Sunday, September 30, 2007

Alleged Irregularities In Vessel Purchase - DAP Lodges Report With ACA. An Exercise In Futility?

A report has been lodged with the Federal Territory Anti-Corruption Agency over alleged irregularities in the purchase of six Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV). DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, who lodged the report, wants the ACA to look into what he claimed were six questionable areas surrounding the RM6.75 billion purchase by the government.

The six areas are:

* Why there was no open tender and instead the contract was awarded to PSC-Naval Dockyard Sdn Bhd;

* What is the justification for increasing the contract value by 38 per cent, or RM1.85 billion, to RM6.75 billion when the contract had already failed to fulfil requirements;

* Why the government had waived claims of at least RM214 million in penalties for the late delivery of the two OPVs and non delivery of the remaining four OPVs;

* Why no action was taken on the contractor for sub-standard work on the two OPVs which failed to fulfil technical specifications;

* Why the Defence Ministry had paid RM4.26 billion in advance to the contractor although the work done had only amounted to RM2.87 billion. The advance payment is RM1.4 billion more than what the contractor was entitled to claim; and

* Who ordered the destruction of some documents which became public knowledge after Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman Datuk Shahrir Samad announced it two days ago.

Lim said the 2006 Auditor-General’s report had provided all the necessary materials which could assist the ACA in its probe.

“It would be unfortunate if those that expose corruption are persecuted and punished whereas those who commit such wrongdoing can prosper and flourish,” he said. (NST)

***** Excellent questions by Lim Guan Eng. But the chances of any good coming out of this report to the ACA is less than zero. Everyone knows who the main culprit is. So does the ACA. But they don't have the balls to go after this dirty ikan yu. The most that will happen is they will summon Lim Guan Eng to inquire where he got his evidence from. If the evidence is overwhelming and genuine, then they'll charge him under the Official Secrets Act and try to to get him disqualified from standing in the next elections. Semuanya will still be OK!
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Asia Could Win Next 'Space Race', US Scientists Fear

Fifty years after the launch of Sputnik left the United States scrambling to play catch-up in the first Space Race, US scientists fear history may be repeating itself as Asia emerges as the rising force in space exploration.

While the achievements of space programmes run by China, Japan and India are modest in comparison to the milestones set by the United States and former Soviet Union, experts at a recent conference in Pasadena believe it is only a matter of time before Asia leads the field.

China, which sent a man into space for the first time in 2003, plans to launch its own moon probe before the end of the year, followed by India in the first half of 2008. Japan kick-started the Asian lunar race on September 14 when it successfully launched its first lunar orbiter.

While China and India have raised the possibility of a manned lunar mission within the next decade, the United States has vowed to return to the Moon in 2020, 48 years after the last US visit. NASA meanwhile has set the ambitious target of wanting to put a man on Mars in 2037.

"When we celebrate 100 years of Sputnik, we might celebrate the 20th anniversary of man landing on Mars," Frank Griffin, NASA's chief administrator said recently.

But many astrophysicists, space engineers and other high-ranking US scientists do not share Griffin's optimism, pointing to waning interest in space exploration amongst young Americans and a lack of government investment in developing elite scientists.

"In America, contrary to our self-image, we are no longer leaders but simply players," said Neil DeGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium in a recent editorial.

"We've moved backward just by standing still." (Daily News & Analysis)

***** I wonder if the time will come when we shall take our place among the top space-faring nations of the world. Is the journey by our very own astronaut in the next few weeks a small step in the right direction?
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Related post: Asian Spacefarers Locked In Lunar Race.
Relevant link: Space Expedition: What's Next?


Myanmar Refugees Want India To Step In

Huddled up in a corner near Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, a small group of pro-democracy activists and Buddhist monks from Myanmar did raise clenched fists to protest the reign of terror let loose by the military junta.

But they were dazed by the stand taken by New Delhi. It was easy for them to identify the factors that have impacted the Indian response. A young woman listed oil, market, China, North-East insurgency and Myanmar’s strategic location as the reasons why India was reluctant to douse the fire.

"The crackdown is more severe than before. I was 20 and leading a wild college life when the 1988 repression changed it all. I fled to India through Mizoram with a group of students, leaving my family behind," recalled Thin Thin Aung, now an activist of Women’s League of Burma in India.

Aung was at a refugee camp in Mizoram for two years before she moved to Delhi in 1990. "Enthused by our leader Aung San Suu Kyi, we were demanding a multi-party system when the military cracked down. I saw my friends being shot on the streets and decided to plunge myself in the movement," she said.

Another refugee, Ukhiang Maung, said the principles of Buddha, Gandhi and democracy were under severe attack in Myanmar. "India has a special role to play because all three originated here. Unarmed people and media-persons are being killed," he said.

Aung said life for them in India was not easy and some refugees managed part-time work with difficulty. "Through the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), I managed to secure admission in Delhi University for an MBA. “It requires a no-objection certificate from the junta’s embassy. Now they are not granting NOCs and, instead, ensuring that children of the military elite study in India," she added.

Esther, a 25-year-old Kuki Christian, has more recent memories of the situation back home as she fled to India in 2004. "The military survives on intelligence and so it keeps track of all activities in the rural areas. Most villages do not have proper schools. We are not allowed to start our own business," she said.

Esther said the soldiers and officers targeted women in particular. "It is not sexual exploitation but a more cruel way to change our ethnicity. Very often, the soldiers rape women and ensure that they give birth to babies. In some cases, they even marry the women in villages but the idea is to alter our identity. Traditional names of villages are being changed and they are being named after senior members of the junta or other military officers," she said.

