reports that no fewer than 9,000 tonnes of food are discarded per day during Ramadan.

The development of modern agriculture in many countries has led to the displacement of food production at the individual, local and community levels as it is, in many cases, being outsourced to multinational corporations or large agribusinesses.

Most of the people today are consumers rather than producers of food. People do not produce their food anymore like they used to and this has somehow led our communities to lose their connection with the food production practices and traditions.

Currently, we are also facing some worrying issues in terms of our food system as the largely centralised industry has failed to meet some expectations. In terms of distribution, the global community is witnessing a considerable decrease in food production despite increasing demand. To meet the population demand by 2050, our global agricultural production must increase by 60 per cent. The disparity between demand and production will lead to serious dysfunctional imbalances in food distribution globally.

Added to this are food waste issues we face at the national level. Food waste as defined by the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations is the removal of food from its overall supply due to economic behaviour, poor stock management or neglect.

Reportedly, a third of the overall food that is grown is wasted between any point from farm to fork daily, which is valued at more than US$1 trillion (RM4 trillion), and if consumed the amount would be sufficient to feed 870 million people worldwide.

One of the main contributing factors of the food waste phenomenon, despite individual attitude, is the linear trait of our food chain, whereby food supplies tend to move linearly from producers to consumers. This results in the generation of vast quantities of food that consumers do not need. It is the sad reality of all segments of the food market and this has led to another linear economic culture of “buy, use and dispose”.

What is needed is a food system model that emulates the cycle of life. Experts call this circular economy. Such a model keeps resources in use for as long as we can, thus maximising value for everyone. By connecting producers of food and consumers in a balanced loop, the circular model gets rid of the “buy, use and dispose” mindset. Also, such a model enables us to regenerate the products and materials at the end of their service life.

Information technology enables the circular economy to operate effectively, as it is able to connect consumers directly to food producers without any boundary.

For instance, an initiative known as Farmigo in the United States has been connecting consumers with local farmers through an online platform whereby they can order fresh products directly from their preferred producers. In this system, the farmers will only harvest fruit or vegetables when they have orders to fulfil, as an approach to prevent waste. In South Korea, households need to pay to the government according to the amount of food waste they are likely to dispose, and this has led to the recycling of 95 per cent of food waste annually. In Malaysia, Hayati Food Aid Foundation has been collecting unserved dishes from hotels and canned food from hypermarkets to distribute to charities and kitchen soups.

As we are celebrating the month of Syawal with the spirit of returning to our God-given natural selves (fitrah), we need to reflect as well on our food production system and consumption patterns in order to ensure they operate in such a way that conforms to the natural cycle of life. It is a crucial step at preventing wastage in any sphere of our life, as Allah, May He Be Glorified, has declared: “Indeed, the wasteful are brothers of the devils, and ever has Satan been to his Lord ungrateful,” (al-Isra’, 17:27)

A huge amount of food is discarded daily worldwide.

New Straits Times, Published:
Welcoming festive season with circular economy
The writer is a research fellow at IAIS Malaysia, with a focus on maqasid al-shari’ah (the higher objective of shari’ah), usul al-fiqh, and contemporary Islamic jurisprudence discourse, particularly in the subject of systems thinking and its application in Islamic philosophy of law

IN light of socio-economic crises worldwide, “happiness” has gained traction and received much support for it to be recognised as a standard indicator for social progress, as well as an overarching goal for public policies.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, for instance, have committed themselves to redefining the development narrative, wherein the qualitative aspects of people’s wellbeing occupies the primary concern of governments. Paying attention to happiness as a multidimensional concept of growth is thus instrumental in the pursuit of human and sustainable developments.

Furthermore, the increasing attention towards subjective wellbeing as a complementary or alternative methodological indicator of a country’s wellbeing has bolstered the role of happiness as an evolutionary yardstick of human wellbeing.

Since the first World Happiness Report in 2012, the United Nations has, until recently, come out with five happiness reports, with the most recent being the World Happiness Report 2017.

The report involves respondents in 155 countries, who answered a list of questions pertaining to their life satisfactions, averaged from 2014 to last year. It measures key determinants of happiness, which include gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, healthy years of life expectancy, social support, trust, perceived freedom and generosity.

Nonetheless, the focus of the latest happiness report is the social aspect, which has significant impact on the level of overall happiness in a community.

Among the surveyed nations, 41 are Muslim countries whose scores of happiness level vary significantly due to differences in socio-economic progress.

It is noteworthy that most Muslim countries that occupy the top 50 are the Gulf countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain.

Malaysia, Algeria and Turkmenistan have also been featured next to the Gulf nations.

Apparently, the top 10 happiest Muslim countries are oil producing nations, despite the recent decline of global crude oil prices that led to the slowdown in the oil and gas industry, and job losses, evincing that happiness depends on more than income.

It is interesting as well to note that there is a considerable gap between the highest scoring state (UAE at 6.648 score) with that of the second (Qatar at 6.357 score), which signifies a substantial disparity in terms of GDP, sustainable development and social welfare. This gap exists notwithstanding the fact that Qatar’s per capita income (US$74,686.60) is higher than that of the UAE (US$39, 313.30).

Another contributing factor may be that the UAE has already embarked on a happiness initiative via its “National Happiness and Positivity Charter”. It has also appointed a happiness minister in its cabinet to nurture a happiness atmosphere throughout the country’s public services and corporate sectors.

On the other side of the prism, it is striking that a large number of Muslim countries occupy the bottom two quarters of the index list, whereby the bottom 10 Muslim countries are Mali, Sudan, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Afghanistan, Yemen, Guinea, Togo and Syria. The report shows that countries in this segment are mostly African nations that are waiting to fulfill their expectations of development, despite 50 years of self-rule and self-proclaimed democracy.

The non-African countries that fall under this segment are mostly suffering from wars and political instabilities. Syria, for instance, is witnessing the deadliest civil war ever seen in recent decades.

The report is also illustrative of the happiness level changes that took place among Muslim countries in a one-year period. While the majority of these countries have recorded progressive improvements, some countries like Afghanistan (0.434 points), Egypt (0.373 points), Gabon (0.344 points), as well as Senegal (0.316 points), stand out. Brunei and Oman, unfortunately, are not included in the report, despite being among the more promising Muslim countries in terms of socio-economic development.

Arguably, the world happiness report might not be the best evaluative scheme that may provide for us an Islamic outlook of development. Its multidimensional approach, however, opens a new horizon for countries to gauge comprehensively their achievements in different life segments. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation should perhaps helm the initiative to develop its own benchmark that complies with the Islamic philosophical concept of happiness, something that is not foreign to Islamic intellectual heritage.

An Islamic index of happiness could perhaps provide a more culturally coherent gauge to help in the pursuit of producing yearly happiness reports for Muslim countries. Some attempts have been made but we have yet to see a full-fledged Islamic happiness index, to be made available for general use.

The UAE happiness initiatives should be seen as an exemplary benchmark for other Muslim countries to follow. With the emerging global trend of evaluating happiness at the national level, it is timely now for all Muslim countries to set their happiness agenda.

Appointing a minister of happiness might be an important step to begin with, but more importantly is the sustained emphasis on implementation of comprehensive policy measures to satisfy core happiness determinants as suggested by the UN happiness report.

Children playing with water at the camp for refugees in Ain Issa, Syria. Syria is among the 10 lowest scoring Muslim countries in the World Happiness Report 2017.

New Straits Times, Published: June 16, 2017 - 10:27am
Muslim nations should have own happiness index
Ahmad Badri Abdullah is a Research Fellow at International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (Malaysia), with a focus on maqasid al-syariah (the higher objective of Syariah), usul al-fiqh, and contemporary Islamic jurisprudence discourse, particularly in the subject of systems thinking and its application in Islamic philosophy of law.

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Challenge of new Malaysia

THE debate over our national debt − about how it came about, whether part of it has been cleverly hidden and therefore even about its actual size − is vitally important not just for its own sake (given how it can impinge adversely on market confidence in our overall economic management) but, equally, for its real and potential impact on the course and fate of the evolving political and economic reform process that the first change in national government necessarily ushers in.

