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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Attacks against Malaysian multi-billionaire Robert Kuok from UMNO leaders and Raja Petra uncalled for!



https://youtu.be/cCoO3JEKZ48

PETALING JAYA: The recent attacks against multi-billionaire Robert Kuok, including those from Umno leaders and a prominent blogger, are regrettable, says MCA.

Party secretary-general Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan said it was a well-accepted fact that Kuok is a successful international entrepreneur.

“Kuok has made tremendous contributions to the country. These comments are made to spread hatred and create disunity,” he said.

Ong said Culture and Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz has no right to request any Malaysian citizen to give up their citizenship.

“This is not within his jurisdiction,” he said.

Last week, blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin posted three articles in his website Malaysia Today, alleging Kuok was funding various political parties to overthrow the Government.

In response, Kuok refuted allegations and that he would reserve the right to take action against the portal.

MCA publicity spokesman Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker concurred with Ong, saying there was no need to resort to harsh remarks against the 94-year-old tycoon.

“MCA is of the view that Kuok is a businessman who has benefited Malaysians in general.

“He is our business icon and revered by Malaysians from all ethnic backgrounds,”he said.

Ti said Kuok has every right to support whichever political party and that there were existing laws to deal with any attempts to undermine the Government.

“As a businessman, he could have supported many political parties and politicians from Barisan and Pakatan too. There’s no need to overreact by being ill-mannered in this instance,” he said.

But Ti pointed out that all businessmen who have benefited from Barisan’s policies should be thankful and reciprocate with support.

Two prominent Johor Barisan leaders – Tan Sri Shahrir Abdul Samad and Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong – came out to defend Kuok, saying they believed the tycoon would not interfere in national politics.

Dr Wee dismissed Raja Petra’s claims as “unreliable”.

“What was said on his blog was just a spin. There is no evidence. It is not persuasive,” said the MCA deputy president and Ayer Hitam MP. - The Star

Monday, February 26, 2018

Telling fact from fiction, fake news

Easy target: Fake news is a big problem here because many of us are too impressionable when it comes to news on the Internet.

HARDLY a day passes without someone sharing a video with me. No one bothers to check, not for a minute, if this could be nothing more than a fake video gone viral. Yet, amazingly, they are quick to forward such things to me.

And that doesn’t even include the unsolicited political messages, through which senders expect their receivers to echo their political enthusiasm.

More alarmingly, residents chat groups on uncollected rubbish or poor maintenance, suddenly see political messages popping up in them. Even prayer and old classmates chat groups aren’t spared, my goodness.

Blame it on what is often dubbed “silly season”, leading up to the general election, but don’t test our patience by diverting our attention to something trivial. It is downright irritating and insulting. And who cares about these politicians, anyway? Not everything in life is about politics, after all.

On Friday, a video went viral on what looked like a gun fight between the police and a notorious gang in Kuala Lumpur.

Some truth-seekers took the trouble to check with the media, but most would have despatched it to their friends in no time at all.

As trained journalists, we obviously scrutinised the video to look for give-aways. It doesn’t take a detective to pick out the holes, but then, there are many gullible Malaysians.

For one, the tiny yellow taxis in the video don’t exist in KL. There is no such building with that staircase structure in the capital, either, and there was a camera crew in plain view running around filming the action scenes, clearly indicating a movie set.

Most of the cars in the video aren’t even models we regularly see in Malaysia, and there was also a guy who ran by wearing what appeared to be heavy clothing.

On Thursday night, it got even sillier.Leaping out of the world wide web was a video of what’s been made to look like a Malaysian student being bullied in a classroom.

The comments by some racist airheads really infuriated me. With the victim appearing Chinese, the bully possibly Malay – he looked Indian to me – it became fertile ground to sow the seeds of hate.

At no point did it occur to them that this video could have come from Singapore. It didn’t even cross their minds that Malaysian students no longer wear uniforms entirely in white. The last time students were decked completely in white was probably in 1979 – during my time as a student. And desks and chairs in green? In our schools?

The Education Ministry has come out to confirm that the incident in that widely-shared video happened in Singapore on Feb 9.

Describing the footage as a “severe case of bullying”, Deputy Education Minister Datuk P. Kamalanathan urged netizens to stop spreading the clip.

“This happened at Westwood Secondary School in Singapore. Please don’t spread this video and claim that it happened in Malaysia.

“Before forwarding anything, it would be wise to authenticate its veracity to avoid confusion and misinformation,” he added.