Asked how the soldiers shot their own people, Aung said, "Most of them are uneducated and jobless. They are caught young and brainwashed to see an enemy in anyone who talks of democracy. Our leader, for whom India was like another home, said she expected a lot more from New Delhi. We hope the mandarins in the Ministries of External Affairs and Home Affairs rise to the occasion," she said.

The activists are in touch with members of the government-in-exile, spread out in Australia, US, Thailand and India. "Our New York office is trying hard to bring about a new resolution from the United Nations on the issue. We are for a peaceful solution but the junta is not ready to relent," said Aung. (The Times Of India)

***** What is happening in Myanmar is atrocious. It's a pity that they are not an oil rich country. If only they had that valuable resource, the opportunists in Washington, Beijing and Delhi would have intervened long ago.
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Saturday, September 29, 2007

"Strive For Excellence At All Times," Advices Pak Lah

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has reminded Malaysians to continue with their quest for excellence at all times so that they can bring about greater development to the country.

Speaking at a dinner for Malaysian government officials, Malaysians residing in New York and their families, he said the National Mission, a policy framework to help Malaysia attain developed nation status by 2020, emphasised on adding value to the country's human capital through education and honing of skills in various areas.

He said the quest for excellence to help attain developed nation status does not stop at 2020 but goes beyond that.

Therefore, he said, one should not stop at improving oneself after a while but should continue to pursue excellence at all times.

Present at the reception were Abdullah's wife, Datin Seri Jeanne Abdullah, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar and his wife, Datin Seri Aziah Syed Zainal Abidin.

Abdullah said Malaysia's future success depended on the quality of its human capital and its ability to nurture people with a first-class mentality.

The prime minister said Malaysia had done well in its first 50 years and hoped that the next 50 years would be even better.

***** While I wholeheartedly support the 'strive for excellence' call by the PM, current government policies
unfortunately seem to encourage the opposite! The unrestrained imposition of ethnic quotas, the unconscionable nurturing of shameless rent-seekers and the persistent and unbending opposition to true meritocracy are all out of step with what the PM is preaching from New York.

For the full Bernama report click HERE.
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Nurin Jazlin Murder: Indon Woman Arrested This Morning

An Indonesian woman in her twenties was arrested early this morning in connection with the murder of Nurin Jazlin Jazimin, according to an SMS alert received just now. This brings to five the suspects currently in remand.

Yesterday five people including a woman were arrested. The woman, however, was released several hours after her statement was recorded.

The men were remanded for seven days by a magistrate’s court here to facilitate police investigations. One of them is the woman’s husband, a tailor shop owner.

Nurin had foreign objects inserted into her private parts, which later caused her intestines to rupture leading to infection, which was identified as the cause of death.

It is learnt police have established that Nurin was not a target of a revenge attack but was a victim of "chance". There had been speculation earlier that Nurin could have been the victim of revenge against her parents. Police have also established that there is no connection between Nurin's parents and the suspects in custody.

How the Indonesian woman fits into all this is unclear, but over the next few days the police should be able to give the public a precise report on who were responsible and why.
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White Pupils In The UK Are A Minority In Classrooms

White British children are becoming a minority in their own schools. In some parts of the UK white children make up only one in ten pupils.

Statistics released on Thursday by the Department for Children, Schools and Families reveal the dramatic variations in the ethnic backgrounds of school population.

Over the last decade, the number of pupils from ethnic minorities have risen from 11 per cent to 20 per cent. This rises to more than 50 per cent in some areas in Central London, while certain Asian-dominated areas like Leicester, Luton, Slough the figures are as high as 90 per cent.

The figures confirm the belief that ethnic minorities tend to gravitate towards areas where others from their background live creating small ghettos all over the country.

In Brent in northwest London, only 7 per cent of pupils are of white origin, with 36 per cent are Asians, mostly from India and 24 per cent are of the Afro-Caribbean extraction. In Tower Hamlets in East London, just under 15 per cent of primary school children are classed as white British compared to 63 per cent who are Bangladeshi Asians.

The figures also showed that one in eight pupils in all schools do not speak English as a first language, causing concern. “They are being taught in overcrowded classrooms, this makes it much harder for teachers to do their jobs,” said Damien Green, the Conservative immigration spokesman.

Jim Knight the Schools Minister disagrees saying “We have guidance in place to help teachers support children who have English as an additional language”. “Schools are the building blocks of our communities so it is vital that they promote tolerance, respect and understanding across society,” he added.

The figures also show that hundreds of thousands of East European children have joined English schools in the past three years. They are recorded as not British but from ‘another white background’. (DNA)
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Friday, September 28, 2007

Nurin Jazlin Murder; At Last A Breakthrough With Arrest Of Five Suspects

Five people including a woman have been arrested in connection with the murder of eight-year-old Nurul Jazlin Jazimin here on Thursday.

A team of police officers from the Petaling Jaya and Selangor police at about 11.30pm picked up the five aged between 27 and 33 from several locations in Section 7 in Shah Alam.

It is learnt one of the five, a man in his 30s, has a string of criminal records including sexual assault cases here and in several other states.

CID director Commissioner Datuk Christopher Wan Soo Kee said the arrests were made possible following information from the public.

"Two cars and five cellular phones were seized from the suspects,'' he said, adding that they were detained to assist police in their investigation into the murder of Nurin Jazlin.

The arrest of the five is the first major breakthrough police have made since Nurin Jazlin was first reported missing from her Wangsa Maju flat on Aug 20.

Police have been working tirelessly to nab the killer/s and have reopened several old cases with similar modus operandi to narrow down their suspects.