While the new Pakatan Harapan (PH)-led Federal Government has engendered an almost euphoric, “feel-good” popular sentiment among a good cross-section of Malaysians, sooner or later, more sober and disinterested analyses of the state of the nation and where it should be headed must kick in. It has to be borne in mind that sincere good intentions alone are never sufficient to carry any nation forward. In fact, they may well be the stuff paving the road to hell.

I am reminded of almost similar conditions now prevailing in our country obtaining a generation ago when the so-called “people power” revolution of 1986 overthrew then Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos.

The popular euphoria then unfortunately did not last very long. An untested new president was buffeted by political pressures pulling in opposing directions and working at cross purposes, mostly well-meaning, of course.

The central debate in the Philippines of the late 1980s was also about the national debt that two decades of Marcos’ rule accumulated.

Then Philippine finance secretary Jaime Ongpin negotiated with foreign creditors what many had thought were equitable terms that preserved the nation’s overall credit standing.

But the terms agreed with the Philippines’ creditors were fiercely attacked, even from within the new government. Nationalist-inspired opposition to the debt settlement package was spearheaded by then president Corazon Aquino’s executive secretary Joker Arroyo, a left-leaning human-rights lawyer. A somewhat hapless Aquino eventually had to cut loose Ongpin and Arroyo, both of whom she owed much politically for her rise. The near-farce ended in tragedy when Ongpin shot himself three months after being sacked.

To be sure, we are perhaps exceedingly lucky that someone as experienced as Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is at the helm again at a potentially fraught moment for the nation. But even the prime minister readily admitted that it is a lot more challenging for him this time around. The delay in naming a full cabinet for over a month is perhaps the clearest manifestation of the challenges he faces.

For starters, Dr Mahathir today leads a coalition packed with politicians of differing political and economic philosophies and therefore with possibly conflicting agendas about how to carry the nation forward. Moreover, various civil-society groups today are energised and empowered by their contributions that made a PH national government possible and naturally feel entitled to have their views heard as well.

Public debates and ventilation of opposing viewpoints are all well and good if they eventually lead to a synthesis that presents our leaders with a practical plan for a way forward for the nation.

Of course it may be argued that the new Federal Government already is in possession of the broad outlines of a governing agenda spelt out in the PH election manifesto. But a plan of action hammered out in opposition nearly always falls by the wayside once the actual reality of governing hits. The new PH national government therefore is in no way unique in confronting and coming to grips with the difficult reality of everyday governance.

Fortunately, perhaps, a good many Malaysians are well aware of such delicate intricacies of governance. Many who actively participated in the exercise to get PH elected into Putrajaya also seem to agree that drastic measures may be needed to remove the roadblocks that may stand in the way of a better Malaysia for all.

They must, however, get over whatever animus felt towards the previous ruling coalition and instead also seek to encourage and promote its effective functioning as a responsible opposition by holding the new government to account for its chosen policies and actions.

It does not naturally follow that better governance is the result of a change of government. The Philippines is, even till today, a cautionary tale of what we must all strive to avoid.

Accepted political orthodoxies are being progressively overturned in today’s ever changing global environment. We dared to challenge those orthodoxies before and lived to tell stories of success. We must not cease taking on such challenges now.

The Prime Minister’s Department Complex − Perdana Putra − in Putrajaya. Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is at the helm again of a potentially fraught moment for the nation.

New Straits Times, Published: June 22, 2018 - 8:02am
Challenge of new Malaysia
By John Teo
The writer views developments in the nation, the region and the wider world from his vantage point in Kuching, Sarawak

[Read more]
ALMOST exactly a month after Pakatan Harapan (PH) took over the reins of the Federal Government from Barisan Nasional (BN), the political ramifications still reverberate.

Meeting in Kuching on June 12, the four parties of the Sarawak Barisan Nasional − the dominant Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu (PBB), Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) and the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) − cobbled together a new state governing coalition called Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS).

The move had been anticipated and managed to send out a somewhat astute mixture of what some political analysts have taken to calling “state nationalism” and political pragmatism.

The “state nationalism” idea was born out of a rather keenly felt desire on the part of many in Sarawak to chart a path distinctly its own, the clearest manifestation of which has been the quest in recent years to claim (some even suggest to reclaim) greater autonomy for the state to run its own affairs.

It is an idea which, incidentally, the newly created GPS shares with Sarawak PH, reflecting at once what a potent sentiment this has generated and how all parties vying for the votes of Sarawakians must now seriously take cognisance of.

The decision of the state ruling coalition is politically pragmatic in the sense that it also fully recognises that the state government will be better off by seeking to “cooperate and collaborate” with the new powers-that-be in Putrajaya (as an official media statement issued after the decision to form GPS promised) rather than to oppose and confront. The GPS move has apparently met with approval from Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad whose immediate reaction to it had been to suggest it will bolster the strength of the PH government.

GPS will, of course, bring to Parliament a bloc of 19 members of parliament. The prime minister is obviously hoping the move will consolidate his hold on power even if GPS will not be formally aligned to PH.

The interesting thing to watch going forward must be how the formation of GPS plays out politically within Sarawak. While GPS’ political position as the state government remains formidable and unassailable, the 14th General Election (GE14) and its aftermath expose vulnerabilities which it must watch and which Sarawak PH will seek to fully exploit in the run-up to the next state election that must be held by 2021.

The results of the just-concluded general election showed that the rural vote bank that GPS and BN before it relied on may no longer be as solid as it once was. The gains that Sarawak PH made in GE14 extended beyond urban constituencies. Unless the reasons for this are quickly and honestly identified and remedial measures taken to address them, further political shocks may await GPS the next time it goes on the hustings.

Two broad political trends seem obvious enough. One is greater public awareness about the imperative for greater governance transparency in order to curb public excesses, wastage and corruption. The same state coalition (more or less) has ruled the state since 1970 and not unlike the BN nationally, political complacency or worse may have set in.

GPS has little time to lose if it is to compete head-on with Sarawak PH in the coming state election. Sarawak PH will have been energised by being part of the government at national level and possibly further strengthened if it can translate good intentions into positive and concrete actions and results on the ground.

A more difficult but not impossible way for GPS to reinvent itself and keep it one step ahead of Sarawak PH will be to meld GPS into a single political party and give fresh impetus to the notion that Sarawak is really different and even ahead of the rest of the country politically.

Although the way politics is organised in Sarawak has always been not as rigidly communal-based as in the peninsula, a not dissimilar racially and ethnically based political hierarchy nevertheless still manifests itself at the state level and much state political discourse goes along such lines.

PH may represent progress in that it for the first time attempts to shift the country into a post-racial political era even if it still is a hodgepodge of parties dedicated in varying degrees to multiracialism in practice.

As a state where no ethnic group forms a numerical majority, it should, in fact, be more feasible and easier for Sarawak to take the lead into a non-racial political future.

The results of the 14th General Election show that GPS can no longer rely on its rural vote bank.

New Straits Times, Published: June 18, 2018 - 12:33pm
Showing the way to non-racial political future
By John Teo

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Looking east one more time

WHEN Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad first launched his Look East Policy in 1981, I had left the Attorney-General’s Chambers for some time and was thinking of leaving my legal practice to enter academia. I was then in my early 40s and was looking for something new and exciting to do, and I thought the prime minister’s idea of learning the value system of the Japanese as well as their work ethics was splendid.

I am a believer in both ideals (always do your best and take pride in your work) and regard the oft-repeated saying that “Malaysians are lazy” as complete nonsense. During the late 60s when I was spending my years as a law student in England, it was a Malaysian student who repeatedly gained the top spot in the Bar examinations − destroying the myth that Malaysians are stupid and lazy. I believe that if we give them a worthy challenge and a clear direction, Malaysians can and will excel.

Over the years, however, that Look East Policy seemed to have lost its lustre and relevance as other policies were introduced by the changing leadership at the centre. When Dr Mahathir made his recent visit to Japan (his first visit there as the seventh prime minister of Malaysia), the unexpected happened. The Look East Policy has now been rejuvenated and reinvented.

