Ong Jin Teong "Penang Heritage Food"

Tropical Spice Garden recently sees the book launching and cooking demo by Dr Ong Jin Teong at the al-fresco style Pavilion next to the cooking school. The event highlighted Dr Ong’s culinary biography Penang Heritage Food, a collection of recipes for the classic and forgotten dishes of Penang.

Penang Heritage Food also sheds light on the different cultural influences that has made Penang’s fusion cuisine a unique national heritage. Dishes with Malay, Hokkien, Indian, Thai and Hainanese influences are included.

Coming from a family with strong culinary tradition, Dr Ong Jin Teong was determined to preserve some of the long forgotten recipes of Penang’s rich cultural past. Learning from his mother Khoo Chiew Kin, who was well known among the YWCA & MGS Old Girls’ Association for her cooking demonstrations back in the 1950s, Dr Ong also picked up tips and techniques by closely observing the street hawkers.

Despite having no professional cooking background, the now retired engineer brings together his knowledge and personal accounts of food preparation and cooking the island’s favourite heritage dishes. He performed a cooking demonstration, touching on the Hainanese chicken pie which has an obvious British origin.

The book not only offers a collection of recipes for the classic and forgotten dishes of Penang but also pictures of ‘old’ Penang. Priced at RM39.90, the book is available at MPH bookstores.

September 21, 2012
Penang Heritage Food Book Launch
BY C K Lam

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Indonesian tsunami volcano, Anak Krakatoa, lost two-thirds of its height

The Indonesian volcano which caused a tsunami that killed more than 400 people last week lost more than two-thirds of its height following the eruption which triggered the killer waves.

A section of Anak Krakatoa's crater collapsed after an eruption and slid into the ocean, generating the tsunami last Saturday night.

A visual analysis by the Indonesian volcanology agency found the volcano has lost more than two-thirds of its height, an official said Saturday.

Anak Krakatoa which used to stand 338 metres (1,109 feet) high was now just 110 metres tall.

The agency estimated the volcano lost between 150 and 180 million cubic metres of material as massive amounts of rock and ash have been slowly sliding into the sea following a series of eruptions.

"Anak Krakatoa is now much shorter, usually you can see the peak from the observatory post, now you can't," Wawan Irawan, a senior official at the agency, told AFP.

Before and after satellite images taken by Japan's space agency showed that a two square kilometre chunk of the volcanic island had collapsed into the water.

The volcano, whose name means Child of Krakatoa, was a new island that emerged around 1928 in the crater left by Krakatoa, whose massive 1883 eruption killed at least 36,000 people.

The crater's status has been raised to high alert, the second-highest warning on Indonesia four-point danger scale.

The exclusion zone has been extended from two to five kilometres (1.2 to three miles).

A week after the tsunami, thousands of Indonesian Muslims attended a mass prayer on Saturday to remember the victims and pray for the safety of their tsunami-prone hometown.

Residents of Pandeglang regency, which was hit the hardest by the disaster, gathered in the early morning, some in tears as they chanted their prayers.

"I prayed for the victims and I also pray for the safety of the people who live in the tsunami affected area," Dadan Suryana, a tsunami survivor, told AFP.

"My prayer is for the victims to get help and be granted patience and I also pray the government will immediately help us to rebuild, to provide clothes and food, or at least to give us moral support," fellow congregant Dian Rosdiana said.

Authorities said at least 426 people were killed and 23 missing in the disaster.

Some 7,202 people suffered injuries and nearly 1,300 homes were destroyed after the waves crashed into the coastlines of western Java island and south Sumatra.

More than 40,000 people have been evacuated for fear of another tsunami as Anak Krakatoa continues to rumble.

Indonesia, a vast Southeast Asian archipelago, is one of the most disaster-hit nations on Earth due to its position straddling the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, where tectonic plates collide.

Anak Krakatoa is now just 110 metres high after losing two thirds of its height following the eruption that triggered the deadly tsunami

Satellite images from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency show the changes in Anak Krakatoa (C) before and after the eruption

The exclusion zone around Anak Krakatoa has been extended from two to five kilometres

AFP, Published: 29 Dec 2018
Indonesian tsunami volcano lost two-thirds of its height

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Ketum leaves as a folk remedy

I refer to recent reports in the New Straits Times about seizures of ketum leaves in large quantities.

The use of ketum is a long-standing issue in our country. An indigenous plant in Southeast Asia, ketum has been popularly used as a folk remedy for generations among rural communities in Malaysia and neighbouring Thailand. It is often taken as an “energy boosting drink” by manual workers like farmers and fishermen. Moreover, its consumption during leisure hours, e.g. at social gatherings with friends, is perceived in many places as compatible with local traditions.

At the same time, ketum’s psychoactive properties also open the way for abuse, leading to legal restriction of its usage.

Ketum is listed as a controlled item under the Poisons Act 1952.

Illegal possession of ketum invites criminal charges under the act. Ketum functions as a stimulant if the dosage is low but has opiate-like effects when consumed in larger amounts.

It is a worrying trend that more drug addicts are using ketum in combination with other drugs.

Frequently purchased as homemade concoctions, ketum drink can be easily mixed with other substances such as cough syrups and stimulant pills in order to obtain stronger effect.

In the mental healthcare setting, the use of ketum may complicate and worsen the symptoms of addicts who have drug-related psychiatric problems such as delusions and hallucinations.

Moreover, the active ingredient of ketum, mitragynine, cannot be detected by standard drug screening kits.

Therefore, extra vigilance by clinicians is required to identify its presence in patients.

It is also more difficult to dissuade addicts as ketum use is often justified as socially acceptable.

In fact, time and again there have been efforts from various sectors to push for ketum’s legalisation and even large-scale cultivation for its purported benefits and commercial value.

While there are clinical observations and studies concerning the use of ketum as a substitute for other drugs among addicts, medical evidence is still insufficient to support this practice, especially given our knowledge of potential long-term negative consequences of heavy ketum use, both physical and psychological.

It is true that in recent years, ketum has been promoted as a less harmful “herbal” product, compared to synthetic drugs, in the drug user circles in some western countries.

However, there is also rising international concern about a possible threat to public health from ketum’s use. In some jurisdictions, including in many EU countries, its sale and importation have been restricted. A number of public health authorities, including the United States Food and Drug Administration, have also raised alerts regarding the marketing of ketum with unsubstantiated medical claims.

Before better evidence emerges to support medicinal use of ketum, it would be prudent for the government to carry on with current policies and law enforcement.

Some parties have also urged the government to consider penalising the use of ketum under the Dangerous Drugs Act, which will carry heavier penalties, instead of the Poisons Act, in order to curb its widespread abuse.

The public need to be better informed about the properties of ketum and all stakeholders have to be consulted before changes in the regulation of its use are made.

There is increasing international concern about health hazards posed by the use of ketum.

Letter to The New Straits Times, Published: December 30, 2018 - 11:14am
It's wiser to stick to current policy
By DR LUKE WOON SY-CHERNG, Psychiatry & Mental Health Unit, Hospital Bentong, Pahang

GUA MUSANG: Police seized 1,413 small bottles of black liquid believed to be cough syrup and 100kg of ketum leaves worth RM20,000 from an empty house and two cars at Kampung Simpang Empat Kundur here on Saturday.

Gua Musang OCPD Supt Mohd Taufik Maidin said three men aged between 17 and 43, including two drivers, were detained for investigation under Section 12(2) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 and Section 30(3) of the Poison Act 1952.

Police stopped the cars at 4.20pm and found five black plastic bags containing 50kg of ketum leaves and 72 small bottles containing black liquid.

“Following a tip-off, police raided a house in the village and seized 1,269 small bottles containing black liquid and arrested another man.

“The three men are suspected to be cough syrup and ketum leaf pushers.

“They also tested positive for the drugs and one of them had six drug cases,” said Supt Mohd Taufik.

A total of 1,219 drug addicts and pushers were arrested in the district this year, he added.

[photo] Big haul: Supt Mohd Taufik (left) showing the seized items during a press conference in Gua Musang.

The Star, Published: Thursday, 27 Dec 2018
Cough syrup and ketum leaves worth RM20k seized

GEORGE TOWN: Researchers from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) are studying the possibility of using the 'Mitragyna Speciosa' plant, better known as ketum, as a painkiller or to treat drug addiction.

Led by Prof Dr Sharif Mahsuri Mansor, they are also looking into developing a new medication against systemic bacteria infection, which is common among HIV-infected drug users.

Sharif said research carried out on ketum since the 1960s until now have identified 57 compounds from various species of the Mitragyna. Of the total, 37 were of the unique alkaloid types for the ketum and main alkaloid types for the ketum leaf, mitraginina.

He said studies into the mitraginina showed that it differed from morphine but further studies would need to be conducted to look into the aspect of addiction and safety in the long run.

"It is found that ketum is not an opiate. As such, clinical studies are needed to confirm the use of the ketum as a new form of painkiller as well as to treat drug addiction.

"However, our studies since 2007 unearted a new form of anti-bacteria medication (CDR2) which we filed in 2016 to treat systemic bacteria infection such as aspergillosis. The application is awaiting the green light from MyIPO," he said.

Sharif was speaking to the New Straits Times after a public lecture titled ‘Ketum (Mitragyna Speciosa): History of Usage and Latest Findings’, here today.

Sharif said the demand for ketum has seen a rise in Europe and the United States of late as a means of preventing self-inflicted injuries, tackling opiate withdrawal syndrome and as recreational drugs.

This situation, he pointed out, was worrying since the scientific study on ketum is limited.

"There have been several fatal cases involving the use of ketum, but such incidences showed their had used ketum with other substances such as drugs, benzodiazepines, alcohol and other medications.

"There is also a group of ketum users who purposely abuse the usage of the plant as highlighted in the media, and this gives rise to a negative perception on the use of ketum.

"Maybe in the future, USM will collaborate with other research agencies such as the Rubber Industry Smallholders Development Authority (Risda) to look for the best ketum breed in the country for our research," he added.

In Malaysia, ketum or known as daun biak or biak biak, has traditionally been used to treat cough, diarrhoea, skin infection, pain relief and opium withdrawal syndrome.

In 2003, ketum was placed under the Poisons Act 1952 in the country. Thailand, Myanmar and Australia placed it under their respective Narcotics Act.

Prof Dr Sharif Mahsuri Mansor said research carried out on ketum since the 1960s until now have identified 57 compounds from various species of the Mitragyna. Of the total, 37 were of the unique alkaloid types for the ketum and main alkaloid types for the ketum leaf, mitraginina.

New Straits Times, Published: December 14, 2017 - 6:25pm
Does ketum have any health benefits?
By Audrey Dermawan

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Halal Malaysian food for the Olympics and a Japanese University branch in Malaysia

TOKYO: A Strong influx of Muslim travellers is fuelling a boom in halal restaurants and syariah-compliant hotels in Japan, potentially a big market for Malaysian halal products.

To cater for Muslim needs, some Japanese have set up syariah-friendly hotels, including one at the foot of Mount Fuji.

International airports in Japan have also opened surau as well, offering halal food for Muslims, amid a wider plan to make Japanese airports more Muslim friendly.

And last month, Japan held its first-ever fashion show for Muslim women. The show was held in conjunction with the Halal Expo Japan in Tokyo. Around 10 brands, mainly from Singapore, displayed their creations at the show.

Thanks to social media and the advent of low-cost air travel out of Southeast Asia, Japan is wooing a record number of Muslim travellers. In 2017, nearly 360,000 Indonesian tourists visited Japan, up from just 80,000 in 2010.

The halal hotels in Japan mark the direction of the Kiblat in each room. All the meals are Japanese-style cuisine prepared in a certified halal kitchen, and the hotel is alcohol-free.

Japan’s tourist sector is riding on the boom of the global Muslim travel market, which has seen a massive change in the past 10 years.

The World Tourism Organisation has said Asia was the second-most visited world market in 2017, after Europe. The main drivers: the prevalence of mobile technology and Internet access across Asia, and millennials.

There is also a lot more female Muslims exploring on their own.

Social media is spurring millennial Muslims’ interest in travel. And with the introduction of budget airlines, Southeast Asians are increasingly inspired to travel to places that have become more friendly and accessible to them.

Mobile apps, such as Halal Trip, www.halaltrip.com, also allow travellers to find out the direction of the Kiblat from anywhere in the world, check solat times or locate the nearest halal restaurants.

By far the biggest Muslim spenders come from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with wealthy Gulf travellers spending more than US$40 billion globally last year.

Indonesia comes third in expenditure by Muslim travellers, at US$7.5 billion and growing, with Malaysia spending about half that.

Outbound travellers from Asia, particularly from Malaysia and Indonesia, are set to spend more than those from Europe within the next two years.

The fast-growing segment of younger Muslim travellers from Southeast Asia is heading to destinations like Japan and South Korea.

Japan itself is seeing a surge in overall foreign tourist arrivals, which could hit a record 31 million in 2018, up sharply from just 6.2 million in 2011 due to the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

The Japanese government expects the number of tourist arrivals will hit 40 million in 2020, when the Tokyo Olympics is held.

The Olympics itself is offering a huge potential for Malaysian halal companies and halal certification bodies.

In Shinjuku here, MHC Co. Ltd, a company run by a Malaysian, is authorised to issue Japan halal standard to Japanese restaurants and food manufacturers.

“Our aim is to increase the number of halal restaurants in the Tokyo area for the Olympics,” said Iori Numata, an official at MHC.

In a positive sign, Malaysia and Japan last month signed a memorandum of cooperation (MoA) to step up efforts to penetrate the halal market in both countries.

The MoA was signed in Tokyo by Entrepreneur Development Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan Md Yusof and Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko.

Redzuan also discussed with Tokyo Olympic Council (TOC) officials on the supply of halal Malaysian food for the Olympics.

TOC apparently aims for 40 to 45 per cent of the F&B at the Olympic Village and at its planned events to be halal certified.

[photo] A Muslim-friendly eatery in Japan. Japan’s tourist sector is riding on the boom of the global Muslim travel market.

New Straits Times, Published: December 30, 2018 - 10:29am
Japan making a mark in Muslim tourist market

TSUKUBA: Tsukuba, a leafy town just 40km north of Tokyo, has a population of just 223,000 people − small in size by Japanese standards.

But the size belies its reputation. Planned in the 1960s as an overspill town for Tokyo, Tsukuba has drawn a myriad of research institutes and universities, including the famed Tsukuba University.

The 1985 Expo confirmed Tsukuba’s status as Japan’s leading hi-tech R&D hub. By 2000, the city hosted 60 national research institutes and now around 19,000 researchers (40 per cent of Japan’s total) reside there.

Over the past 40 years, nearly half of Japan’s public R&D budget has been spent in Tsukuba. Some 7,500 foreign students and researchers from more than 130 countries are living in Tsukuba at any one time.

The city’s centrepiece is the sprawling Tsukuba University, covering an area of 258 hectares, making it the second largest single campus in Japan.

The university currently has 17,000 students and it is home to three Nobel laureates, including professor emeritus Hideki Shirakawa who won the chemistry prize in 2000.

The university may score another first. It has emerged as a frontrunner as the Malaysian government woos a few Japanese universities to set up a branch campus in Malaysia.

On a visit to Tokyo last month, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said he hoped to see Japanese universities having their branches in Malaysia to enable Malaysian students to not only be exposed to Japan’s education system, but also to learn its culture.

“We thought the best way is to have Japanese universities in Malaysia. We have been striving to get Japanese universities’ branch campuses in Malaysia. Unfortunately, the law doesn’t allow them (for now).

“As you know, we have Australian and American universities in Malaysia, but no Japanese university,” he said in his commemorative speech after being conferred an Honorary Doctorate of the Doctor of Philosophy by Tsukuba University at its Tokyo campus.

The doctorate was conferred by the university’s President Prof Kyosuke Nagata.

Dr Mahathir said he hoped that Tsukuba University would consider the idea to come to Malaysia and open its branch campus.

Tsukuba University officials said that they were considering the idea.

“We are starting a feasibility study,” one of them told the New Straits Times in a recent interview in Tsukuba.

There are 43 Malaysians currently pursuing post-graduate and PhD programmes at Tsukuba out of a total foreign student population of less than 3,000.

There are of course challenges for Tsukuba or any other Japan-ese university spreading its wings abroad.

As a policy, until recently, Japanese universities are barred from setting up overseas campuses, but Japan’s Education Ministry has altered the policy, inspired by a request from Dr Mahathir.

“Our Ministry of Education decided to meet the request from Tun Dr Mahathir and has already amended its regulations to allow Japanese universities to seek establishment overseas,” Japanese Ambassador to Malaysia Dr Makio Miyagawa told Bernama in a recent interview.

He said his government had been approaching various Japan-ese universities and the response so far had been fairly positive and the most positive was from Tsukuba University.

“There are a couple of others, but Tsukuba University is now standing in the front row,” he said.

Miyagawa said one issue that had to be tackled before this could become a reality concerned the university’s status as an institution which is run with substantial subsidies from the government.

“The Japanese government has been consistently maintaining the policy of running the state-owned universities with reasonable fees so as to offer equal opportunities to both rich and poor families to choose the best and brightest for their students.

“So the problems we face seriously is although Tsukuba University is eager to set up a branch campus in Malaysia, they need a reasonable offer from the Malaysian private or public sector for the compound and the buildings and the in-house facilities, at least in the early years,” he said.

Muhamad Ezral Ghazali is a Malaysian student pursuing a doctoral programme at Tsukuba University in Japan.

Like other Malaysian students there, he dreams of seeing a Tsukuba University branch in Malaysia.

[photo] Many Malaysian students in Japan dream of seeing a Tsukuba University branch in Malaysia.

New Straits Times, December 30, 2018 - 10:36am
Malaysia woos Japanese universities despite hurdles

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Shinkansen and Sales of new defence equipment

KUALA LUMPUR: Japan is willing to offer new defence equipment and technologies, including military aircraft to Malaysia as part of enhanced bilateral security ties, Japan’s envoy to Malaysia said.

Dr Makio Miyagawa told the New Straits Times the offer by Tokyo would help strengthen Malaysia’s capability of “maintaining peace and stability” in Southeast Asia.

He said in an interview that in this regard, Japan was “willing to offer our equipment and technologies to Malaysia, which include aircraft, vessels, radar and other items”.

Japan and Malaysia had, in September, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to intensify defence and security cooperation.

The MoU was signed in Japan on Sept 11 by Japan’s then defence minister Itsunori Onodera and his Malaysian counterpart, Mohamad Sabu.

Tokyo has said the MoU provided a structure for expanded collaboration across a range of activities, including defence equipment and technologies, military-to-military exchanges, joint maritime security and disaster relief operations.

Both sides had concluded an agreement to transfer defence and technologies to Malaysia, he added.

“Aircraft, vessels and radars can be transferred to Malaysia,” Miyagawa said.

“We have started to consider allowing our industries to provide such equipment to a limited number of countries and strategic partners, which include Malaysia.”

In terms of defence technologies, Tokyo said the MoU had strengthened an agreement that was signed in Kuala Lumpur in April by Miyagawa and Malaysia’s Defence Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Abdul Rahim Mohamad Radzi.

The MoU signing on defence collaboration marked yet another effort by both countries to further boost their security ties.

This comes in the wake of warmer Kuala Lumpur-Tokyo bilateral ties following the election of a new government in Malaysia, which saw the return of former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to power.

Boosting Malaysia-Japan relations had been a major focus for Dr Mahathir during his previous tenure as prime minister under the banner of the so-called Look East Policy.

Defence analysts said Malaysia had a longstanding security relationship with Japan, with both nations sharing a number of concerns on the defence issues, including but not limited to China’s rising maritime assertiveness in the South China Sea.

The strategic partnership that the two countries inked back in 2015 contained a heavy security focus as well, which included not only an increased focus on engagements like military exercises, but also Japan helping boost Malaysia’s capabilities through more advanced transfers of defence equipment and technology and other forms of knowledge sharing and capacity building.

Mohamad Sabu has said such pacts serve as umbrella agreements around which collaboration can occur, and that Malaysia also recognises Japan’s longstanding significance as a security partner in areas ranging from defence equipment to peacekeeping.

Unsurprisingly, few specifics were provided then on the detailed contents of the agreement.

Malaysian Defence Ministry’s shopping list includes a mix of both manned and unmanned aerial platforms to fulfil the country’s maritime patrol requirements.

Mohamad Sabu has assured that the new administration, which came to power in May, would honour plans made under the previous government. These include a programme to equip the Royal Malaysian Air Force with new maritime patrol aircraft.

However, the government is now making cost comparisons between manned and unmanned aircraft, and may eventually decide on a combination of both types to fulfil the country’s maritime surveillance requirements. The minister did not however give details on the types of equipment being compared.

Defence News, a defence magazine, had earlier reported that Malaysia had requested from Japan its Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion aircraft that are being progressively retired by the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force. Japan’s recently revised Self-Defence Forces Law is clearing the way for such a donation to happen.

Ambassador of Japan to Malaysia Dr Makio Miyagawa.

Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu (left) signing a memorandum of understanding with then Japanese defence minister Itsunori Onodera in Tokyo in September.

New Straits Times, Published: December 29, 2018 - 12:35pm
Japan keen to offer new defence equipment

TOKYO Sitting in one secluded, but heavily secured, huge room in Tokyo’s busy Shinkansen station are men glued to the large projector screens monitoring in realtime, every bullet train criss-crossing Japan.

This is the nerve centre of the world’s first and arguably the most modern fast-train network. Here in Tokyo, a bullet train departs every three minutes during the peak period.

Yet, its punctuality is the envy of the world, with average delays measured in just seconds. In its 53 years of operations, there has been zero fatality.

Japan had rolled out its first Shinkansen bullet train on Oct 1, 1964, just in time for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

Millions of Japanese were glued to the television to witness this historic event, which, like the Olympics, signalled not just Japan’s post-World War 2 recovery, but ushered what would be Japan’s remarkable rise as an economic superpower.

Tokyo is set to host the next Olympics in 2020, just a year away. Just as Japan’s overall economic transformation, the Shinkansen (literally means “new trunk line”) lies at the very centre of the huge reconstruction effort and changes the face of Japan forever. The inaugural Shin-kansen journey between Tokyo and Osaka − Japan’s two biggest cities by train − had previously taken close to seven hours. The Shinkansen train had made the trip in less than four hours. Over the years, the journey has been cut down further to just two hours 22 minutes, currently.

Japan subsequently extended the Shinkansen network nationwide, a policy promulgated by Kakuei Tanaka, Japan’s prime minister from 1972 to 1974.

Takashi Hara, a political scholar and expert on Japanese railroads, was quoted by the media as saying that the policy was to connect regional areas to Tokyo.

“And that led to the current situation of a national Shinkansen network, which completely changed the face of Japan. Travel times were shortened… making it possible for more convenient business and pleasure trips. But I have to say that the project just made all the (connecting) cities part of Tokyo,” he said.

The Shinkansen, no doubt, is a powerful symbol of Japan’s post-war recovery. But it is also ground-breaking because at the dawn of the jet age when air travel seemed destined to replace everything else, the less sexy train was about to make a comeback.

As the world looked to planes and highways, the Japanese were blasting through difficult terrains, drilling dozens of tunnels and building hundreds of new bridges to build a railway.

But this was not going to be just any railway. It was one of the most ambitious rail projects of the century. The trains on this new line would travel at a speed unparalleled anywhere in the world − almost twice as fast as any existing trains in Japan.

But for all its ambitions, there were detractors, too. Many had dismissed the Shinkasen as ridiculous. A senior Japanese railway official had described the project in 1964 as “the height of madness”. Many had questioned the value of the fast train. But the criticism would soon disappear.

When the first Shinkansen line opened in October 1964, the world took note because the once-profitable inter-city air routes were now being threatened by trains. In just the first three years of service, the Shinkansen carried over 100 million passengers and demand sky-rocketed. The new line did not just better connect Tokyo and Osaka, it also seemly to pull them closer together.

It turned out the Shinkansen was anything but ridiculous because the project proponents were not gambling on some untested new technology. Instead, they adopted the very best proven technology and brilliantly integrated them into one single system.

At 270km per hour, the new Shinkansen train has the highest service speed in the world. Yet speed has never been the real motivation. The Shinkansen has always been about moving a large volume of passengers.

So, the engineers designed the new line to withstand the stress of running 60 high-speed trains in each direction every day, a number that would increase through the years to 358 today.

The introduction of Shinkasen in Japan also changed the way the world saw railways. The success of the Japanese high-speed trains helped inspire other countries, such as France, to develop their own high-speed networks.

Japanese officials say that Japan’s industrial belt has benefited from increased connectivity brought about by the Shinkansen and train network.

“There has been an increase in efficiency of production bases in Japan,” said Dr Makio Miyagawa, Japan’s ambassador to Malaysia.

“This model can be applied to several places in Southeast Asia, particularly as the first step, by Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. We are ready to offer the solution.”

While Shinkansen trains are no longer the fastest in the world, focussing on speed alone is not always true. No other rail system service in the world can match the Shinkansen for safety, efficiency and punctuality.

Since 1964, the Shinkansen has maintained a wonderful safety record, moving billions of people without a single passenger casualty or accident.

For the proponents who forged ahead with getting the first Shinkansen line built 53 years ago, they had the vision of a modern high-speed rail for the world.

[photo] At 270km per hour, the new Shinkansen train has the highest service speed in the world.

New Straits Times, Published: December 29, 2018 - 12:06pm
Shinkansen: Fast track to the future

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早野龍五東大教授、データを改ざん !






