A group of students from Westwood Secondary School were filmed punching, kicking and throwing chairs at a classmate in a video that then went viral, reported Singapore’s The Straits Times on Feb 18.

In the video posted on Facebook page Fabrications About Singapore on Feb 15, a student can be heard egging his friends on to “teach” one of their classmates a lesson.

Two students were captured throwing chairs at a boy seated at his table in a classroom while on his mobile phone. The boy is stunned when a chair hits his head.

A student then slaps the boy, before throwing a series of punches and kicks at him.

Then, the student overturns the boy’s chair, shoves him to the floor and continues to pummel him.

Then, there was the fake sex video, which purportedly featured national badminton hero Datuk Lee Chong Wei as a “movie star”.

I meet my fellow Penangite regularly, and I can safely say that I have observed him up close and personal.

I can tell that Lee is much more muscular than that skinny, presumably, porno actor in the video, and the hairstyle doesn’t even match our sports idol’s.

Lee has done right by making a police report, and let’s hope the police, with the help of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, swiftly track down the culprits of this vicious smear campaign.

It’s obvious that some people not only want to discredit the three-time Olympic silver medallist but are looking for maximum mayhem by aligning their dubious act to coincide with the release of his feature length biopic Lee Chong Wei: Rise of the Legend next month.

And that’s far from the end of the tall tales. There’s also this pathetic fake news about rejected Musang King durians from China – timed to perfection to be “reported” right before the International Durian festival in Bentong.

The Internet burned with a doctored picture depicting a mountain of the “rejected” fruits, which were said to have been exposed to extremely high levels of insecticide.

Those who shared that piece of poor journalism – either because they were sincerely concerned, genuinely ignorant or politically motivated – didn’t know, or cared to find out that Malaysia doesn’t export durians in its original fruit form but rather, as frozen pulp in packages.

And for sure, the Chinese wouldn’t have wanted to bear the freight charge to return these bad durians to Malaysia. The life span of our durian is only a day or two. How could it have been stacked up like that in the picture?

Durian lovers who inspected the picture could tell they were not Musang King, but instead, something of Thai origin.

With the general election looming, the recycled rumours of Bangladeshi phantom voters arriving by the planeloads at KLIA2 have resurfaced. Even an opposition state assemblyman, in her Chinese New Year video criticising the #UndiRosak activists, cheekily added that “even the Bangladeshis want to vote.” Can you picture 40,000 of them milling at our airport?

Although not a shred of evidence has come to light to back up the incredulous claim, the myth continues to be perpetuated, and it’s a given it will be rinsed and repeated. Perhaps it’ll be the Nepalese or Rohingya this time?

While the ordinary Malaysian can be forgiven for being easily swayed, it’s an entirely different story when journalists find themselves duped, or God forbid, spreading the “news”.

In the 2013 general election, a prominent TV presenter posted on his Facebook page claiming a blackout occurred at the Bentong counting centre, which led to the Barisan Nasional winning the parliamentary seat, slyly implying the coalition cheated during the result tabulation.

He got his network into hot water when he returned to his FB profile to say, “when my child is born, I will ask him to write an essay with the title ‘The Blackout Night’. The beginning of the essay would be on May 5, 2013, there was a stiff fight in the Bentong seat. Someone had said that he would cut his ears if it is lost, and then the counting process started, blackout ...”

To credit MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai’s opponent, DAP challenger Wong Tack denied the rumours. But let’s hope this presenter has since matured, and perhaps, become more cynical as a journalist or presenter, at least.

The most frequent fake news that sparks to life every few weeks would be the dates of the Parliament’s dissolution and polling.

Interestingly, in the case of the polling date “report”, it involved the Prime Minister having an audience with the King, accompanied by the Deputy Prime Minister and Speaker.

It’s all very simple, really – the PM doesn’t need anyone tagging along, and after meeting the King, he surely can’t be fixing a date since that job belongs to the Election Commission.

A news portal reported that fake news is a big problem here because many of us are too impressionable when it comes to news on the Internet.

The Asian Correspondent reported: “Without questioning the veracity of certain claims and announcements, it seems that oftentimes, anything resembling a news story – whether shared on social media or via mobile messaging apps – is swallowed wholesale.

“Let’s look at how WhatsApp has become a popular platform to spread news. How many of you have received forwarded messages that clearly resemble fake news and could have easily been dismissed as such? I’m sure so many have, and speaking from experience, it definitely gets frustrating.

“The worst part is that when you question the person who unwittingly forwarded the news, he or she would say, ‘I don’t know if it’s true or not. I received it from someone else, so, I’m just forwarding.’”