Speaking to the Japanese media after he met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on June 12, Dr Mahathir said Malay-sia and Japan “will rejuvenate and upgrade the Look East Policy to deepen collaboration and strengthen business competitiveness between both countries”.

He said the two countries could benefit much from working closely with each other in education, training and investment (among other areas).

Expressing his happiness that Japan welcomed Malaysia’s Look East Policy again “in the new era” ahead, Dr Mahathir said the two countries can strengthen their relationship, promote investment and expand opportunities for both Malaysian and Japanese business people in both countries.

Referring to the favourable reponse by Japan “to study Malay-sia’s request” for yen credit to alleviate the financial problems faced by the country, Dr Mahathir said that the resolution of its debt problems would enable Malaysia to “once again be a good market for Japan and Japanese investments in Malaysia”. It would turn out to be a win-win situation for both countries.

Speaking at the 24th Annual “Future of Asia Conference” in Tokyo (hosted by Nikkei Asian Review), Dr Mahathir explained that when he formulated the Look East Policy more than three decades ago, “Malaysia was very backward, very poor… It had no technology, no skills in business, no capital. We saw the growth in East Asia, and we decided that we had a lot to learn from Japan, Korea and China”.

In its comments on that earlier version of the Look East Policy, a news portal said that the “true inclination of the policy was towards Japan”, but because of “war atrocities” Dr Mahathir had chosen the word “East” to incorporate Korea and Taiwan. It was a slogan for closer ties with Asian nations and seemed to fit well with his other policy, Buy British Last.

Dr Mahathir had explained at that time that he wanted Malaysia to adopt some principles from Japan. He was looking at Japan Inc. and wished to establish its local version (Malaysia Inc.) so that both the public sector (government) and the private sector could work together to achieve a common economic goal.

He wanted Malaysians (like the Japanese and the Koreans) to become diligent, hardworking, loyal, and have the communal spirit and perseverance to achieve the same development of these countries. The Malaysian government then began sending students and workers to training institutes and companies in Japan and Korea to learn the East Asian way.

The Look East Policy resulted in increased investments into Malaysia from Japan and Korea, and several big construction projects were awarded to Japanese and Korean companies. The Da-yabumi Complex (situated across the road in front of the National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur) was built by Takenaka-Kumgai, and a cement plant in Perak was built by Mitsui. The Penang Bridge project was awarded to a Korean construction company, Hyundai Engineering and Construction Company.

The first national car project (under Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional Sdn Bhd, Proton) began as a joint venture between the Heavy Industry Corporation of Malaysia and Mitsubishi.

The second car project was launched much later when Daihatsu concluded a joint venture with Malaysia companies to create the successful Perodua.

Proton ceased to become a Malaysian car when the controlling share in the company was sold recently to Geely Automobile Holding, a Chinese company.

KL’s iconic building, Petronas Twin Towers, completed on March 1, 1996, was built by Hazama Corporation (Tower 1) and Samsung Engineering & Construction and Kukdong Engineering & Construction (Tower 2). From 1998 to 2004, the Twin Towers was the world’s tallest building until it was surpassed by Taipei 101.

Two weeks ago, when speaking to reporters in Langkawi, Dr Mahathir stated that he planned to “reignite” the Look East Policy in his visit to Japan to attend an annual conference scheduled on June 11 and 12. He has done that, and it is now up to the governments and the people of both countries to keep the reignited flame alive.

In his recent visit to Japan, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad asked Japan for yen credit to alleviate the financial problems faced by the country.

New Straits Times, Published: June 21, 2018 - 8:21am
Looking east one more time
The writer formerly served the Attorney-General’s Chambers before he left for practice, the corporate sector and, then, academia

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‘Totally responsible’ for the embezzlement of billions of dollars of government money

Malaysia’s new prime minister has claimed that investigators have an “almost perfect case” against former leader Najib Razak, who will face charges of bribery, theft of government funds and embezzlement for his role in the 1MDB scandal.

Mahathir Mohamad described on Wednesday how Najib’s signature was on all the 1MDB transaction documents. In an interview with Reuters, Mahathir said Najib was “totally responsible for 1MDB. Nothing can be done without his signature, and we have his signature on all the deals entered into by 1MDB. Therefore, he is responsible.”

Najib set up the 1MDB government fund in 2009 but it became entrenched in scandal in 2015 when it emerged that billions had been embezzled around the world, allegedly used by associates of Najib’s to fund spending sprees and yachts. Some $681m of the fund was alleged to have been transferred into Najib’s personal bank account and used to purchase jewellery for his wife Rosmah Mansor and pay their credit card bills.

According to Tony Pua, a minister in the finance office, 1MDB’s debts and losses total $10bn.

While in office Najib fired those who tried to bring charges against him for 1MDB and then oversaw an investigation that cleared himself of all wrongdoing. During the election, the 1MDB chief executive officer Arul Kanda went on a campaign declaring that the fund was in good health.

However, since the opposition won the May election, led by 92-year-old Mahathir, they made the renewed 1MDB investigation a key priority. Newly appointed finance minister Lim Guan Eng recently described 1MDB as the “worst corruption scandal ever in Malaysian history”.

Responding to Mahathir’s comments, Najib told Reuters: “As far as I am concerned, I did not do anything that I thought was illegal.”

Mahathir said he expected arrests in the next few months and said that a trial would “hopefully” be underway by the end of the year. There would be “no deal” for Najib.

The charges Najib is likely to face in court are “embezzlement, stealing government money, losing government money and a number of other charges. Using government money to bribe. All those things,” said Mahathir, adding: “When we go to the courts, we will have clear evidence of the wrongdoing. We cannot afford to lose.”

Also subject to investigation is Najib’s wife Rosmah, who was alleged to profit personally from embezzled 1MDB funds, bankrolling her expensive taste in clothes and jewellery. A recent raid on an apartment linked to Rosmah and Najib, as part of the 1MDB investigation, saw 274 Birkin handbags seized as well as 72 bags of cash, jewellery and gold bars, the value of which is still being calculated.

However Mahathir acknowledged Rosmah’s alleged role was hard to prove. “Some of the money is believed to have gone to her, lots of money,” Mahathir said. “We know about this, but finding the paper trail is a bit more difficult in this case because she doesn’t sign any papers.”

Najib set up the 1MDB government fund in 2009 but it became entrenched in scandal in 2015

The Guardian, Last modified on Wed 20 Jun 2018 06.50 BST
1MDB: Mahathir claims he has 'an almost perfect case' against former PM Najib

New prime minister alleges his former protege is ‘totally responsible’ for the embezzlement of billions of dollars of government money
By Hannah Ellis-Petersen South-east Asia correspondent

LANGKAWI: Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak says he shouldn't be blamed for the multi-billion-dollar 1MDB scandal, and declares he knows nothing about money from the state fund appearing in his personal account.

He does, though, have explanations for the vast sums of cash, luxury handbags and jewellery recently seized from his homes by the Malaysian authorities.

Speaking to Reuters in his first sit-down interview since his shock May 9 election defeat, Najib said his advisors and the management and board of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), had wrongly kept the alleged embezzlement of funds a secret from him.

Newly-elected Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad told Reuters on Tuesday that the authorities have "an almost perfect case" against Najib on charges of embezzlement, misappropriation and bribery linked to 1MDB.

The 64-year-old politician lost the election after a decade in power at least partly because of the 1MDB scandal, which U.S. Attorney-General Jeff Sessions has described as "kleptocracy at its worst".

Najib, in some of his most extensive comments yet on the 1MDB scandal, said he did not know if hundreds of millions of dollars that moved through his personal account was from 1MDB, and if money from the fund was eventually laundered to acquire assets globally, including yachts, paintings, gems and prime real estate.

"I'm not party to the yacht, the paintings...I've never seen those paintings whatsoever," said Najib.