(「『いずれ自分の言葉で福島を語らなければならない』 高校生に、科学者が託した思い」より引用)






(「『いずれ自分の言葉で福島を語らなければならない』 高校生に、科学者が託した思い」より引用)

by 深海

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貧困を救えない国 日本

『貧困を救えない国 日本』(PHP研究所、2018/10)の共著者、阿部彩氏と鈴木大介氏が語り合った。


鈴木 大介以下、鈴木):悪者探しはしたくないのですが、日本の貧困問題の悪化に加担している存在は、やっぱりあると思うんです。

阿部 彩以下、阿部):誰ですか。

鈴木: たとえば、中間層の可処分所得を減らしている産業です。彼らが意図しているか、していないかを別にしますが、たとえばそれは新築住宅をむやみに勧める住宅産業だったり、数百万円かかる結婚式を勧めるブライダル産業だったり、中古車がたくさん出回っているのに新車を勧める自動車産業だったりする。やみくもに大学全入を勧めてきた教育産業もそうですね。






阿部: それって、やはりずっと右肩上がりの経済成長を前提としてきた経済政策の問題ですよね。35年ローンを組んでもみんな払えると思っていた。35年間もずっと職があって、賃金もどんどん上がっていくって本当はすごいことなんですけど、以前は確かにそれで問題がなかった。しかし、そのままではやっぱりダメなわけで、私たちの消費パターンから何から何まで全部変えなければいけない。



鈴木: 不動産はバブル崩壊以降のほうが悪質でしたけどね。リーマンショック時に大はやりした任意売却業者なんかにサルベージされたローン破綻者なんか、ほとんどバブル以降の被害者ですよ。まあ、末端の人たちは悪くないのはわかります。

けど「その産業自体どうなの?」と思うわけです。教育産業で言うなら、たとえば専門学校や通信の資格教育なんか、相当に悪質だと思いませんか? 資格を売りつける、教育を売りつける。夢と希望を見させて、でもそれがその後の所得につながらない。回収できないお金を投資させるワケです。

阿部: となると、大学もそれに入ると思います。

鈴木: まさしく。いわゆるFランク大学もずいぶん取材しました。

阿部: 奨学金借りてまで大学行かせても、その分を回収できるだけの教育投資にはなりませんもの。

鈴木: そうです。

阿部: 奨学金については、無利子だったらいい、給付型だったらいいっていう議論もありますけれど、そもそも、自分のお金でも、国のお金でも、投資しただけの見返りが回収できないのに4年間大学行く意味があるのか、って私はすごく思うんです。でも、それを言うと、貧困者の敵みたいになってしまいます。だって彼らにとっては、大学に行けるという夢があるとないのは大きな違いですから……。

鈴木: じゃ、そこは僕が悪者になります。おかしいんです、奨学金制度。だって、日本人のうち、あるいは日本の産業の中で大学教育が必要なのはいったい何%だろう、って考えたら大学全入時代なんて状況自体、変なんです。必要がない人たちにそれを押し付けているから、そんな高い進学率になる。単なる押し売りなんです。




でも、進路指導の現場にいる先生たちの中で、大学卒業後に一般企業に就職して働いたことのある人がどれだけいるんでしょうか? 大学を出てストレートに教師になったとしたら、それが公立の公務員教師だとしたら、一般企業の感覚がまったくわからない。ある生徒を取材したときに「進路の先生、中高時代はバイト禁止だったって」という話を聞いたことがあります。



東洋経済、2018/11/02 7:50

鈴木 大介 : ルポライター / 阿部 彩 : 社会政策学者、首都大学東京教授






2018/11/2 09:25
posted by fom_club at 11:39| Comment(0) | 日記 | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

多くの方が暖かく年を越せることを願って !











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Yahoo Japan! News、12/28(金) 18:00
大西連、 認定NPO法人自立生活サポートセンター・もやい 理事長

posted by fom_club at 11:20| Comment(0) | 日記 | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする


The Mystery of the Holiday Fruitcake

A few years ago my father arranged to send me a mail-order fruitcake at Christmastime. Although I had a good job and owned an apartment in Manhattan, he feared my cupboards and refrigerator might be bare. I had recently moved from California, where my parents still lived in their suburban bungalow of 50 years, the house I grew up in.

He wanted me to have a particular brand of fruitcake. Made in Texas, it was famous among fruitcake lovers − or, at least, among people who gave fruitcakes to those who were assumed to love them.

“It reminds me of my mother’s,” he told me in a phone call. “Hers was really moist, with lots of raisins.”

I later figured out that my grandmother’s version, which I never had the chance to taste, was probably a Depression cake, made without milk, sugar, butter or eggs, scarce commodities when he was a child.

Born in 1932, he grew up during the Great Depression in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. On most Christmases, he received two gifts: a pair of homemade socks and a small sack of oranges.

“My mother knitted the socks,” he said. “And those oranges tasted so good.”

Ordering the fruitcake was his way of trying to take care of me from afar, in an era that, in his mind, may at any moment turn economically perilous. Regardless of my middle-aged status, I was still his son.

“It should arrive the first week of December,” he said. “As soon as you get it, let me know what you think.”

I would be going to California for Christmas, as I do every year, and I was looking forward to his gift and to sampling the flavors that transported him to his childhood.

The first week of December passed with no sign of his fruitcake. Delayed by holiday mail, I assumed, or a backlog of orders.
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I knew there would be plenty to eat in California. In addition to my mother’s cookies, fudge and other treats, my father always gave my sister and me each a large bag of assorted foods he called, rather plainly, the “Food Bag.” He produced these from some secret spot only after all the other presents had been opened.

One year I listed the contents of my Food Bag in a notebook. I wanted to remember the details to tell my friends, and I suppose as a record for myself, for the day when I might not get a Food Bag for Christmas.

That year my bag contained a can of deluxe mixed nuts, a box of whole-wheat crackers, a Belgian chocolate bar, a stick of hickory-cured turkey sausage, a half-pound sack of California red pistachios, some English breakfast tea and many other items, including an “Oh Deer Super Dooper Reindeer Pooper Jellybean Dispenser” filled with jelly beans.

I was 44 when my father gave me that Food Bag, and he was 72.

His selections had no coherent theme, though the bags did have an uncanny but undeniable kinship with fruitcakes, featuring a little of this and that thrown together with intriguing results.

The bags were so overstuffed that I often had to put most of the food in a box and mail it home. One year I assembled a few of the healthier items − sardines, rye crisps, dried apricots − and on the way to the airport made a special delivery of my own to the donation center of a local church.

Fruitcake is a polarizing concept, a triggering word. People love it or hate it and like to debate whether it’s cake at all. In some ways, my father’s character resembled a fruitcake: whimsy and a little nuttiness mixed with a sweet foundation. When we were children and went to the local shopping mall, he liked to spritz on women’s perfume − all of them.
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This was before men’s cologne counters were common. Once they were, he would transform himself into pansexual bouquet of exotic fragrances. On our drives home, my mother would say, “You stink! What did you put on this time?”

While working as a meat cutter in grocery stores, he was called Crazy Charlie by his co-workers and was known for workplace pranks, like pretending to lock someone in the walk-in meat freezer. But he also gave out instructions to customers who didn’t know how to roast lamb or make stuffing. When he came home from late shifts, he left candy bars under our pillow, thinking we might wake up wanting a snack.

My father believed everyone was always hungry and needed to eat even if they weren’t. When we visited him in the hospital during a three-month stay − he was battling a vicious infection after heart surgery − he would ask if we had eaten and never fail to remind us the cafeteria would be closing soon.

“At least get a cup of coffee,” he’d say. “Don’t worry about me.”

A fruitcake, in his mind, was a perfect Christmas gift. The culinary jumble of jeweled fruits suggested an extravagance that belied its practicality: Fruitcake can fill your belly and has a long shelf life. In 2017, a fruitcake thought to have been brought on Robert Scott’s Antarctica expedition more than 100 years ago was discovered to be in “excellent condition.”

On the day before my flight, the fruitcake still had not arrived. When my father called to wish me a safe trip, he said, “Did you receive it?”

“Not yet,” I said. “It’s probably delayed in the holiday mail.”

“Maybe it’ll be there today.” He fretted deeply about that lost fruitcake.

When I arrived at my parents’ house, he said, “Did you get the fruitcake?”

“No, but I’m sure it’ll be there when I go home.”

As soon as the word left my lips, I realized that “home,” for them, was also a kind of triggering word. Because wasn’t this home? Wasn’t I home now, with my parents greeting me, asking if I was hungry after the long flight? Wasn’t New York only a stimulating adventure with an unscheduled end date?

In my parents’ living room, a Christmas tree stood above piles of presents in glittery paper, and in the spare bedroom, my father, I knew, had hidden our Food Bags, concealed under large towels.

He remained hopeful the fruitcake would come by New Year’s Eve, when I’d be back in Midtown Manhattan, humanity roaring from Times Square.

January, February and March came and went with no fruitcake. Though my father continued to ask about it, I never once considered lying and telling him yes, the fruitcake finally arrived and was delicious. Instead I said, “That cake is orbiting earth, and sooner or later it will land.”

“That’s a good one!” he said.

His sense of humor never wavered, and as time went on he would bring up the perpetual journey of his fruitcake.

“I wonder where it is now,” he’d say.

“It’s taken a detour to Pluto.”

He liked that one, too.

“Do you want me to order another, in case it never comes?”

“That’s O.K., Dad,” I said. “I’ll wait for this one. It’ll taste even better after touring the cosmos.”

Early last December, nearly a year after my father died from a failing heart, I got a call from a staffer at the front desk of my apartment building.

“You have a package,” he said.

I went downstairs to pick it up. The brown box had a FedEx label with a return address in Texas.

Riding the elevator back upstairs, I held the box with both hands. Though small, it was heavy and solid, as if its contents were indestructible. I shook the package but nothing moved. In my kitchen, I opened the box with a bread knife, and there it was: a decorative tin holding the fruitcake my father had wanted me to taste several years earlier.

I lifted the tin cover and punctured the airtight plastic seal. The fruitcake before me was crowned with candied cherries, caramelized pecans and chunks of pineapple that had been dyed emerald green. I sliced into it, placing a big wedge on a plate. I made a cup of tea, as my father and his mother might have done.

I sat down and ate the slice slowly, the only way one can eat fruitcake, really. It was as moist as my father had promised, and not too sweet.

After finishing every speck, I wondered about the fruitcake my father had ordered so long ago. Was it still lapping the heavens? Had it hitched a ride on the rings of Saturn?

Wherever it was, who on earth had sent me this one?

I had ordered it for myself, of course. After my father’s death, I found myself grasping for every memory of him, every cologne-scented hint of his being. The confection of known and mysterious morsels embodied his desire for me to enjoy a simple and not-so-simple piece of cake − and to never go hungry.

The New York Times, Published: Dec. 21, 2018
The Mystery of the Holiday Fruitcake, Solved!

My father resembled a fruitcake. He also sent fruitcakes. Mine never arrived.

By David Rompf

posted by fom_club at 13:04| Comment(0) | 日記 | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

America's No. 1 Craft Brewery and Oldest Brewery: D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc.

Going to work and grabbing a beer with family sounds like a dream job. For the Yuenglings, it's reality.

Vice President of Operations Jennifer Yuengling, 46, Sales Administration and Pricing Manager Debbie Yuengling, 43, Chief Administrative Officer Wendy Yuengling, 42, and Order Services Sheryl Yuengling, 39, are sixth generation brewers, and, as their last names might indicate, they're sisters, too.

The ladies work together at America's No. 1 Craft Brewery and Oldest Brewery: D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc.

“We have grown up in the business, and it’s an exciting time to be at D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc., as women, particularly in a male-dominated industry. But, this is a family owned-business, first and foremost," says Wendy Yuengling. "Everyday we’re inspired by the previous generations, their hard work and resiliency. But, as the next generation we’re focused and really excited about the future opportunities for our company.”

Beyond enjoying a chilled beverage, there's a lot that goes into running a company together. Yuengling, which was on Forbes' cover in 2016, is distributed in 22 states. Yuengling Traditional Lager accounts for 80-85% of all Yuengling sales. And while their dad,Dick, is still running the show, the 6th generation of Yuenglings has started to take on more responsibilities.

“We all came back to the business at different times, but we’ve all been here, working together since 2004," says Debbie Yuengling. "It’s great because we all have different strengths and skill sets, and roles to play in the business. It makes for great collaboration.”

In order to successfully collaborate, and communicate, each of the women approach the brand differently. Read on as they each share their best tips and advice when it comes to getting along with co-workers who are also family members.


1. Listen and be respectful of others opinions.

"My sisters and I have differing perspectives on things at times and have learned to challenge each other, in all facets of the business. But most importantly, we know when to listen to each other, to our employees who are like family, and to our loyal consumers," says Jennifer. "We are always observing and listening to what is happening in the brewing industry, and listening to our fans as they have the most curiosity for what is coming next from Yuengling. For example, we heard our fans in Arkansas and Kentucky and started distributing our products into those markets this past year. We also listened to one another and our fans and saw an opportunity to deliver a Yuengling beer in the refreshment category, which is why we created Yuengling Golden Pilsner. Hearing what is important to others is extremely crucial in all of our business decisions and family interactions."

2. Learn from the past, focus on the future.

"We have a rich history being America’s Oldest Brewery, but we stay mindful of what’s next and how to keep the business healthy for the generations after us to succeed," says Wendy. "Each previous generation of Yuengling Brewing has left their mark on the business, but also set up the next generation to succeed. We are doing that now with Yuengling Golden Pilsner while also staying focused on the future at all times. The industry is rapidly changing, so if we can stay disciplined and work to stay ahead, we intend to continue to be a successful family brewery."

3. Work hard and be resilient.

"It’s ok to work hard and love your work at the same time," says Debbie. "The beer industry is a fun business, but the amount of time, dedication and hard work we all put in is completely serious. We have been able to have such great success for almost 190 years because of the dedication of the owners before us, and we’ll continue to make our family members and employees proud and work hard."

4. Keep family at the center of all you do.

"It’s tough to sometimes leave our work at the brewery, but at the end of the day, family is the focus of everything. The brand is quite literally our family," says Sheryl. "Family is important, not only to our Yuengling family, but to the entire Yuengling brand. We are much more than just six generations of Yuenglings. We are generations of employees and the communities of Pottsville and Tampa. In fact, we even have second and third generations of families working at Yuengling!"

5. Remember where you came from. Family goes beyond blood.

"We wouldn’t be where we are today without the great support from our communities," says Debbie. "Brewing beer in Pottsville since 1829, and Tampa since 1999, we wouldn’t be where we are today without our employees, neighbors and communities. We try to give back as much as we can. Whether that’s as an employer, our ongoing support for veterans with our Lagers for Heroes program, our brewery tours in Pottsville, which 70,000 people visit annually. We are constantly looking for ways to work and support our surrounding communities."

6. It’s ok to disagree.

"Diversity of opinion is what keeps family businesses strong and spurs collaboration," says Jennifer. “As all families do, we have our share of disagreements. But, it’s how we deal with these friction points that makes a difference. We like to pride ourselves on growing and learning, not only from each other, but also from our dad. He’s been the fifth generation owner for 30-plus years and has been instrumental in leading our company through such a tremendous growth trajectory. He remains extremely active and hands-on at the brewery every day. So, after 189 years of experience, our family has certainly learned to weather such issues as internal family dynamics."

7. Have fun.

"It’s ok to laugh and smile," says Wendy. "If there is anything we have learned over the years, you have to be passionate and enjoy what you’re doing. We realize how blessed we are to be working together as a family and making great beer, and we certainly have fun doing it."

[photo] The Yuengling sisters all work for the family business.

Forbes, Published: Apr 30, 2018, 07:05pm
How The 4 Yuengling Sisters Manage The Family Business
By Hilary Sheinbaum

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the start of the new school year

THERE are roughly two more weeks to go before the start of the new school year. How’s your preparation going? Have you got all the “back to school” essentials? Are your young ones mentally ready to face another year?

Many parents will undoubtedly be busy this next couple of weeks, especially if their young ones are going to school for the first time.

There are many things to do, from buying the necessities to the registration process, and everything in between. As if this isn’t enough, parents need to mentally and psychologically prepare their children as well.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail.” This is also applicable to our new school year preparations.

There are four key areas that parents need to pay attention to.


Ideally, this should have been done a few months ago. Parents should set aside an amount every month to buy new school items such as uniforms, bags, shoes and books.

Trouble comes when we use only our December salary for all these.

Count yourself lucky if you received some bonus. For the less fortunate ones, having to fork out for these items will cause an abnormal surge in their monthly expenses.

Those who have been saving regularly for this purpose will not face major disruptions to their year-end finances.


One area of concern is how to ensure that they can wake up easily in the morning.

When would be the right time to train these young schoolers for this challenging task?

As with anything else, the earlier the better. We have two more weeks to train them.

To wake up early, they must sleep early. Parents need to be aware of routines that may distract them from doing so. These include excessive gadgets and television. Slowly but surely, cut down the hours spent on such electronic distractions.

Having insufficient sleep makes it tough to get up early. This could be due to going to bed late or sleeping difficulties. Set a bedtime target, say 9.30pm daily. Parents must ensure that their children's sleeping routine is as healthy as possible.


When parents are anxious, the children will be even more so. So please reduce the anxiety and panic to the minimum. Don’t show it to the children as they will be negatively influenced too. Instead, focus on the fun of learning and the enjoyment of friendships.

Tell them that school is a fun place to be and teachers are their second parents.

Most importantly, don’t sweat the small stuff, especially when school reopens.

It would be unfortunate if parents end up scolding their children, say for losing their stationery or for waking up a little late, because their emotion will be negatively affected.

Instead of going to school filled with positive energy and spirit, they’d be feeling down.

Create a positive aura during that school morning rush. Certainly, it’s easier said than done, but once we know the benefits and damages, we’d discover that the right preparation goes a long way towards creating an excellent school year for our children.

New Straits Times, Published: December 25, 2018 - 8:00am
Don't Sweat The Small Stuff
By Zaid Mohamad

WE have often heard this term “paying it forward”, where the beneficiary of a good deed repays it to others instead of to the original benefactor.

The more I reflect on this, the more I think of my late mum. I remember mum being busy packing baskets of food to send to so many different places, especially during the fasting month of Ramadan, Hari Raya and at the end of the year.

She would send different things to different people, young and old, the well-to-do and the less fortunate.

In my youth, I never really understood why she did what she did. Mum was already busy as it was. She had a large family to care for, as well as see to her catering business and other interests.

But no matter how tired she was, she’d still do it and sometimes even send them personally.

“It’s a good time to meet people and foster good relationships, especially with family and friends,” she used to tell me.

You could see the satisfaction on her face at the end of each day. She had that I-feel-good look about her.

Whenever I asked her, she’d always tell me that sometimes people don’t get to enjoy what we have. Really?

“Yes,” mum said. “Sometimes even the rich don’t know simple pleasures. But that’s not the point. The point is: it’s always nice to be remembered and appreciated.”

So she continued with her gifting. In the process she roped all of us to join her in her endeavour by cooking, packing or sending stuff to the different people.

I remember she’d send a feast to the nearby police station and pack complete meals for the garbage collectors on our street at least once a year. Even when she was ill, she’d bring delicious food for the nursing staff and patients at the clinic where she went for her haemodialysis treatment.

She did this just about any time of the year, but somehow the year-end festivities filled the air with joy and desire for gifting. Anyone can do this. Indeed, there are more ways than one to do that. You may want to consider enlarging your circle and sharing the joy with others.


To expand on my mum’s list of people, you could do something special for the caregivers in your life.

For example, it could be someone who’s taking care of your loved one, especially if you’re living in a different location. You can send little gifts or vouchers for shopping or meals to show them your appreciation. You could call him or her to have a chat and then talk to the loved one in her care.

If your loved one is in a nursing home, you could send something like cakes or hampers to show the staff that they’re in your thoughts during the festive season.

A nicer gesture would be to visit homes for elders and orphans to bring some cheer.

Bring your family with you. Sit down with some of the people there and chat with them. If visiting or being face-to-face with orphans, ailing children or elderly distresses you, then send something that can cheer them.

Grab this opportunity of gifting by clearing up your home too. You’ll find items and clothes that are still in good condition that you could donate to someone in need.

Some people find old unused items in the process. It’s a great way to make space in your cupboards and bring joy to someone out there who’d enjoy wearing or using your stuff.

You can also donate foodstuff with long shelf life. Some supermarkets have donation bins. You can buy canned or dry food items and drop them into those bins so that they’d get distributed to the needy.

Alternatively, you might want to take five or more items from your pantry for this donation. Just remember not to give expired ones.

You can make gifting rather fun and exciting too, like giving a jar of coins and loose change to your favourite eatery like the corner coffee shop or mamak stall.

Tell them it’s for the staff − cooks and serving boys. It may not be much but the surprised reaction and smiles makes it worth your while.

If you know your neighbour or friend is a caregiver and could do with some help during the holiday season, you could give him or her a call to ask if you could pick up something for them while you’re at the shops. You’d be surprised the request could be as simple as just milk and eggs.

Another thing that you could do that would really help others is to donate blood. That is a gift of life. If you haven’t done this before, now is a good time as any to try it. You might end up feeling so good that you’d do it often.

New Straits Times, Published: December 25, 2018 - 8:05am
Thoughtful gestures to show you care
By Putri Juneita Johari

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A good reference source for our future generation

"KL International Airport (KLIA) recently joined the worldwide ‘silent airport’ movement. Now the number of public announcements at both terminals are reduced significantly," remarks Eddie Yong as he shows me his vintage Malayan Airways Limited (MAL) collection when we meet at the Thailand 2018 World Stamp Exhibition in Bangkok.

"Instead of waiting for disruptive announcements, modern-day air travellers only need to download the MYairports mobile application. It’s a handy tool that provides real-time flight status and boarding gate information. At the same time, travellers can also refer to the Information Display Screens (FIDS) located within the terminals," adds Yong.

After a while, our conversation turns to Yong's historical keepsakes related to the MAL as well as its subsequent successors when the company underwent a series of restructuring due to changes that happened in the 1960s and 1970s.


Despite its worldwide fame, Yong explains that MAL wasn’t the first local company to provide commercial air services in Malaya. That distinction goes to the short-lived Wearnes Air Service (WAS) which was started by two Australian brothers, Theodore and Charles Wearne on Dec 18, 1936.

The inaugural WAS flight, using an eight-seater de Havilland Dragon Rapide aircraft named Governor Raffles, left Singapore's newly opened Kallang Airport for Kuala Lumpur and Penang on June 28, 1937. That marked the beginning of a thrice weekly shuttle between the three largest cities in Malaya.

As the flights became popular, the service was extended to Alor Star, Taiping, Ipoh and Kota Baru. At that time, the planes not only ferried passengers but also transported copies of the local newspaper, the Singapore Free Press, as well as bulk mail.

Just before the fall of Singapore in the hands of the Japanese Imperial Forces in February 1942, WAS came to a premature end.

Theodore and Charles fled Singapore for Freemantle, Western Australia while most of the company's senior employees were left behind and interned in Malayan prisons.

The success of WAS in the 1930's didn’t go unnoticed. The British Imperial Airways (later British Overseas Airways Corporation or BOAC), Straits Steamship Company and Ocean Steamship Company of Liverpool joined forces to form MAL on Oct 12, 1937.

MAL, however, remained dormant as its executives knew that their fledgling company couldn’t complete with WAS's dominant position.

Furthermore, Europe was on the verge of conflict and it would only be a matter of time before war broke out and spread to Malaya. As such, a decision was made to conserve resources and wait for a more opportune time to enter the market.


After the Second World War, MAL seized the opportunity and quickly moved in to fill in the void left by WAS.

Restructured to include just the partnership of the two steamship companies, MAL threw open its doors to the first paying passengers on April 2, 1947.

That inaugural flight, using an Airspeed Consul twin-engine aircraft christened the Raja Udang, departed Singapore's Kallang Airport for Kuala Lumpur's Sungai Besi Airport with only five passengers.

Weekly scheduled flights quickly followed from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh and Penang just a month later.

In April 1948, the airline started servicing direct international routes from Singapore to Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) in Vietnam, Batavia (now Jakarta), Medan and Palembang in Indonesia. Both Bangkok in Thailand and Medan routes were flown via Penang.

Strengthened by technical assistance from British Commonwealth airlines, such as BOAC and Qantas Empire Airways (QEA), MAL continued expanding its routes and fleet size for the rest of the 1940s and 1950s. Growth was spurred further when MAL became a member of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a trade association of the world’s airlines.

With its enlarged fleet, which included a large number of Douglas DC-3s, Douglas DC-4 Skymaster, Vickers Viscount, Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation, Bristol Britannia, de Havilland Comet 4 and Fokker F27, MAL went public in 1957.

Its listing on the Stock Exchange received overwhelming response as investors were buoyed by the rising post-war demand for air travel. Flying was no longer a reserved privilege for the very rich.


On April 12, 1960, new routes from Singapore to Hong Kong and from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok via Penang were added. Flights were also introduced from Singapore to cities in the Borneo Territories including Brunei, Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu), Kuching, Sandakan and Sibu.

MAL changed its name to Malaysian Airways Limited following the formation of the new federation on Sept 16, 1963. This new name allowed the retention of the already world famous MAL acronym. Two years later, Borneo Airways became part of the Malaysian Airways Limited.

Going into Yong's fifth clear folder, which covers the transitional period after Singapore's exit from Malaysia on Aug 9, 1965, it becomes obvious that the items related to Malaysian Airways Limited are not easy to come by.

