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Sunday, March 31, 2019

Five challenges young Malaysians face with home ownership


For many young Malaysians, the road to owning a home is riddled with speed bumps. — Pexels

PETALING JAYA, Feb 26 — Most would agree that you truly reach adulthood the moment you own your own property.

Just like any other major milestone in life, getting there comes with its own set of challenges that many young Malaysians have to overcome before they can successfully purchase a home.

Here are five hurdles Malaysian millennials might encounter on the path towards home ownership:

1. Worrying about making the wrong choice, when is the ‘right’ time to buy?

 Purchasing a home can be a major decision that many Malaysian youths feel overwhelmed by. — Pexels pic
Purchasing a home can be a major decision that many Malaysian youths feel overwhelmed by. — Pexels pic

Making the decision to buy a piece of property is a huge step that young locals aren’t quite brave enough to take yet.

Social news website SAYS’ 2019 Malaysian Home Survey among 8,568 Malaysians reports that one in five respondents had “(worries) about making the wrong decision”, especially since home ownership requires a hefty financial investment.

2. Unsure about loan application and loan rejections.

Do you have enough saved up for a home in the future? — Pexels pic
Do you have enough saved up for a home in the future? — Pexels pic

A difficult loan approval process is a huge factor that dampens many Malaysians’ prospects of owning a home.

PropertyGuru’s Consumer Sentiment Survey in 2017 states that 33 per cent of Malaysians reported a tough approval process for bank loan applications which presents a major roadblock on the path to home ownership.

3. Starter salaries, not enough money saved for a downpayment.

The average Malaysian needs to plan carefully if they want to own a house with their current salary. — Reuters pic
The average Malaysian needs to plan carefully if they want to own a house with their current salary. — Reuters pic

The thought of dealing with a mortgage on the salary of a fresh graduate is making many millenials think twice about owning a house.

The Employee's Provident Fund statement in 2016 had said that 89 per cent of the working population in Malaysia earn less than RM5,000 monthly, making home ownership especially challenging.

Most millenials wouldn’t believe that they could own a house with that salary.

4. Renting or owning?


It’s not easy maintaining a modern lifestyle when you’ve got a mortgage weighing on your shoulders. — Unsplash pic
  It’s not easy maintaining a modern lifestyle when you’ve got a mortgage weighing on your shoulders. — Unsplash pic

The hefty financial commitment to owning a home means young Malaysians will have to make some lifestyle changes if they want to stay afloat while having a house to their name.

This might mean foregoing luxuries such as weekend brunches and holidays overseas which have become staples for the modern generation.

Hence, a monthly instalment replacing these pleasures is the reason 33% of Malaysians in SAYS’ survey are saying ‘no’ to home ownership.  

5. Lack of awareness on housing deals and promotions.


Housing deals and offers don’t seem to be showing up on the radars of young Malaysians. — Unsplash pic
Housing deals and offers don’t seem to be showing up on the radars of young Malaysians. — Unsplash pic

While initiatives are in place to help young potential homeowners, many do not even know about the resources available to them that can ease the burden of property ownership.

A shocking 65 per cent of Malaysians in SAYS’ survey said that they had no clue about current housing offers and promotions.

This means that many young adults are currently unequipped with knowledge about navigating the property market.

In light of this, property developers EcoWorld have launched HOPE (Home Ownership Programme with EcoWorld), a comprehensive solution that promises to aid young Malaysians in their journey towards owning their dream home.

HOPE aims to make the dream of home ownership a full-fledged reality for millennials with the STAY2OWN (S2O) and HELP2OWN (H2O) programmes.

S2O will allow those wanting to stay in an EcoWorld project to rent their ideal home first with the confidence that they can become homeowners in the future.

A low monthly payment similar to the market rental rate also makes it particularly attractive for first-time homebuyers.

The option to rent first before buying also gives customers ample time to get their finances in order before committing to a new mortgage.

To top it all off, the rental savings will be used to offset part of the purchase price of the home, making it even more affordable for young Malaysians.

The H2O had successfully helped approximately 1,800 young homeowners and upgraders own their choice EcoWorld home last year and you can be one of them too! For more information on owning your dream home, visit EcoWorld’s website (https://ecoworld.my/hope/) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/EcoWorldGroup/).

By Tan Mei Zi The Malay Mail

* This article is brought to you by EcoWorld. https://ecoworld.my/hope/


A NEW HOPE FOR YOUR DREAM HOME


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Saturday, March 30, 2019

Spotlight on virtual banking licenses


Bank Negara’s plan to issue up to three virtual banking licences has excited the local financial sector which otherwise has begun to look a little lethargic.