"I was not aware of these purchases. This was done without my knowledge. I would never authorise 1MDB funds to be used for any of these items. I've been in government so long, I know what's right and what's wrong," Najib said in the interview held at a luxurious sea-facing private villa in a five-star hotel on Pulau Langkawi.

He blamed 1MDB's board, saying it was incumbent upon them to tell him if something was wrong.

Relaxing in a black T-shirt and brown pants, Najib said he was enjoying golf, food, and time with his family.

The family booked the villa to celebrate Eid holidays together. Najib's children, including stepson Riza Aziz, a Hollywood film producer, were with him for the week, his aides told Reuters.

Wedding gifts

Malaysian investigators looking into 1MDB say they believe that Najib and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor have amassed vast amounts of wealth and property using funds from the state fund. Rosmah briefly appeared at the interview but Najib said she would not take questions.

Nearly 300 boxes of designer handbags and dozens of bags filled with cash and jewellery were among the items taken away by police in raids at properties linked to Najib's family. Items included Birkin handbags from the luxury goods maker Hermes, each worth up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Najib said the public seizure of handbags and other luxury items created a negative perception but most were gifts given to his wife and daughter and had nothing to do with 1MDB.

"Yes these were gifts, particularly with my daughter's they were tagged, they were actually labelled: when, by whom," adding that a lot of them were wedding presents.

Najib said his son-in-law Daniyar Nazarbayev, the nephew of Kazakstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev, also gifted many of the handbags to Rosmah.

"People might find it hard to understand, but my son-in-law for example, he gets Birkin from his source, five or six at one go," he said.

"His family has got some means, so it has nothing to do with 1MDB if it comes from Kazakhstan."

He also said RM114mil found at his family home in Kuala Lumpur were party funds belonging to Umno, of which he was president until he stepped down shortly after the poll.

Pink diamonds

U.S. prosecutors have alleged that more than US$4.5bil (RM18.02bil) of 1MDB funds was laundered through a complex web of transactions and shell companies. The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) has filed several lawsuits to claim about US$1.7bil (RM6.8bil) in assets believed to have been stolen from 1MDB.

Some of the assets sought include a Picasso painting, luxury real estate in South California and New York, shares in a Hollywood production company and a US$265mil (RM1.06bil) yacht, and more than US$200mil (RM800.9mil) worth of jewellery – including a 22-carat pink diamond pendant and necklace.

Najib said this jewellery set was also meant to be a gift for his wife but she never received it.

"And until today we do not know...she says the item is not in her possession," Najib said.

In the interview, Najib for the first time also spoke at length about Low Taek Jho, a Malaysian financier better known as Jho Low. U.S. and Malaysian investigators have named Low as a key figure who benefited from 1MDB funds.

Najib said he felt that Low's connections in the Middle East, particularly with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, could be helpful in pulling in more investment to Malaysia from those places.

But he said he had never instructed Low to get involved in 1MDB, and had no control over what he did.

"I didn't give him instructions, but he volunteered to do certain things, which he thought would help 1MDB. But whatever he did ultimately is the responsibility of the management and board."

Malaysia is seeking to arrest Low, believed to be residing abroad, for his involvement in the 1MDB scandal.

He described Low and Najib's stepson Riza as friends but said he was not aware of any dealings involving 1MDB funds in Riza's Hollywood production company, which produced The Wolf of Wall Street among other movies.

When asked if he was still in touch with Low, Najib said:

"We have cut off communication again. I don't know where he is."

Low's lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Saudi connection

Najib has consistently denied any wrongdoing in 1MDB. He has said US$681mil (RM2.72bil) transferred into his personal bank account was a donation from Saudi Arabia, and not as U.S. lawsuits have alleged misappropriated funds from 1MDB.

Najib said he had been given assurances from the late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud that Saudi Arabia would be sending a donation.

"All I knew, I accepted at face value that this is coming from the Saudis, from King Abdullah at his behest, at his instruction," Najib said.

Najib said he had no knowledge of any transactions involving his personal account, as he had appointed Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil, the director of SRC International, a former 1MDB unit, to manage it.

Malaysia's anti-graft agency has issued an arrest warrant for Nik Faisal but his whereabouts are unknown.

Never had plans to leave

The former prime minister said he is determined to stay in Malaysia and fight against the allegations, even if he faces the possibility of going to jail.

"No, I never had plans to leave. Because if I leave, there's presumption of guilt," he said.

"I cannot be a fugitive for the rest of my life. I want to clear my name."


The Star, Published: Wednesday, 20 Jun 2018, 10:35 PM MYT
Najib explains why he had so many luxury handbags, cash and valuables
[Source] Reuters

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From hungry to hangry

New US research has revealed two important factors that could cause us to feel “hangry,” an emotional state which is a combination of both hunger and anger.

Carried out by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the study set out to investigate what makes someone turn from feeling just hungry to feeling both hungry and bad-tempered, now more commonly known as ‘hangry.’

“We all know that hunger can sometimes affect our emotions and perceptions of the world around us, but it’s only recently that the expression ‘hangry,’ meaning bad-tempered or irritable because of hunger, was accepted by the Oxford Dictionary,” said lead author Jennifer MacCormack.

“The purpose of our research is to better understand the psychological mechanisms of hunger-induced emotional states”

The team first looked at more than 400 participants and asked them to take part in online experiments in which they were shown an image designed to either induce either positive, neutral or negative feelings.

Participants were then shown an ambiguous image, a Chinese pictograph, and asked to rate the pictograph on a seven-point scale from pleasant to unpleasant.

The results showed that when participants were hungry, they were more likely to rate the ambiguous Chinese pictographs as negative, but only after first being shown a negative image.

However, seeing a neutral or positive image first had no effect, suggesting that context is an important factor in determining whether hunger will contribute to negative emotions and lead individuals to feeling hangry.

“The idea here is that the negative images provided a context for people to interpret their hunger feelings as meaning the pictographs were unpleasant,” explained MacCormack. “So there seems to be something special about unpleasant situations that makes people draw on their hunger feelings more than, say, in pleasant or neutral situations.”

In the second part of the research, the team asked more than 200 university students to either fast or eat before completing a writing exercise. The scenario was set up so participants experienced a computer crash just before they had completed the task. They were then blamed for the crash by a researcher.

This time the team found that hungry individuals reported greater negative emotions, such as feeling stressed and hateful, and thought that the researcher was more judgmental or harsh when they were not focused on their own emotions.

However, those who spent time thinking about their emotions, even when they were hungry, did not report the same changes in emotions or social perceptions.

“You don’t just become hungry and start lashing out at the universe,” added co-author Kristen Lindquist. “We’ve all felt hungry, recognized the unpleasantness as hunger, had a sandwich and felt better. We find that feeling hangry happens when you feel unpleasantness due to hunger but interpret those feelings as strong emotions about other people or the situation you’re in.”

The findings can be found published online in the journal Emotion.

AFP Relaxnews / 11:16 AM June 14, 2018
New study reveals how we can go from hungry to hangry

What makes someone go from simply being hungry to full-on “hangry”? More than just a simple drop in blood sugar, this combination of hunger and anger may be a complicated emotional response involving an interplay of biology, personality and environmental cues, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

“We all know that hunger can sometimes affect our emotions and perceptions of the world around us, but it’s only recently that the expression hangry, meaning bad-tempered or irritable because of hunger, was accepted by the Oxford Dictionary,” said lead author Jennifer MacCormack, a doctoral student in the department of psychology and neuroscience in the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “The purpose of our research is to better understand the psychological mechanisms of hunger-induced emotional states − in this case, how someone becomes hangry.”

The research was published in the journal Emotion.

When someone is hungry, there are two key things that determine if that hunger will contribute to negative emotions or not, according to MacCormack: Context and self-awareness.

“You don’t just become hungry and start lashing out at the universe,” said assistant professor Kristen Lindquist, the study’s co-author. “We’ve all felt hungry, recognized the unpleasantness as hunger, had a sandwich and felt better. We find that feeling hangry happens when you feel unpleasantness due to hunger but interpret those feelings as strong emotions about other people or the situation you’re in.”