"The company only existed for less than three years. Very few stationery, advertisements and other memorabilia were produced," explains Yong before adding that the airline was renamed the Malaysia-Singapore Airlines (MSA) in May 1966.

"The Singapore and Malaysia governments injected fresh capital into the carrier, giving them an equal shareholding of 42.79 per cent each. Among the minority shareholders were the Brunei government, BOAC, QEA and the original two steamship companies."

MSA's business model of purchasing newer and more powerful Boeing 707 and 737 jets to capture market share in a number of far-flung Asian destinations ensured the company's continued success.

Soon, however, differences started appearing among the MSA’s board of directors in terms of the airline's strategic direction.


In January 1971, the Malaysian and Singapore governments announced that MSA would be restructured into two separate national carriers.

Both new carriers aspired to retain the well regarded MSA acronym for better branding recognition. Acronyms for airline names were fashionable until the 1990s after which carriers began moving on to their descriptive names.

Malaysia kept the initials of its new airline relatively close, choosing to transpose the last two letters to form Malaysia Airline System (MAS). Singapore's move to choose Mercury Singapore Airlines to retain the MSA acronym in its entirety irked its neighbour.

Malaysia threatened legal action to bar the use of the coveted acronym unless Singapore was willing to pay S$72.7 million in compensation. Singapore caved and chose Singapore Airlines (SIA) instead. Mercury was the name of Stamford Raffles' ship that sailed to Singapore during its voyage of discovery in 1819.

The airline’s assets were divided, with MAS receiving the Friendship Fleet, Britten-Norman aircraft, equipment in Malaysia and all domestic routes.

SIA took over all the Boeing aircraft, the airline headquarters building in Orchard Road, aircraft hangars and maintenance facilities at Paya Lebar Airport, computer reservation system and most of the overseas offices.

SIA also took over MSA’s international route network encompassing 22 cities in 18 countries.

The airline began operations with three simultaneous flights − one bound for London, the other for Sydney and a third on its way back to Singapore − on Oct 1, 1972.

The last three folders feature quite a lot of Yong's self-addressed SIA postcards from the late 1990s onwards. When quizzed, Yong explains that the proliferation coincided with the time he began forming the collection.

"My interest was sparked after visiting the SIA 50th anniversary exhibition (1947 - 1997) in Changi. The colourful history coupled with the many interesting memorabilia on display nudged me down the path to start my own collection," quips the Singaporean.

At that time, Yong was working as a project manager in Pandan Crescent. Coincidentally, his American employer favoured using SIA for all work-elated travels and Yong took the opportunity to write work reports on the back of the postcards which were given complimentary to all passengers.

"All I needed to do then was to pass the cards to the flight attendant and the airline would do the rest including paying for postage," says Yong with a grin. He also did the same when he took MAS domestic flights when inspecting his company's projects in Bintulu, Sarawak.

As his collection grew, Yong felt there was a need to add variety. He began scouring flea markets in Singapore for more items and also went on the Internet to buy from e-commerce websites like eBay. Eventually, runners got to know about his passion and began supplying him with rare airline-related items.

When asked to name the most valuable item in his collection, Yong reaches for his files and begins to flip through them.

After a few minutes, he looks up triumphantly and hands over a post card featuring Nancy Liew Malayan Airways stewardess who won the Miss Singapore beauty pageant in 1962. The item was Yong's for US$300 after a spate of furious bidding on eBay several years ago. To date, there are more than 500 different airline-related post cards in his collection.


Apart from philatelic aspects of his collection, Yong also has a special place in his heart for the iconic air stewardess sarong kebaya.

Created by French designer Pierre Balmain back in 1968, the early designs of this uniform are now becoming popular among collectors.

"There are four kebaya colours that represent ranking in SIA: blue (Flight Stewardess), green (Leading Stewardess), red (Chief Stewardess) and burgundy (In-Flight Supervisor). I have all of them except the last one. There are not many of the highest ranking stewardess and that makes their uniform rare," explains Yong before revealing that most of his uniforms are procured from used clothing shops and flea markets for as little as RM10 for a complete set.

Despite having quite a substantial collection, Yong endeavours to continue expanding on his collection. He claims that there are still many things out there that he doesn’t own given the airline's long history.

"My Housing Development Board flat in Toa Payoh is packed with SIA memorabilia. I have book cases cramped with pocket albums filled with phone cards, stickers, newspaper cuttings and matchboxes given to passengers in the days when smoking was allowed on flights. The only thing I need desperately is space," he adds with a laugh.

It’s clear that Yong is no ordinary collector. He’s an aviation history preserver who aims to tell the story of our airline industry, including SIA and MAS, all the way from their humble beginnings to the famous brands they are today.

Before parting ways, Yong mentions that SIA will be celebrating its 75th anniversary in four years' time and expresses hope that a coffee table book containing all the important historical items related to the local aviation industry can be produced to celebrate the momentous milestone.

"That would serve as a good reference source for our future generation," he concludes with finality.

[photo-1] Two early MAL post cards.

[photo-2] Yong posing with his prized Nancy Liew post card.

[photo-3] An envelope commemorating the inaugural WAS flight in 1937.

[photo-4] Kallang Airport was officially opened on June 12, 1937.

[photo-5] A rare 1950s MAL advertisement promoting the Viscount prop-jet aircraft.

New Straits Times, Published: December 29, 2018 - 8:00am
A meeting with an avid collector of Malayan aviation memorabilia offers an interesting insight into the origin of our national carrier
By Alan Teh Leam Seng

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日本の学校教育が「もうダメ」だということはすでに一昨年秋にForeign Affairs Magazineが伝えていた。日本の教育システムは「社会秩序の維持・産業戦士の育成・政治的な安定の確保」のために設計された「前期産業時代に最適化した時代遅れのもの」であり、それゆえ、教員も学生もそこにいるだけで「息苦しさ」「閉塞感」を感じている。文科省が主導してこれまで大学の差別化と「選択と集中」のためにいくつものプロジェクトが行われたが(COE、RU11、Global30など)、どれも単発の、思い付き的な計画に過ぎず、見るべき成果を上げていないというのが同誌の診断であった。















内田樹の研究室、2018-07-07 samedi

There is a six-century BC fable that tells the story of a boy, his father and a donkey walking towards a market.

While they were walking, people ridiculed them for not riding the donkey. When the father let his son ride the donkey, people were annoyed with the boy for insulting his father.

When the father rode the donkey, the people were displeased with him and accused him of abusing his child.

When they were both riding the donkey, people booed and jeered at them for overloading and mistreating the donkey.

This could express the current status of our education system. Almost every initiative of the government is criticised.

The government, on the other hand, with all good intention, keeps changing the course of our educational system.

Almost instantly after a new government comes to power, leaders start to experiment with the educational system.

Today, the Pakatan Harapan government is looking to overhaul our education system.

Most recently Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad expressed his desire to overhaul our education system focusing more on career-based subject matters.

Obviously, the government had expended much effort trying to improve our educational system.

More initiatives do not necessarily mean a better system.

No education system in the world is totally and solely dependent on government initiatives. In fact, they are a result of collaborative efforts of the government and the people.

The government should not expect its efforts, however well planned and properly executed, to achieve success if supporting systems are not in place.

Leadership of the teachers, for instance, is among the most critical success factors of every educational reformation.

Teachers should be given more freedom to lead the teaching and facilitation process rather than be confined to follow guidelines.

Penang Free School students sitting their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examination last month. Education systems are a result of collaborative efforts between the government and the people.

Letter to The New Straits Times, Published:
Give teachers more say in classrooms
By Dr Hussain Othman
DR HUSSAIN OTHMAN, Retired associate professor, Kuala Lumpur

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The 2004 catastrophe and the recent tsunami in Banten, Indonesia

THE recent tsunami in Banten, Indonesia reminded us of the tsunami that happened exactly 14 years ago on Dec 26, which had devastated many countries bordering the Indian Ocean. Many villages on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia, too, were badly affected, and most of the survivors are still being haunted by vivid memories of that catastrophic event.

The 2004 catastrophe in one way drove home the lesson that Malaysia was not entirely safe from geological disasters. More importantly, the killer waves also taught us the importance of mangroves as they have been proven to blunt the destructive force of tsunamis.

Realising this, Malaysia embarked on a mission to rehabilitate mangrove and coastal forests throughout the country’s coastlines. A special annual budget has been continuously allocated for this mission and many rehabilitated areas along the coasts have seen much improvement since the launch of the programme in 2005.

The issue is, however, not only about the success of the rehabilitation programme, but also the legal protection and sustainability of the existing and the rehabilitated mangrove habitats.

Sadly, mangrove forests in Malaysia are not totally protected. Although large areas of mangrove forests are gazetted as forest reserves under the management and enforcement of the Forestry Department, some other significant and sizeable areas are still categorised as state lands and privately owned lands. These unprotected areas are all earmarked for various development plans. Herein lies the Malaysian challenge.

Mangrove forests are a subject of a number of international treaties: the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation conservation programmes such as the World Heritage Convention, Man and Biosphere and Global Geoparks Network.

Malaysia, too, is committed to these global treaties.

Being one of the most prominent tropical coastal wetlands, many mangrove forests around the globe are designated as Ramsar sites under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance or better known as the Ramsar Convention. The convention was adopted in the city of Ramsar in Iran in 1971. It came into force for Malaysia in 1995 after the designation of Tasek Bera in Pahang, a freshwater lake ecosystem, as our first Ramsar site in 1994.

To date, Malaysia has designated seven Ramsar sites. The other six Ramsar sites are mangrove forest habitats of different types: Pulau Kukup in Johor (overwash mangroves), Tanjung Piai in Johor (fringe mangroves), Sungai Pulai in Johor (riverine mangroves), Kuching Wetlands National Park in Sarawak (riverine mangroves), Lower Kinabatangan-Segama Wetlands in Sabah (riverine mangroves), and Kota Kinabalu Wetland in Sabah (basin mangroves).

Ramsar Convention recognises the international importance of all types of natural wetlands on the terrestrial and marine zones. It also recognises the importance of constructed wetlands, in which 795 sites around the world have made the list.

All in all, the ultimate aim of the convention is to promote the conservation of wetland habitats.

Ramsar sites in Malaysia are being conserved through different models and approaches, and managed by different authorities and agencies as land is a matter within the state jurisdiction.

Recently, Pulau Kukup was in the news as to its status as a national park. Regardless of the land status, the fragile mangrove island of Pulau Kukup must be protected and equipped with a robust conservation plan incorporating all relevant policies and laws. The status of Pulau Kukup as a Ramsar site should remain as this is in actual fact a global brand name to attract and promote sustainable tourism for Johor and Malaysia.

It is best for all parties to agree and work collaboratively to protect the pristine mangrove island of Pulau Kukup as it is a precious ecosystem shared by local and global communities. The oxygen they release and the carbon they sequester are just some of the key roles that the mangroves of Pulau Kukup play.

In addition, Pulau Kukup is recognised as one of the most important key biodiversity areas, especially as a habitat for at least 35 species of mangrove plants, and home to myriads of fauna, particularly as an important stopover for migratory birds. This is on top of its role in coastal protection and stabilisation, and in reducing the risks from hydrological and meteorological hazards and disasters.

While Malaysia’s goal to become a developed nation must be welcomed, it must not be achieved at the expense of our rich biodiversity. And this includes our mangrove forests.

We must save them. Only then, will they save us from the wrath of the natural forces.

Mangrove trees at the Pulau Kukup Johor National Park in Pontian. Pulau Kukup is a key bio-diversity area with at least 35 species of mangrove plants.

New Straits Times, Published: December 29, 2018 - 10:30am
There's benefit in them mangroves
By Dr. A. Aldrie Amir
The writer is a senior lecturer/research fellow of Institute for Environment and Development and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia coordinator of The Malaysian Mangrove Research Alliance and Network (MyMangrove)

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Malaysia expected to sign military MoUs with Japan by year-end








毎日新聞、最終更新 12月28日 23時10分













 その一方で、安倍首相は中国の違法漁船が海上保安庁の職員 水産庁職員を「拉致した」事件については、完全に封じ込めている。













KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is expected to sign several Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with Japan pertaining to the military industry by the end of this year.

Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu said that the MoUs are part of ongoing efforts by Malaysia to boost military cooperation between both nations.

“I cannot wait to visit Japan end of this year.

“Malaysia recognises Japan’s contribution to peace and stability in the world,” he said.

Mohamad was speaking during the celebration of Japan’s Self Defence Force Day at the Japanese Ambassador’s official residence, here, today.

Also present were Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono, its Ambassador in Malaysia Dr Makio Miyagawa, and the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) chief Admiral Tan Sri Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin.

Kono, in his speech, said there had been much unpredictability in Asia since he became Foreign Minister in August last year.

“We share a common threat of North Korea and the South China Sea status quo issues.

“We have to stand together with other countries to uphold international order,” Kono said, adding that cooperation between Japan and Malaysia are very strong.

He noted that this strong cooperation is seen in industrial and defence collaboration between both countries.

Kono also expressed Japan’s appreciation for Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s condolence message to the government and people of Japan over the recent floods that hit the country.

Earlier today, Kono - who is on a working visit to Malaysia - paid a courtesy call to Dr Mahathir and Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah in Putrajaya.

Kono also took the opportunity to meet members of the Council of Eminent Persons.

Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu (right) said that the MoUs are part of ongoing efforts by Malaysia to boost military cooperation between both nations.

New Straits Times, Published: July 11, 2018 - 8:37pm
Malaysia expected to sign military MoUs with Japan by year-end
By Hidir Reduan and Mohd Iskandar Ibrahim

[Read more]
New Straits Times, Published: 29 Dec 2018
Japan keen to offer new defence equipment

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=2018/11/04付 西日本新聞朝刊=


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How to develop and educate children in distress

SEVERAL days ago, American Professor Darcia Narvaez (*) wrote on her blog about how to develop and educate children in distress.

She wrote, “I heard the toddler wail across the store. He kept up his protest as we passed him in a cart along the checkout lines. He sounded both angry and heartbroken. After our purchases, he was still crying as he sat next to his mother in a booth. She asked him if he wanted to try his pizza. Distressed, we walked on by, not knowing what to do. I now consider that an ethical failure. I became haunted by my failure to help.”

I have experienced similar situations in Malaysia − at shopping complexes, places of worship, functions in private homes, functions in public places and the list goes on. I get very disturbed when parents ignore the cries and screams of their children, and continue with their business.

It is as if they find it normal to have their children wailing and screaming.

When I was young, my mum, an authoritarian type of parent, used to give stern stares and sharp but brief phrases like “no more or you will be sent to the corner ” to my older siblings. I, being the youngest, learnt to control my own emotions when I saw the consequences of my older siblings being punished. Nevertheless, what was more important was that my mother would later explain the reason for the punishment, and we should learn to become better children. My reasoning and guided emotions became key adaptations that have been guiding my way of life.

Emotions are a big part of education, which our education system is hoping to focus on now. My biggest fear is the role that an educator has to play in building confidence in students to develop their emotions. As I recall my days in primary school, I remember them with fear. In Standard 1, one of my friends was slapped so hard on her thin cheeks for not putting a sewing knot correctly.

Until today, my friend hates that particular teacher. In Standard 3, we had a teacher who hit pupils’ knuckles with a wooden ruler for not writing neatly.

Next year, with no examinations for Year 1 to Year 3, there is a lot of unlearning and relearning to be done, especially for our early primary school educators.

With projects and out-of-classroom activities to be conducted to develop children’s character in school, these educators need to be trained to bring actual transformation as aspired by the Education Ministry.

Primary school pupils need help with their emotions. Will the teacher encourage joy and fun, building that into their personality, or will the children’s emotional cues be ignored, leaving them underdeveloped in emotional intelligence?

A clown performs juggling as he entertains children. Primary school pupils need help with their emotions.

Letter to The New Straits Times, Published:
Students must be taught how to develop their emotions
By DR VISHALACHE BALAKRISHNAN, Director, Centre for Research in International and Comparative Education, Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur

(*) Darcia Narvaez

My name is pronounced DAR-sha narv-EYES.

My life has been an adventure through many careers. I am still growing.

My academic scholarship has moved from work on nonconscious moral rationality (in the 1990s), to moral character education in the schools (late 1990s- early 2000s), to the neurobiology of moral development (mid 2000s to present), to the study of evolved parenting practices (presently), and the study of small-band hunter-gatherers who represent the type of society in which humans evolved (presently). All this comes together in a moral developmental systems theory that emphasizes the ongoing epigenetic plasticity of how we develop our humanity and our morality. We are co-constructed by our families and our experiences.

My concerns are for developmental optimization and fulfilling human potential−actionable communal imagination. I put some of this together in various articles and chapters but mostly in my 2014 book, Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture and Wisdom.

My prior careers include being a musician (organist, choir director, piano teacher), classroom teacher (K-12 music, middle school Spanish), human resource developer (Minnesota Migrant Council, MN Hispanic Women’s Development Corporation), business owner (E-SPAN−Easy Spanish for adults), seminarian (Luther Seminary). All my careers aim at discovering what it means to be human, to develop and use one’s talents, to give more than take from Life, and to live a virtuous life. I’m still learning.

Go to my Notre Dame website for lots of downloadable papers, education materials, links to interviews, blogs, conference videos and more.



I heard the toddler wail across the store. He kept up his protest as we passed him in a cart along the checkout lines. He sounded both angry and heartbroken. After our purchases, he was still upset, tears leaping from his eyes as he cried sitting next to his mother in a booth. She asked him if he wanted to try his pizza. Distressed, we walked on by, not knowing what to do. I now consider that an ethical failure. I became haunted by my failure to help.

Emotions are key adaptations that guide our life. But they must be trained well to work wisely as guides. Learning to trust that ‘funny feeling’ in your stomach can save you from a bad relationship or a bad situation.

Children under 6 need help with their emotions. Early experience is the training ground for emotions. Will the parent encourage joy, building that into their personality? Will the parent take the child’s emotions as cues for the child’s unique spirit and encourage that spirit to grow, guiding the child in respecting their own emotions? Or will the parent frustrate the child’s urges for growth routinely, building in resentment and anger? Will the parent ignore the child’s emotions (thinking that will help control them), teaching the child to ignore their own emotional cues, leaving them underdeveloped in emotional intelligence?

My expertise in neurobiology and the development of human morality make me sensitive to the needs of young children and the possible harm they are experiencing when they are highly distressed. Extensive distress does damage to developing brains, leaving long term marks on brain function, like a hyperreactive stress response (Lupien et al., 2006), which undermines sociomoral functioning (Narvaez, 2014). Because thousands of synapses are developing every minute in a young child, one never knows what distress is altering in normal development.

The parent and regular caregivers are like orchestra conductors. They wave up or wave down emotions depending on their treatment of the child: Sturm und drang (storm and stress) or calm and quiet? If adults don’t follow the child’s cues and interests but frustrate them deeply and routinely (even unintentionally) they can foster a personality oriented to storm and stress.

Children don’t have built-in emotional controls. They need adult help in learning to calm down an emotion. The younger the child, the more help is needed for self-regulation. This does not mean simply punishing them for acting inappropriately, “so that they learn to behave.” No, child development doesn’t work that way. That would be instead be the squelching of a child’s development−like stomping on a young plant growing in your garden.

The child in the store was signaling deep distress and the mother was ignoring it. Psychologists call this unresponsive. Responsive relationships in early life are correlated longitudinally with secure attachment, mental health and moral capacities like empathy, self control and conscience (e.g., Kochanska, 2002; Sroufe et al., 2008).

In this case it could be that something he got attached to in the store was taken away, explaining his anger. But his heartbrokenness may have come from his mother ignoring his distress entirely−perhaps she was feeling embarrassed and thought ignoring would calm things down more quickly. Or perhaps she took an iPhone away from him and feels like she has done the right thing. She was focused on something other than his need for help to be recognized and calmed down.

So what is an outsider to do? What is wrong with just walking by?

In our ancestral context, children grow up in a community of responsive relationships 24/7. For over 99% of our species' history, mothers and their children have been supported by other community members. Children thrive within a 'village’ of caring supporters. If a particular caregiver is preoccupied with something else, there is someone else around to whom the child can turn for comfort or play, or who will step in to alleviate distress. Most children in advanced economies are missing out on this web of constancy provided by familiar caregivers day and night.

From a species-normal perspective, this child was being harmed by the lack of community support (for child and for mother). This kind of support grows the sense of belonging and trust children need to build a good life, but also the parent’s sense of support for being responsive to the needs of the child.

So what should I have done?

Being a stranger, the young child would not turn to me, or anyone else, in the store. But the child could be comforted indirectly. A child in a heartbroken meltdown needs a witness.

This is what I think I should have done:

Walk up to the child and mother and say: I’m a psychologist. I’m concerned about this child’s wellbeing. Tell the child in a calm voice: It’s okay. You will be all right. Then, turn to the mother (but keep turning to the child with reassurance) and represent the child’s view: The child needs comforting. He is unable to calm down without your comfort. He feels abandoned emotionally. To alleviate that pain, he needs comforting−comforting conversation, comforting touch.

In my experience intervening in other situations with distressed children, the parent usually will take in the advice and act differently. For example, when I found a very young baby distressed in a grocery cart while her family was down the aisle, I spoke directly to the baby, telling him that his family loved him. The family came back and heard me and asked, "Isn't okay to let babies cry?" I explained that no, it is not a good idea to distress a baby whose brain is scheduled to grow thousands of synapses a second. Stress shuts down that growth. They were glad to learn that babies are highly immature and need loving attention to grow well.

But if the parent doesn’t respond receptively, then you can reflect back to her what she says (e.g., “you’re feeling frustrated with your child” “you want me to leave you alone”) but repeat your concern for the child’s wellbeing. At the very least, the child will have had a witness.

What do you think should have been done? What would you have done?

Psychology Today, Posted Dec 23, 2018
Helping a Child in Distress

What should one do when a child is extremely distressed in public?

By Darcia F. Narvaez Ph.D.

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Malaysia’s tiger population has drastically declined to less than 200!

SINCE assuming office as land, water and natural resources minister, Dr A. Xavier Jayakumar has been vocal on conservation issues, especially those pertaining to wildlife.

His initial “shoot on sight” suggestion aimed at poachers shows his seriousness in wanting to confront this menace that is endangering our wildlife.

The plight of Malaysian wildlife, especially the fast dwindling tiger population, is uppermost on his mind, and he has advocated tough measures to contain deforestation, loss or fragmentation of habitat, hunting and trafficking of wildlife.

Malaysia’s tiger population has drastically declined to less than 200, compared with more than a 1,000 a couple of decades back.

Today, wildlife faces the most serious threat as we chase development like never before.

It is surprising to note that while the tiger population has increased in India, China and Russia, the species is facing extinction in Malaysia.

As a wildlife and conservation supporter, I feel that the Malayan tiger is possibly starving its way to rapid decline and, ultimately, extinction.

The massive deforestation for development in the last five decades has caused havoc to tiger habitats and their food chain has been severely restricted. Nursing or lactating mother tigers need to be helped and provided with food nearby to ensure they do not strain themselves searching for food. The longer the mother is out in search of prey, the greater the risk for the cubs as male tigers are known to engage in infanticide.

In India’s forests, tiger habitats abound with innumerable prey, such as deer, wild boars, monkeys, gaur, jungle fowl, etc. Deer of various kinds are plentiful, and despite competition from leopards and wild dogs, tigers can make a kill easily, possibly explaining their quick recovery.

Tigers need to be well fed to be physically strong to mate and produce a healthy litter of cubs.

The Malayan tiger is different from the Siberian tiger and the Royal Bengal tiger, and more research needs to be done to get it out of its predicament. More researchers, local and foreign, as well as non-governmental organisations, politicians, community leaders, corporate sponsors and others can help save the tiger.

Today ’s technological advances, such as motion and night vision cameras and drones, can delay extinction. The government needs to provide more funding and enforcement through the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) and armed forces to save our tigers.

According to local tiger expert and conservationist Kae Kawanishi, at least 2,000 members of the armed forces are needed to fully patrol and protect tiger sanctuaries. The Orang Asli and village folk living in areas bordering tiger sanctuaries need to be roped in. All hunting permits should be immediately cancelled so that there is enough prey for tigers.

Warning signs such as “poachers will be shot on sight” should be placed in tiger sensitive areas to forewarn poachers, hunters, villagers and others.

Curfews should be imposed from dusk to dawn in tiger habitats. Roads constructed by timber loggers should be blocked or sealed off by digging trenches across them to prevent easy access to the jungle.

Roads and highways along wildlife habitats should have tunnels for animals to cross or, at the very least, should not be fenced off as this will stop them from reaching their food source. More automated enforcement system cameras are needed at these spots, and fines should be doubled for speeding.

Toll plazas and gantry signboards should display wildlife related messages on LED boards to alert road users.

All hope is not lost for our Malayan tiger to recover from its decline. We just need political will on the part of the new government to protect and do the best for the tiger’s survival.

The oldest forest in the world − about 350 million years old − could become eerily quiet without the Malayan tiger’s roar.

A Malayan tiger − one of the estimated 200 remaining − crossing Jalan Kuala Tahan at Kampung Pagi in Bukit Dedari, Pahang, earlier this year.

Letter to The New Straits Times, December 28, 2018 - 9:08am
Save them before they go extinct
By V. THOMAS, Sungai Buloh, Selangor

HUNTING Malayan tigers in remote forests is still rampant due to the high demand for them in neighbouring country.

Many villagers living in Dabong, Gua Musang, claimed that foreign poachers started hunting Malayan tigers a few months ago and sold them for RM20,000 each.