BANK Negara’s announcement this week which stated that it is looking to issue up to three virtual banking licences has excited the local financial sector which otherwise has begun to look a little lethargic.

The announcement comes at the same time as Hong Kong’s move to issue three licences of this type to a combination of companies partnering finance firms, namely Standard Chartered, BOC Hong Kong Holdings Ltd and online insurance company ZhongAn Online P&C Insurance Co.

Five more of such licences in the city are being processed.

In Malaysia, the announcement by Bank Negara is significant also because the central bank has not issued any new banking licences for many years now.

That said, both Hong Kong and Malaysia’s move to encourage pure online banking ventures is very much in line with the fact that fintech innovations are slowly but surely seeping into the daily lives of people globally, providing cheaper and more easily accessible financial services.

The idea of virtual banks – which theoretically means a bank without any physical branches whatsoever – however, is not entirely new.

In fact, many countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom have attempted it.

Some have failed, others continue to operate, taking deposits and giving out loans much like traditional banking outfits.

Closer to home, India, China, South Korea and Japan have ventured into this model.

Japan, for instance, went for the zero branch strategy as far back as the 1990s with the setting up of Japan Net Bank.

There have been other Internet banks there since then such as Seven Bank which has been providing financial services via ATMs across 7-Eleven convenience shops in Japan since the early 2000s.

In South Korea, the then-chair of the Financial Services Commission, Yim Jong-yong gave initial approval for the setting up of the country’s first two virtual banks back in 2015.

K Bank was its first, starting operations in April 2017 followed a few months later by kakaobank, which started with some W300 billion (about RM1.077bil) in start-up capital.

To be sure, virtual banks, which primarily target the retail segment including the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), have existed even before the concept of fintech – which is basically using technology to provide improved financial services – gained prominence over the last few years.

The rise of fintech in recent times can be attributed to consumers becoming increasingly tech-savvy and more demanding when it comes to convenience on-the-go.

It also stems from the fact that there are millions of individuals who are unbanked or underbanked but who now have access to the Internet.

In China alone, mobile payments run in trillions of yuan.

It is perhaps this increasing savviness that is contributing to regulators the world over wanting to push for more virtual banks and easing guidelines to fit the concept in.

It is noteworthy that within the Asean region, Malaysia is among the first to attempt this virtual bank model.

Timo, Vietnam’s first bank sans any traditional branch, was officially launched in 2016 while nearest neighbour Singapore currently does not have any banks purely of this nature.Even so, Bank Negara governor Datuk Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus has said that the central bank is currently working towards releasing licensing guidelines for such operations only by the end of this year.

She has stressed that discussions with the few parties interested in setting up virtual banks in Malaysia are still at the preliminary stage.

Still, that’s not stopped industry people from raising questions, many of which are valid. For starters, notwithstanding theoretical definitions, what will be the exact definition of a local virtual bank ?  

What are the rules?

“Who can apply to operate such banks and will these guys be subject to the same rules that apply to traditional banks such as those involving capital requirements and such?” asks one senior banker attached to a regional bank.

While the jury is still out on rules that will apply in Malaysia should the idea materialise, a broad idea on this can be gleaned from the guidelines that have been set out by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA).

According to the HKMA, firstly, a “virtual bank is defined as a bank which primarily delivers retail banking services through the Internet or other forms of electronic channels instead of physical branches”.

HKMA’s guidelines include rules such as virtual banks having to play an active role in promoting financial inclusion when offering their banking services.

“While virtual banks are not expected to maintain physical branches, they should endeavour to take care of the needs of their target customers, be they individuals or SMEs,” it says, adding that virtual banks should not impose any minimum account balance requirement or low-balance fees on their customers.

In terms of ownership, the HKMA says that because virtual banks will mostly be focused on retail businesses covering a large pool of such clients, “they are expected to operate in the form of a locally-incorporated bank, in line with the established policy of requiring banks that operate significant retail businesses to be locally-incorporated entities”.

It also says that it is generally its policy “that a party which has more than 50% of the share capital of a bank incorporated in Hong Kong should be a bank or a financial institution in good standing and supervised by a recognised authority in Hong Kong or elsewhere”.

While the guidelines cover a lot more, it is worthwhile pointing out that the HKMA is of the view that “virtual banks will be subject to the same set of supervisory requirements applicable to conventional banks”, with some of the rules being changed in line with technological requirements.