The researchers first conducted two online experiments involving more than 400 individuals from the United States. Depending on the experiment, participants were shown an image designed to induce positive, neutral or negative feelings. They were then shown an ambiguous image, a Chinese pictograph, and asked to rate the pictograph on a seven-point scale from pleasant to unpleasant. Participants were also asked to report how hungry they felt.

The researchers found that the hungrier participants were more likely to rate ambiguous Chinese pictographs as negative, but only after first being primed with a negative image. There was no effect for neutral or positive images. “The idea here is that the negative images provided a context for people to interpret their hunger feelings as meaning the pictographs were unpleasant,” said MacCormack. “So there seems to be something special about unpleasant situations that makes people draw on their hunger feelings more than, say, in pleasant or neutral situations.”

It’s not just environmental cues that can affect whether someone goes from hungry to hangry, according to MacCormack. People’s level of emotional awareness also matters. People who are more aware that their hunger is manifesting as an emotion are less likely to become hangry.

In a laboratory experiment involving more than 200 university students, the researchers asked the participants either to fast or eat beforehand. After some of the students were asked to complete a writing exercise designed to direct their focus on their emotions, all participants were asked to participate in a scenario designed to evoke negative emotions. Students were asked to complete a tedious exercise on a computer that, unbeknownst to them, was programmed to crash just before it could be completed. One of the researchers then came into the room and blamed the student for the computer crash.

Participants were then asked to fill out questionnaires on their emotions and their perception of the quality of the experiment. The researchers found that hungry individuals reported greater unpleasant emotions like feeling stressed and hateful when they were not explicitly focused on their own emotions. These individuals also thought that the researcher conducting the experiment was more judgmental or harsh. Participants who spent time thinking about their emotions, even when hungry, did not report these shifts in emotions or social perceptions.

“A well-known commercial once said, ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry,’ but our data hint that by simply taking a step back from the present situation and recognizing how you’re feeling, you can still be you even when hungry,” MacCormack said.

This research emphasizes the mind-body connection, according to MacCormack. “Our bodies play a powerful role in shaping our moment-to-moment experiences, perceptions and behaviors–whether we are hungry versus full, tired versus rested or sick versus healthy,” she said. “This means that it’s important to take care of our bodies, to pay attention to those bodily signals and not discount them, because they matter not just for our long term mental health, but also for the day-to-day quality of our psychological experiences, social relationships and work performance.”

Although this study focused on hunger, MacCormack believes these results may extend to other bodily states that induce negative emotion, such as fatigue or inflammation, but that further research needs to be done to confirm this.

* Story courtesy of the American Psychological Association

Article: “Feeling Hangry? When Hunger is Conceptualized as Emotion,” by Jennifer MacCormack, MA, and Kristen Lindquist, PhD, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Emotion, published.

Full text of the article is available at

UNC College of Arts & Sciences, Published: June 11, 2018
Are you “hangry?” Hunger can lead to anger, but it’s more complicated than a drop in blood sugar, UNC study says
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US quits UN human Rights council

WASHINGTON/UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States withdrew from a “hypocritical and self-serving” United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday over what it called chronic bias against Israel and a lack of reform, a move activists warned would make advancing human rights globally even more difficult.

Standing with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the State Department, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley slammed Russia, China, Cuba and Egypt for thwarting U.S. efforts to reform the council. She also criticized countries which shared U.S. values and encouraged Washington to remain, but “were unwilling to seriously challenge the status quo.”

Washington’s withdrawal is the latest U.S. rejection of multilateral engagement after it pulled out of the Paris climate agreement and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

It also comes as the United States faces intense criticism for detaining children separated from their immigrant parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein on Monday called on Washington to halt its “unconscionable” policy.

“Look at the council membership, and you see an appalling disrespect for the most basic rights,” said Haley, citing Venezuela, China, Cuba and Democratic Republic of Congo. She did not mention Saudi Arabia, which rights groups pushed to be suspended in 2016 over killings of civilians in the Yemen war.

Among reforms the United States had pushed for was to make it easier to kick out member states with egregious rights records. Currently a two-thirds majority vote by the 193-member U.N. General Assembly is needed to suspend a member state.

Haley also said the “disproportionate focus and unending hostility toward Israel is clear proof that the council is motivated by political bias, not by human rights.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the U.S. decision.

The United States has long shielded its ally Israel at the United Nations. In citing what it says is bias against Israel, the administration of President Donald Trump could further fuel Palestinian arguments that Washington cannot be a neutral mediator as it prepares to roll out a Middle East peace plan. Washington also relocated its embassy to Jerusalem after recognizing it as the capital of Israel, reversing decades of U.S. policy.

The United States is half-way through a three-year term on the 47-member Geneva-based body and the Trump administration had long threatened to quit if it was not overhauled.


Rights groups have criticized the Trump administration for not making human rights a priority in its foreign policy. Critics say this sends a message that the administration turns a blind eye to human rights abuses in some parts of the world.

“Given the state of human rights in today’s world, the U.S. should be stepping up, not stepping back,” Zeid said after Haley announced the U.S. withdrawal.

Reuters reported last week that talks on reforming the council had failed to meet Washington’s demands, suggesting the Trump administration would quit.

“The Human Rights Council enables abuses by absolving wrongdoers through silence and falsely condemning those that committed no offense,” Pompeo said.

Diplomats have said the U.S. withdrawal could bolster countries such as Cuba, Russia, Egypt and Pakistan, which resist what they see as U.N. interference in sovereign issues.

Haley said the withdrawal “is not a retreat from our human rights commitments.”

Twelve rights and aid groups, including Human Rights First, Save the Children and CARE, warned Pompeo the U.S. withdrawal would “make it more difficult to advance human rights priorities and aid victims of abuse around the world.”

Jamil Dakwar, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Human Rights Program, said Trump’s “misguided policy of isolationism only harms American interests.”

The EU said Washington’s decision “risks undermining the role of the U.S. as a champion and supporter of democracy on the world stage.” British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said it was regrettable and that the council was the “best tool the international community has to address impunity.”


The Human Rights Council meets three times a year to examine human rights violations worldwide. It has mandated independent investigators to look at situations including Syria, North Korea, Myanmar and South Sudan. Its resolutions are not legally binding but carry moral authority.

When the Council was created in 2006, U.S. President George W. Bush’s administration shunned the body.

Under President Barack Obama the United States was elected for a maximum two consecutive terms on the council by the U.N. General Assembly. After a year off, Washington was re-elected in 2016 for its current third term.

U.N. officials said the United States would be the first member to withdraw from the council.

Haley said a year ago that Washington was reviewing its membership. The body has a permanent standing agenda item on suspected violations committed by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories that Washington wanted removed.

The council last month voted to probe killings in Gaza and accused Israel of using excessive force. The United States and Australia cast the only “no” votes.

“The U.N. Human Rights Council has played an important role in such countries as North Korea, Syria, Myanmar and South Sudan, but all Trump seems to care about is defending Israel,” said Human Rights Watch executive director Ken Roth.

Reuters, Published: JUNE 19, 2018 - 11:10 PM, UPDATED 19 HOURS AGO
U.S. quits U.N. human rights body, citing bias vs. Israel, alarming critics
By Lesley Wroughton, Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley slammed rights groups on Wednesday for thwarting Washington’s attempts to reform the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council and said they had contributed to the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw.

In a letter to at least 17 rights and aid groups, seen by Reuters, Haley berated them for urging countries not to support a U.S.-drafted General Assembly resolution titled “Improving the Effectiveness of the Human Rights Council.”

“It is unfortunate that your letter sought to undermine our attempts to improve the Human Rights Council. You put yourself on the side of Russia and China, and opposite the United States, on a key human rights issue,” Haley wrote.

“You should know that your efforts to block negotiations and thwart reform were a contributing factor in the U.S. decision to withdraw from the council,” she said in the letter that was received by groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

The United States withdrew on Tuesday from what Haley dubbed a “hypocritical and self-serving” Human Rights Council over what it called chronic bias against Israel and a lack of reform. The United States was half-way through a three-year term on the Geneva-based 47-member body.