Nurin Jazlin went missing on Aug 20 after she went to a night market by herself near her house in Section 1, Wangsa Maju, in Setapak. Her body was found stuffed in a sports bag at a three-storey shop lot in Petaling Utama on Sept 17.

A post-mortem showed that she had been sexually assaulted. (The Star Update)
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Sentenced To Death In China For Passing Toxin Through Kiss

Three people were sentenced to death in China this week for murdering their partners with rat poison, with one woman convicted of passing the toxin through a kiss, state press said on Thursday.

Xin Xinfeng was sentenced to death in central China's Henan province after a local court found her guilty of passing a capsule of rat poison to her lover through a kiss on the mouth, Xinhua news agency said.

Her lover, identified as Mao Ansheng, later died, it said.

Xin committed the crime in January this year after Mao had a relationship with another woman, it said. She was sentenced to death on Tuesday.

In another case, lovers Chen Lihua and Huang Jianxiao were sentenced to death on Wednesday in southwestern China's Yunnan province for separately poisoning their spouses. Chen was convicted of lacing her husband's food with rat poison, leading to his death in February 2005, the Yunnan Daily reported. Huang was convicted of poisoning his wife in March the same year, it added, she too died.

The lovers feared that they would have to surrender some of their wealth if they divorced their spouses, so they decided to murder them instead, it said.

Chen and Huang were given two-year reprieves on their death sentences, meaning their capital punishments will likely be commuted to life in prison.

The use of rat poison is common in murder cases in China because it is cheap and widely available. (Independent Online)
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Thursday, September 27, 2007

No Leak In UPSR! Pupils Need Not Re-sit Exams, Says Hishammuddin. Semuanya OK!

Standard six pupils need not have to re-sit the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) as there is no leakage in question papers as claimed even though there are similarities, Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said Thursday.

"Similarities in questions did not warrant a re-sit. Similarities are not leakage," he told reporters.

The Malaysian Examinations Board had investigated the alleged leakage, he said.

The allegedly leaked question papers are Bahasa Melayu Penulisan (Written Malay), Bahasa Inggeris Kertas 2 (English Paper 2) (Mathematics Paper 2) and "Matematik Kertas 2Sains Bahagian B (Science Section B), all of which are subjective.

On single-session schools, Hishammuddin said 6,748 primary schools are implementing single-session and 873 double-session. He said 1,284 secondary schools are on single-session and 771 double-session. (Bernama)

***** It is exactly this denial mentality and 'sweeping under the carpet' practice which has led to a culture of unaccountability in our country. Everyone knows that the papers had leaked and how! Yet the minister, acting like an ostrich, shamelessly raises his head from the mound of sand where it was just buried and totally denies the leakage while simultaneously backing the 'investigation', of all people, by the corrupt scoundrels and incompetent idiots staffing the Malaysian Examinations Board.

Granted, the decision spares the pupils from unnecessary trauma. But a genuinely concerned and dedicated education minister would have ordered an impartial investigation, given a true report of the findings,
owned up to the leak, briefed parents and the public about the disciplinary action to be taken against the criminals responsible for this, announced enhanced checks and balances and security measures to be taken to prevent a repetition and THEN stated that there will be no re-sit as it is counter-productive. Alas, I may as well ask for the sky!
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Saddam Asked Bush US$1 Billion To Go Into Exile

Saddam Hussein offered to step down and go into exile peacefully just one month before the invasion of Iraq in return for US$ one billion.

The offer has been revealed in a transcript of talks between US President George W Bush and the then Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar at Bush's Texas ranch.

According to the transcript published by Spanish daily 'El Pais', Bush told Aznar in February 2003 that the Iraqi dictator had made the exile offer via the Egyptian government.

"The Egyptians are speaking to Saddam Hussein. It seems he's indicated he would be prepared to go into exile if he's allowed to take US$ 1 billion and all the information he wants about weapons of mass destruction," Bush said.

When asked by the then Spanish Premier whether Saddam -- who was executed last December -- could really leave, the President replied: "Yes, that possibility exists. Or he might even be assassinated." Bush added: "Saddam won't change and he'll keep on playing games. The time has come to get rid of him. That's the way it is. We'll be in Baghdad by the end of March."

The confidential transcript was recorded by the then Spanish Ambassador to the US, Javier Ruperez, at the meeting between the two leaders at Crawford in Texas on February 22, 2003, the daily claimed.

According to the tapes, Bush was also dismissive of the then French President Jacques Chirac, saying he "thinks he's Mr Arab".

The US President referred to his relationship with Downing Street, saying, "I don't mind being the bad cop if (former British Prime Minister) Tony Blair is the good cop."

The White House has declined to comment on the transcript. (DNA)
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Barefaced Liar, Half-Dope Nazri Says "No Crisis In Judiciary"!

There is no crisis in the judiciary, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohamad Nazri Abdul Aziz said today.

Speaking to the media Nazri said allegations that there was a crisis in the judiciary were the work of opposition parties who wanted to influence citizens not to have confidence in the judiciary.

He said this when questioned about the march by Bar Council members to the Prime Minister's office this morning to submit two memorandums, one calling for the setting up of a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate a video clip showing a senior lawyer purportedly brokering appointment of judges and the other for the establishment of an independent judicial commission to appoint judges.

"They should go and check the facts first, verify the clip first. At the moment we do not know whether the tape is authentic. So we cannot jump to conclusion and lawyers are the people that should not jump to conclusions in the first place," he said.