This has happened continually because no one is punished for their unscrupulous and reckless deeds, even if their actions lead to undesirable consequences amounting to racial tension, riots and even death.

And the campaigning hasn’t even begun! So, let’s put on our thinking caps and brace for the inevitable soon – a deluge of fake news.

On the beat Wong Chun Wai

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now the group's managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.


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Saturday, February 24, 2018

Malaysia's Corruption Perception Index worsen seven rungs

Lawyers participating in a peaceful rally, calling for the Sedition Act to be repealed, in Kuala Lumpur in 2014. The law was used in the same year against, among others, a student activist, and another seven people, including a journalist, were being investigated under the act. – EPA pic, February 22, 2018.

Need to relook whistleblowing laws


KUALA LUMPUR: The recent conviction of a whistleblower and the absence of political financing laws are among the reasons that affected Malaysia's global anti-corruption scores, Transparency InternationaI Malaysia (TI-M) president Datuk Akhbar Satar said when presenting the 2017 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) today.

Malaysia ranked 62 among 180 countries in the CPI last year, dropping from 55th spot in 2016.

The index put Malaysia in the same spot as Cuba, with a score of 47 out of 100.

In 2016, Malaysia ranked 55 with a score of 49.

The CPI is a global aggregate index capturing corruption perception in the public sector worldwide based on expert opinions using a scale of 0-100, with a smaller score denomination denoting a higher level of corruption.

"This is the worst score in the last five years and the lowest ranking since CPI was introduced in 1994."

Akhbar said contributing factors to such poor perception of Malaysia include unresolved cases involving 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), absence of political financing laws and corporate liability provisions in anti-graft laws.

"The reason is simple ... the 1MDB and SRC International Sdn Bhd issues, Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd scandal and also the conviction of PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli for whistleblowing."

Akhbar stressed that Malaysia has to relook into its whistleblowing laws to ensure there is proper protection for those who expose corrupt activities.

"It is very sad that whistleblowers get arrested and punished here when most other countries have tried to enact whistleblowing laws to protect them.

"Here, we are at the opposites. If you don't comply with the whistleblowing policy and use the media to expose corruption, then you are not protected.

The top five countries in the 2017 index were New Zealand (89) and Denmark (88), followed by Finland, Norway and Switzerland (85).

The index also revealed that more than two-thirds of countries worldwide scored below 50, with an average score of 43.

Countries at the bottom of the index were Yemen, Sudan, Afghanistan, Syria, South Sudan and Somalia.

Meanwhile, MACC honorary commissioner and former TI-M president Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam expressed disappointment on Malaysia's score.

"All the good work done by MACC to robustly fight corruption has been negated by the apparent inability to do more to contain 'grand corruption', which matters in the view of TI," he said.


By Karen Arukesamy newsdesk@thesundaily.com

Related articles

CPI drop deeply disappointing - theSundaily

Malaysia falls seven spots to 62 in 2017 global graft index

Malaysia drops further in global graft index, worst in 5 years 

CPI ranking sign of corruption getting worse in Malaysia

 

Corruption Perceptions Index 2017 

https://www.transparency.org/news/feature/corruption_perceptions_index_2017


 This year’s Corruption Perceptions Index highlights that the majority of countries are making little or no progress in ending corruption, while further analysis shows journalists and activists in corrupt countries risking their lives every day in an effort to speak out.

The index, which ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople, uses a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean. This year, the index found that more than two-thirds of countries score below 50, with an average score of 43. Unfortunately, compared to recent years, this poor performance is nothing new.




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http://www.transparency.org/cpi2017

This year, New Zealand and Denmark rank highest with scores of 89 and 88 respectively. Syria, South Sudan and Somalia rank lowest with scores of 14, 12 and 9 respectively. The best performing region is Western Europe with an average score of 66. The worst performing regions are Sub-Saharan Africa (average score 32) and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (average score 34).


Download CPI 2017 XLSX dataset

Since 2012, several countries significantly improved their index score, including Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and the United Kingdom, while several countries declined, including Syria, Yemen and Australia.

Research analysis

Further analysis of the results indicates that countries with the least protection for press and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) also tend to have the worst rates of corruption.

Every week at least one journalist is killed in a country that is highly corrupt.

The analysis, which incorporates data from the Committee to Protect Journalists, shows that in the last six years, more than 9 out of 10 journalists were killed in countries that score 45 or less on the index.




Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Singing and dancing to world domination

https://youtu.be/1erLHgqYtX0

https://youtu.be/dH2VyAJ0wbw

This year's CCTV Spring Festival Gala shows off China's power, both soft and hard.