A villager, who only wanted to be known as Osman, 48, said the foreigners worked on a vegetable farm owned by a local in Gua Musang.

“They started hunting for the protected species after they spotted the animal roaming the vegetable farm.

“They managed to capture a tiger rec ently and sold its carcass to one of the traders in a neighbouring country for RM20,000,” he told the New Straits Times Press here yesterday.

Osman said the foreigners started to hunt Malayan tigers after learning they could fetch a handsome price from traders in the neighbouring country.

He said besides tigers, the foreigners also hunted other exotic animals, such as pangolins and snakes.

“The demand for exotic animals is high, not only to be served as food but also for medical purposes,” said the farmer.

It was reported last month that the price of a Malayan tiger could fetch up to RM1 million each.

Its meat was said to be nutritious.

This has caused the dwindling of the already small Malayan tiger population in the country.

Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar was reported to have said the species was highly prized overseas as it could be used in medicine.

He said Malayan tigers also received demand from the black market.

Dr Xavier said he would instruct his officials to hold a meeting with the army, police, Wildlife and National Parks Department to discuss the issue.

Malayan Tigers are much sought-after for their purported medicinal value.

New Straits Times, Published: October 10, 2018 - 8:16am
Malayan tigers in danger
By Sharifah Mahsinah Abdullah

KUALA LUMPUR: National coach Tan Cheng Hoe can now afford to smile as he will likely be offered a contract extension following his team’s impressive performance at the recent AFF Cup.

Malaysia, only the seventh-best ranked team in the competition, defied the odds by reaching the final before losing 3-2 on aggregate to World No 100 Vietnam.

The FA of Malaysia (FAM) are keen to extend his contract but it will only be finalised in their national team committee meeting, scheduled next month.

FAM deputy president Datuk Yusoff Mahadi said the committee, chaired by the president (Datuk Hamidin Amin), will assess the national team’s performance throughout the season and also discuss on Cheng Hoe’s future.

“The views of all committee members will be taken into account before deciding on next year’s plans.

“I believe they will also assess the team’s performances in all international matches. But I believe Cheng Hoe has passed with flying colours as he managed to guide his team successfully in all aspects in accordance to the national body’s new philosophy.

“He took some risks and managed to get the best out of his senior and junior players in his team at the AFF Cup.”

Cheng Hoe’s one-year contract expires on Monday.

Under his guidance, Harimau Malaya recorded eight wins, three draws and five defeats and also moved up seven rungs to World No 167 in the Fifa rankings.

[photo] National football coach Tan Cheng Hoe.

New Straits Times, Published:
FAM are expected to offer national coach Cheng Hoe a contract extension
By Firdaus Hashim

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Is Malaysia a secular state?

THE question whether Malaysia is an Islamic or secular state has come in for continuous debate in Malaysia. Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad argues that in an Islamic state like Malaysia, justice applies to all, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

For some, this position remains simply because Islam is the only religion stated in the Federal Constitution. Unlike Turkey and India where the word “secular” is clearly provided in their respective constitutions, such a provision is not found in the Federal Constitution.

Notwithstanding the above, the relevant White Paper signifies that the country was meant to be a secular state. In the early stage of the drafting of the Federal Constitution, the Reid Commission had proposed inserting a provision stating the country is a secular state. However, in the final stage, they agreed to accept a provision that made Islam the official religion of the federation, but it shall not impose any disability on non-Muslim nationals professing their own religions and shall not imply that the state is not a secular state.

Furthermore, historians have suggested that Malaya was an Islamic state. Islamic laws were in practice, which included criminal and civil laws. The most common Islamic laws notably are Hukum Kanun Melaka, Undang-undang Pahang, Undang-undang Johor, Undang-undang Perak and others. However, when the British colonised Malaya, all these laws were gradually changed to English laws through courts’ judgements where English judges preferred to refer to English laws. English law also made its presence here through codified laws, such as the Contract Act, Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code etc.

Ironically, when Malaya gained independence on Aug 31, 1957, the words “Islamic state” were not incorporated into the Constitution. Nor is the word “secular” found in the Federal Constitution. It was only on Sept 29, 2001, after 44 years of independence, during his tenure as the fourth prime minister, Dr Mahathir made a declaration that Malaysia was an Islamic state.

This announcement was not followed by any amendment to the Federal Constitution until today.

Article 3(1) reiterates the rights protected under Article 11(1) and also reaffirms the supremacy of Islam under the Federal Constitution. Furthermore, Islam is placed above other religions in the federation, yet in Che Omar bin Che Soh v Public Prosecutor [1988] 2 MLJ 55, the Supreme Court (now the Federal Court) held that “although there can be no doubt that Islam is not just a mere collection of dogmas and rituals, but a complete way of life covering all fields of human activities, may they be private or public, legal, political, economic, social, cultural, moral or judicial”, the provision of Article 3(1) merely provided for a ritualistic and ceremonial role of Islam.

Sheridan (a constitutional text writer) also seems to agree with the Che Omar decision. He posits that Article 3(1) does not mean anything except that it imposes an obligation on the participants in any federal ceremony to regulate any religious parts of the event according to Muslim rites.

However, according to another constitutional text writer, Abdul Aziz Bari, this case does not elaborate clearly the position of Islam as stated in the Reid’s Commission Report and the White Paper.

Thus, he argues that the Che Omar decision merely ruled that Article 3(1) should not become the basis to challenge the legality of statutes. In other words, it merely limits the operation of Islam as stated in the provision. It must also be noted that the extent and implementation of Islam in the Federal Constitution should not be assessed or interpreted solely from the context or point of view of Article 3(1).

It is also contended that the Che Omar decision merely differentiated the position of Islamic law as prescribed by Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution. It was argued by the appellant that since Islam is the religion of the federation, and since the Federal Constitution is the supreme law of the land, the imposition of the death penalty upon drug traffickers, not being an Islamic law per se and not in accordance with hudud or qisas laws, is contrary to Islamic injunctions and is therefore unconstitutional. The Supreme Court (now the Federal Court) rejected this argument, saying that the provision in Article 3(1) does not actually give the meaning that Malaysia is an Islamic state, where in reality Islamic law only applies to Muslims merely in matters of personal laws. And since the Constitution makes a clear distinction between private law and public law, offences like drug trafficking are under the Federal List, and therefore constitutional.

Perhaps the position taken by Shad Faruqi and Aziz Bari that categorises Malaysia somewhere between the secular state and the Islamic state could be the answer to the ambiguity of the position of Islam in Malaysia. Thus, according to Shad Faruqi, “Malaysia is neither a full-fledged Islamic state nor wholly secular”, but that “in view of the fact that Muslims constitute the majority population, and Islamisation is being vigorously enforced, Malaysia can indeed be described as an Islamic or Muslim state”.

In addition, Shad Faruqi adds that “in a secular constitution, there is no prescribed official religion and no state aid is given to any religion or for any religious activities, but the word religion does occur at least 24 times in the Federal Constitution”.

Despite the fact that the Federal Constitution does not provide a clear provision to advocate that Malaysia is an Islamic state, there are significant provisions such as Articles 3(1) and 12(2) in the Constitution that signify the religion of Islam is given a special position in the Federation. One may conclude that Malaysia is not a secular state, nor is it a truly theocratic state.

The word religion appears at least 24 times in the Federal Constitution.

New Straits Times, Published: December 28, 2018 - 9:09am
Is Malaysia a secular state?
By Dr Mohamed Azam Mohamed Adil
The writer is associate professor and deputy chief executive officer, International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia

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Year in, year out

THE year comes to an end pretty much as Malaysians found it at the start: a nation in the midst of political churn, in anticipation of change but unsure if it will be attained.

Well, momentous change did come in May, to much popular rejoicing. The key difference as the new year dawns is that this time, Malaysians may be a bit unsure if it’s change for the better, for worse or that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Malaysians, however, need to be a bit kinder to (and more patient with) themselves. Real change seldom comes in one fell swoop, unless we had engineered a political revolution, which we did not. After 61 years of more or less the same political coalition in power, change is bound to be a bit bumpy, probably with some detours along the way and the transition to a New Malaysia has truly only just begun.

It is important for us all to remember what May 9, 2018 represented. It represented a fairly decisive break from the past but not totally. The reason: Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, our fourth prime minister, is back as our seventh.

Malaysians perhaps a bit prematurely celebrated the arrival of the “reformasi” era when in fact, the majority of Malaysians were a bit more modest in their expectations. They voted with their pocketbooks (as voters almost everywhere tend to), seeing how they have been somewhat ravaged by what most only vaguely understood to be the impact of the 1MDB scandal.

In short and at best, therefore, Malaysians voted to turf out the corrupt bums because they have come to the realisation that the rot has seeped deep into the entire body politic.

If it were not for the huge corruption scandal that 1MDB represented and the fact that it moved our nonagenarian ex-leader then to come out of retirement and galvanise the populace into political revolt as perhaps only he uniquely is capable of, a good many Malaysians might still be persuaded to stick with the prevailing status quo rather than face the risks of uncertainty that political change poses.

This writer maintains that, in spite of May 9, the natural conservatism of the Malaysian electorate remains largely unscathed. Dr Mahathir and the band of young idealists and old political stalwarts surrounding him fully appreciate this; which was why Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia was founded and also why its partners in Pakatan Harapan welcome it more out of political necessity rather than any real enthusiasm.

Many Malaysians who used to view Dr Mahathir with much scepticism now rather favourably applaud him for being the master political strategist that he has always been. Perhaps only he knows instinctively that in order to bring Umno to heel, he needed to create an Umno successor that harks back to the original ideals of the nation’s grand old party, minus the ugly and pervasive corruption that was almost inevitable for any party in power continuously for over half a century.

The main governing party for political reform − Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) − meanwhile is mired in some internal turmoil which it seems to never be able to shake off and is perhaps exacerbated now that it has finally tasted power.

If Malaysia seems to depend rather unhealthily on Dr Mahathir to keep it together, PKR similarly appears to rely solely on Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to keep its feuding factions from tearing the party apart. It may be that the tentativeness that both these leaders symbolise fairly reflects the complex political tentativeness of a Malaysia at a critical crossroads.

Broad-based political reforms cannot be rushed when the electorate does not yet have the appetite for them beyond the imperative to address the ever growing problem of corruption permeating our polity.

It seems like it will be quite a while yet, if ever, that race/identity-based politics will lose its appeal among a broad segment of the Malaysian electorate. Reforms, therefore, will have to be incremental and piece-meal so they keep pace with political realities.

Going forward, the Malaysian polity will remain, as always, fragile. We keep having reminders of that, even in recent weeks. Optimists like myself view this in our stride as the necessary effects of adjusting to change in our midst.

We started on an exciting if uncertain new political journey in 2018. The chips and dust flying about are by no means settled.

We must hope that 2019 provides us greater clarity as we continue the New Malaysia journey.

A man rides past a mural of Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail in Taman Orkid, Batu 9, Cheras, Kuala Lumpur.

New Straits Times, Published:
Year in, year out
By John Teo

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9 hikers lost on Penang Hill on Xmas Day found

GEORGE TOWN: Nine hikers who were lost since yesterday evening at Bukit Bendera have been rescued.

The rescuers received a stress call at about 7.27pm yesterday from one of the victims who said that they were lost while they were hiking there.

No details were available at that time but the victim managed to find signal in his phone and immediately alerted the authorities about their fate.

A team from the Fire and Rescue Department then rushed to the scene to locate the nine victims - seven men and two women.

Three hours after the stress call was made, the victim who was in constant contact with the authorities said that he could hear sirens nearby.

However he could not find the way down with the other victims.

The victims also started fire in order to assist the rescuers with the efforts of locating them in the middle of the jungle at night time.

At about 1.09am early morning today, the victims were found safe and sound and were brought down to safety in a 4WD.

The rescue operation ended almost 10 hours after the stress call was made.

Photo shows an aerial view of Bukit Bendera, Penang. Nine hikers who were lost since yesterday evening here have been rescued.

New Straits Times, Published: December 26, 2018 - 10:57am
Nine missing hikers at Bukit Bendera rescued
By Mohamed Basyir

GEORGE TOWN: The Fire and Rescue Department are conducting a search and rescue mission for nine hikers who were believed to have gone missing at Penang Hill on Tuesday (Dec 25).

The efforts to track them down are being carried out by firemen from the Bagan Jermal and Paya Terubong fire stations since 7.27pm.

A spokesperson said they received a call from one of the hikers through the MERS 999 hotline.

"One of the hikers spoke to us on the phone and stated that they are lost in the jungle.

"Full details of their current situation have yet to be obtained," he said.

According to Bernama, two vehicles from the Bagan Jermal and Paya Terubong Fire Stations were sent to the foot of Bukit Bendera for the search and rescue mission.

“The department have been able to contact the victim who made the emergency call by telephone and informed them that they were probably in the area of Wand Gate 7 of Bukit Bendera," the Fire department spokesperson said.

As of press time, efforts to find the nine hikers are ongoing.


The Star, Published: Tuesday, 25 Dec 2018 9:13 PM MYT
Nine hikers missing at Penang Hill on Christmas day
By Intan Amalina Mohd Ali

GEORGE TOWN: The nine hikers who were reported lost on Penang Hill have been found by the Fire and Rescue Department team on Wednesday (Dec 26).

A Fire and Services Department spokesman said the hikers who went missing on Tuesday evening (Dec 25) were found safe and sound.

"An operation to find them were conducted at around 7.30pm on Tuesday and the hikers were found at around 1am today," said the spokesman.

The search operation was conducted using a four-wheel drive vehicle and personnel who walked up using the hikers' trail.

All the hikers were brought down safely and the operation ended around 5.20am Wednesday.


The Star, Published: Wednesday, 26 Dec 2018 9:42 AM MYT
Nine missing Penang Hill hikers found safe and sound
By R. Sekaran

GEORGE TOWN: Handphones and a worried boyfriend played an integral part in the rescue of nine hikers who went missing on Penang Hill on Christmas Day.

In what was supposed to be a routine hike for the local hikers, aged between 24 and 61, as the group began to scale the hill at 8am on Tuesday from a point at Batu Ferringhi, which is part of the hill’s range.

They were supposed to return by 3pm, said a boyfriend of 24-year-old hiker Tan Kah Ooi, who related her ordeal to theSun.

“When there was no call at 3pm, I suspected something was amiss. At 7pm, I received a distress call from my girlfriend telling me that the group was lost.”

The boyfriend, who only wanted to be identified as Wong, called up the police, the Fire and Rescue Department, the federal reserve force (Rela) and even his local councillors.

He prompted the authorities to swing into action where an elite team of firemen was formed from two stations at Perak Road and Bagan Jermal.

They were deployed to the area at 7.30pm and with the help of Wong, they managed to zero in on where the hikers went missing.

The group was brought down in stages and the rescue operation was completed by 5am today.


The SunDaily, Updated: 26 DEC 2018 / 20:46 H.
9 hikers lost on Penang Hill on Xmas Day found

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A「何も、と聞かれましても、どこまでを食事の範囲に入れるかは、必ずしも明確ではありませんので」 そんなやりとり。加藤大臣は。

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日本経済新聞、2018/12/18 6:30
自民党不測のリスク 「安倍官邸」は引き継げるか
編集委員 清水真人

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Precautionary principle

AFTER fractious negotiations this month in Katowice, Poland, 196 nations participating in the 24th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) agreed to adopt a global action plan to limit climate change.

The action plan, or the Katowice Rulebook, sets out a single system for countries to make emission cuts under national climate plans and how those plans can be regularly reported, measured, scrutinised and progressively ramped up.

The goal is to keep global warming below 2°C (compared with pre-industrial-age levels), a target set out in the Paris Agreement drawn up three years ago, and to aim for a maximum 1.5°C if possible.

The bolder 1.5°C target is a key threshold for avoiding catastrophic climate change, according to a recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientific report, a central focus of COP24.

While the Paris Agreement provided a skeletal framework to help countries achieve this goal, the rulebook lays out how this can be done and aims to keep all countries honest in the process. The Katowice Rulebook, needed to put the Paris pact into practice, culminated three years of negotiations.

Said Laurence Tubiana, chief executive of the European Climate Foundation and key architect of the Paris Agreement, says: “Despite all the headwinds, the Paris Agreement has stayed on course at COP24, demonstrating the kind of resilience it has been designed for.”

Indeed, the headwinds were strong. Midway through the Katowice event, for example, the process was almost derailed when the United States, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait objected to “welcoming” last October’s IPCC report, which said the world is now completely off track, heading more towards 3°C this century rather than 1.5°C.

Keeping to the preferred target, it said, would require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”, with CO2 emissions reduced by 45 per cent by 2030.

At the meeting, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that climate action was not just the right thing to do, it made social and economic sense − pointing to how action to cut emissions would curb air pollution deaths, generate trillions of dollars of economic activity, and create millions of jobs.

He also warned that “climate change is running faster than we are and we must catch up sooner rather than later, before it’s too late. For many people, regions and even countries, this is already a matter of life and death”.

Similarly, legendary United Kingdom naturalist Sir David Attenborough warned delegates that “our civilisations are going to collapse and much of nature will be wiped out to extinction if humanity doesn’t take urgent action on climate change”.

Malaysia’s COP24 delegation was led by Yeo Bee Yin, our energy, science, technology, environment and climate change minister. She outlined the new government’s initiatives to reduce fossil fuel uses by increasing the share of renewable energy (not including large hydros) for electricity generation from two per cent to 20 per cent, as well as plans to call for Malaysia to have an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act by mid next year.

Malaysia aims to double public transport usage from 20 to 40 per cent by 2030. The minister stressed that all these were done with little help from the developed countries, although financial aid from the latter had always been promised to the developing countries. She, however, assured the gathering that Malaysia looked forward to international collaboration.

According to IPCC vice-chair Prof Joy Pereira of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, as the average global temperature increases to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, our nation can expect many more expensive, productivity-limiting hot days compared to temperate (cooler) regions in Europe, North America, India and China.

Already well acquainted with the harm caused by floods and landslides, we can expect more heavy precipitation, especially in the north, with increasingly unconventional and unpredictable tropical cyclone tracks. Any shift in such tracks to the south would increase the country’s flood hazard. Rice yields and nutritional value will drop, as will oil palm production.

As sea levels rise, much of the low-lying coasts in areas surrounding Southeast Asia (that is, Bangladesh) will be inundated, creating climate refugees. The scenarios worsen dramatically if warming is allowed to continue to 2°C.

Have we fully considered the humanitarian and security implications of such a situation? The cost of limiting global warming is high.

In 2009, the estimate for Malaysia to meet the Copenhagen pledge of 40 per cent carbon intensity reduction involved an estimated investment of up to five per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP).

However, the cost of adaptation to a 1.5°C warmer world, including disaster damage (strong winds, floods, landslides, etc), humanitarian aid and compensation to victims, and disruption of business and supply chains, could make five per cent of GDP look like a bargain.

The path forward is clear and we can’t afford to fail. Malaysians must embrace the precautionary principle, push to limit global warming to a maximum of 1.5°C, and fully do our part to contribute.

Water from a melting glacier runs down through a hole in the Aletsch Glacier on the Jungfraufirn Glacier, Switzerland. Global warming is happening at a rapid pace and may exceed the 1.5°C.

New Straits Times, Published: December 24, 2018 - 11:53am
Malaysians must embrace precautionary principle
By Zakri Abdul Hamid
The writer is former director of the United Nations University’s Institute of Advanced Studies in Tokyo.

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We live in the Age of the Chicken.

It’s one thing to eat chicken every day. It’s something else to have that on your permanent record, as in the geological record, the remnants of our time that archaeologists or aliens of the future will sift through to determine who we were and how we shaped our world.

But a group of scientists argue in a new essay published Wednesday in the journal Royal Society Open Science that this is exactly how our time on Earth will be marked, by leftover chicken bones. We live in the AgeIt’s one thing to eat chicken every day. It’s something else to have that on your permanent record, as in the geological record, the remnants of our time that archaeologists or aliens of the future will sift through to determine who we were and how we shaped our world.

But a group of scientists argue in a new essay published Wednesday in the journal Royal Society Open Science that this is exactly how our time on Earth will be marked, by leftover chicken bones. We live in the Age of the Chicken.

There are about 23 billion chickens on Earth at any given time, at least ten times more than any other bird, forty times the number of sparrows. The second most numerous bird on the planet, at an estimated population of 1.5 billion, is a small creature called the red-billed quelea, sometimes known in its home of sub-Saharan Africa as a feathered locust.

The combined mass of those 23 billion chickens is greater than that of all the other birds on Earth. But, said Carys Bennett, an honorary fellow at the University of Leicester and one of the authors of the essay, it’s not only the mind-boggling numbers of chickens that will tell a tale of our times, but their shape, genes and chemistry.

“We have changed the actual biology of the chicken,” she said.

Chickens seem to have been domesticated about 8,000 years ago, and gradually bred to be larger and meatier than their jungle fowl ancestors. But it wasn’t until production of broilers ramped up in the 1950s and farming practices changed that the bird was transformed.

The modern broiler chicken, with an average life until slaughter of a scant five to nine weeks, by various estimates, has five times the mass of its ancestor. It has a genetic mutation that makes it eat insatiably so that it gains weight rapidly. It is subject to numerous bone ailments because it has been bred to grow so quickly. And because of its diet − heavy on grains and low on back yard seeds and bugs − its bones have a distinct chemical signature.

The broiler is also completely dependent on and designed for an industrial system of meat production. It can only live supported by human technology. Eggs are artificially incubated and chicks grow in climate controlled sheds of up to 50,000 chickens, the scientists write.

The chickens are transported to slaughterhouses at no older than nine weeks (broilers at some farm animal sanctuaries live four years or more) “where most waste products (feathers, manure, blood etc.) are recycled via anaerobic digestion, incineration and rendering into edible byproducts, all technology dependent.” Chicken potpie anyone?

There is, of course a question about how well all the leftover chicken bones, from the 65 billion or so chickens consumed each year, will be preserved in the fossil record. Bird bones don’t fossilize well. But many chicken bones go to landfills, where they become mummified as much as fossilized. And there are so, so, so many bones.

The big issue, of course, is what all these chicken bones say about us.

The essay did not take a position on this question, leaving it up to the reader. “Some people would say this is an amazing technological innovation,” Dr. Bennett said.

Indeed, Tom Super, a spokesman for the National Chicken Council, an industry group, said that the production of chickens, in the U.S. at least, is a great success “in terms of efficiency, the welfare of the birds and responsibly producing more meat with fewer resources.”

On the other side, Lori Gruen, a philosophy professor at Wesleyan University and advocate for animal welfare, said that it was “hard to see this human caused transmogrification that purposely disables these birds from birth as something to be proud of.”

Of course, archaeologists of the future won’t just find chicken bones. There will be plastics, and concrete and other so-called technofossils. There will be radiation signatures in the rocks from nuclear tests. All of these will be markers of what some scientists call the Anthropocene epoch, the Age of Humans.

But the single most identifiable and significant biological remnant, these scientists argue, the lasting sign of how we changed the living world, will be the broiler chicken, in its numbers and strangeness. of the Chicken.

There are about 23 billion chickens on Earth at any given time, at least ten times more than any other bird, forty times the number of sparrows. The second most numerous bird on the planet, at an estimated population of 1.5 billion, is a small creature called the red-billed quelea, sometimes known in its home of sub-Saharan Africa as a feathered locust.

The combined mass of those 23 billion chickens is greater than that of all the other birds on Earth. But, said Carys Bennett, an honorary fellow at the University of Leicester and one of the authors of the essay, it’s not only the mind-boggling numbers of chickens that will tell a tale of our times, but their shape, genes and chemistry.

“We have changed the actual biology of the chicken,” she said.

Chickens seem to have been domesticated about 8,000 years ago, and gradually bred to be larger and meatier than their jungle fowl ancestors. But it wasn’t until production of broilers ramped up in the 1950s and farming practices changed that the bird was transformed.

The modern broiler chicken, with an average life until slaughter of a scant five to nine weeks, by various estimates, has five times the mass of its ancestor. It has a genetic mutation that makes it eat insatiably so that it gains weight rapidly. It is subject to numerous bone ailments because it has been bred to grow so quickly. And because of its diet − heavy on grains and low on back yard seeds and bugs − its bones have a distinct chemical signature.

The broiler is also completely dependent on and designed for an industrial system of meat production. It can only live supported by human technology. Eggs are artificially incubated and chicks grow in climate controlled sheds of up to 50,000 chickens, the scientists write.

The chickens are transported to slaughterhouses at no older than nine weeks (broilers at some farm animal sanctuaries live four years or more) “where most waste products (feathers, manure, blood etc.) are recycled via anaerobic digestion, incineration and rendering into edible byproducts, all technology dependent.” Chicken potpie anyone?

There is, of course a question about how well all the leftover chicken bones, from the 65 billion or so chickens consumed each year, will be preserved in the fossil record. Bird bones don’t fossilize well. But many chicken bones go to landfills, where they become mummified as much as fossilized. And there are so, so, so many bones.

The big issue, of course, is what all these chicken bones say about us.

The essay did not take a position on this question, leaving it up to the reader. “Some people would say this is an amazing technological innovation,” Dr. Bennett said.

Indeed, Tom Super, a spokesman for the National Chicken Council, an industry group, said that the production of chickens, in the U.S. at least, is a great success “in terms of efficiency, the welfare of the birds and responsibly producing more meat with fewer resources.”