He added that the government had formed a three-man independent panel headed by retired Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Haidar Mohd Noor with former Court of Appeal judge Datuk Mahadev Shankar and social activist Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye as the other members to conduct an impartial probe into the controversial video clip.

They will receive their appointment letters from Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak tomorrow. (Bernama)

***** Sometimes I wonder if Nazri is a closet masochist who derives pleasure from being publicly humiliated and reviled for the rubbish he spews out almost on a daily basis. How else can one explain the out-of-touch-with-reality statements he has a predilection for issuing, which has made him a laughing stock?

Ever since Dr Mahathir 'emasculated' the judiciary in the mid-eighties, there has been one crisis of confidence after another. Tun Hamid Omar and Tun Eusoffe Chin have already gone down in Malaysian legal history for the wrong reasons. The out-of-turn promotion of incompetent lackeys to high office in the superior courts is a national disgrace as is the overlooking and sidelining of erudite, impartial and courageous judges who do not bow to government pressure or kowtow to the executive.

Anyone who says that there is no crisis in the judiciary should seriously have his head examined. Until he is certified mentally suitable and fit, the person in question should at least temporarily quit his office. Do you think Nazri ever will? No. There is a better chance of having snowfall in Putrajaya this Christmas than the half-dope calling it a day.
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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Nurin's Murder - 41 Year-Old Suspect Arrested

Police arrested a 41-year-old man in Lebuh Ampang here this afternoon in connection with the sexual savagery and murder of eight-year-old Nurin Jazlin Jazimin.

The suspect, who works as a "middleman" for a travel agency in the city, was lured by a friend to a coffeeshop where a police team had mounted an ambush to nab him.

A police source said police laid the ambush after the suspect's friend notified them that the suspect might be linked to Nurin's brutal murder.

The friend had also told police that he suspected the man could be the "Kampung Baru child molester" who had sexually abused two children with brinjal.

Bernama learnt that prior to the arrest, the friend had hoodwinked the suspect into believing that he had a business proposal to discuss at the coffeeshop. At about 2pm, the suspect arrived at the coffeeshop where his friend was waiting.

According to the friend, they discussed joint-venture businesses before the topic of conversation veered to personal matters. "During this time, I sent an SMS to a group of undercover policemen who were waiting in ambush outside the coffeeshop.

"Just then, the man asked me to meet a business associate and began walking towards a building, located on the other side of the road. "At that juncture, I immediately called the policemen," he told Bernama.
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Just in by SMS alert: "IGP Tan Sri Musa Hassan denied a wire report that said police have arrested a suspect in the Nurin Jazlin murder case."


Asian Spacefarers Locked In Lunar Race

Asian giants Japan, China and India are engaged in a race to map lunar resources and make the moon a platform to explore planets beyond, amid a renewed burst of global space activity.

Japan flagged off the Asian lunar race on September 14 when it successfully launched its first lunar orbiter. China plans to launch its own moon probe before the end of the year, followed by India in the first half of 2008.

"We want to investigate the moon, to know more about the whole of the moon," Keiji Tachikawa, president of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, said in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad. JAXA, as the agency is known, will carry out more robotic missions before a landing and astronaut on the moon, said Tachikawa in a brief interview Monday.

Missions to the moon and to Mars and international cooperation top the agenda of a five-day global conference in Hyderabad that brought together 2 000 space professionals, including scientists, astronomers and astronauts.

"There is a great revival of interest in exploring various planets," said Sun Laiyan, head of the China National Space Administration. China's Chang'e 1 lunar probe is being transported to the launch site and "if everything goes fine, will be launched by the end of the year," said Sun, adding that China will consider a manned moon mission in the future.

India's Chandrayaan 1 lunar probe will be launched in March or April 2008, said B.N. Suresh, director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Kerala's capital Thiruvananthapuram.

Preparatory work is in "full swing" at the Sriharikota space station in southern India, where the craft is being assembled, the launch vehicle readied and antennae installed to receive data from the moon, Suresh told reporters.

Also in 2008, India will likely choose the target year for a human spaceflight to the moon, said G. Madhavan Nair, head of the Indian Space Research Organisation. "It will take seven or eight years," Nair said. "We are in the process of sharpening our ideas."

Despite more than four decades of lunar missions, space scientists still lack definitive answers to questions about the moon's origin, the minerals it contains and whether it has water that could support human life. "There is a lot more known about the moon, but even after the current round of lunar missions, you will still have more questions," said Indian scientist U.R. Rao, who did pioneering work on space launch vehicles.

Mineral samples from the moon contained abundant quantities of helium 3, a variant of the gas used in lasers and refrigerators as well as to blow up balloons, and space experts say that may offer a solution to the earth's energy shortages. Technology for converting helium 3 to energy is still far away, but space-faring nations are already talking about a permanent human presence on the moon and looking beyond to Mars and more distant planets.

President George Bush in 2004 announced an ambitious plan for the US to return to the moon by 2020 and use it as a stepping stone for manned missions to Mars and beyond.

Nasa aims to put a man on Mars by 2037, Michael Griffin, the administrator of the US space agency, indicated here on Monday, saying the orbital international space station targeted for completion by 2010 would provide a "toehold in space" for travel first to the moon and then Mars.

Japan's Kaguya is the largest moon explorer since the US Apollo missions ceased in the 1970s after six human landings, the only time mankind visited another world. "The moon is no longer a place for us to visit," said JAXA's Tachikawa. "We should consider inhabiting and exploiting it."

The Kaguya orbiter, aiming to collect data for research on the moon's origin and evolution, will travel around the Earth before moving into an orbit of the moon in early October. It will gather data on the distribution of chemical elements and minerals and study the moon's gravity and environment while searching for hydrogen.