It adds that in terms of capital requirement, “virtual banks must maintain adequate capital commensurating with the nature of their operations and the banking risks they are undertaking”.

Noticeable absence of tech players

Interestingly, in the first round of licences given out by the HKMA, there was a noticeable absence of major Chinese tech companies like Tencent Holdings Ltd and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s Ant Financial, which many would have thought make obvious choices given their experience in carving out game-changing fintech-centric services especially in their home country of China.

“Mobile payment services offered by the likes of WeChat and Alipay are possible with Internet giants like Alibaba and Tencent behind the entire ecosystem, the fact that they were not included raised some eyebrows,” says one Hong Kong-based banking analyst.

In the same vein, Hong Kong has been criticised for not being proactive enough when it comes to encouraging financial start-ups and being overly protective of conventional banks as evident in its fintech sandbox programme of 2016, which was reportedly introduced to help traditional financial institutions try out new technology instead of supporting fresh start-ups.

“Still, a start is better than no start and we are looking forward to when these virtual banks start operating in nine months’ time,” says the analyst.

He adds that as long as security is not an issue, he hopes that virtual banks will be able to provide what traditional banks are “still not good at”, namely personalised customer service and cheaper services.

While it is early days yet in Malaysia, the general feedback is that virtual banks will be good, specifically for consumers who will have more choices.

But this will come at the expense of increased competition within the banking sector.

Analysts in Hong Kong have predicted that about 10% of revenue belonging to traditional banks there will be “at risk” over the next ten years because of the setting up of virtual banks.

Whether or not it will be the same for Malaysian banks remains to be seen.

A lot of this will depend on the guidelines that the central bank plans to set out in the months to come.

By Yvonne Tan The Star

Breaking ground with new banking concept

Backed by Ma: MyBank is backed by billionaire Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Alibaba affiliate company Ant Financial owns 30% of the online lender. (Photo: AFP)

(The Star Online/ANN) - DURING the height of the fintech revolution that’s been taking place over the last few years, one prominent banker in Malaysia made an interesting comment during a private dinner.

The banker said that while he welcomes fintech companies into the market, he wasn’t really afraid of losing any significant business to them. What he really feared, if anything, were the technology giants turning on a banking facility for the millions of users they have on their platforms.

“This Facebook Bank, Google Bank or Whatsapp Financial Group,” he quipped in half jest.

The logic is simple: with those platforms even then having had the myriad users globally, they are able to tap that user group to offer financial services.

But banking remains a highly regulated space. Not every technology company will be able to fulfill those criteria or even have such intentions.

Still, there are a number of virtual banks that have sprung up globally.

Here are some of the more notable ones in this part of the region.

China: WeBank

WeBank is China’s first private digital-only bank, launched in early 2015.

It is backed by tech giant Tencent Holdings – China’s biggest messaging and social networking company, which is also the operator of WeChat

Besides Tencent, its other backers include investment firms Baiyeyuan and Liye Group.

According to its website, WeBank provides consumer banking services through digital channels, as well as microcredits and other loan products.

The Internet-only lender had turned in a profit one year into operation thanks to surging demand for microloans among blue-collar workers and small entrepreneurs.

In 2017, WeBank made a net profit of 1.4 billion yuan or US$209mil, while its return on equity came in at 19.2%.

Its total lending in that year was nearly twice that of closest rival MyBank for the same period.

A recent stake sale of the bank values the company at US$21bil, making it one of the world’s largest “unicorn” companies.

Banking Tech recently reported that the lender is now eyeing an Australian expansion to compete with payments company Alipay, which is its largest rival.

MyBank

MyBank is backed by billionaire Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

Alibaba affiliate company Ant Financial owns 30% of the online lender.

Not unlike WeBank, it has a focus on consumer and small and medium-sized enterprises, a sector underserved by traditional banks in China.

It uses credit data from the e-commerce giant’s AliPay product to conduct analysis for loans.

By circumventing human involvement, the bank said it was able to deliver loans to borrowers faster and up to 1,000 times less than it would cost brick-and-mortar banks to do so.

Like WeBank, it turned profitable one year into operations due to its less capital-intensive model.

Ant Financial is reportedly looking to go public in the near future.

India: Digibank

Singapore’s banking giant DBS Bank launched Digibank in April 2016 – a move that has enabled it to penetrate the Indian retail banking market.