On the other side, Lori Gruen, a philosophy professor at Wesleyan University and advocate for animal welfare, said that it was “hard to see this human caused transmogrification that purposely disables these birds from birth as something to be proud of.”

Of course, archaeologists of the future won’t just find chicken bones. There will be plastics, and concrete and other so-called technofossils. There will be radiation signatures in the rocks from nuclear tests. All of these will be markers of what some scientists call the Anthropocene epoch, the Age of Humans.

But the single most identifiable and significant biological remnant, these scientists argue, the lasting sign of how we changed the living world, will be the broiler chicken, in its numbers and strangeness.

A poultry farm in South Africa. There are at least 10 times more chickens on Earth than any other bird.

Chicks recently separated from the eggs they hatched from at a Perdue chicken farm in Candor, N.C.


The New York Times, Published: Dec. 11, 2018
It Could Be the Age of the Chicken, Geologically

With 65 billion chickens consumed each year, the signature fossil of the modern epoch may be the leftovers.

By James Gorman

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A policy of white supremacy

DONALD Trump’s America First policy, which prioritises its interests and needs, is nothing new as it had existed before the American civil war over the issue of slavery.

It is actually a policy of white supremacy, as, even with emancipation the freed slaves were not granted citizenship. After the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment into law that abolished slavery, the Jim Crow laws regulated racial discrimination maintaining the white first policy. It segregated the blacks and whites, and discriminated against the blacks by restricting them to a limited range of lifestyle options. They were as good as slaves again.

In 1912, president Woodrow Wilson implemented segregation throughout the federal government services. It was only in the late 1960s that institutionalised segregation (overt discrimination) ceased, but the covert ones persist in line with the America (white) First policy. Yet, America prides itself as a First World democracy.

America First is also translated as American supremacy of all and sundry. Its hegemonic intent will not allow any other nation to challenge its supremacy in all aspects of international engagement be it in military, technology or economy.

Its bogeyman has always been communism, socialism and unfriendly dictatorships, which are seen as symbols of repression and exploitation. It arrogates upon itself the power and authority as defender of the free world democracy to confront and effect regime change.

However, its brand of democracy is not fixed on the universal principles of democracy, but rather malleable to accommodate undemocratic nations and even dictatorships that are supportive and subservient to American supremacy. This hypocritical attitude is glaringly evident in its support of the Shah of Iran, Egypt and the former corrupt south Vietnamese government, not to mention the South American countries.

To entrench its supremacy, America has embarked on a two- pronged strategy, one is military and the other economic. Its military strategy is to maintain sophisticated military assets, including nuclear arsenals and to supply these arms to countries fighting its proxy wars, such as Israel or clandestine rebel groups that serve America’s hegemonic interests or to be directly involved in regime change as in Iraq and Afghanistan. It provides billions of dollars of aid to Egypt to keep the country in line with its Middle Eastern agenda.

On the economic front, the US has used various modes to subvert and threaten nations that do not toe its line such as imposing sanctions on them. It will not tolerate any nation that challenges its hegemonic position. This is evident in its confrontation with China − the emerging economic giant that will rival America’s economic strength. It has engaged in trade tariff confrontation with China and flaunted its extraterritorial might by detaining the chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of the owner of digital giant, Huawei, through the Canadian authorities when she was in transit at Vancouver airport for allegedly violating sanctions against Iran.

In retaliation, China detained two Canadian nationals. America is thumping its economic and military power and influence by warning European nations not to use Huawei technology. Australia and New Zealand, its two eastern allies, have followed America’s bidding.

In fact, America leads a cohort of countries, namely Australia, New Zealand, Britain and Canada, that share its hypocritical democratic façade and in shoring up and maintaining its hegemonic interests. They were the first ones to send troops to Iraq to effect regime change in ousting president Saddam Hussein on the false pretence of having weapons of mass destruction.

The US has always imposed its supremacy in the United Nations through its monetary contributions to the organisation and its other agencies. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, it has exercised its veto power on resolutions critical of its unilateral actions as well as those that are unfavourable to its allies, especially Israel. To this effect, it has withdrawn funding from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, terminated aid for Palestinian refugees and also withdrawn from the Iran Nuclear Deal Framework.

America has always used its economic power and military strengths to subdue countries that confront it; Iran is a classic example. Now the US is trying to impose its authority and might on China using tariffs on Chinese products, preventing Chinese investments in US strategic companies and applying sanctions to stall Chinese economic advances that would eventually surpass the US economy.

It employs both legal and illegal means to assert its supremacy through humanitarian aid, military coercion, unilateral sanctions and actions, all of which are abetted by its staunch western and eastern allies who are complicit in promoting America’s hegemonic agenda.

Suffice to say, Trump’s America First is part of a ruse to serve America’s hegemonic agenda. It tries to put up a facade of an exemplary democracy, as the leader of the free world, and as a nation concerned with humanitarian principles.

United States President Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ policy proposes, among others, severe cuts to foreign aid.

New Straits Times, Published: December 24, 2018 - 11:15am
A policy of white supremacy
The writer is with the Centre for Policy Research and International Studies, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang

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日本経済新聞 朝刊、2018/12/21

(編集委員 志田富雄)








Yahoo Japan! News、12/21(金) 7:00配信


TOKYO (AFP) - Japan is considering pulling out of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), officials told AFP on Thursday (Dec 20), as Tokyo reportedly gears up to resume commercial whaling activity next year.

Such a move would spark international criticism against Japan over whale conservation and deepen the divide between anti- and pro-whaling countries.

"We are considering all options", including the possibility of withdrawal from the 89-member IWC, Fisheries Agency official Yuki Morita told AFP.

Another official at the foreign ministry confirmed "all options are on the table but nothing formal has been decided yet".

Both stressed that Tokyo has not yet changed its whaling policy but Japan threatened to pull out of the IWC in September when the commission rejected its bid to return to commercial whaling.

Citing unnamed government sources, local news agency Kyodo said a formal decision to withdraw from the IWC would come by the end of the year.

After a tense September vote in Brazil, the IWC rejected Japan's bid to return to commercial whaling, prompting vice-minister for fisheries Masaaki Taniai to say Tokyo would be "pressed to undertake a fundamental reassessment of its position as a member of the IWC".

Anti-whaling nations - led by Australia, the European Union and the United States - defeated Japan's "Way Forward" proposal in a 41-to-27 vote.

Following the ballot, Japan's IWC commissioner Joji Morishita said differences with anti-whaling nations were "very clear" and Japan would now plan its "next steps".

The IWC was established in 1946 to conserve and manage the world's whale and cetacean population. It introduced a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986 after some species had been fished to near extinction.

Japan insists whale stocks have now recovered sufficiently to allow commercial hunting to resume.

Tokyo currently observes the moratorium but exploits a loophole to kill hundreds of whales every year for "scientific purposes" as well as to sell the meat.

According to Kyodo News, the country is unlikely to catch whales in the Antarctic Ocean even if it did withdraw from the IWC, as it is eyeing commercial whaling only in seas near Japan and its exclusive economic zone.

Iceland, along with Norway, openly defies the IWC's 1986 ban on commercial whale hunting.

Tokyo currently observes the moratorium but exploits a loophole to kill hundreds of whales each year for "scientific purposes" and to sell the meat.

Straits Times, PUBLISHED: DEC 20, 2018, 10:45 AM SGT
Japan mulls IWC pull-out to resume commercial whaling

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H9N2 virus

THE avian influenza outbreak that is currently affecting commercial chickens including layer chickens (poultry that are bred for laying eggs), which is causing the shortage of eggs, is due to the H9N2 virus.

In August, Malaysia reported cases of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 in chickens in Sabah. It is well known that H5N1is a disease that can cause death in chickens and fatal for humans. What about the H9N2 virus? Should we be concerned?

Unlike the HPAI, H9N2 is a low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) virus that generally causes subclinical or mild localised infection in chickens. Some H9N2 strains are also known to be zoonotic causing only mild respiratory illness in humans. However, the virus may contribute to emerging human-lethal viruses such as H5N1, H7N9, and H5N6, posing a substantial threat to public health. Therefore, the study of H9N2 virus deserves greater attention.

H9N2 is commonly found in many countries in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. As it is an LPAI virus, it often goes undetected especially in countries that do not carry out surveillance. In addition, waterfowl and migratory birds harbour the virus without showing any symptoms.

Despite H9N2 being an LPAI virus, concurrent infection with other virus and bacterial agents and stressful environmental conditions, including high temperature or high ammonia levels may amplify H9N2 infection in chickens causing significant losses to poultry producers. In addition, there is also evidence showing that the virulence and potential zoonotic of the virus are associated with certain lineage of the virus. Hence, the isolated H9N2 in chickens in Malaysia should be characterised thoroughly.

More importantly, there is growing evidence that some H9N2 strains are primary pathogens in layer chickens, and they infect the reproductive tract of these birds, compromising the commercial life of the infected birds.

According to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), H9N2 is not a notifiable disease. Nevertheless, countries that detect the virus need to take necessary measures to control the problem by stamping out, movement restriction, and enforcement of biosecurity measures with or without the use of vaccine depending on the country’s policy.

Malaysia is one of the countries that prohibit the use of vaccine to control AIV in chickens including H9N2. Based on our past experience in controlling HPAI-H5N1 in chickens, we should be able to control H9N2 effectively without the use of vaccine.

Using vaccine to control H9N2 in chickens is a highly debated topic. There are pros and cons; and since every outbreak situation is different, there is no one method that would work in all situations. The current vaccine is based on primarily “killed” vaccine which is unable to induce complete protection, although vaccination does help to control H9N2 if used properly. Currently, countries such as China, Pakistan, South Korea and countries in the Middle East carry out vaccination to control H9N2. But, what is worrying is that vaccination is causing the virus to mutate rapidly into strains that are more difficult to control in the future.

Since vaccination against the H9N2 virus is not allowed here, how are we to control it? Are there prevention strategies? Just like other viral infection, prudent farm husbandry and strict biosecurity are crucial to safeguarding poultry farms against H9N2.

Vaccination against other diseases, curbing immuno-suppression and increasing the immunity in chickens are also very important. The use of antibiotics helps to control concurrent infection of H9N2 with other bacterial infection. However, this strategy requires proper monitoring to reduce the chance of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and also to reduce the incidence of antibiotic residues in poultry.

H9N2 is a respiratory virus that is transmitted rapidly by both the faecal-oral route and aerosol (airborne) in commercial chicken flocks. If this is left uncheck especially in poorly managed farms, the effects can be devastating. The stamping out of infected chickens may not be sustainable in the long run.

Poultry farmers must draw proper control and prevention strategy to curb H9N2 from entering their farms. Risk assessment and routine surveillance must be carried out to detect possible early infection and to take the appropriate measures to reduce losses.

Using vaccine to control H9N2 in chickens is a highly debated topic. There are pros and cons; and since every outbreak situation is different, there is no one method that would work in all situations.

H9N2 is commonly found in many countries in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. There is evidence that some H9N2 strains are present in layer chickens and this could cause a shortage in eggs.

New Straits Times, Published: December 19, 2018 - 10:58am
Should we be concerned about the H9N2 virus?
By Prof Dr Abdul Rahman Omar, professor of immunology and infectious diseases, and the director of the Bioscience Institute, Universiti Putra Malaysia

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Don't take the risk

FOOD is such an integral part of our lives and in any celebration in countries around the world, regardless of culture or religion. This is particularly the case in Malaysia where we pride ourselves on being a nation that serves an incredible variety almost 24/7.

The variety increases during the festive months and we’re truly spoilt for choice. From ready-cooked meals, catered food, right to what’s available in the supermarkets, we can end up buying more than we can consume. And what about those food gifts and hampers as presents?

Food, however, has an expiry date, and you can’t possibly eat everything unless you keep a lean pantry, or you cook regularly and share with others. You could “recycle” the gifts you receive by passing them on to the next person. Just remember not to give expired food items as gifts.

If you’ve bought food with “use by” dates, remember to consume it by then. You’d find these stamps on certain meat products and ready-to-eat salads and prepared meals. As a rule, you should discard such food if it has passed its “use by” date.

Sometimes these food items still look and smell fine without any signs of having gone bad. For the sake of your health, just don’t eat it.

Never ever eat food from bulging or dented cans, bottled food where the previously clear fluid has gone opaque, or anything that smells off or rancid. You could add these items to your compost bin, but even then some food items like rotten meats should be double bagged and buried.

What about food that we’ve packed from restaurants or homes of families and friends? Do be careful with these too. If they’re leftovers or food that had been catered, you never really know when it was prepared. Even if it were freshly made like fried kway teow or rojak, certain ingredients like bean sprouts and cucumbers can spoil quite quickly despite refrigeration.

You’d also want to be especially careful with food that contains dairy products like milk, cheese and cream. Put them in the fridge as soon as you’re home, heat thoroughly before eating and don’t eat if they smell weird.


Do you know that many hotels as a rule don’t allow you to pack food from their buffet line and functions? They’d rather dump the food than be accused of serving bad food to their customers. If you insist on packing the food, they’d usually ask you to sign an indemnity form to release them from any responsibility should you suffer from food poisoning later.

I’ve ordered food from restaurants as take-aways that went bad in just a few hours. It was delicious when I ate it immediately, but not when packed to take home.

It could be due to the ingredients used, or that the food was covered while it was hot and left that way for a few hours. It just didn’t survive the journey home.

Always remember to let food cool before sealing the container. Whether it’s freshly cooked or re-heated food, it has to be cooled down first.

Some people brag about having cast iron stomachs and are never affected by leftovers and recycled/rehashed food.

Putting your own health at risk with this bravado is one thing; but never inflict this on loved ones in your care, especially children, the sick and/or elderly.

Eating expired food, be they frozen, canned or fresh with a “use by” date can cause you to suffer from food poisoning, which is really awful and painful, and can cause abdominal cramps, diarrhoea, vomitting, nausea, loss of appetite, mild fever, headaches and general weakness.

For generally healthy adults, you’d probably bounce back in a day or two after a bout of food poisoning. For others, food poisoning could land them in the hospital, if not for a few days, for a few hours to receive some treatment and medications intravenously.

Pain is just one of the things they suffer. Dehydration is a serious issue particularly with seniors, which is caused by diarrhoea and vomitting. They lose salts and minerals that the body needs.

People who are susceptible to food poisoning are seniors, pregnant women, young children, and those who are ill or on treatment.

Older adults are said to have less stomach acid to control bacteria and generally have a weakened system.

They are more likely to be on several medications that could affect the interaction with the food they eat. Their immune system may not be strong enough to fight an onslaught of organism like bacteria, viruses and parasites.

With all this in mind, it’s always good practice to remember to wash your hands as well as your loved one’s hands before and after meals.

Keep raw meats away from cooked food. Wash all fruits and vegetables with cold running water. As you clear your pantry to make way for new things to fill it with, just remember: When in doubt, throw it out.

New Straits Times, Published: December 18, 2018 - 8:00pm
I, caregiver
When in doubt, throw it out
By Putri Juneita Johari

HOW often have we lost our temper with our loved ones? Do we realise the consequences of doing so? What about the long-term effects of hurting their feelings, one too many times?

Usually, we lose control when things don’t go our way. This can include them not meeting our expectations or disobeying our orders. Or maybe when they break things or damage our prized possession.

Is it worth it? How do we control our anger and emotions? It begins with knowing ourselves. We must always be true to ourselves and acknowledge all emotions, positive or negative.

More importantly, we must be able to recognise what situations trigger which emotions. Then, we need to be more assertive and establish proper boundaries so that we don’t become too reactive and be controlled by the external environment.


We need to know this boundary in the parenting context too. Members of our family will know which buttons to push to make us jump.

If we don’t take control of these buttons, chances are we will get agitated and angry because we’re allowing our emotions to react negatively to their behaviour.

I call this situation managing your “time bomb.” Losing our patience is akin to a time bomb waiting to explode. We lose patience when our trigger points are pressed.

These trigger points can include a long to-do list, a looming deadline or a tight schedule.

As parents, it’s common for us to find ourselves stretched too thin, both at home and at work. We’re expected to deliver many things in both places. If these expectations are not managed well, they will trigger our loss of patience fast.

Impatience also happens when we place high expectations on our spouse and children.

When things are not done, or perhaps not done to our liking, the bomb will explode. We will bombard them with hurtful words and regrettable gestures.


Experts have suggested that we identify and write down these trigger points if needed.

Then, look for a pattern at the point when you find yourself almost losing your cool.

For example, in the morning rush, late afternoon or right after coming back from work.

Soon, you’ll see the patterns emerging and that should set you up for a “rehabilitation” later on.

Otherwise, all those factors will contribute to the pent-up feelings inside. We try hard not to let it out on our co-workers or the cashiers in the supermarkets because that would be embarrassing.

But when we get home, we may not be able to contain it anymore. It just needs some “small” trigger like a messy home, a noisy child or an annoying sibling for the time bomb to explode.

When it does, it will destroy the family harmony, reversing back hours spent nurturing a happy and loving family.

At the end of the day, our emotions can wreak havoc in our relationships if we fail to contain it. Remember, we can replace material damage done by our spouse or children but we may never heal their broken hearts caused by our anger.

New Straits Times, Published: December 18, 2018 - 8:00pm
Smart Parenting
Hurtful words, broken hearts
By zaid mohamad

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My final piece for 2018

THIS is my final piece for 2018. So I want to wish all of you an advance Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

And what a year it has been. If at the end of 2017 you told me that in 2018 we would have a new government and there would be a fistful of Barisan Nasional bigwigs in court being charged for multiple crimes, I would have laughed in your face and asked you to share whatever it was you were smoking. But here we are.

And man, in May there was no need for any sort of substance, legal or otherwise, to feel high. The euphoria was practically tangible. Not for half the population, granted, but for those who voted for change. It was a moment of not just happiness but great pride.

As a university lecturer, I am often travelling abroad (Asean only for small fish like myself) speaking at conferences.

My area being human rights, the usual angle I would take would be one of doom and gloom. But not this year.

This year, I got to use my country as an example of how people can peacefully change a government and how the democratic process can still work despite the filthy laws and tricks that those in power used and got up to.

For a brief shining moment, we were the symbol of not just democracy but also a movement away from repressive regimes. Not just for our region, but the whole world. I have never felt so proud.

Besides being a wonderful achievement by itself, the election in May also marked a shift in the way that people were thinking. Suddenly, there was hope for the future.

The new government will be corruption-free and progressive and we can start moving forward. Moving forward in a manner that took the interest of all Malaysians at heart. No more politicising of race and religion. No more disrespecting of human rights.

Well, that went south pretty quick. Within a few short months, we have seen the government backing down to ignorance and racial fear-mongering as it made a U-turn on the promise to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd).

This was particularly painful because all the points that were raised by the opponents of the treaty were founded on outright lies.

The Icerd allows for – indeed it demands – affirmative action if it is needed. This is exactly what our Constitution says as well, where the special position of Malays and Natives of Sabah and Sarawak can be protected via quotas and the like as long as it is “necessary” and “reasonable”.

To say otherwise is to lie.

With all the machinery at its disposal, the government did not put up a convincing attempt to try to convince the Malays (and it was mainly the Malays who objected) that they had nothing to fear. And how sad is it to live in a country where we can’t say loud and proud that we disagree with racism.

Then there is the U-turn on local elections. This was promised to us and now we are told that it can’t happen because it will be racialised. Exactly how this will occur is not made clear. Once again, Malaysians are expected to just listen to Uncle Government because it knows better than us.

As the year comes to a close, instead of yuletide cheer and end-of-year merrymaking, we are now faced with the repulsive sight of slug-like creatures crawling out of their political party to slide towards those in power.

The noxious slime coating their bloated bodies leaves a trail of toxic mucus as they crawl with large pleading eyes to be admitted into a party that has not lost.

If they think that the stench of their previous loathsome life while in power is not going to stick to them like cat poo on the sole of a heavily threaded running shoe, then they are delusional.

But what is this? There is a possibility they will be accepted? Oh no! I realise this is the season of goodwill but this is too much, man.

It is not all over. There is still time to do good work. Institutions can still be reformed.

Ministers learning the ropes can still become experts and do a good job. And as much as we must criticise every bump in the road to reform, we must not give up on the agenda to change this country for the better.

The year started off like any other year – cynical but with the slightest sliver of hope. In the middle of the year, we had one of the most unexpected and significant things to have happened to us as a nation, and now at the end of the year, we are once again brought down to earth.

It is impossible to stay as wide-eyed and optimistic as we were a few short months ago. But we must continue to hope and continue to strive. After all, that’s what we have been doing all this time.

The Star, Published: Wednesday, 19 Dec 2018
Shiny moment to slimy movement
By Azmi Sharom, a law teacher.

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Please refer to Mr Yahoo's yesterday's Blog under the title of "Gender equality".


















NHK NEWS WEB、2018年12月18日 9時42分


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Please refer to Mr Yahoo's yesterday's Blog under the title of "Japan's military shopping list".











NHK News Web、2018年12月19日 11時12分
「秘密保護法」制定めぐり岸元首相に米が厳しい要求 外交文書












































[photo] ヘリコプターを搭載した「いずも」


半田 滋(*)


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Gender equality

Women may be shouting louder than ever for equal treatment and pay, but a report out Tuesday indicates it will take centuries to achieve gender parity in workplaces around the globe.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) report said there had been some improvements in wage equality this year compared to 2017, when the global gender gap widened for the first time in a decade.

But it warned that these were offset by declining representation of women in politics, coupled with greater inequality in their access to health and education.

At current rates, the global gender gap across a range of areas will not close for another 108 years, while it is expected to take 202 years to close the workplace gap, WEF found.

The Geneva-based organisation's annual report tracked disparities between the sexes in 149 countries across four areas: education, health, economic opportunity and political empowerment.

After years of advances in education, health and political representation, women registered setbacks in all three areas this year, WEF said.

Only in the area of economic opportunity did the gender gap narrow somewhat, although there is not much to celebrate, with the global wage gap narrowing to nearly 51 percent.

And the number of women in leadership roles has risen to 34 percent globally, WEF said.

But at the same time, the report showed that there are now proportionately fewer women than men participating in the workforce, suggesting that automation is having a disproportionate impact on jobs traditionally performed by women.

And women are significantly under-represented in growing areas of employment that require science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills, WEF said.

It decried the particularly low participation of women within the artificial intelligence field, where they make up just 22 percent of the workforce.

- Big regional differences -

"This gap is three times larger than in other industry talent pools," the WEF statement pointed out.

"In addition to being outnumbered three to one, women in AI are less likely to be positioned in senior roles," it said, stressing the "clear need for proactive measures to prevent a deepening of the gender gap in other industries where AI skills are in increasing demand."

The situation varies greatly in different countries and regions.

For instance, while Western European countries could close their gender gaps within 61 years, countries in the Middle East and North Africa will take 153 years, the report estimated.

Overall, the Nordic countries once again dominated the top of the table: men and women were most equal in Iceland, followed by Norway, Sweden and Finland.

Syria, Iraq, Pakistan and finally Yemen showed the biggest overall gender gaps of the countries surveyed.

Among the world's 20 leading economies, France fared the best, taking 12th place overall, followed by Germany in 14th place, Britain in 15th, Canada in 16th and South Africa in 19th.

The United States continued its decline, slipping two places to 51st, with the report in particular blaming "a decrease in gender parity in ministerial-level positions."

The World Economic Forum (WEF) report said there had been some improvements in wage equality in 2018 compared to 2017, when the global gender gap widened for the first time in a decade

AFP, Published: 18 Dec 2018
Gender equality at work more than 200 years off: WEF

The global pay gap between men and women will take 202 years to close, because it is so vast and the pace of change so slow, according to the World Economic Forum.

The WEF, which organises the annual meeting of business and political leaders in Davos, said the global gender pay gap has narrowed slightly over the past year, but the number of women in the professional workplace has fallen. In 2017, the WEF estimated that it would take 217 years to close the pay gap.

“The overall picture is that gender equality has stalled,” Saadia Zahidi, the WEF’s head of social and economic agendas, said. “The future of our labour market may not be as equal as the trajectory we thought we were on.”

The WEF found that on average women across the world are paid just 63% of what men earn. There is not a single country where women are paid as much as men. Laos, in south-east Asia, is the closest to achieving parity with women earning 91% of what men are paid.

Yemen, Syria and Iraq have the biggest pay gaps with women being paid less than 30% the level of mens’ wages. The WEF ranked the UK 50th out of 149 countries for gender pay, with women collecting 70% of that paid to men.

“In the workplace, women still encounter significant obstacles in taking on managerial or senior official roles,” the report said. “When we consider only managers for the subset of countries for which recent data are available, just about 34% of global managers are women.”

Women are also far behind in politics, and the WEF estimated that at the current pace of change it will take 107 years until there are as many female politicians as male.

“When it comes to political and economic leadership, the world still has a long way to go,” the report said. “Across the 149 countries assessed, there are just 17 that currently have women as heads of state, while, on average, just 18% of ministers and 24% of parliamentarians globally are women.”

Iceland is the most equal country in terms of political roles, but there is still a 33% gap and it has widened compared to last year.

“Just six other countries (Nicaragua, Norway, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Finland and Sweden) have closed at least 50% of their gap,” the report said. “On the other end of the spectrum, almost one-quarter of the countries assessed have closed less than 10% of their gender gap, and the four worst-performing countries – Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman and Yemen – have yet to bridge over 97% of their gap.”

Klaus Schwab, executive chairman of the WEF, said: “The equal contribution of women and men in this process of deep economic and societal transformation is critical. More than ever, societies cannot afford to lose out on the skills, ideas and perspectives of half of humanity.”