Still, humanity is a "couple of generations away" from tapping commercial opportunities in outer space, including the moon, said Franco Bonacina, spokesman for the European Space Agency. "But we need to go back to the moon to go even farther," he said. "The moon is a harbour - a kind of spare wheel - from where we can push to Mars."

In the scramble to reach the moon, spacefarers risk duplication of effort, said Indian scientist Rao, who called for cooperation between the world's space agencies to avoid that. "Everyone doing the same work would be a waste of resources." (Independent Online)
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'Phonetics For Dummies' Guide For President Bush

How do you keep a leader as verbally gaffe-prone as US President George W. Bush from making even more slips of the tongue?

When Bush addressed the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, the White House inadvertently showed exactly how -- with a phonetic pronunciation guide on the teleprompter to get him past troublesome names of countries and world leaders.

The White House was left scrambling to explain after a marked-up draft of Bush's speech popped up briefly on the UN website as he delivered his remarks, giving a rare glimpse of the special guidance he gets for major addresses.

It included phonetic spellings for French President Nicolas Sarkozy (sar-KO-zee), a friend, and Zimbabwe leader Robert Mugabe (moo-GAH-bee), a target of US human rights criticism.

Pronunciations were also provided for Kyrgyzstan (KEYR-geez-stan), Mauritania (moor-EH-tain-ee-a) and the Zimbabwe capital Harare (hah-RAR-ray).

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the draft, labelled the 20th version and complete with typos and speechwriters' cellphone numbers, had been turned over in advance to help UN interpreters who must simultaneously translate leaders' speeches into several languages.

Bush's text also had to be loaded onto a teleprompter to appear on screens in front of the podium as he spoke. "There was an error made," Perino told reporters. "I don't know how the draft of the speech that was not final was posted but it was and it was taken back."

"Anyone giving a major speech or delivering a broadcast, like on the morning and nightly network news, has phonetics for cues just for the possibility they're needed," she later explained.

Bush is no stranger to the occasional faux pas, and often jokes about his habit of mangling the English language.

One of his highest-profile gaffes came in May when, at a welcoming ceremony for Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, he nearly placed her in the 18th century.

At a speech during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Sydney earlier this month, Bush seemed to confuse the organization with OPEC and spoke of Austrian troops in Iraq when he meant to say Australian. (Sify News)
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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

PM's Suggestion For Single Schooling Session 'Not Conducive' Says NUTP

The National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) feels that a suggestion to extend the school session to 4pm is not conducive for the time being.

Its secretary-general, Lok Yim Pheng said although the proposal was rational it would be more suitable in 10 years time when the schools were equipped with the infrastructure. "At present the infrastructure is not complete, a lot of facilities need to be repaired.

"If the school session is to be extended there must be rest areas for students, the canteens have to serve nutritious food, all these have to be reviewed and need time," she said when contacted by Bernama here today.

Lok was asked to comment on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's suggestion that a single schooling session be introduced where the pupils stayed until 4pm for co-curricular activities, sports or study period to complete their homework.

The suggestion was deliberated at the Umno Supreme Council meeting yesterday which discussed the safety of children following the murder and rape of Nurin Jazlin Jazimin, 8.

Lok said the facilities in schools were still not conducive while parents and teachers were not ready for the single session. "Teachers have to think of the best learning method or rearranging their activities to suit the long hours in schools.

"Extending the school hours entailed additional cost and most people are not ready yet," she added.

***** Teachers and their unions should not outrightly dismiss the PM's suggestion. If the single session in schools can be successfully implemented in developing countries with large populations which lack uniformity in facilities and staffing, there is no reason why the extended session should not work here. Surely it does not take a decade to be 'fully prepared' or wait for a more 'conducive' atmosphere.

Perhaps teachers have to work on their attitude and psychologically adapt to the idea of putting in more active hours in school, especially the tuition giving ones. If it is solely infrastructure issues which are the impediment I'm sure the government will ensure a higher allocation to accommodate the required changes. More importantly parents and teachers have to give their wholehearted support for the suggestion instead of thinking up excuses to maintain the present unsatisfactory status quo.

Sarawak Teachers' Union (STU) president William Ghani Bina although supporting the idea, worries that irresponsible parents may treat schools as childcare centres. That is definitely a valid point. He also says that it should only be implemented once a thorough study is conducted by the Education Ministry. I think that's a fair proposition and the Ministry, if it is serious in listening to Pak Lah's advice, should get on it right away. Surely it won't take ten years for them to come out with some solid plans to get the single session up and running.

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Now Even Hindus Start Issuing Fatwas!

A case has been registered against former Bharatiya Janata Party Member of Parliament Ram Vilas Vedanti, who allegedly issued a 'fatwa' against Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam patriarch and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi.

Acting on a complaint by one Dhananchezhian, a city resident, police filed the case on Monday night.

The case was registered against Vedanti for "promoting enmity between various communities, committing acts prejudicial to maintaining communal harmony and making statement conducive to public mischief," police said.

The complainant said the 'fatwa', allegedly issued by Vedanti saying that a person who beheaded Karunanidhi for his anti-Ram remarks would be rewarded with gold, could affect communal harmony and disturb peace in Tamil Nadu.

Meanwhile, police arrested 16 DMK activists for the attacks on the offices of BJP and Hindu Munnani, on Sunday, in Chennai.

All of them were remanded to 15 days judicial custody by a magistrate. (Rediff News)
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China In Denial Over Pig Disease

Agriculture officials in China have denied the country is the source of blue ear disease outbreaks among pigs in Vietnam and Myanmar.