 

"China now intends to lead the world in just about everything."


BY the end of the show, there was no doubt left in my mind that China is ready for world domination.

This was the CCTV Spring Festival Gala, an immensely popular national event by China Central Television that is telecast live on the eve of Chinese New Year. I watched a day later on YouTube.

The gala, which started in 1983, has all the elements of a variety show with lots of singing, dancing, acrobatics and comedy skits. This year’s edition followed the same mix and ran for more than five hours.

Thanks to livestreaming, for the first time, it hit an all-time high worldwide viewership of a billion people, according to China Global Television Network (CGTN), CCTV’s international arm.

The gala is therefore an extremely important platform for China to present itself at its best. Clearly, a great deal of planning, with no expenses spared, went into the production that showcased Chinese creativity and culture, as well as the country’s military might and technological advancements.

The result: an awesome spectacle that would have put the 2008 Beijing Games opening ceremony in the shade.

Most of the action was in CCTV’s auditorium in Beijing supported by performances staged in four provinces: Guizhou, Guangdong, Shandong and Hainan.

These four stages were outdoor and unique. Guizhou, one of China’s most diverse provinces, showed off its minority groups like the Miao and Hmong in their elaborate traditional costumes in a hi-tech setting.

The Guangdong show took place on a section of the magnificent Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, the world’s longest sea bridge that is slated for opening the middle of this year.

Shandong, the birthplace of Confucius and Taoism, chose a citadel-like building as its backdrop. Finally, Hainan, famed for hosting several Miss World pageants, presented itself as a balmy tropical paradise.

Apart from the skits, which seemed very 1970s but obviously still very popular with the audience, the other acts were extremely elaborate and performed by what seemed like a million people, who danced in perfect precision, sang in total harmony, aided by dazzling use of LED screens and special effects.

In keeping with the joyous occasion, the venues were so brightly multi-coloured and busy, it was almost eye-watering. There was never a dull moment.

I couldn’t help comparing the show to the dance and acrobatic performances from the 1980s. That was when China started opening up and sending out performing troupes in cheap tracksuits and canvas shoes who excelled in contortions, twirling plates and bowls, balancing on ladders and chairs, and creating formations on a single bicycle in motion.

The performers were certainly well-trained and competent, but they hardly smiled and came across as rather soulless and robotic.

Well, how things have changed. The Chinese people are no longer poor, suppressed and grim. That’s long gone.

When it comes to national pride, the Chinese are beating out the Americans, who made flag and country a Hollywood staple.

When you have the likes of Jackie Chan singing a patriotic song about Chung-kuo, backed by a whole pride of stylishly clad smiling young people and footage of gorgeous scenery, modern cities and wind tur­bines, it sure does make the heart beat faster.

Over the Guangdong bridge, drones and acrobatic planes weaved magic in the night sky, while off Hainan, a flotilla of boats lit up the waters.

And when it comes to culture and heritage, China has it in spades, from Chinese opera to kung fu and wushu to traditional dances and songs.

A jaw-dropping performance featured a huge ensemble of women dressed as bodhisattvas moving in unison so fluidly they were like one body; their entire performance made more mesmerising by the play of lighting that changed their costumes from yellow, to white to fuchsia.

One of my favourite acts was singer Jay Chou performing with a blend of virtual reality magic that was beautifully choreographed and synchronised with his movements.

I was also happy that among the foreign guest artistes was my dear boy from Kazakhstan, singer extraordinaire Dimash, whom I wrote about in my April 19, 2017, column which brought me the most number of e-mails from around the world.

What I liked about this year’s gala was its restrained presentation of China’s armed forces. Usually, the stage is filled with uniformed military personnel doing formations or singing a martial song.

This time, it was a more arty performance and China’s military might subtly conveyed by a strongman doing incredible handstands.

As with previous galas, the meaning of Chinese New Year was beautifully conveyed in a heart-tugging video of people returning for and preparing for the reunion dinner that brought home the importance of family and traditions.

Except for one misstep – a dreadful segment that tried to showcase Sino-African relations that critics have savaged as “a racist blackface” skit – CCTV Spring Festival Gala 2018 was a truly spectacular show that fuelled nationalistic pride among China’s citizens and left the rest of the world gobsmacked. It paid homage to the nation’s rich past, revelled in a confident present and announced an ambitious future.

I shut down my PC at almost 4am and as I lay me down to sleep, I recalled what I wrote in a commentary in June 2016 in which I described China as a shy superpower that actually tried to pretend it wasn’t one.