[photo] The WEF ranked the UK 50th out of 149 countries for gender pay.

The Guardian, Last modified on Tue 18 Dec 2018 18.45 GMT
Global pay gap will take 202 years to close, says World Economic Forum

Gender equality has stalled, says WEF, as women globally are paid 63% of what men get

By Rupert Neate, Wealth correspondent

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Japan's military shopping list

Japan will get its first aircraft carriers since World War II and buy dozens of fighter jets under a new defence plan approved Tuesday that is intended to counter China's growing military power.

The new five-year defence plan calls for the upgrade of two existing helicopter carriers so that they can launch fighters, and is the latest in a series of steps under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to boost Japan's military.

Abe's government argues the efforts are necessary given growing defence challenges in the region, including tensions with North Korea, and particularly "strong concerns" about the expansion of China's military footprint.

But the move is controversial, with critics arguing it shifts Tokyo further away from its commitment to strictly defensive capabilities under Japan's post-World War II pacifist constitution.

"We will secure both the quantity and quality of defence capability that is necessary... to meet the rapidly changing security environment," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a regular press briefing on Tuesday.

"We believe this is within... what is allowed under the constitution."

The five-year plan approved Tuesday assumes record defence spending of 27.47 trillion yen ($244 billion) through March 2024.

It calls for the defence ministry to upgrade two flat-top Izumo-class destroyers to enable them to launch fighters with short take-off and vertical landing abilities, like the F-35B stealth fighter.

In a separate plan also endorsed by the cabinet Tuesday, Japan said it would buy 42 F-35s over the next decade, with the F-35B variant widely considered the likeliest candidate.

It also plans over the same period to buy 105 F-35As, a variant of the advanced jet which performs conventional takeoffs and landings and cannot be used on the retrofitted destroyers.

Local media have said the purchases could total more than one trillion yen ($8.8 billion).

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said Japan's concerns about Beijing's military are "not conducive to the development and improvement of Sino-Japanese relations".

Beijing has already expressed its "strong dissatisfaction and opposition" and "urges Japan to adhere to a purely defensive policy", she added at a regular press briefing.

Last year, China unveiled its first domestically built aircraft carrier as it continues to assert its vast claims to the South China Sea. Beijing's first carrier, the Liaoning, is a second-hand Soviet ship built nearly 30 years ago and commissioned in 2012.

- 'Defence-oriented' -

The new plans come after pledges from Japan to buy more US military equipment, under pressure from President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly complained about Washington's huge trade deficit with Tokyo and also urged Abe to expand the country's defensive capacity.

Abe has aggressively expanded Japan's alliance with the United States.

He has campaigned for years to amend Japan's pacifist constitution, arguing that it ties the hands of the country's Self-Defense Forces (SDF) even in protecting the country's allies from attack.

Government officials were at pains to make clear the policy did not represent a shift away from the country's long-standing focus on defence.

"The Izumo-class destroyers will continue to serve as multi-function, multi-purpose destroyers. This mode of operation falls within the realm of an exclusively defence-oriented policy," Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya told a regular briefing.

The remodelled ships and new fighter jets will "increase operational flexibility" for Japan's military as China boosts its naval footprint in southern waters that are home to several remote Japanese islands, a defence official said.

"We have a very, very small SDF footprint" in the area between Okinawa and Taiwan, he added.

But he said it was a "misunderstanding" to believe that the upgrades would create "full-fledged aircraft carriers" capable of staging offensive action in distant regions.

And the new fighters would be stationed at existing ground facilities, not on the ships, he said.

"We are not creating carrier air wings or carrier air squadrons" like the US navy, he added.

"That's not going to happen."

Japan's new five-year defence plan calls for the military to upgrade two existing "helicopter carriers" so that they will also be able to launch fighter jets

Japan's military shopping list

Japan's newly approved five-year plan assumes record defence spending of 27.47 trillion yen ($244 bn) through March 2024

Japan plans to buy 105 units of the F-35A, which performs conventional takeoff and landings

AFP, Published: 18 Dec 2018
Japan to get first post-WWII aircraft carriers

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Thanks, Papa!

PAPA, in the shadow of hard times and the glimmer of better days, used to say, “work hard and honestly. Nothing will come easy. One day you will reap your reward and you may then rest”.

Did not your dear parents offer this counsel too?

Papa was a teacher at home and in neat and austere classrooms, but was very much a soul at ease with the darkness and disorderliness of the forest. A year before retirement, he shuffled off the mortal coil and his dream of spending more time hunting in the company of mysterious trees and a myriad of fellows.

His work was stressful. We scarcely understood it then, for how could we, mere younglings who knew too little of the harshness of the world? Were the daggers of work an accomplice in piercing his heart and robbing him of his spirit? Would he have lived longer in the land he loved, and not merely sleep deep in its bosom as he does now, if he had stopped working?

To attempt to answer these questions, we must together set our gaze and thought on the wide fields of labour of 2018, where the rewards and burdens of work are as unequally distributed as they were when humans first toiled on the land.

For too many souls, their neverending efforts have been a burden too distressful for too long, and they dream of leaving the workforce.

They do not want it easy, but only easier. They do not have the passion for the work, or they have lost it, but they need the succour of cash. For family, for self, for dignity.

Neither are they in the FIRE movement, those souls who “live as frugally as possible, saving half their income or more during their 20s or 30s with the aim of retiring in their 30s or 40s”.

This latter group, by the enterprise of careful living, has early in life created a path out of the job market. Many of my friends have not done this. Neither did my father.

But let’s just say my comrades decide to leave their jobs anyway. And my father did the same too.

Abandoning the rat race, seeing another side of life’s wide face. Would they be in better health, wearing ruddy cheeks and not ornaments of sickly pallor?

The thing is, we have heard of many stories about people who fall ill after retiring. Some even are said to have given up the ghost.

Why, just months ago, my neighbour told me of his “perfectly healthy” boss who left his job and promptly left the world soon after.

A doctor I have known for years says all his friends who retired early are “very much alive, doing nothing and relaxing at home”.

But anecdotal tales do little to remove the veil from this mysterious subject. Alas, too, that “credible” studies and reports about this perplexity lean this way and that, and thus are unable to help.

An example was delivered to me on a rainy Jenaris afternoon several days ago. A friend sent a link to a report on a study published in Health and Economics.

Economists from the Netherlands found that male Dutch civil servants over the age of 54 who retired early were “an astounding 42 per cent less likely to die over the subsequent five years compared to those who continued working”.

But look for yourself in the books and on the web, my friend, and be bewildered by what you shall find in the myriad of expert opinions.

As to a suggestion that it is not when you retire but how you use your mind after retirement that counts, there is (gasp) a study which tells (aargh) another story.

On the BBC, I read that a work undertaken by Dr Roger Staff at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and the University of Aberdeen suggests that problem solving does not protect an individual from mental decline.

Odin’s beard! The wind blows here, the wind blows there, where do weary mortals go?

The answer is as clear as daylight, Papa would have chuckled from somewhere up there.

I imagine he would add: “I meant to tell of you hard work

and honesty do not end on retirement. Neither does life begin at retirement. Rewards come with every moment of gratitude. And contentment will give you rest.”

Thanks, Papa.

A short walk and the work comes to an end. But the outlook is foggy.

New Straits Times, Published: December 19, 2018 - 10:51am
Retire early, die early?
By DAVID CHRISTY, NSTP production editor

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Keeping track of healthy foods

HEALTHY living is more than just common sense these days, it’s an obsession.

We rethink and revisit every life-style choice we make, be it about eating, breathing, commuting or shopping for clothes. Every sensible purchase we make is instantly relabelled as potentially harmful by a magazine article or a blog online. What a mess!

Let’s take a look at the last 10 years. Milk used to be good for us, it made our bones stronger, it contained calcium. But then, milk contained hormones and antibiotics. Ooh, don’t drink cow
milk, drink soymilk instead, they said.

But wait, no, soymilk is not a good alternative. It’s a lot worse, they said. Soymilk causes allergies and is largely grown from genetically modified crops. Very bad!

Almond milk is the solution, it seemed; only briefly of course. Regardless of the fact that it isn’t milk at all, but mostly water, it’s really bad for the environment. A definite no-no. Maybe rice milk is the real deal.

You guessed it, it’s not. Rice milk is high in carbohydrates, and that’s the stuff of Satan anyway, is it not? Which leaves us with what? Green tea.

What could possibly go wrong with green tea? Drink it, bake it, bathe in it, they said. Green tea will improve your cholesterol, its high level of antioxidants will protect you from breast, lung and stomach cancer as well as from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It’s an all-around miracle product, except that no seriously conducted scientific research has ever proven any of it. While it won’t kill you, it won’t save you either. Bummer!

But don’t despair, they said. We have kale. Eat it, juice it, add it to your children’s cupcakes. Kale cupcakes, really?

You have second thoughts about the trauma inflicted on young ones forced to share green cake at their birthday party?
Never mind, serve quinoa, they said.

This latest member of the ever-growing super food family contains minerals, antioxidants, and dietary fibres. It packs a punch, even if you can’t pronounce or spell it right. Except, well, soaked quinoa can trigger an autoimmune response when consumed in larger quantities. But then again, this is highly unlikely since these grains prove void of all taste, except when drenched in butter. Wait, what? Butter? Made from cow milk? You must be joking!

“A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, the medicine go down-wown …” Remember Mary Poppins’s super-nanny advice to her young protégés? I bet such profanity has been cut out of the movie’s new release. Sugar is addictive, it’s consumption causes diabetes, obesity, and tooth decay. Surely, it’s the root of all evil.

But help is at hand, use artificial sugar, drink zero calorie sodas, they said. Or maybe better not. Because that stuff does, in fact, cause cancer, this has been scientifically proven.

On a slightly different note, taking a deep breath and exercising outdoors used to be good advice. Not anymore. Air is very hazardous to our health; it’s polluted with all kinds of poisons. But that’s okay, because the outdoors are a no-go zone anyway.

The sun? Totally causes cancer and other skin diseases. And do we even need to mention sunscreen lotion? It’s the choice vehicle for cancer proliferation, they say. No wonder, it looks like milk, too, come to think of it.

So now, what? What is there left for us to enjoy? What will preserve our bodies and minds, keep or make us healthy and give us eternal life? Broccoli, they say! Sustainably grown, organic broccoli. Steamed, not boiled, and bare of all abhorrent additives like salt or butter. Such fun!

A worker sifts through quinoa seeds at a grain farm in Bolivia. Quinoa is the latest member of the super food family and contains minerals, antioxidants, and dietary fibres.

New Straits Times, Published:
Keeping track of healthy foods
The writer is a long-term expatriate, a restless traveller, an observer of the human condition and unapologetically insubordinate.

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The agriculture sector

THE agriculture sector needs to increase food production by 70 per cent in order to adequately “feed” the global population in 2050. This estimate was made by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in its report on How to Feed the World in 2050.

Although there is still ample land resources available for crop production, much of the available lands are actually forest and conservation areas. Rather than embarking in land clearing, a better option is to increase food production via modern technology for farmers to grow foods in a sustainable manner.

Moisture sensors on the field and livestock biometrics are providing new opportunities for farmers to maximise yields and minimise time. As for large-scale operations, automation technology will help agriculture via agricultural robots to automate agricultural processes.

With countless modern technologies available in the market, choosing the right technology and innovation to make agricultural transformation a reality could be a daunting task.

Especially if the necessary conditions to adopt modern technology are not readily available.

Hence the government needs to build up human capital capacity to ensure availability of a skilled labour force to operate the new technologies. It will also need to invest in modernising existing infrastructure, including electricity, Internet connectivity, irrigation and roads.

It can be argued that the agricultural sector has been undervalued in the overall growth strategy towards achieving high-income status. Instead, the focus on economic growth has centred on developing the manufacturing industry. Until recently, there was not a lot of attention given to understand the critical role the agriculture sector could play in transforming economies and meeting other essential development goals, such as farmer empowerment, poverty eradication, reducing malnutrition and bridging the income gap.

The recent announcement of the drafting of Agrofood Policy 2.0 by the prime minister is a positive step towards the recognition of the importance of the agricultural sector.

Although no details were outlined yet, policymakers need to consider three readiness factors to chart a suitable direction for agricultural development.

Otherwise, Malaysia will continue to struggle with its agricultural transformation.

First, the seed industry must be developed to enhance the capability of research institutes to produce good-quality seeds at a competitive price.

Without a consistent supply of good-quality seeds, production would be greatly affected, exposing farmers and consumers to price volatility.

Improvement of “plant breeding” capacity should be considered as one of the tasks of research labs to diversify seed varieties, focusing more on commercialising indigenous plant, which could create a new market.

At the moment, the production of vegetable seeds is merely 10 per cent of domestic market needs.

Second, it is imperative to connect rural agriculture with the application of information and communication technology to operate within small, scattered and unproductive farmlands.

With the help of precision agriculture innovations, such as real-time data and information on disease outbreaks, farmers may experience less weather uncertainty and mitigate the risk of production loss. The government also needs to provide a platform to engage the farmers and service providers with cutting-edge agriculture technology.

The introduction of mobile applications in collecting and analysing information with regard to crop and animal health is becoming feasible in Malaysia as farmers, especially the youth, are now more technology-savvy.

According to the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry, youths comprise 30 per cent of the agricultural workforce and are increasingly interested in learning more about modern farming.

Third, we need to utilise new farming techniques to meet consumers’ demand for safe and nutritious food. As the population becomes highly educated, awareness of the danger of harmful chemicals in foods also increases among consumers. Alternatives to the traditional approach of growing food, such as vertical farming, hydroponic or seawater farming, will enable farmers to grow healthier and higher quality produce such as organic and premium food products.

However, growing crops in such challenging environments with minimum use of water, fertiliser and pesticide requires affordable energy to ensure its success in transforming the agricultural sector.

Ideally, MOA as the leading agency should drive the agricultural transformation in partnership with other agencies to work towards low energy costs by offering a subsidised rate or tax incentives.

Moving forward, a concerted effort is required of the government and investors, as well as willingness among farmers to change to new farming methods.

Achieving the vision of a transformed Malaysian agriculture in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution will no longer depend on hard labour.

Rather, farms and agricultural operations will use sophisticated technologies that allow farms to be more profitable, resource efficient, safe and environmentally responsible.

Vegetable farms in Kundasang, Sabah. The seed industry must be developed to supply good-quality seeds. The production of vegetable seeds is merely 10 per cent of domestic market needs.

New Straits Times, Published: December 18, 2018 - 8:59am
Seeds of change
The writer is a researcher at Technology, Innovation, Environment and Sustainability, Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia.

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Towards liveable cities

THE year is drawing to a close. It is time to gauge the performance of local municipal authorities, and ask whether our major cities and towns have improved and become more liveable.

The definition of liveable cities is subjective. A liveable city can be defined as a place where people want to live or one that promotes quality of life and wellbeing. It can also be defined as a place where healthy, happy residents feel safe, socially connected and included.

Liveability includes access to affordable housing linked via effective public transport and good walking and cycling paths and lanes to places of work, schools, shops and markets, open spaces and parks, health and community services, and culture and entertainment. Public space and facilities are highly valued, while the use of private cars gets low priority.

When the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) released its annual Global Liveability Index this year, Vienna topped the ranking of most liveable cities. It toppled Melbourne, which held the top spot for seven consecutive years from 2011 to 2017.

The 2018 top 10 are: 1) Vienna, Austria, 2) Melbourne, Australia, 3) Osaka, Japan, 4) Calgary, Canada, 5) Sydney, Australia, 6) Vancouver, Canada, 7) Toronto, Canada, 8) Tokyo, Japan, 9) Copenhagen, Denmark, and 10) Adelaide, Australia.

The EIU ranked 140 major cities under five broad categories: stability, healthcare, education, culture and entertainment, and infrastructure. The top 10 is dominated by cities in Europe, Australia, Canada and Japan.

Vienna, with a population of 1.8 million people, is one of the most visited cities in Europe. It is known for the Vienna State Opera House, historic museums and palaces. The Viennese coffee house culture dates back hundreds of years and is recognised by Unesco in its national inventory of intangible cultural heritage. The city is known for its baroque architecture. Many famous people have called Vienna home, including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Sigmund Freud.

Besides the attractions, one feels safe in Vienna. It is pleasant to walk because it has well-maintained pavements and traffic lights for pedestrians to cross main roads. Cars and other vehicles stop for pedestrians. Complementing the pavements and bicycle lanes is an efficient public transport network of buses, trams and subways. For the convenience of riders, one ticket allows a person any mode of public transport within each zone.

Closer to home, Kuala Lumpur was ranked 77 in the same EIU 2018 list. While not particularly high, it turns out that KL is the second highest ranked Southeast Asian city on the list, behind Singapore (at 37) and ahead of Bangkok (at 98).

It is important to stress that city liveability rankings have been criticised. Some experts say that the rankings privilege smaller, compact cities in wealthier countries (Tokyo is the only city in the top 10 that can be called a megacity), or unfairly penalise cities for protest movements or single violent events. Some of the rankings are explicitly meant to gauge compensation for well-to-do expatriate workers in those cities.

While these rankings provide helpful means of comparison and factors for evaluation, it is important that cities consider the needs of local residents as they try to achieve good rankings.

Liveable cities do not happen by chance. Apart from the civic consciousness of residents and sometimes some luck of culture, economics and history, the role of the local council is important. In many of the highest ranking cities, the local authorities are active in determining policies and plans. We need to ask what else our local authorities can do.

On Oct 6, the Penang state government signed a MOU with the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, also known as UN-Habitat, to promote and advocate for Penang 2030, the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The objective is to make Penang a resilient city, able to cope with the physical, social, economical and environmental challenges of the 21st Century.

The MOU is the first of its kind between a Malaysian state government and UN-Habitat. Such action bodes well for the future liveability of our city and state. The objectives of the New Urban Agenda and SDGs intersect well with the liveability factors often cited by rankings, and arguably offer more expansive and integrated concepts of city liveability. Let’s hope that careful planning and innovative thinking, aided by this agreement, will once again “Let Penang lead”.

SunDaily, Published: 19 DEC 2018 / 09:00 H.
Towards liveable cities
Datuk Dr Goh Ban Lee is interested in urban governance, housing and urban planning.

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Hands off ‘sustainability’ rankings

WORD is out that rankers want to put their hands on “sustainability”. They have already distorted the purpose of “education” by ranking universities using a narrow spectrum, R&D (though important), and publications criteria that skewed the understanding of what seeking knowledge is all about.

An admission was reportedly made in public by a ranker at a recent meeting. The ranker allegedly apologised to a group of participants attending an event promoting rankings. The participants seemed happy to endorse the ranking exercise.

Hence it was no surprise that they did not raise a criticism against the so-called ranker. Rather it was the other way around. By paying top dollar to attend the meeting, it gave the impression that the ranking game has somewhat made universities more compliant. Some are resigned to the fate that ranking is here to stay – a cliché commonly used to justify the case when pressed against the wall. In other words, they are trapped (read indoctrinated) in accepting that such an exercise is academically “honest” – whereas it is not so for all intents and purposes.

After all many are scrutinising the issue which has led the rankers to opt for other ventures to keep their business afloat academically speaking. Financially, however, they are laughing all the way to the bank. It is no wonder that the rankers are now raising the stakes by having their hands on other market segments, the latest is “sustainability” in higher education institutions and universities.

So far there is little or no debate about it, let alone any protest by the institutions. Instead, several are being recruited to “develop” such a system. Sooner than we think, there will be another ranking system commercially-driven for universities to splash their limited resources for another foolhardy numbers game in a new sustainability league table. The outcome: another facet of education is up for distortion.

To appreciate this vital implication is to understand the very concept of “sustainability”.

More so, the values it stands for as envisaged by Unesco, the lead UN agency that initiated the concept endorsed by all member states. It goes back to why “sustainability” was coined. It was intended to address some of the “unscrupulous” (commercial) practices in certain segments of the global industry that has resulted in widening environmental damages putting the status of the planet over a long-term in limbo. This is currently identified as global warming on the back of changing climatic scenarios never experienced before by countries across the globe. While this came into realisation only some 30 years ago, the damage done could be easily traced to more than a century following the introduction of the “first industrial revolution” in the 1700s. It then saw massive pollution invading the global atmospheric space beyond provincial Europe where early industrialisation took root.

In short, it marked the birth of a large-scale industrial assault on nature and the global inhabitants. As though this was not serious enough, it sparked a race for industrialisation worldwide, worsening the ecological threat as economic competitiveness became even more aggressive and unsustainable.

Ironically, while only a handful gain from the “assault”, the entire world is made to suffer with ecology taking a heavy toll, without any serious compensation that could halt the deterioration all round (read unsustainable development).

In summary, “sustainability” needs no “ranking” because it adamantly stands for “collaboration” throughout the world by promoting and practising “sustainability” as a way of life that has been squandered through raw and unbridled competition.

This is one fatal outcome when countries ranked over one another where the proposed winner takes all and there can only be one winner.

In contrast, “sustainability” advocates the reverse, namely, there are several winners, almost all can be winners given the very nature of the concept based on the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs). From this alone, it is apparent that to attempt to rank “sustainability” is counter-productive to say the least.

It exposes the ignorance, if not arrogance, of those contemplating such an idea.

What is more trying to put it into practice will eventually “kill” the idea of “sustainability as a development” platform to bring about an equitable and just world by demonstrating that there is “enough, for everyone, forever” which is the essence of SDGs has come to mean in lay terms. And this must come to fruition by 2030 according to the Education for Sustainable Development roadmap.

Failure to take all these, and more, into consideration, by forcing or ignoring them for the sake of a “one-size-fits-all” commercially-driven ranking gimmickry ?is a non-starter. What else in view of the 17 goals to be fulfilled and 169 targets to be met by 2030. Based on this, to any right-thinking academic who lives and breathes “sustainability”, the verdict is clear: hands off. It is academically absurd and intellectually dishonest to even try to rank sustainability.

SunDaily, Published: 19 DEC 2018 / 09:00 H.
Hands off ‘sustainability’ rankings
With some four decades of experience in education, the writer believes that “another world is possible”.

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'halal' business

Mr Yahho went to KL to visit JAKIM (Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia):
Blok A dan B, Kompleks Islam Putrajaya,
No 23, Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, Presint 3,
62100 Putrajaya
Tel : 03-8870 7000

PETALING JAYA: Halal Industry Development Corp (HDC) is confident that Malaysia will be able to export as much as RM50 billion of home-grown halal products worldwide by 2020.

HDC vice president of industry development Hanisofian Alias said this was possible as more non-Muslims are embracing halal as part of a healthy and hygienic lifestyle.“

“Our halal exports is currently at about RM43 billion and I am confident that we will be able to hit the RM50 billion mark by the end of 2020,” he said.

“Many non-Muslim countries have recognised the untapped potential in the halal market and are now racing to gain a footing, presenting a major business and export opportunity for us as Malaysia has always held the benchmark in halal production and certification.

Hanisofian, had earlier alongside halal advisory ARK Advantage (ARK), announced its collaboration with Denmark-based cooperative ARLA Foods amba (Arla) towards the globalisation of Halal Malaysia.

For the preliminary stage of the collaboration, HDC will provide subject matter expert advisory services and offer halal training and consultancy services as required by Arla and ARK.

“This is a long-term collaboration between the three of us, in terms of knowledge sharing and marketing of products,” said Hanisofian.

“HDC comes into play in helping Arla navigate policy changes in Malaysia as well as Southeast Asia. This is important as for Malaysia alone, Arla has already exported over RM30 million worth of products in 2017.”

Arla head of global halal supply chain Mahdi Salhab said that for the time being, the firm would not be monetarily investing into the country but that might change given time.

“We do expect that the size of our export into the country will increase over time, on the back of this collaboration but it is too soon to tell by how much,” he said.

Arla's Mandatory Halal Assurance System is designed in compliance with JAKIM's Halal Assurance Management System, Department of Standards Malaysia MS Halal 1500:2009.

Arla Foods is an international dairy company owned by 11,200 farmers from Denmark, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium.

The global halal market is currently estimated at US$2.3 trillion covering both food and non-food sectors.

Vice President Industry Development, Hanisofian Alias (center) Group CEO ARK Halal, Imran Musa (left) Head Of Global Halal Arla Foods, Mahdi Salhab (right) during Press conference Halal Industry Development Corporation (HDC) with Arla Foods Amba (Arla) and ARK Halal at Menara KPMG.

New Straits Times, Published: December 17, 2018 - 3:19pm
Malaysia to export RM50b in Halal export by 2020
By Lidiana Rosli

KUALA LUMPUR: The revelation that a restaurant in Japan with halal certification was storing non-halal meat at its factory has shocked many Malaysian Muslims.

The discovery was made by four Malaysian chefs working at the restaurant who have since resigned from their posts and returned home.

As such, Malaysian Muslim Consumers Association (PPIM) president Datuk Nadzim Johan has urged Muslims travelling abroad to be extra careful when choosing places to dine.

“Even though the restaurant (in Japan) has halal certification, (it did not) observe halal food practices,” he said during a press conference to address the issue here, today.

Nadzim added that he is worried over the surge of Muslim travellers expected to visit Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics, as they may unwittingly consume non-halal food.

He said Japan and other countries should be more sensitive to the needs of Muslim visitors to their nations.

“We will monitor this issue closely to ensure the welfare of Muslims” he added.

Nadzim also said the PPIM will raise the issue with the authorities in order to find a solution to the worrying problem.

“The Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim should perhaps offer facilities) such as a mobile app that allows users to determine an eatery’s halal status,” he added.