According to China's Ministry of Agriculture the disease in China is closer to the strain found in the United States.

Blue ear disease (Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome) has already infected 290,000 pigs in China this year and Vice Minister of Agriculture, Gao Hongbin, says that is an increase from 257,000 last year.

The Minister says the disease came from abroad and there is no evidence to show it spread from China to anywhere else.

Blue ear disease first appeared in the U.S. in the mid-1980s and has since reappeared in most pork-producing nations.

Li Jinxiang, the deputy director general of the ministry's veterinary bureau says China had it's first cases of the blue ear virus in 1996 and analysis of the current disease indicates it is 93 percent the same as the U.S. type.

Li Jinxiang says China is a victim and allegations that the disease spread from China to Vietnam and Myanmar are groundless.

An outbreak that began in China in May last year killed about 1 million pigs in 2006, and an unusual feature was the high fever which affected adult pigs. The strain was subsequently identified as highly pathogenic PRRS, but has not affected humans.

This month Vietnam reported another outbreak of blue ear disease in Khanh Hoa and Ca Mau provinces, after declaring it eradicated the disease in August following an outbreak in the central region which infected 60,000 pigs.

There is growing concern among international epidemiologists about the possible mutations of the disease in southern China, where humans, pigs and chickens live in close proximity in hot, humid weather.

In the face of skepticism on the part of many Western experts Chinese officials continue to deny they have covered up the extent of the pig disease and say there are strict regulations on the reporting of epidemics and their disclosure.

Li Jinxiang says China has been reporting outbreaks of the disease and had provided sequencing data of the virus to the World Organisation for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organisation since the outbreaks last year.

Officials say more than 100 million of the country's 500 million pigs have been inoculated with an effective vaccine, which has been distributed to the regions most seriously affected and the spread of the disease was now under "preliminary control." (News-Medical.Net)
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Monday, September 24, 2007

Malaysian Diplomat Apologizes For Mistaking Iraqi Pickles As Anthrax

A Malaysian diplomat has apologized to the Iraqi Embassy for mistaking a gift parcel of sweet pickles as anthrax powder, a news report said Saturday.

Zakaria Sulong, the newly appointed ambassador to Germany, sent a fax to the Iraqi mission offering his "sincere and deepest apologies" for the misunderstanding which he "deeply regretted," the New Straits Times said.

The Iraqi Embassy sent the parcel to Zakaria as a gift on Sept. 13 to mark the Islamic holiday of Ramadan. He only saw white powder when he opened it and fearing it might be anthrax, placed the box in a barrel outside his house and called the police, the newspaper said.

Police discovered the powder was sugar sprinkled on top of the pickles to preserve them, it said.

Iraq's envoy lodged a complaint with Malaysia's foreign ministry over Zakaria's "panic-stricken behavior," the report said.

Iraq's charge d'affaires Hoshiar Dazayi was quoted as saying the fruit pickles were an Iraqi delicacy and were also sent to the offices of the Malaysian king, prime minister and foreign minister as Ramadan gifts. "It is such a special sweet and this year I wanted to show my appreciation to the Malaysian government, the ministry and my friends," he said.

Zakaria's apology was personal and fell short of an official apology from the Malaysian government, he added. Zakaria and Iraqi Embassy officials could not be reached for comment. (International Herald Tribune)

***** Given the circumstances I really can't blame En Zakaria for reacting the way he did. In fact he should be applauded for being circumspect. After all it's always better to err on the side of caution.

The Iraqi Embassy could have given advance intimation to the Malaysian diplomat to expect a parcel from them. That would have avoided unnecessary problems to both sides. In any event it is a very small misunderstanding and should not affect the very friendly and brotherly relations between the Iraqi diplomats and Wisma Putra officials.
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Today Is World Deafness Day

Hearing loss has become the number one disability in the world with loud music, recreational equipment and noisy workplaces causing one-third of all such cases, according to a new study.

The study which comes ahead of World Deafness Day on September 24, estimates that around 500 million people worldwide suffer from some form of hearing loss.

People are now losing their hearing at a much younger age than they used to 30 years ago, the study compiled by the Hearing Institute of America said.

The revelation has raised concern among experts, who feel hearing-related ailments are increasing rapidly, especially among the youth.

About 1-2 per 1,000 children across the world are born hearing impaired.

In India, the figure is likely to be higher at about 3-4 children per 1,000, said Ameet Kishore of the Apollo Indraprastha Hospital.
"Out of the total deaf population of 6.3 per cent in India, about one per cent suffers from noise induced deafness," he said.

The youth in India, especially those working with tele-calling agencies, are becoming more prone to hearing-related problems.

"It is a real matter of concern, especially at a time when young students are hooked to their mobile phones and music players for long hours," said ENT specialist R C Deka of the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS). (Daily News & Analysis)

***** This blog often highlights common medical ailments and relevant health issues. This is the second posting in the past week on the problem of hearing loss. Parents should be aware of the risks of cell phones and music players which their children have much access to. It is the responsibility of each and every parent to see that these contraptions don't in some way affect the quality of life of their kids in the future.

Being hearing impaired may not be of much concern to the average person but only those with such a disadvantage can tell you of the great practical difficulties they face on a daily basis. On this
World Deafness Day it is hoped that people, especially the young, will be more aware of the causes of deafness and the measures to be taken in avoiding the largely self-inflicted varieties.
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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Nazri Says "Negligence Charge On Nurin's Parents Within The Law". We Say "Oh Shut Up Nazri, You Cold-Hearted Ass"

When it comes to making senseless and outrageous statements, the one person in government who can give strong competition to the info-dictator Lord Zainuddin Maidin, is that pretentious nitwit, Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department.