Human Rights Watch U.N. director Louis Charbonneau said the U.S. draft General Assembly resolution “could have backfired badly and the process could have been hijacked” by the countries seeking to undermine the Human Rights Council.

“This suggestion that somehow it’s the human rights groups that are undermining the U.S. attempts to improve the Human Rights Council is preposterous,” said Charbonneau. “The idea that we human rights groups are aligned with Russia and China - countries that we criticize all the time - is absurd.”

China, Britain and the European Union lamented on Wednesday Washington’s decision to withdraw from the Human Rights Council as Western countries began looking for a substitute for the coveted seat.

Russia’s mission to the U.N. in New York posted on Twitter late on Tuesday: “U.S. attempts to blame the whole world for the politicization of HRC work are especially cynical. The response of international community was clear - U.S. found themselves isolated in this issue.”

Washington’s withdrawal is the latest U.S. rejection of multilateral engagement after it pulled out of the Paris climate agreement and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The United States has also quit the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO over accusations of anti-Israel bias.

Reuters, Published: JUNE 21, 2018 - 1:38 AM, UPDATED 9 HOURS AGO
U.S. slams rights groups, says aided its withdrawal from U.N. body
By Michelle Nichols

Why did the US quit the UNHRC?

According to UN Watch, a monitoring body with historical ties to pro-Israel groups, since its inception the UNHRC has criticized Israel more than any other country.

Washington has specifically highlighted the council's alleged anti-Israel "bias" as its reasons for leaving, as well as the body's recent criticism of the US.

Critics of the body often point to a permanent fixture on its agenda dedicated to the discussion of ongoing Israeli human rights violations on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

In 2006, then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said he was "worried by (the council's) disproportionate focus on violations by Israel," saying it needed to give "the same attention to grave violations committed by other States as well."

US ambassador Haley also pointed to the membership of China, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Venezuela on the council as a reason for leaving it.

Other current members accused of widespread human rights abuses include Saudi Arabia, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Pakistan, all of whom are close US allies.

Who supports the US move?

Israel has long been a critic of the UNHRC, claiming it is unfairly singled out for criticism by the body.

In a statement Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Trump and Haley for their "courageous decision against the hypocrisy and the lies of the so-called UN Human Rights Council."

"For years, the UNHRC has proven to be a biased, hostile, anti-Israel organization that has betrayed its mission of protecting human rights," he said.

Who opposes it?

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the US withdrawal from the UNHRC was "regrettable" and said while he shared concerns about the body, London was "committed to working to strengthen the Council from within."

"Britain's support for the Human Rights Council remains steadfast," he said. "It is the best tool the international community has to address impunity in an imperfect world and to advance many of our international goals."

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop echoed Johnson's concerns, saying while she was also concerned by the council's "anti-Israel bias" she had urged the Trump administration to remain on the UNHRC and attempt to reform it from within.

Geng Shuang, spokesman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, expressed Beijing's "regret" over the US decision to leave the council, which he said was an important platform for promoting the protection of human rights. He said China will continue to make its own contributions in this area.

Global human rights organizations were more strident in their criticism of Washington's move, with Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty saying it showed Trump's "complete disregard for the fundamental rights and freedoms the US claims to uphold."

"The US should urgently reverse this decision, which places it squarely on the wrong side of history. It is willfully choosing to undermine the human rights of all people everywhere, and their struggles for justice," he said.

In a statement, Human Rights Watch said "while it has its shortcomings -- including the participation of persistent rights violators such as China, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela -- the council plays a vital role in addressing serious rights abuses around the world."

HRW executive director Kenneth Roth said the move showed "President Trump has decided that 'America First' means ignoring the suffering of civilians in Syria and ethnic minorities in Myanmar at the United Nations."

CNN, Updated 0748 GMT (1548 HKT) June 20, 2018
US quits UN Human Rights council: What message does it send to the world?
By James Griffiths, CNN

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Colombia vs Japan, World Cup 2018

Shinji Kagawa arrived in Russia with everything to prove and, at 29 years old, still in search of his first World Cup goal. Within six minutes he opened his account against Colombia and set the ball rolling on a Japan victory that sets up an endless range of possibilities for Group H.

Carlos Sanchez’s incomprehensible decision to block a goal-bound shot with his arm gave Kagawa his big chance from the penalty spot, moments after the Borussia Dortmund midfielder had done excellently to create panic in the Colombia defence by dispossessing centre-back Oscar Murillo.

In the delay of more than two minutes between the awarding of the decision and his kick, Kagawa had every opportunity to doubt or second-guess himself. Instead he re-spotted the ball, waited for the referee’s whistle, puffed out his checks and nervelessly rolled it into the net.

Japan squandered the opportunity to extend their lead while 10-man Colombia floundered, and Kagawa was responsible for much of their best play. In the 15th minute a trademark jink and drive into space allowed him to pick out an unmarked Takashi Inui, who should have done much better than to curl beyond David Ospina’s far post.

Juan Quintero’s crafty free-kick changed the momentum, and Japan’s failure to consistently find their best player contributed to their overall passivity. Kagawa was forced to run in search of the ball rather than scheme with it at his feet, and it was no surprise when fatigue meant he had to be substituted for Keisuke Honda in the 70th minute.

Japan found their winner in surprising circumstances when Yuya Osako headed in Honda’s corner, but Kagawa did enough in his time on the pitch to indicate that he will continue to be central to coach Akira Nishino’s hopes of finding an unlikely path to the knockout stage.

It’s easy to forget that, back in 2012, Kagawa was rightly regarded as one of Europe’s most exciting footballers. He had moulded himself into the perfect modern No10 at Dortmund: Fast, skilful and decisive with the ball at his feet, a prolific scorer and creator in the final third and a tireless runner to lead a high press, regularly covering 12 kilometres per game.

Manchester United were excited by his talent – not to mention the marketing possibilities of having a Japanese superstar in their team – but never had a plan to maximise him. All too often in the 2012/13 season Kagawa found himself shunted onto the right flank to accommodate a fading Wayne Rooney, and he was ultimately a peripheral figure in their Premier League title win.

Things got considerably worse under David Moyes, both for United and for Kagawa, who returned to Dortmund in the summer of 2014 hoping to rebuild his confidence.

But the rollercoaster since has held more downs than ups. Jurgen Klopp went stale and left, injuries disrupted his momentum under Thomas Tuchel and Peter Bosz preferred other midfield options. Interim successor Peter Stoger restored Kagawa to the starting XI and he responded with three goals in eight Bundesliga appearances before ankle problems ended his club campaign in February.

Even for Japan, there has been the nagging sense that Kagawa has fallen short of his potential. His record of 30 goals in 92 international caps is nothing to be sniffed at, but he and Honda have not shone in tandem as often as hoped. Both were dropped by Vahid Halilhodzic for friendlies against Brazil and Belgium in November – a decision that eventually cost the Bosnian his job.

After much experimentation, replacement Nishino took a bold decision by making Kagawa, rather than Honda, the creative hub of the least heralded team that Japan have ever sent to a World Cup. If he can build on this performance and lead his country out of a wide-open Group H, the Dortmund playmaker will completely re-write his international legacy.

Whether or not he succeeds, however, Kagawa’s performance in Saransk suggested he is ready to show the quality that Dortmund fans might have forgotten and United rarely saw at all.

Follow the Independent Sport on Instagram here, for all of the best images, videos and stories from around the sporting world.

The Independent, Published one day ago
Colombia vs Japan, World Cup 2018:
Shinji Kagawa reminds the world he is better than his Manchester United days – scouting report

It’s easy to forget that, back in 2012, Kagawa was rightly regarded as one of Europe’s most exciting footballers and his performance against Colombia displayed those talents

By Liam Twomey

'There has never been as low a point as this until now'.

The words of Japan FA chief Kozo Tashima neatly summarise the feeling around the national team as they head to Russia for what will be their sixth straight World Cup.