'Halal' restaurant in Japan found not to be halal after all: PPIM

Malaysian Muslim Consumers Association (PPIM) president Datuk Nadzim Johan (seated, centre) addresses the media on the non-halal restaurant in Japan.

New Straits Times, Published: December 7, 2018 - 2:51pm
'Halal' restaurant in Japan found not to be halal after all: PPIM

TOKYO: Malaysian halal product companies should capitalise on the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics by using it as a launch pad for penetrating the halal market in Japan.

Entrepreneur Development Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan Yusof said the demand for halal products was expected to increase during the sporting event as Japan anticipated plenty of Muslim athletes and visitors.

Japan would therefore need halal-related expertise, products and services to meet the demand, he said in his speech at the opening of The Halal Fiesta (Halfest) Tokyo here today.

“I had a meeting with the Olympic organising committee this morning and they told me they would need plenty of halal food for athletes during the event.

“The Olympic Village (where athletes stay during the event) will need large amounts of food, as you can imagine. This is a vast opportunity for our halal companies, but don’t stop there. Make this a launch pad to enter the market and look into the future,” he added.

Halfest is a halal trade and consumer expo dedicated to showcase and expand the opportunities of the booming halal industry in Japan.

A total of 38 Malaysian companies from various sectors, including food and beverages, biotech, medical solutions and cosmetics, are participating as exhibitors in the three-day expo which opens today.

Mohd Redzuan expressed hope that Malaysian participants in Halfest Tokyo would benefit from the event and understand the Japanese market better, including on the regulatory requirements.

“I also urge all participating companies to enhance their networking in order to sustain the momentum of trust and opportunities beyond the duration of this expo,” he said.

Mohd Redzuan is on a three-day working visit to Japan which ends today.

Yesterday, on behalf of Malaysia, Mohd Redzuan signed a memorandum on halal cooperation with Japan to pave the way for more business opportunities in the halal industry between the two countries.

Malaysian halal product companies should capitalise on the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics by using it as a launch pad for penetrating the halal market in Japan.

New Straits Times, Published: November 28, 2018 - 10:01am
Malaysian halal firms urged to use Tokyo Olympics as launch pad
By Bernama

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何か変だよ、沖縄の宝の海 !





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=2018/09/23付 西日本新聞朝刊=(論説副委員長)












平成30年12月14日 沖縄県知事 玉城デニー






安倍首相、辺野古質問に苦笑い ゴルフ場で記者団に


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牟田教授だけではなかった。安倍政権に批判的な学者に対してもバッシングは広がっていた。閣僚や官僚の答弁の論点ずらしやごまかしを見破る「ご飯論法」を編み出した法政大の上西充子教授はかつて厚生労働省が所管する調査研究機関に在籍していた。「ご飯論法」は今年の「現代用語の基礎知識選 ユーキャン新語・流行語大賞」トップ10入りした。


「素朴にこんなの調査結果って言ったらダメでしょと。アカデミックな素朴な指摘をした。そのアカデミックな指摘をしたことで深い闇が見てきた。その深い闇を言及すればするほど、根深いことが見えてきた」 上西教授は安倍政権と敵対する学者とみなされるようになり、バッシングが激しくなった。




大阪でも朝鮮学校の授業料無償化を求める裁判で原告代理人を務める在日コリアンの金英哲弁護士らが懲戒請求の標的にされた。きっかけとなったのはブログ「余命三年時事日記」。その中には「日弁連は朝鮮人幹部に牛耳られている」などと書かれており、懲戒請求はこのブログの呼びかけに応じたものと思われる。 番組は実際に懲戒請求を送った人や、このブログの執筆者を取材。その背景を探る。「余命三年時事日記」は東京都内の出版社でシリーズ本にもなっている。同番組は出版社に取材を試みたが、取材過程の途中、同出版社の公式ツイッターに、事実とは異なる内容で取材者を批判するツイートが始まった。番組スタッフも攻撃を受けた。

MBS報道局番組部の斉加尚代ディレクター(53)は番組をつくるきっかけについて「科研費をめぐりバッシングが燃えさかったのはなぜだろう? 」という疑問からだったという。




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Michelle Obama

What books are on your nightstand?

I’ve usually got a pile of books next to me when I sleep, each of them at varying levels of completion. On my nightstand right now, there’s “Educated,” by Tara Westover; “An American Marriage,” by Tayari Jones; “Exit West,” by Mohsin Hamid; “White Teeth,” by Zadie Smith; and Ann Patchett’s “Commonwealth.” I’ve also got an autographed copy of Nelson Mandela’s “Conversations With Myself.” It’s a collection of his writings and speeches, an extension of sorts to “Long Walk to Freedom.” I like to flip through it from time to time because it always seems to give me an extra boost when I need it. I cherish this both because it was signed by him and because he gave it to me as a gift when my family visited his home in 2011.

When and where do you like to read?

I don’t have much time to read at home, so I get most of my reading done when I travel. I spend a lot of long plane rides reading, and I love to devour books whenever I’m on vacation.

What was the last great book you read?

“White Teeth.” I’d read it years ago but picked it up again recently because Malia is a big fan of Zadie and her work. I love the way the story weaves together so many complex and powerful forces that affect our lives and our relationships − family and parenting, religion and politics, and so much more. Plus, it’s just plain funny. I love books that make me laugh every now and then. It’s something I hoped to do with my memoir, “Becoming,” because even if a book takes on serious topics, I think it should still be fun to read.

Are you a rereader? What books do you return to again and again?

I guess the answer is both yes and no. For most of my adult life, I haven’t had a lot of time to reread books, no matter how much I loved them. My days were scheduled down to the minute in the White House, but even before then, I was balancing a demanding career with two little girls and a husband who was often traveling back and forth to Washington, D.C., or the Illinois State Capitol. So, with limited reading time, I preferred to read new books.

But even with all of that said, yes, there are a few books that I’ve read more than once. When my daughters were younger, I tagged along with some of the books they’d been reading in class. For instance, I’ve now read Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon” three times. I reread “The Grapes of Wrath” and “Life of Pi” with the girls, too. Now that they’re older, we do less of it, but it was nice for a while to have a little Obama family book club.

What genres do you especially enjoy reading?

I’m pretty open to any form − I just want it to be good. I find that I often gravitate to fiction, books where I can lose myself in a new world. I’ve spent a large part of the last decade reading briefing materials and studying up on issues like global girls’ education, children’s health or military family policies. Those are all interesting topics to me, of course, but when I get time to read on my own, I prefer something that provides a bit of an escape. That said, I don’t need to escape too much − I’m not looking to travel to outer space or a fantasy world. Science fiction isn’t really for me.

Thankfully, I have a collection of reader-friends who keep me abreast of all the latest books and up-and-coming writers. My chief of staff is always in the middle of a new book, and of course Barack still devours books like he has since I met him. So that means I’m never really at a loss for suggestions on what to read next.

So what are you reading next?

“Educated,” by Tara Westover. This one came from Barack. I actually just finished it, and it is as phenomenal as he − and everyone else − says it is. It’s an engrossing read, a fresh perspective on the power of an education, and it’s also a testament to the way grit and resilience can shape our lives. Also, since I’ve just finished a memoir of my own, I love to see how people choose to tell their own story − the small moments that tell larger truths, the character development, the courage it takes to tell a story fully. Tara’s upbringing was so different from my own, but learning about her world gave me insight into lives and experiences that weren’t a part of my own journey. To me, it’s an example of the extraordinary power of storytelling.

What were your favorite books as a child? Did you have a favorite character or hero?

Pippi Longstocking was my girl. I loved her strength − not just her physical power, but the idea that she wouldn’t allow her voice to be diminished by anyone. She’s independent, clever and adventurous − and she’s clearly a good person, someone who always does right by her friends. What I loved most was that she was a girl, and she was a little different, and she was still the most powerful character in those books.

Maybe some people find it odd for Pippi Longstocking, with her red pigtails and freckled skin, to be a role model for a black girl on the South Side of Chicago. But when I was young, there were so few prominent characters who looked like me. There was no Doc McStuffins on TV, no “Black Panther” on the big screen. So once I had kids of my own, I liked to find stories with characters who looked like my girls − but at the same time the stories didn’t have to be centered on race. One of our favorites was “The Snowy Day,” by Ezra Jack Keats. It’s a simple story about the adventures of a boy on a snowy day. He makes snow angels, slides down a snow pile and gets smacked by a snowball. It’s a boy who happened to be black and who happened to live in the city. He’s a kid just being a kid, and that’s enough.

New York Times, Published: Dec. 6, 2018
Michelle Obama: By the Book

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“Pacific Ocean”

Upon searching “Pacific Ocean” using Google Maps, one might expect to find a diagram of the world that illustrates Earth’s largest body of water. And yes, the result returns an interactive graphic displaying just that.

But the aquatic destination also gets a rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars, and more than 14,500 reviews, many describing presumably fictional experiences. “Stop down-voting the ocean because of sharks,” chides one.

User-generated feedback is now constantly self-published on sites such as Google Maps, Amazon and Yelp, a crowdsourced education for potential customers about the functions, satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) of products, services and venues. The format is so common it is now often spoofed.

In September, on Google Maps, a critic with the screen name Makorun shared thoughts regarding the Pacific: “Wonderful ocean. Very refreshing, although it needs a heating feature. If it was drinkable I would rate it 5 stars but I’ll keep it at 4 until the developer fixes the water. Almost every species is aggressive, except for the dolphins sometimes. I suggest making it breathable too and maybe add more light in the deep parts of the ocean.” This imaginative paragraph received more than 140 likes.

Funny comments on Amazon became so popular, the company published “Did You Read That Review?: A Compilation of Amazon’s Funniest Reviews” in 2014. The text, available in paperback and (of course) Kindle, highlights more than 100 items that inspired comical reactions. Featured products include a yodeling pickle, a JL421 Badonkadonk Land Cruiser / Tank and a three-carat diamond pacifier that once retailed for $17,000.

A reviewer named McBaine shared thoughts on the bejeweled baby accessory in August 2014: “I’m sure this would be great for some babies but since mine prefers his thumb he won’t even try this out. We decided to go with a 5K platinum band thumb ring, you know just so he doesn’t feel neglected.”

Angie Newman, a spokeswoman for Amazon, said pricing is often a factor when it comes to joking commentary. “A really expensive gadget of some sort, or a really inexpensive gadget, can lead to some humorous content,” she said.

Ms. Newman, who lives in Seattle, has observed a variety of written opinions surrounding a range of products, citing a Richard Simmons Disco Sweat CD, a self-washing, self-flushing cat litter box, and a horse mask.

As long as consumers’ feedback falls within the community guidelines, their reactions are passable for publication on Amazon, she said. The rules prohibit profanity, pornography, posting other people’s phone numbers and name-calling, among other indiscretions.

The site, with more than 300 million customer accounts worldwide, and hundreds of millions of reviews, uses artificial intelligence to scan comments in a timely manner and ensure users are complying with the site’s guidelines.

“Automated systems are not perfect, but we have good rates of being consistent in terms of what’s making the cut and what’s not,” Ms. Newman said. Customers can also report violations for investigation, should statements appear unfit.

On Yelp, seeking references for bars and restaurants is typical, but local hospitals, colleges and universities, as well as prisons and correctional facilities, are listed too.

Scott P., of Greenlawn, N.Y., left a satirical comment about Rikers Island Correctional Facility of East Elmhurst, N.Y., in October 2017. “Not a bad place for a short stay,” he wrote. “Close to La Guardia airport. Kind of hard to get a taxi though. Swimming is dangerous. Guards don’t want you to leave.” The jail complex mostly houses inmates awaiting trial.

Julie Armstrong, a clinical and forensic psychologist in Los Angeles and Phoenix, said these comments can stem from feeling annoyed in response to retailers constantly requesting product or service reviews. “Sometimes they’re intended to be funny,” Dr. Armstrong said. “In some cases, it’s an opportunity to express frustration in a focused way, in a sarcastic way.”

Other participants consider it a hobby. “Some of these people write hundreds and hundreds of reviews,” Dr. Armstrong said. “It’s a talent to put the words together in a way that we find amusing. It’s not exactly like you’re going to review the DMV to decide where you’re going to get your driver’s license.”

But perhaps readers will at least take a peek. Opinions about departments of motor vehicles are shared on Yelp and Google Maps, too. One written by a William M. of Manhattan about an office in the Financial District appears to have taken about as long as he spent on license renewal (10 minutes). “If you want the classic dingy, scary NYC institutional experience, you'll have to either go to Penn Station during rush hour, or visit your cousin Vinny at Rikkers,” William wrote approvingly. Four voted his extensive remarks “useful,” six “funny,” two “cool.”

“People like to be a part of a community, and who doesn’t like making other people laugh?” Ms. Newman said. “It’s fun to share that with other people.”

New York Times, Published: Nov. 22, 2018
How Was Your Experience? Please Rate the Entire World

Very little escapes scrutiny from witty online commentators.

By Hilary Sheinbaum

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Flying the Flags of Friendship

It had been a hard year for my mother. In August, she buried her younger sister whose cancer returned after a 30-year hiatus in a swift and devastating sucker punch.

Less than three months later, she lost her best friend, a woman I knew as “Aunt Ginny.” They had spoken weekly − sometimes daily − since kindergarten. A widow, Aunt Ginny died alone in her apartment after suffering a fall in her bathroom, a turn of events she would have found pitiably commonplace. She was a Bronx-born raconteur and was the first of a tightly knit circle of five to pass. Her wake was held on my mother’s 75th birthday.

When Aunt Ginny’s adult children asked my mother if she would be willing to help clean out her apartment, my mother, selfless and strong, agreed. I worried it would be too much for her physically and emotionally. So much sadness, so short a window. Of course, she had lost friends before, but none this close.

The home of her sister, my actual aunt, remained untouched. My aunt’s daughter, my cousin, chose to wait. She was asking herself the same question I did: Can you dismantle a life, break it down into boxes, watch it divided, stored or hauled away, and then carry on with your evening? Your weekend? Your life? Her answer was a firm “no.”

On her way back from a day of sorting through Aunt Ginny’s clothing, china and photographs, my mother stopped at my home bearing a bag filled with scarves.

“How did it go?” I asked tentatively.

“She always complained about the parking. There were plenty of spots.” Her exasperation had nothing to do with the lot. She was angry with her friend for leaving without saying goodbye.

Moving as deftly as a Manhattan street vendor, my mother arranged the scarves across my kitchen table. We stood, admiring them: florals, plaids, paisley, a kaleidoscope of color, as bold and vibrant as my aunt herself.

“What are you going to do with them all?” I asked, fearing that my mother, with a penchant for small-scale hoarding, would allow all this silk to rest in the corner of a couch for months. Waiting.

I thought of Joan Didion’s account, in “The Year of Magical Thinking,” of her reluctance to give away her husband’s shoes because she believed he’d need them when he returned.

I wondered if my mother was thinking that way too. But she chose the opposite.

“I’m going to mail them to Eileen, Mary, Pat, Jean,” she said. “I thought we should all have one.”

It is fitting. For decades they had been each other’s go-to accessory, together through hope and disappointment, love and loss, births and, now, death.

“I think she’d like the idea of her scarves venturing back out into the world, having new adventures,” I wanted to say but didn’t. I was a writer grappling for words. For the past 47 years, it had been my mother comforting me − broken bone, bruised ego, recurrent miscarriage, career setbacks.

I wanted to be there for her in the way she had always been for me, with a ready ear, a sturdy shoulder and a wide-open heart.

“This is the one she got in Paris, and remember this? I think she wore it to Nancy’s baby shower,” my mother smiled at her recollection.

The way clothing evokes memory, and its innate ability to comfort, wasn’t new to me. When my husband lost his job after 18 years at the same company, he sought solace inside a fleece cocoon. For days, as depression took hold, he wore a black pullover, the top half of a sweatsuit given to him by his uncle, half in jest, as a nod to our New Jersey roots. “You’ll look just like Tony Soprano,” his uncle teased.

This garment telegraphed his mood, his need for warmth and protection in a cold, harsh world. When I see it now, it takes me straight back to some of our darkest days. I want to burn it, or donate it to charity. Perhaps someone else needs it. At the same time, I wonder: Should we keep it and let it serve as a reminder to be grateful we’re in a better place?

In my kitchen my mother surveyed the scarves. “Pick one,” she said. “She’d want you to have one too.”

I pictured my aunt, tall and trim, an ever-present hint of mischief in her twinkling chestnut eyes, the stem of a wine glass held between her long, manicured fingers. I thought about the friendship she, my mother and their mutual friends shared. They knew and celebrated one another’s birthdays and wedding anniversaries without the help of Facebook reminders. I can hear their endless calls, long, curling cords of rotary phones stretched across avocado kitchens, my mother throwing her head back laughing while making dinner with one hand.

“This one looks like Eileen. I could see Pat in this,” my mother said.

As we decided who should receive which one, my mother turned them over in her hands, the knuckles of her once-delicate fingers now curved and bulging in odd directions. She was lost in thought and I wanted to ask what she was remembering. She had the ability to vividly recall the past. I was in a place where I could only look forward.

I offered her some puffy mailer envelopes, a paper and pen. “We can package them now, send them out in the morning,” I volunteered.

But she wanted to go home and wrap them properly, with tissue paper and personal notes. She is always doing more while I consistently trade thoughtfulness for expediency.

Amid a constant swirl of work and family obligations, I have lost track of friends in my own town. I respond to a text with an emoji, hoping it is enough in that moment, knowing it isn’t. I realized my mother was providing a master class in caring and friendship.

My mother mailed my Aunt Ginny’s scarves. Within days, the thank-you calls began. Together, she and her friends laughed, cried and remembered.

I like to picture them. From Boston to the Bronx, North Carolina to New Jersey, each woman, myself included, going about her day, wearing one of my aunt’s scarves, not as a mourning shawl, but as a wrap woven with memory. Not as protective armor steeling us against whatever comes next, but as the best kind of tourniquets, bright flags helping us survive.

New York Times, Published: Nov. 9, 2018
Flying the Flags of Friendship

From Boston to the Bronx, North Carolina to New Jersey, I picture each of these women wearing one of my aunt’s scarves, not as a mourning shawl, but as a wrap woven with memory.

By Elizabeth Alterman

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Haruka Nakagawa

IN Malaysia, we have come across foreign celebrities who have mastered the art of speaking fluently in Bahasa Malaysia such as singer Cassidy Anderson who is from Australia.

We also have Mat Dan, a British native who became a television personality, thanks to his ability to speak fluently in Bahasa Malaysia with a thick Terengganu accent.

Another international artiste who is eager to spread her wings in Malaysia is Haruka Nakagawa, a petite and “kawaii” (cute) 26-year-old from Tokyo, Japan.

A first impression of her will have you thinking she’s just another foreign celebrity, but don’t be surprised by her ability to banter fluently in Bahasa Indonesia! During a Press meeting at the Dentsu office in Damansara Heights, Nakagawa came across as extremely friendly and easy going.

Like many Japanese women, she looks younger than her age, especially with her choppy fringe and shoulder-length hair, paired with a knee-length dress.

Nakagawa has visited Malaysia a few times, and like many tourists, she has described her love for Malaysian food.

“I went to Jalan Alor, and stuffed my face full with local delights. I love the food here and it’s something I look forward to every time I come to Malaysia,” she said.

The high spirited young woman started her career in showbusiness when she was just 14 as a member of the Japanese Idol group AKB48 in 2006.

In 2012, Nakagawa was transferred to JKT48, the sister group to AKB48. JKT48 is based in Indonesia.

The rest, you could say is history, as Nakagawa set about building a career in Indonesia after falling in love with the people and the country.

However, she soon bid goodbye to JKT48 and embarked on a new adventure as a solo artiste.

Within half a year of living in Indonesia, Nakagawa was able to master the language, with help from friends in the industry.

In the six years that she lived in Jakarta, Indonesia, Nakagawa, who is now managed by Dentsu X, became widely known among Indonesians.

She described her journey as an artiste in Indonesia as a pleasant one despite encountering naysayers who believed she would be better off building a career back in her homeland.

“It’s normal to come across haters especially on social media. But I’m the type who likes to respond with kindness. I feel that’s the best way to deal with a negative environment.”

Now she is itching to penetrate the markets outside of Indonesia as well, and because Bahasa Malaysia is quite similar to Bahasa Indonesia, Nakagawa saw that as an advantage to easily grow a fan base here.

“Not only Malaysia, but the whole Asian region as well. In the near future, I plan to make my way to Thailand and the Philippines as well,” she said.

Nakagawa is looking for opportunities within the local entertainment industry be it acting or hosting.

Although she has built a profile as a singer, her singing career is on hold for the time being as she wants to focus on honing other crafts.

However, should an opportunity present itself to collaborate with Malaysian singers, she would not decline it.

“I would be more than happy to do so,” added Nakagawa, who recently starred in an Indonesian web series called Onigiri.

“I think it’s important for me to master a few languages to make it easier for me to communicate with my fans. I want to be the first Japanese artiste to build a name for herself here in Malaysia, and I believe I can achieve that.”

Does she miss Japan?

“Not really! I love living in Indonesia, and I would only go back to Japan if I have commitments related to work.”

Japanese artiste Haruka Nakagawa wants to make her mark in Malaysia and possibly the region.

New Straits Times, Published: December 14, 2018 - 1:00pm
I say, it's Nakagawa!
By Syahirah Mokhtazar

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Call of History ー歴史の呼び声ー、2018.12.14
「〈身売り〉の日本史: 人身売買から年季奉公へ」下重 清 著

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On a mission to reduce inequalities

THERE are those who anguish and harbour the ambition to reduce the inequalities in society − income, education, health, and nutrition, for example − but not many has the grit to do something about it.

Loh Rachel, 21, a final-year psychology bachelor’s degree student at HELP university, is one of the few determined to make a difference.

Having had the privilege of attending REAL International School for her highschool education and HELP International School for A-levels, Loh has often sought ways to give back to those who have had lesser opportunities in education and in life.

“It was also a way to develop myself, finding ways to push myself out of my comfort zone,” she said.

One of the key moments that kicked off her cause was when she joined the Asean Youth Volunteer Programme, organised by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, which was held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in 2015.

Selected from 2,000 youths Asean-wide to join a group of 50, Loh participated in a four-week intensive climate change and environmental education leadership programme that focused on project management and environmental sustainability in Krakor Village, Cambodia.

“The programme focused on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), and key areas were hygiene and sanitation. Among the activities we had was to teach the particular village community in Cambodia to use hygiene products. It was my first time meeting children who didn’t even know what soap was.

It gave me the realisation that not everybody has the same opportunities or exposure.”

This led on to her involvement in various organisations. These included The International Council of Malaysian Scholars and Associates (ICMS) where she was the executive director of external outreach and publicity, spearheading marketing campaigns for over 10 student-led initiatives aimed at professional development and preparing them for the working world.

Loh is also involved in the United Nations Association of Malaysia (UNAM) Youth looking into the UN Sustainable Development Goal which is addressing inequality through health.

While focusing on volunteerism, Loh also has an interest to develop her business skills. Last year, she was named Maybank Go Ahead Challenge 2017 global champion out of 40,000 participants in the international business case competition.

From her passion in volunteerism and business, she formed an international social enterprise Rise Inc with her friends whom she met through the International Council of Malaysian Scholar and Associates.

Loh is the chief operating officer at Rice Inc which aims to tackle food insecurity and farmers poverty. They are currently running a pilot project in Myanmar which looks into ensuring farmers are not shortchanged and are able to use the existing technology provided by Rice Inc to eradicate poverty where they can.

“What Rice Inc does is to create a supply chain solution, where farmers are provided access to the rice dryers at an affordable cost and enabling them to sell rice at a higher price.

“We are partnering with International Rice Research Institute who have been conducting a lot of work in Myanmar. They are able to identify certain villagers that need this solution.

“We are currently deploying this solution which is in operations during the harvest season.

We are working on a five-year plan to expand to more villagers in Myanmar. We are also looking at farmer communities in countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam to expand,” Loh said.

With all the achievements under her belt, Loh was selected as one of the two participants representing Malaysia in the Telenor Youth Forum (TYF) 2018 in Oslo, Norway.

Loh joined other accomplished young leaders from seven of Telenor’s markets across the world for the sixth installment of TYF, a six month-long global programme designed and hosted by Telenor Group and the Nobel Peace Centre. This year’s delegation is challenged to address inequalities in health through the use of digital technology.

“I am really passionate about reducing inequalities, and for me, to gain exposure to international ideas at the forum, to work with them and connect with industry experts to tackle these social issues are some of the things I am most excited about.”

Along with co-founder of social enterprise Arus Education, Felicia Yoon, 28, Loh edged out of 90 other participants and recently headed for Oslo on Dec 8-11 to work with their assigned teams. Yoon and Loh are among the 16 youths, aged 20 to 28 selected from a pool of 5,000 applicants from Bangladesh, Denmark, Malaysia, Myanmar, Norway, Pakistan, Sweden and Thailand to represent their countries at TYF.

Loh already has plans beyond her graduation early next year. The full scholarship student is aiming for a first class honours degree.

“I am exploring opportunities through Rice Inc and what the Telenor experience would bring.Iwould like to work in the corporate environment first to gain experience but ultimately I would like to positively contribute to the community in various ways,” she said.

[photo-1] Teaching children about hygiene in Myanmar

[photo-2] Loh Rachel (left) in discussion with a member of the International Rice Research Institute in Myanmar

New Straits Times, Published: December 12, 2018 - 11:02am
On a mission to reduce inequalities

IN today’s interconnected world, communication with another person is just a mouse-click or a tap of a screen away. But yet there is a lack of peace and harmony among citizens and nations across the globe, resulting in friction and conflict in the form of xenophobia, stereotypes and exclusions.