His latest callous and compassionless opinion that the possibility of the police charging the parents of senseless child murder victim Nurin Jazlin Jazimin for alleged negligence is in accordance with provisions in the Child Protection Act, is a case in point.

On one side we have the poor, unfortunate parents of this brutally murdered young girl in the deepest despair, trying very hard to come to terms with the loss of their daughter and the terrifying thoughts of how she must have agonizingly suffered before death. Visions of torture and excruciating pain which young Nurin must have endured will obtrude and last in their minds till the day they themselves pass on.

On the other we have this idiot of a slimy politician who attempts pathetically to defend the boo-boo made by the IGP who first brought up the subject of parental negligence charges when he said that they may face charges under the Child Protection Act 2001 if investigations showed their negligence had contributed to Nurin's death. Nazri pompously declared "law is law...we need to take action, nobody can slip away," while adding that the police investigations were in line with the Rukun Negara principle -- Rule of Law.

If the Rule of Law which this ass so smugly refers to is strictly applied, then most of the government and much of the ruling party bigwigs would find themselves behind bars on charges ranging from outright corruption, abuse of power and treasonous looting of the nation's wealth.

Will someone tell this arrogant, supercilious bastard that he too is a father and ask him what his reaction would be if the roles were reversed and someone gave him the same stonehearted opinion that he is dishing out to others now.

Persons who rightfully should be institutionalized in an asylum should not be allowed to roam freely in the corridors of government and especially the Cabinet.
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Clerics Back Salman Khan's Participation In Hindu Temple Ceremony, Slam 'Fetish' For Fatwas

Criticising the tendency to issue “fatwas” at the drop of a hat, several Muslim bodies and scholars on Friday found nothing wrong in Indian actor Salman Khan attending a Ganesh puja in Mumbai on Tuesday.

They felt the fetish for fatwas has lowered the image of the community.

On Tuesday night, the actor participated in the aarti at the Lalbaugcha Raja mandal. Stating that Islam prohibits idol worship, the Bareilly-based Daarul-Ifta-Manjar-e-Islam issued a fatwa saying unless Salman reads the kalmas (Islamic credo) all over again, he will not be considered a Muslim.

Obeid Siddiqui, professor at Jamia Millia Islamic University, said there is lot of misconception and ignorance about “fatwa”. “Everybody cannot issue a fatwa and it is not a ruling, but an opinion,” Siddiqui said. “Salman Khan is doing something in his personal life, you are nobody to tell him what to do,” he added.

Other Muslim scholars also shared this view. Muslim Law Board member and Delhi Minorities Commission chairman Kamal Farooqui also backed Salman saying it is his “personal choice” and the fatwa was uncalled for. He said “the image of Islam is hurt by such fatwas.”

Niaz Ahmed Farooqui, secretary of Jamait-Ulema-Hind, said “it was high time we stopped interfering in personal matters. Salman is living in a country which is free and democratic.” (Daily News And Analysis)

***** Therein lies good advice for those fatwa-prone Malaysians. Let's hope this Salman doesn't end up like the other Salman of The Satanic Verses fame.
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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Oh Boy! Zam is Back At His Idiotic Best

Information Minister Datuk Seri Zainuddin Maidin hit out at the DAP for always criticising the police instead of helping them and its tendency to raise racial issues.

He said the DAP's propensity to arouse racial sentiments over issues such as crime in this country showed its chauvinistic and narrow side that was unacceptable to the people.

"Have we ever heard of the DAP asking the public to help the police? Never. They can only say the police are no good," he told reporters after handing over aid to 276 disabled children and five community centres in the Merbok parliamentary constituency here Saturday.

Zainuddin said many of the party's statements seemed to be aimed at eroding public confidence in the police force, besides taking a swipe at the Malays by connecting police with the Malay community.

"As most of the police personnel are Malays, any action taken in a case is seen by the DAP as the use of Malay power over the non-Malays," he said in reference to several rape and corruption cases highlighted by the DAP.

He said a lot of efforts were made to attract non-Malays to join the police force but were unsuccessful.
"Just because one or two cases highlighted by the DAP could not be solved, it retaliated by eroding public confidence in the police force," he said.

Zainuddin who is also Member of Parliament for Merbok said the Malaysian police force's success in solving fast many of the crime cases in this country had been recognised by Interpol. (Bernama)

***** If Lord Zam's logic is strictly adhered to, then no one can criticize the police, the Armed Forces, the judiciary, senior civil servants, Ambassadors and High Commissioners, university Vice-Chancellors and other varsity bigwigs, District Officers, Mayors and senior local council officials, Menteris Besar, state exco members, most of the Malaysian Cabinet and a majority of Yang Berhormat sitting pretty at Parliament House! For according to the dictatorial Lord any comment or complaint against them will be construed as insulting the Malays!?@! What an A-Class moron!

His skewed logic effectively creates a class of people who are above criticism, much like the Royals of yore. All I can tell this info-dictator is to piss off before he pisses off more Malaysians with his ideas and opinion which defy common sense and brings into question his sense of proportion, judgment and sanity.
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e-Kesihatan Scam: Thieves, Crooks And Liars Call The Shots At JPJ

There is more to the eKesihatan saga than meets the eye. A company that bid for the project in February last year was rejected with the excuse that the project had already been awarded.