Tashima's FA had just taken the bewildering decision to sack manager Vahid Halilhodzic, citing 'communication' problems between the coach and his players.

It wasn't the sacking itself that was puzzling. Halilhodzic's Japan had won just three of his final eight matches - against China, North Korea and Australia - during a run which included a draw with Iraq and a defeat by Saudi Arabia.

It was the timing of the dismissal. Despite having sealed their spot in Russia back in August 2017, Japan waited until April 2018 before pulling the trigger - just two months away from the start of the tournament.

Much can be read into Tashima's comments at the post-sacking press conference. 'The results got worse, TV ratings dropped and national expectations lowered,' he explained. 'When Keisuke Honda was dropped from the team in autumn 2017, things started to get strange.'

Honda, the poster boy of Japanese football, was left out in the cold for a stretch under Halilhodzic before earning a recall for the manager's final two matches.

But two other stars - Shinji Okazaki and Shinji Kagawa - were left at home for those friendlies against Ukraine and Mali. Cynics believe their exclusion sealed the manager's fate.

Tashima wanted big names selected and playing to boost TV audiences. Choosing to leave the golden trio at home meant Halilhodzic’s position had become untenable.

Technical director Akira Nishino was parachuted in as Halilhodzic’s replacement on a deal until the end of the World Cup and quickly restored Okazaki and Kagawa to the set-up for Japan’s final three warm-up friendlies.

Nishino has been popular with the Japanese FA ever since leading the Atlanta 1996 Olympic team to victory over a Brazil side featuring Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos and Rivaldo. He forged a reputation as a defensive-minded coach during nine trophy-laded nine years with Gamba Osaka in the J-League.

The 63-year-old spoke of returning to a more 'Japanese style of play' at his unveiling - with a philosophy based on speed, fitness and more freedom given to attackers.

‘You need players who can perform on the big stage,’ Nishino said on his squad announcement. ‘You can’t have players who freeze - players who tense up or can’t make the right decisions in the big games. If you choose players like that, there’s no way you will win.’

Nishino has brought Japan’s experienced heads back to help steady the ship during a tumultuous period. The World Cup squad has a back-to-basics feel about it. With an average age of 28 years and seven months, Japan’s 23-man party is the oldest they have ever sent to the tournament.

Key men Yuto Nagatomo, Eiji Kawashima, Makoto Hasebe, Okazaki and Honda are all in their thirties and the squad includes just two players under 25. Nishino is banking on the tried and tested.

Ageing but vastly experienced, three key members of Japan’s backline - Hasebe, Makino and Maya Yoshida - have amassed an average of 75 international caps and the Blue Samurais conceded just seven times in 10 matches during qualification.

But prior to taking the job, Nishino had been out of management since October 2015 and the veteran has hardly been given sufficient time to ready his squad for Russia. The lack of preparation is reflected in his three team selections so far for the Ghana, Switzerland and Paraguay friendlies. He has no idea what his best XI is.

For his first match, the Ghana defeat, Nishino introduced a 3-4-2-1 formation but then reverted to a more familiar 4-2-3-1 system for the final two warm-up matches against Switzerland and Paraguay.

Honda was restored as the attacking fulcrum from midfield against Ghana and Switzerland, once as a No 10 and once with Takashi Usami in front of a two-man shield.

Now 31 and playing his club football in Mexico, Honda is less effective than he was during his CSKA Moscow and AC Milan days but can still produce moments of magic. Like his stunning 40-yard free-kick against Denmark at South Africa 2010.

Nishino has struggled to find room for more than one creator in his XI and it’s likely that Kagawa, Honda and new Real Betis signing Takashi Inui are competing for one spot between them. The promising 21-year-old Leeds midfielder Yosuke Ideguchi was left out the squad entirely.

That place looked to be Honda’s but the final friendly against Paraguay, just a week before Japan’s World Cup opener, cast further doubt over Japan's midfield plans.

Kagawa was frozen out under Halilhodzic having been deemed a poor fit for his tactical system and only featured as a substitute under Nishino in the Ghana and Switzerland matches.

But against Paraguay on Tuesday the ex-Manchester United man made his case emphatically by scoring one and assisting two more as Japan ran out 4-2 winners. To confuse matters further Inui netted a brace while Honda was an unused substitute.

It may not be enough for Inui, who has enjoyed three successful seasons in La Liga with Eibar, but Kagawa’s audition will have given Nishino serious food for thought ahead of the Colombia match.

There is further uncertainty over who will feature as the lone striker. None of the three options Yuya Osako, Okazaki or Yoshinori Muto have been able to nail down a spot.

With Osako up front in the 2-0 defeat by Ghana, they created a host of chances but failed to hit the target with any of their 11 attempts on goal. He drew another blank in his next audition - the 2-0 defeat by Switzerland.

The 28-year-old is hardly prolific, with just four goals for relegated Cologne this season, but is brilliant at holding the ball up and bringing his midfielders into play.

Leicester's Okazaki boasts considerable pedigree with 50 goals at international level and is a favourite back home in Japan. But the 32-year-old has been in-and-out of recent squads and is struggling for form. He was handed a rare start in the Paraguay victory but failed to score.

Mainz forward Muto arrived in Germany from FC Tokyo in 2015 amid much excitement but has so far failed to hit the heights in the Bundesliga. For Japan, he's netted only twice in 21 international appearances and was deployed as a No 10 in the Paraguay victory.

No player began all three of the World Cup warm-ups and Japan’s XI may be the least settled of all the 32 countries heading to Russia. How they'll set up for their Group H opener against Colombia is literally anyone's guess.

So confidence and expectation is at an all-time low, lower even than four years ago when they managed just one point and finished bottom of their group in Brazil.

But pessimism surrounding Japan's chances in Russia has been tempered slightly by a favourable draw. The Blue Samurais are in Group H alongside Colombia, Poland and Senegal, arguably the most open of the eight World Cup groups.

Japan are ranked as outsiders, but with no clear favourite for top spot and with Poland, Senegal and Colombia likely to take points off one another, one win could be enough to secure passage into the knockout stages.

Under-prepared, under-cooked and in turmoil heading into the tournament, Nishino’s men head into Tuesday’s Group H opener under a cloud of uncertainty.

But with a cast of fading stars, Japan will be hope their key men of yesteryear can rediscover some of their old magic one last time on the biggest stage of them all. Colombia awaits.

Mail Online, UPDATED: 22:38 BST, 19 June 2018
Japan are in disarray after changing managers two months before the World Cup... star names are out of form and no player is certain to start as they head to Russia at an all-time low

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan on Wednesday basked in the glow of its World Cup soccer team’s historic win over Colombia, a victory that has lifted the nation’s mood after an earthquake struck its second-biggest metropolis Osaka.

Fans watching Tuesday night’s match at pubs and outdoor bars in the downtown Tokyo area of Shibuya celebrated when Japan clinched a 2-1 victory, exchanging high-fives with strangers on the street and flooding into Shibuya’s famous “scramble crossing,” prompting scores of police to come out to ensure order.

On Monday, a magnitude 6.1 earthquake had struck Osaka, killing five people and injuring hundreds more.

Newspapers splashed photos of jubilant Japan players in their blue jerseys on front pages on Wednesday, and government spokesman Yoshihide Suga highlighted that it was the first time an Asian team had beaten a South American side at the World Cup.

“This was a historic start,” Suga said. “Veterans and young players worked together as one to show the power of teamwork and a certain Japanese-ness.”

It was a win worth savoring over a team that had beaten Japan 4-1 at the 2014 tournament in Brazil − although Colombia played nearly the entire match with just 10 men after defender Carlos Sanchez was sent off for blocking a shot on goal with his arm less than three minutes into the game.

“When that happened, I thought this might lead to a miracle,” said 35-year-old Sayoko Fujisawa, who was watching the game at home and screamed when Yuya Osako headed in the second-half winner.

“I was hopeful, but that we won was beyond my expectations.”

University student Tatsuya Abe said that a loss to 10 men would have been tough to take for Japan, who had fired head coach Vahid Halilhodzic two months before the tournament and brought in Akira Nishino as his replacement.