Yayasan AFS Antarabudaya Malaysia (AFS Malaysia) chairman Khalilah Mohd Talha said lack of understanding of traditions and values of other people is a major cause.

“We connect but we do not engage. We acknowledge the existence of different cultures, but we do not understand them. There is a ‘us’ versus ‘them’ and it subtly becomes a pervasive form of society bias, which prevents diversity and inclusion,” said Khalilah.

She added it is crucial to promote intercultural exchange, whether virtual or physical, among the young in today’s world.

In its 60 years of existence since 1958, AFS Malaysia continues to bridge cultures through intercultural learning and provides a platform for Malaysians to gain global experience. Over its six decades of operations, AFS Malaysia has sent 4,000 students on exchange programmes abroad and hosted 3,000 foreign students here in Malaysia.

“Intercultural learning makes students more sensitive to different ways of life, traditions, customs and worldviews. It is our hope to produce active global citizens and make them more globally competent to face a more challenging world.”

global citizenship education is a transformative, lifelong pursuit that involves both formal learning and practical experience.

“The student, who has had experience abroad, is more confident in public speaking, has global competency and understanding of issues. They understand themselves better. So when they carve out their career path after university, they usually have an edge over their peers.

“Exposure to intercultural learning leads to volunteer work. They are more compassionate, caring and concerned about their fellow citizens.”

It is AFS Malaysia’s vision to mould future leaders through intercultural learning and understanding, and its mission is to “engage Malaysians to embrace our differences and celebrate our commonalities through committed volunteerism for a united Malaysia”.

Experiences you absorb at the age of 16 or 17 are the ones that will stay with you the longest. “The intercultural international exchange programmes AFS Malaysia offers are generally for those in that particular age group−who are neither too matured nor too young to retain the memories longer than any age group,” said AFS Malaysia chairperson Khalilah Mohd Talha.

AFS Malaysia offers three categories: the Year Programme, Semester Programme and Intensive Programme.

The Year Programme is open to Form Five students who want an opportunity to live and study in another country for a period of up to 11 months. This programme is suited for someone who wants to learn a new language and feel a part of a local community.

Also open to Form Five students, the Semester Programme Offers an opportunity to live and study in another country for six months. It allows the participant to learn a new language, embrace the local lifestyle and be exposed to intercultural learning.

The Intensive programme is open to students from Form Three to Form Five, giving a chance to live and study in another country, with minimum interruption to their education. It is the perfect way to improve language skills before the final years of study at secondary or high school.


For Tan Sri Hamidon Ali, his exposure as an AFS exchange student in the United States 50 years ago was a key influence in shaping his career in foreign affairs.

A diplomat on multiple Malaysian missions and the former Permanent Representative of Malaysia to the United Nations, Hamidon had his first taste of intercultural experience and international exposure in a Midwest town called Fosston in Minnesota, near the Canadian border.

“It was extremely cold in the winter but extremely exciting in other ways. This small community was very close because they were descendants of Scandinavians. I was placed in a family where the father was a preacher at the Baptist church.

“I was reluctant to go to church with the family at first but after a while I decided to join them except for attending Sunday school. Then I began to understand that the values of this particular group of Christians had a lot of similarities to Islam,” he said.

“My experience opened up my mind to many things − we have to accept people and accept them as different, learn from the differences, and use the differences for the betterment of societies, countries and global community.

“We need to bridge the gap to know each other better and not be segregated. We need to find common values. I spent 40 years in the Foreign Affairs Ministry, I met people from all over the world−when your mind is open, you are receptive. You don’t have to compromise your beliefs.

“The experience made me stronger, it strengthened my faith. When you understand we have the same roots, we can then smoothen the edges.”


Suraya Zainudin, 30, from Shah Alam in Selangor went to Japan on the six-month AFS exchange programme from March 2005 till February 2006, when she was 16.

“I was hosted in Handa City, Aichi Prefecture and lived with the Hibi family. There were three of them − Okaa-san (host mum),Otou-san (host dad) and Asami-chan (then nine-year-old host sister). Their extended family also lived nearby, so I had an Obaa-chan (host grandmother) and Ojii-chan (host grandfather).

“I was their first hosted student, and we got along really well and keep in touch until now. I consider them my second family. Both my host parents work in print publication, while my host sister has just finished university and plans to be a teacher,” she said.

Suraya went to Handa Koukou (Handa High School), with a reputation for being an academically good institution. She often get “undeserved” compliments for being a former student at the school.

She rode the bicycle to school −around trip of 40 minutes to an hour. “I joined the kyuudo bu (archery club), sadou bu (tea ceremony club), koto bu (koto club; koto is a Japanese musical instrument) and sometimes attend the eigo bu (English club).”

The AFS experience taught her that kindness and goodwill foster more of the same. “My host parents didn’t have to take on a stranger, but they did, and out of their own pocket too. So did countless other strangers who helped for the sake of helping. It made me realise that good people are truly everywhere.”

Suraya learnt to overcome challenges. “I was very shy back then, and the experience made me realise that I will miss out on many life experiences due to shyness. I forced myself to overcome my shyness to make the most out of the experience.”

She feels that her AFS experience has made her a more empathetic and curious person.

“Perhaps that is why I chose communications as my major and career − I love knowing how and why people are different, as well as how they reveal their personalities and values through words and actions.”

Entertainment journalist and host Shafiq Najib, 25, works for Los Angeles publications and networks such as US Weekly and E! News. He has also worked in London, covering various entertainment events and credits his career to his AFS experience.

“My AFS experience has taught me to be more compassionate to others and to always think outside the box. Since then I had gone on to pursue my passion to become a journalist. I want to help to make a difference in the world by telling stories that will inspire people to love and be kind to one another.

“I gained life skills that have been very useful to my career and life in general. I learnt to adapt to a foreign environment, communicate with people from all walks of life and accept people for who they are, without judgement. I am very appreciative of these experiences and will never trade them for the world,” he added.

Shafiq, who is from Kluang, Johor, joined AFS in 2011 under the YES (Youth Exchange and Study) programme funded by the US Department of State. He was 17 and was hosted in Los Angeles, California for six months with a Jewish American family with four sons. He attended Culver City High School as a senior student.

“I joined the programme to broaden my horizons with first-hand experiences of living in a foreign environment with a different culture and lifestyle. At the same time, as a proud Malaysian, I wanted to introduce my culture and identity to people from the other side of world that had probably never heard of us,” he said.

“I went with an open mind and ended up having the most amazing experience of a lifetime and built such beautiful relationships with people that I never thought I would ever be able to have a connection with in my life. I learnt that regardless of religion, race and culture, we are all equal as human beings.”


AFS Malaysia plans include expanding international exposure for students as well as providing intercultural learning within Malaysia for Malaysians.

Its latest initiative is a domestic exchange programme in the country which allows local students to experience the different cultures of the races among our communities. Five students were selected to participate in the pioneer programme during the recent Deepavali celebration. The programme aims to enhance awareness and knowledge of other cultures as well as deepen the understanding, appreciation and respect for the multiracial people of our own homeland.

Speaking at the recent AFS Malaysia 60th anniversary gala dinner, Khalilah Talha said: “As Malaysia has a diverse cultural landscape, it’s time to help in strengthening the cultural understanding of the people in our homeland and eventually help in the nation-building agenda. It is also our hope to be able to share our expertise and 60 years of intercultural experiences to bridge the gap and connect Malaysian communities.

“The (new) programme tailor-made for our local communities is our attempt to introduce inter-racial exchanges in the country and offers local students a first-hand experience of Malaysia’s multi-cultural forms and practices.”

AFS Malaysia is drafting a programme for university students on a gap year that will immerse them in community projects abroad involving the underprivileged and the differently abled, for example.

“We have been hosting programmes for overseas students under this gap year type of programme but we want local university students to go overseas for the experience too.

“We also want to hold educators’ programmes so that they can pass on the message of embracing differences and celebrating commonalities to their students.”

AFS Intercultural Programmes began as the American Ambulance Field Service, a volunteer ambulance corps created in April 1915 by A. Patt Andrew. Under the leadership of Andrew in World War I and Stephen Galatti in World War II, AFS was transformed from a wartime humanitarian aid organisation into a groundbreaking international secondary school exchange, volunteer and intercultural learning organisation with a noble vision: help build a more peaceful world by promoting understanding among cultures.

AFS Intercultural Programmes provide intercultural learning opportunities to help people develop the knowledge, skills and understanding needed to create a more just and peaceful world. By linking its “learning to live together” philosophy to the defining global issues of the 21st century, AFS is dedicated to building an inclusive community of global citizens determined to build bridges among cultures.


VIMAL Raj Vivekanandah, 21; Umi Nabila Mat Yusuf, 19; and Chow Shenn Kuan, 22, have two things in common.

All three have participated in an AFS intercultural exchange programme and have gone on to volunteer in various projects on campus.

Fresh graduate Chow, who pursued the Bachelor of Science (Honours) Business Studies of the Lancaster University-affiliated programme at Sunway University, joined the 10-day student exchange programme Kizuna Project 2012 in Japan which promoted better understanding of its revitalisation and reconstruction after the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake.

A Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Bachelor of Social Science in Psychology final-year student, Vimal joined the AFS Exchange programme 2015 for six months in Houston, Texas funded by a British Petroleum scholarship.

Umi Nabila, a Universiti Teknologi Mara Shah Alam Bachelor of Science (Honours) Biomolecular Science first year student, also had a six-month experience in Dallas, Texas under the Kennedy Lugar Youth Exchange and Study programme last year.

Chow said: “Today, I am an advocate for student exchange programmes or learning abroad. During my undergraduate years at Sunway University, I received a scholarship for an exchange programme to Lancaster University in the United Kingdom, and a travel grant for a visit to Harvard University in the United States.

“Truly grateful for the opportunities offered by Sunway University, my form of giving back to my education institution was to be an active student leader. Since my first year at Sunway University, I have been hosting visiting students to Malaysia from the United Kingdom, US and Hong Kong, for example.”

Vimal is a student buddy for international students in Malaysia. He has also developed an interest to participate in conferences and summits including those organised by the United Nations.

“Recently, I represented Guinea as its delegate for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4: Zero Hunger and was awarded Honourable Mention at Global Goals Model United Nations 2018.

“I just attended Asia Youth International Model United Nations 2018 as part of the committee team in Bangkok, Thailand.

“I am a development committee member at Hunger Hurts Malaysia with a focus on helping homeless children at People’s Housing Projects and eradicating urban poverty.

“I also an ambassador at Institut Onn Jaafar Volunteer Centre in Chow Kit where we help the homeless,” he said.

Umi Nabila recently went to Egypt for a Training of Trainers workshop to learn to be a trainer and create her own training design to create global change.

“I created my own training design related to United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 10 − reducing inequalities. My topic is Discover the World of Disabilities: Blind Community. My goal is to create awareness and educate people about this community as many are not aware of how to treat the members as equals,” she said.

[photo-1] The experience of living abroad opens up the mind to many things.

[photo-2] Malaysian AFS alumnus Vimal Raj Vivekanandah (second from left) with friends he made in Houston, Texas.

New Straits Times, Published: November 14, 2018 - 12:26pm
Intercultural experience can leave life-changing impressions among the young

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A new cold war?

AFTER the United States delivered an ultimatum to Russia last week that it was preparing to abandon a landmark weapons treaty, drawing a combative response from President Vladimir Putin, the spectre of a rekindled nuclear arms race was widely seen as a rewind of the Cold War.

But that encompasses only one slice of the problem − and perhaps the easiest part to manage.

The US and Russia no longer have a monopoly on the missiles that Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev agreed in 1987 to ban with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, agreement. Today, China relies on similar missiles for 95 per cent of its ground-based fleet, and Iran, India, Saudi Arabia, North Korea and Taiwan are among the 10 states with similar, fast-growing arsenals.

In a reflection of Trump administration’s view of how to navigate a new, more threatening global order, Washington seems uninterested in trying to renegotiate the treaty to embrace all the countries that now possess the weapons, which can carry conventional or atomic warheads. Instead, it is moving to abandon the accord and, with an eye on China, deploy in Asia the sorts of arms it pulled from Europe in the perilous days before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The administration blames Russian violations − denied by Moscow − for the demise of what until now has been considered one of the most successful of the Cold War arms control agreements. But the bigger issue is that President Donald Trump wants to throw off what he sees as constraints from countering other rising powers, principally China.

Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr, then the commander of US forces in the Pacific and now ambassador to South Korea, underlined that concern in testimony before Congress last year. “We are being taken to the cleaners by countries that are not signatories,” he said.

The treaty, he said, restricts the US from building a new class of conventional and nuclear weapons to counter China’s growing influence in the Pacific, while Beijing, the adversary it now worries about the most, faces no such limits.

But the fear among arms control advocates is not just that the INF treaty will unravel. A much larger one − the New START agreement, which brought US and Russian nuclear weapons to record-low levels of 1,550 deployed intercontinental ballistic weapons when it went into full effect this year − could also soon collapse. That accord, negotiated by President Barack Obama, expires a month after the next presidential inauguration. Last Thursday night, Joseph F. Dunford Jr, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, raised doubts for the first time that it would be extended.

“It’d be best if Russia would comply with the INF, which would set the conditions for a broader conversation about other arms control agreements, to include the extension of START,” he said at an event at The Washington Post.

The Trump administration said last week that Russia had 60 days to come into compliance with the INF treaty. After that period, the US will feel free to “suspend its obligations” under the accord, the US ambassador to Russia, Jon M. Huntsman Jr said at a briefing for reporters last Thursday.

“Russia must return to full and verifiable compliance, or their failure to do so will result in the demise of the INF treaty,” he said.

In response to the US ultimatum, Putin, hours before the funeral on Wednesday of George H.W. Bush, the US president who dismantled thousands of tactical nuclear weapons that were designed to fight a Soviet invasion, declared that he was ready to retaliate in kind.

“It seems our American partners,” Putin said, “believe that the situation has changed so much” that the Trump administration now wanted to build its own arsenal of intermediate-range nuclear weapons. “What’s our response?” Putin asked rhetorically in televised remarks. “It’s simple. In that case, we will also do this.”

Administration officials have said that they see no indication that either side will blink, or even talk to each other, about the implications of an impending reversal. Some officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, say the descent into reflexive animosity is the inevitable result of Putin’s determination to restore his country’s arsenal and Trump’s paralysis on Russia, since the accusations swirling in the special counsel inquiry raise new suspicions about every conversation or negotiation he enters into with the Kremlin.

It was the Obama administration that first charged Russia with violating the treaty, in 2013. Last month, the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, laid out the US allegations in detail, describing an elaborate effort by Moscow to cover up testing of a missile that violated the range limits of the treaty. Russia has denied the US account − and accused the US of deploying launchers in Europe that could be used to violate the treaty as well.

The Pentagon started quietly developing a number of options to build up its arsenal once Obama considered withdrawing from the treaty four years ago. As a stopgap measure, the Trump administration is likely to deploy a version of the Tomahawk cruise missile that is redesigned to be fired from land, congressional officials say. But the Pentagon is already funding a Precision Strike Missile, which would have a range just under the INF limit of 500km or 310 miles.

Experts say it would take little effort to expand the range to reach more distant targets if the Trump administration abandons the arms-control accord.

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan in Washington in 1987, the year they signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

New Straits Times, Published: December 12, 2018 - 9:29am
A new cold war?

# What treaty ended the Cold War?

The summit ended in failure, owing to differences over SDI. However, on December 8, 1987, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty was signed in Washington, eliminating an entire class of nuclear weapons.

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Visit to Selangor's Kuala Langat district

THE mysterious envelope sent from Klang to Sussex has been in my possession for several years. Devoid of content, it bears the sentence “About the death of the Sultan of Selangor” scribbled in green ink across its side. Based on its Klang postmark date, the sender was most probably referring to the demise of Sultan Alaeddin Sulaiman Shah Ibni Al-Marhum Raja Musa, as the monarch passed away on Mar 31, 1938, mere days before the letter was written.

The sender must have given a very vivid description of the funeral ceremony as the cover bears a quartet of 4 cent stamps, double the required 8 cents airmail rate to England at that time. It is, however, quite disheartening that the letter was already missing when I bought the envelope from the multinational e-commerce website eBay in 2012. The sender must have been someone important and privy to the entire historic event. I can only imagine what wonderful stories the letter would divulge if it were still around today.

Ever since the acquisition, I’ve always harboured the hope of learning more about Sultan Alaeddin and jumped for joy when the opportunity to visit his former palace in historic Kampung Bandar presented itself during a recent visit to Malaysia's most populous and prosperous state.


Although there are many routes leading to Kampung Bandar, the one via Kesas highway offers the shortest way with the least congestion. Turning left towards Banting after getting off the highway allows motorists to completely bypass Klang town and its persistent chock-a-block traffic. Then on, it’s an enjoyable south-westerly drive along Jalan Klang Banting. Ample signages pointing towards Kampung Bandar start appearing after the road passes through the sleepy hamlets of Jenjarom and Banting.

After more than an hour's drive along busy trunk roads, the scenery changes rather abruptly. The dusty thoroughfares are replaced by lush greenery along the final 8 kilometre stretch of isolated country roads deep in the heart of Kuala Langat district. The old palace comes within shouting distance once the arch welcoming visitors to historic Kampung Bandar comes into view.

A quick survey of the laidback surrounding area belies the fact that this place was once part of the administrative centre of Selangor more than a century ago. The conspicuous Bukit Jugra can be seen quite clearly, sticking out from the rather flattish rural landscape. Back in antiquity, this distant hill served as a natural guiding beacon for Indian dhows navigating the Melaka Straits as they headed southwards to the thriving city that lends its name to this narrow body of water that separates Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula.

Bukit Jugra today is home to two lighthouses and a radar station. The older and much taller of the two was built during the colonial era to guide ships approaching Jugra, which was then the royal capital of Selangor. Boats and Chinese junks laden with tin mined from the interior traversed Sungai Langat to reach the coast. In those days, all trading vessels had to stop at Jugra to pay taxes before continuing their journey.

Back then, Bukit Jugra was known as Parcelar Hill, derived from the Arabic word balasar which literally means above the head. Its second lighthouse, built fairly recently in 1976 and equipped with state-of-the-art navigational equipment, serves to direct vessels on the southern approach towards Port Klang.


Like many places in Malaysia, Bukit Jugra has its fair share of legends. A popular one starts with Puteri Gunung Ledang's eventual marriage to Nakhoda Ragam after Melaka's Sultan Mahmud Shah failed in his quest to win her hand. Story has it that Nakhoda Ragam was fond of tickling his wife's ribs, a habit that the princess strongly disliked.

One day, in an uncontrollable burst of anger, the princess stabbed her husband to death in the chest with a needle while they were on a boat off the coast of Kuala Langat. She brought his body ashore and buried it at the foot of Bukit Jugra. The two cats which accompanied the couple turned into “ghost tigers” to guard over the grave. Soon after, the princess returned to her abode in Gunung Ledang and vowed never to set eyes on another man.

The arrival of a car-load of visitors catches my attention just when I’m about to scan the slopes of Bukit Jugra hoping against all odds to locate Nakhoda Ragam's grave. The sight of the occupants gleefully making a beeline for the stately Istana Bandar takes my mind off the myth and I start to concentrate on the sprawling complex in front of me.

Although the place comes under the purview of the Selangor Malay Culture and Heritage Corporation (Padat), there doesn’t seem to be any indication of an administrative office or ticketing counter apart from a small guardhouse manned by a solitary security personnel beside the main gate.

Judging from the vehicles numbering in the single digit in the car park, it seems that even free entrance from 8am to 6pm still can’t entice sizeable number of visitors to this isolated part of the state. Clearly much needs to be done to highlight the importance of this historically significant place.


At a glance, the architectural style of Istana Bandar appears to be a melting pot of various functional ideas from all over the world. Islamic influences from the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East are clearly seen on the intricate carvings and etchings on the windows and doors. At the same time, the jade green ceramic ventilators and carvings of playful carps on the walls are evidence enough that Chinese artisans also contributed significantly during the construction of the palace.

Looking up, the striking orange coloured Indian V-shaped roof tiles arranged in neat rows offer a pretty sight when admired from afar. These are most pronounced on the elevated gabled or pyramidal jack-roof segments that are decorated with pointed tunjuk langit (finials) and ornately carved eaves. The roof of the buildings making up the palace complex were purposely constructed with differing heights to remind its occupants as well as visitors of the intricate administrative hierarchy of the royal household.

After circumnavigating the entire palace complex and admiring its many unique external features, including the recognisable colonial styled archway and neo-classical Roman- and Gothic-inspired designs, it’s time to escape the late morning heat and seek shelter indoors. The interior is cool and airy thanks to the Achenese influenced limas roofing technique. Purpose built spaces in the roof and upper floor allow hot air to escape while convection currents bring in gentle breezes through the palace's many windows and their intricately carved wooden filigree panels.

Almost the entire building is constructed of bricks and covered with lime plaster while the staircases and doors are fashioned from the local cengal hardwood. The builders chose concrete for the ground level flooring in order to prevent damage from floods and termite attacks, which were prevalent scourges in the past. Away from inundation and insect infestation, large pieces of wooden planks form shiny and smooth floor boards on the upper floor.

After exploring all 40 rooms and surveying every nook and cranny for hidden passageways, I finally reach what was once the palace kitchen. Like the rest of the complex, it’s bare except for several huge circular concrete stoves. It’s quite disheartening to see the entire building devoid of furniture and fittings as their presence would definitely give visitors a better picture of how the Selangor royal family lived in the past.


Just when I think that all hope is lost, I suddenly notice several display boards partially hidden in an obscure corner of the room. Upon close inspection, they appear to be leftovers from an exhibition highlighting the history of Istana Bandar. Elated at the unexpected discovery, I begin to peruse the information with the hope that they’d shed more light on Sultan Alaeddin, the fifth monarch of Selangor.

Istana Bandar was built by Sultan Alaeddin using his own funds after he was made the ruler of Selangor upon the demise of his grandfather, Sultan Abdul Samad ibni Al-Marhum Raja Abdullah in 1898. Construction on the five hectare piece of land began a year later and when completed in 1905, became home to the royal family until Sultan Alaeddin's demise 33 years later.

In the years leading up to Sultan Abdul Samad's death, Raja Suleiman Shah, as Sultan Alaeddin was then known, shared a keen interest in agriculture with his grandfather. They worked tirelessly on more than 1,000 acres (404 hectares) of land that Raja Suleiman inherited after his father, Raja Muda Musa, passed away in 1884.

The Sultan and his heir apparent made a fortune planting sugar cane, coconut, areca and padi. Both of them then used $3,000 from their private purses to help local land owners start their own plantations. By 1894, most of the land surrounding Jugra was filled with fruit trees, coffee and padi fields.

During his rule, Sultan Alaeddin was a God-fearing man and made many contributions towards the advancement of the Islamic faith in Kuala Langat. He built the nearby Masjid Alaeddin in 1905 for the benefit of his people and was often seen giving sermons and leading Friday prayers there. Known also as Masjid Bandar, the mosque design was said to have originated from the Kingdom of Deli in Medan, Sumatra.

Istana Bandar eventually went into disuse when Sultan Aleddin's third son and successor, Sultan Hisamuddin Alam Shah Ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Alaeddin Sulaiman Shah, moved his seat of power from Jugra to Klang.


While on the way out, I cross paths with the security guard who’s on one of his scheduled rounds. He tells me that the former palace served first as the district handicraft centre after Malaya achieved Independence and was converted into an Islamic Maahad Tahfiz school at a much later date.

Plans to conserve Istana Bandar began surfacing after the last group of students left in the late 1980s. By 2007, the National Heritage Department and Padat conducted a survey of the complex and found that much was needed to be done to rehabilitate Istana Bandar. Work started a year later in December and the workmen first concentrated on the roof section which was in dire need of repairs. Accurate replicas of the Indian V-shaped roof tiles were used to replace the existing ones that were already cracked or damaged.

Then, the conservators moved on to the internal structures that had been badly affected by water leaking down from the roof. Rotten floor boards and peeling wall plaster were carefully scraped away while every effort was made to retain as much of the original sections as possible.

The final stage involved landscaping the palace grounds with the intention of returning it to its former glory. These included the revitalisation of several pools where Sultan Alaeddin and the royal family had their baths while being attended to by personal handmaidens. A public car park and a walkway leading to the palace complex were also added.

Just as I’m about to reach my car, I turn around to gaze upon Istana Bandar one last time before leaving. It cannot be denied that this palace complex is an integral part of Selangor’s history and it’d be such a pity if Istana Bandar is to forever remain in the shadow of its glorious past.

While plans are in the pipeline to turn Istana Bandar into a living museum or a Royal Gallery, it is certain that unwavering support from the powers that be is definitely needed to make sure that at least one these ambitious propositions comes to fruition.

[photo-1] The jack-roof with its ornate finials.

[photo-2] Istana Bandar may regain its glory once conservation efforts are completed.

[photo-3] The Istana Bandar complex is made up of several adjoining single storey buildings.

[photo-4] In the past, wells provided fresh water to the people living in the palace.

[photo-5] Istana Bandar has a striking facade.

New Straits Times, Published: December 12, 2018 - 8:01pm
Jugra's ancient royal link: A visit to Kuala Langat sheds more light on a mysterious envelope
By Alan Teh Leam Seng

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