But Supremme Systems Sdn Bhd, whose director is a former Road Transport Department (RTD) director, only signed the contract this month, 20 months after the bid by the Primary Care Doctors' Organisation Malaysia.

The letter that PCDOM submitted to the then RTD director-general Datuk Emran Kadir on Feb 24 last year contained a detailed outline of the suggested PrimaCare system. The system is an award-winning electronic medical record and clinic management software that can be used under the eKesihatan programme. PCDOM conducted a presentation for the RTD a month later but did not hear from them again.

A follow-up letter to the Transport Ministry on March 10 this year saw a reply a month later where they were told that another company had been chosen.

PCDOM president Dr Molly Cheah Bee Li said her organisation had not only created a computer-based version of the RTD health form, but had also come up with a new form based on a similar model used in the United Kingdom. "All this was provided free of charge for RTD use," she said, adding that the system would have been made available to all clinics free of charge as there were no licensing fees. "The only cost would have been the cost of deployment, training, support and maintenance, which the doctors themselves would be reponsible for.

"Patients would have only had to pay RM5, for gateway charges and processing fees, on top of whatever medical fee the clinic charged.
They just ignored us after the presentation. When we wrote a follow-up letter a year later, we received a reply telling us that the contract had been given to somebody else even before we had made our presentation," she said.

When contacted, RTD director-general Datuk Ahmad Mustapha Abdul Rashid said the process of selecting a company to run the eKesihatan project had been ongoing since the late 1990s. "The decision to award it to Supremme Systems was made earlier this year," he said.

He was at a loss to explain why PCDOM had been brushed off with such a lame excuse. "I don't know about it. I'm new," he said. He also refused to clarify the basis on which PCDOM's proposal was rejected.

"I don't want to answer that," he said.

It is believed that another proposal, submitted by Koperasi Doktor Malaysia (KDM), was also rejected by RTD.

When contacted, Supremme Systems executive director Datuk Nordin Yahaya said his company only signed the contract with the RTD on Sept 3 this year. Nordin said another Supremme Systems director, Datuk Kamaluddin Yusoff, was Federal Territory RTD director in the 1980s.

He said that if government clinics were to register under Supremme Systems, those who underwent the checks would only have to pay RM13 instead of the RM80 charged by private clinics. He also said that an earlier report claiming Supremme Systems would make a profit of some RM400 million was not true.

"This is a gross misrepresentation. We would only retain an average of RM10 out of the fees of RM80. This RM10 is our gross income and not gross profit. Gross profit is income less expenses. Assuming there are 500,000 drivers, our annual income will be more like RM5 million and not RM400 million as alleged by certain quarters." (NST)

***** The above report clearly shows that a group of interested parties within the JPJ had cornered this deal with the sole intention of making hundreds of millions in profit. For this windfall,
not only were they eager and prepared to reject excellent schemes offered for free and designed to benefit all those involved, but ever willing to burden a million commercial vehicle drivers and rip them off at RM80 per year, every year!

And why did the bloody government keep its trap shut until the media played up the issue for several days? Why? Because some ruling party politicians are involved or were they merely allowing civil servants, both retired and currently serving, to make their fortune as well at the expense of the lower strata of society? After all if politicians can make billions why not allow pegawai2 kanan kerajaan to make a few hundred million on the side? Nothing like a win-win situation to have a satisfied civil service. (Important vote bank, you know.)

Will the super-inefficient ACA investigate this case based on news reports or do they as usual need to be prodded like cattle before they move their sorry behinds and do what they are paid for? What a bunch of specimens we have in government:- graft embracing politicians, corrupt civil servants and an emasculated watchdog with the grand title of Anti-Corruption Agency. May God bless our country real quick.

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Earlier related post: e-Kesihatan Deferred - Good Riddance To Stinking Rubbish.

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Music Industry Tests Malaysia's Internet Policies With Plea To Block Illegal Downloading

Record labels, faced with sliding sales, called on Malaysian authorities Friday to block Web sites that offer illegal music downloads — a move that could test the government's pledge not to censor the Internet.

The Malaysian music industry's revenue was 87 million ringgit in 2006, a fall from annual average sales of 200 million ringgit in the late 1990s, said Tan Ngiap Foo, chief executive of the Recording Industry Association of Malaysia. The figures comprised sales of both local and foreign artists.

Pirate sites based in foreign countries that offer free file-swapping services are currently believed to be the main threat, because many Malaysians are downloading songs instead of buying CDs amid the increasing availability of computers, digital music players and high-tech mobile phones, Tan told The Associated Press.

The trade association plans to submit a preliminary list of such sites — including some based in China, South Korea and Russia — to government regulators soon, Tan said. It would widen the group's anti-piracy work, which previously focused on seeking crackdowns on shopping malls and commercial zones where pirated CDs are openly sold.

The Communications and Multimedia Commission, the regulatory body for Malaysia's telecommunications industry, did not immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment.

The Malaysian government vowed to ensure unfettered access to Internet content in the late 1990s in a bid to win foreign investment for its efforts to become a regional hub for internet technology development.

Authorities have largely stuck to that promise, though government regulators recently blocked several illegal investment Web sites, including foreign-based ones, following complaints that thousands of Malaysians had fallen prey to online financial fraud.

Tan said record labels realize their request might be controversial, but stressed that "it's time for the government to take a stance. Illegal downloading is clearly copyright infringement," he said. He added that the companies were also proposing new laws so that people who participate in illegal music file sharing, either by making content available or downloading tracks to their computers, could be prosecuted.

The association represents about 100 companies and businesses, including the Malaysian operations of EMI Group PLC, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group. (International Herald Tribune)
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