“If we’d lost, everyone would’ve been in shock and unable to recover,” he said. “A lot of people were negative (about the team) before the game, with the last-minute change of the coach and other stuff. But with this win, Japan as a whole is going to turn positive.”

Abe, 19, added that Tuesday’s win would bring some cheer to Japan in the aftermath of the quake.

“This win will lift people’s spirits,” he said.

The second half of the match, shown live on public broadcaster NHK, received a viewer rating of 48.7 percent in the Kanto region that includes Tokyo. In Kansai, which includes Osaka, 44.1 percent of viewers tuned in, according to ratings agency Video Research.

Abe said he planned to travel 20 hours later this week from Niigata, in north-central Japan, to Ekaterinburg, Russia, for Japan’s next Group H match against Senegal on Sunday.

“If they beat Colombia, they can defeat their next opponent, too,” Abe said. “I think they can get as far as the last eight.”

That would be a first for Japan, who got as far as the last 16 in 2002 and 2010.

Reuters, Published: JUNE 20, 2018 - 3:26 PM, UPDATED 18 HOURS AGO
Japan's World Cup win over Colombia lifts mood after quake
By Malcolm Foster

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Japan Casino School in Tokyo

At a casino school in Tokyo, croupier-in-training Takuto Saito settles behind a green table and reaches for the roulette wheel, addressing a group of imaginary punters: "Spin up. Place your bets."

The 24-year-old has never set foot in a casino, but he is gambling that new laws opening up the lucrative sector will soon create plenty of jobs for croupiers in Japan.

Opening his palms to fake surveillance cameras on the roof to show there is nothing up his sleeves, Saito says he enjoys watching how players make their moves and the tense atmosphere around the gambling tables.

Owner Masayoshi Oiwane says interest has skyrocketed in his casino school, where would-be croupiers learn to deal baccarat games, spin the roulette wheel and supervise betting on the green baize tables.

"Our enrolment has doubled from last year," he said. "We are seeing an unprecedented level of momentum."

Japan was long the only developed nation that banned casinos but passed legislation in 2016 paving the way to make the industry legal.

And on Tuesday, the lower house of parliament passed a bill allowing the construction of three "integrated resort" (IR) facilities combining casinos, convention centres, hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues.

Japan is often viewed as the Holy Grail of gaming in Asia due to a wealthy population, proximity to China and appetite for other forms of legal gambling, including horse racing and pachinko, a slot machine-style game.

Economists estimate the casino industry could bring in takings of 2.0-3.7 trillion yen ($18 billion to $34 billion) a year, and national and regional governments are set for a jackpot of a combined 30-percent tax on gaming revenues.

Japan's government hopes they will become tourist draws, local versions of Las Vegas or Macau that will be a shot in the arm for a stagnant economy and attract business travellers and new tourists.

It has brushed aside opposition from activists, including those concerned about Japan's already well-documented problem with gambling addiction.

- 'New and major industry' -

Toru Mihara, an expert on the casino sector at Osaka University of Commerce, said just one single integrated resort could create tens of thousands of jobs and have a "great impact on the local economy".

"Tourists will come to energise various regions," he told AFP, urging Japan to pursue conference and exhibition business as well.

"This can grow as a new and major industry."

The legislation, expected to pass the upper house later this month, kicks off a process that will see local regions bid for the right to host one of three IR facilities.

Although no timeline and criteria have yet been set for the process, municipalities have already started contacting possible investors.

Among those who have expressed interest are Las Vegas Sands and MGM Resorts, which have each suggested a possible $10-billion investment in a proposed project in the western city of Osaka.

And some foreign casino operators have already begun hiring Japanese workers to work at their overseas locations, hoping to have local staff ready to go when venues finally open in five to six years.

- Gambling addiction -

But Japan already has a significant gambling problem, with a 2017 government survey showing an estimated 3.2 million people are addicted.

Many are hooked on the pinball-like "pachinko" or on "pachislo" slot machines, which together annually generate 21.6 trillion yen in revenue.

Some 10,000 parlours dot the nation, many readily accessible near train stations, using legal loopholes to let winners exchange tokens for cash.

Japan also has a five-trillion-yen market for government-controlled races of horses, motorcycles, boats and bicycles, along with football betting and a lottery.

Both proponents and critics of casinos say the nation has long neglected its gambling problem and Noriko Tanaka, who heads a group working with gambling addicts, says the casino legislation will only make things worse.

The laws make it easy for gamblers to take out credit lines to play at casinos and lack concrete financial commitments to tackling addiction, she told AFP.

The bill also fails to reserve a seat on casino commissions for gambling addiction specialists, a clause activists had argued for.

To deter addiction, lawmakers have agreed to impose a 6,000-yen ($55) entry fee on local residents and limit their visits to 10 times a month.

But Tanaka said this wasn't enough.

"If you are promoting casinos, you also have to face the existing problem of gambling addiction. Japan needs to thoroughly revamp its measures against gambling addiction," she said.

But aspiring casino dealer Saito said he thought local opposition to the industry would ease when casinos finally start opening their doors.

"I think Japanese people hold excessively negative views of gambling," he told AFP. "I am quite optimistic about this."

A student practising baccarat at the Japan Casino School in Tokyo

Japan is often viewed as the Holy Grail of gaming in Asia due to a wealthy population, proximity to China and appetite for other forms of legal gambling

Both proponents and critics of casinos say the nation has long neglected its gambling problem and campaigners say the casino legislation will only make things worse

Owner Masayoshi Oiwane says interest has skyrocketed in his casino school, where would-be croupiers learn to deal baccarat games, spin the roulette wheel and supervise betting on the green baize tables

AFP, Published: 20 June 2018
Japan dreams of jackpot with legal casinos

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Marriage is (literally) good for the heart !

PARIS: Even if marriage is sometimes more a bed of nails than roses, living into old age with a partner may help ward off heart disease and stroke, researchers said Tuesday.

A sweeping survey of research conducted over the last two decades covering more than two million people aged 42 to 77 found that being hitched significantly reduced the risk of both maladies, they reported in the medical journal Heart (*).

The study examined ethnically varied populations in Europe, North America, the Middle East and Asia, adding weight to the results.

Compared to people living in spousal union, the divorced, widowed or never married were 42 percent more likely to develop cardiovascular disease and 16 percent more likely to have coronary heart disease, the study found.

The risk of dying was likewise elevated for the non-married, by 42 percent from coronary heart disease and by 55 percent from stroke.

The results were nearly the same for men and women, except for stroke, to which men were more susceptible.

“These findings may suggest that marital status should be considered in the risk assessment for cardiovascular disease,” concluded a team led by Chun Wai Wong, a researcher at Royal Stoke Hospital’s department of cardiology, in Stoke-on-Trent in Britain.

Four-fifths of all cardiovascular disease can be attributed to a proven set of “risk factors“: advanced age, being a man, high-blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and diabetes.

Marriage, in other words, could be an important share of the missing 20 percent.

More precisely, living together – with or without a wedding band – is probably the operative factor, if indeed conjugal status has any impact at all.

But most of the 34 studies reviewed by Wong and colleagues did not identify couples out of wedlock or same-sex unions, so it was not possible to know whether, statistically, such arrangements were the equivalent of being wed.

Because the study was observational rather than based on a controlled experiment – something scientists can do with mice but not humans – no clear conclusions could be drawn as to cause-and-effect.

That leaves open the question of why marriages may be “protective.”

“There are various theories,” the researchers said in a statement.

Having someone around to take care of one’s health problems and keep track of one’s meds is probably a plus, as are two incomes or pensions instead of one.

More intangibly, not living alone is thought to be good for morale, and for neural stimulation. People living in couples, earlier research has shown, also have lower rates of dementia.

Even if marriage is sometimes more a bed of nails than roses, living into old age with a partner may help ward off heart disease and stroke, researchers said.

New Straits Times, Published: June 19, 2018 - 7:29am
Marriage is (literally) good for the heart: study

(*) Heart

(**) Royal Stoke University Hospital

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