Not anymore. On Oct 18 last year, President Xi Jinping announced at the 19th National Communist Party Congress that China now intends to lead the world in just about everything, be it military presence, economic and development policies like the Road and Belt, technological innovations and artificial intelligence or even sports and entertainment.

Don’t believe me? Consider this then: China is the world leader in applications for inventions with 1.36 million patents and it has been the leader for seven consecutive years.

When it comes to investing in research and development, it ranked second in the world last year.

It’s all part of China’s blueprint for world domination. And that’s no song and dance!

So aunty, so what? June H.L. Wong

Aunty wished she could highlight more of the five-plus hour-long gala. If you haven’t watched it, you should check it out on YouTube. Feedback: aunty@thestar.com.my

Related Links:

Beijing tops again in patent applications worldwide - ASEAN/East Asia ...

China leads patent applications worldwide | Business

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China Dominates Top Western Economies in Patent ... - VOA News

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www.scmp.com › Business › Companies

Source: World Intellectual Property Organization


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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Singapore budget 2018: hiking its sales tax, but not until 2021 or later

https://youtu.be/QbytAqqXiCk

http://www.singaporebudget.gov.sg/budget_2018/
https://twitter.com/MOFsg



Higher GST: A file picture showing people walking along busy Orchard Road in Singapore. The country says its sales tax will rise to 9% but the change will come sometimes between 2021 and 2025

 

 Singapore is hiking its sales tax, but not until 2021 or later

 

 SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore said its sales tax will rise to 9 percent from 7 percent, but the change will only come “sometime” between 2021 and 2025, making it likely that the increase would kick in after the city-state’s next general election.

Instead of getting a GST hike soon, Singaporeans aged 21 and above will get a “hong bao”, or Lunar New Year red packet, as Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced a “one-off” bonus in 2018 of up to S$300 ($228.50), depending on their income.

The bonus comes after Singapore’s trade-reliant economy grew 3.6 percent in 2017, its best pace in three years. 

Global economic growth, plus comments by policymakers on the importance of raising revenue to meet future spending needs for Singapore’s ageing population, led many analysts to expect that the Goods and Services Tax, kept at 7 percent since 2007, would increase as early as the coming fiscal year. 

“The surprise for us was that the planned increase was for a much later period,” said Jeff Ng, chief economist Asia for Continuum Economics. 

“This eases the need for a future government or administration to announce the GST,” Ng said. 

Singapore’s next general election is due to be held by January 2021. In the last one in 2015, the ruling People’s Action Party won 70 percent of the vote, a strong improvement from the 60 percent garnered in 2011. 

After announcing the planned GST hike, the finance minister said “the exact timing will depend on the state of the economy, how much our expenditures grow, and how buoyant our existing taxes are. But I expect that we will need to do so earlier rather than later in the period.” 

Singapore introduced a GST in 1994, with a 3 percent rate. This was raised to 4 percent in 2003 and 5 percent in 2004, then to 7 percent in 2007. The current rate is among the world’s lowest for a consumption tax.

CARBON TAX COMING 

 

Besides the plan for raising GST, Heng unveiled other tax measures. 

These include increasing the top marginal buyer’s stamp duty on residential property worth more than S$1 million effective from Tuesday, raising the excise duty on tobacco products and introducing GST on imported services from 2020. 

Coming in 2019 is a carbon tax, which will be S$5 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions until 2023. The plan is to increase it to between S$10-S$15 per tonne by 2030. 

Heng said spending needs will rise across various sectors in coming years, including in healthcare, infrastructure and security. 

The government expects average annual healthcare spending to rise from 2.2 percent of GDP currently, to almost 3 percent of GDP over the next decade, he added. 

“With an ageing population and an increasing chronic disease burden, the demands on families and Government will rise,” the finance minister said. “We will need to spend even more on healthcare.”
Heng, one of several cabinet ministers considered a possible successor to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, said in the speech “We must anchor Singapore as a Global-Asia node of technology, innovation and enterprise.” 

Song Seng Wun, an economist for CIMB private banking, said the one-off “hong bao” bonus was a product of Singapore’s economy having a “better than expected outcome” in the last year.

(For a graphic on Singapore's ageing demographics click reut.rs/2BzapNH

Reuters Graphic

($1 = 1.3125 Singapore dollars) 

Additional reporting by Aradhana Aravindan and Fathin Ungku; Editing by Richard Borsuk

Top stories

 Singapore announces one-time bonus of S$100-S$300 for adult Singaporeans - ASEAN/East Asia



The Straits Times