Breaking away from conventional banking norms with their onerous form-filling and cumbersome processes, Digibank incorporates a host of ground-breaking technology, from artificial intelligence to biometrics.

DBS CEO Piyush Gupta expects the mobile-only bank to break even in three to four years, which according to him is not such a bad deal as compared to the traditional branch model, which needs 15 to 20 years to break even.

Digibank has over 1.5 million customers and it is handling them with 60 people rather than the 400-500 staff members it would normally need under the traditional model. Its cost-to-income ratio is in the low 30s.

Following its Indian venture, DBS went on to launch a similar mobile-led bank in Indonesia where the government expects the country’s digital economy to reach US$130bil or about 12% of its gross domestic product in 2020.

Other Singaporean lenders have also jumped on the bandwagon. United Overseas Bank (UOB) said it would launch “digital banks” for its five key markets in Asean, starting in Thailand. It aims to have three to five million customers in the next five years

Elsewhere, OCBC is also reportedly pursuing a similar idea in Indonesia.

Japan

Established in 2008, Jibun Bank reached profitability in less than five years. The outfit is a joint venture between Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ and local mobile network operator, KDDI.

The story goes that instead of competing with each other, the two organisations decided it would make more sense creating a “separate bank” that complement their goals.

The Asian Banker in a case study on Jibun Bank noted that in its first year, the lender had accumulated over 500,000 new customers. By 2015, Jibun Bank’s asset volume surpassed that of Japan’s oldest Internet bank, Japan Net Bank. Asian Banker also noted that the lender’s deposit volume has grown to a size that is comparable to that of a mid-tier regional bank – all of this without the help of a branch footprint.  

South Korea: K-bank and Kakao Bank

The two South Korea’s online-only banks have signed up new customers by the millions since beginning operations in 2017.

Kakao Bank is run by mobile messaging Kakao and Korea Investment Holdings, while K-bank is operated by telco KT.

The authorities there are hoping that K-bank and Kakao Bank would spur growth in a banking industry that has stagnated amid rising credit costs, narrowing interest margins and heavy regulation.

The Financial Times in an October 2017 report wrote that about 300,000 new accounts were opened with Kakao Bank in the 24 hours following its launch in late July. This figure was more than what traditional banks in South Korea got in a year through online channels. And as at end-September that year, it had already garnered 3.9 million users.

The news agency said that Kako Bank users can wire money abroad for just a tenth of typical commission fees.

Its peer K-bank, meanwhile, attracted over half a million users in the few months following its April 2017 launch.

In contrast, international banks operating traditional branch networks in the country were looking at downsizing their branches.

Early this year, Shinhan Financial Group inked a deal with mobile app maker Viva Republica to set up an Internet-only bank, making it the third player in the game.

by gurmeet kaur The Star

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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Bytedance, World's Most Valuable Startup Is Home to a Complex Fortune

US$13bil man: Zhang is the youngest self-made billionaire in Asia on the Bloomberg index, which tracks the world’s 500 richest people. He is worth US$13bil. — Bloomberg
https://youtu.be/VKD3jt0KvhQ
  • Ownership structure used by Zhang Yiming is popular in tech
  • Chinese authorities will soon allow so-called VIEs to list
The 35-year-old founder of Bytedance Ltd. is worth about $13 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, making him China’s 9th-richest person and one of the fastest in modern times to amass a mega-fortune.

The business, founded in 2012, has more than 1 billion active monthly users across eight mobile apps, including a news aggregator powered by artificial intelligence and a video-sharing platform.

Zhang is the youngest self-made billionaire in Asia on the Bloomberg index, which tracks the world’s 500 richest people. His rapid wealth accumulation is a sign that China hasn’t lost its knack for creating mega-rich company founders despite a slowing economy.

His rapid wealth accumulation -- he’s now the world’s 98th-richest person -- is a sign that China hasn’t lost its knack for creating mega-rich company founders despite a slowing economy. It also helps explain why authorities seem to be taking a more tolerant stance toward a corporate structure favored by the country’s technology tycoons, most of whom have chosen to list their businesses overseas.

Zhang’s fortune is harder to calculate than the founders of Baidu Inc. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. in part because his company isn’t yet public. It’s also difficult because Bytedance is structured in the same way as the two tech behemoths -- a complicated ownership system known as a variable interest entity (VIE).

Of the 44 Chinese tycoons on Bloomberg’s wealth index, eight are tech moguls with VIEs listed outside China. The billionaires’ combined net worth exceeded $150 billion as of March 21, and their stakes weren’t publicly known until the companies filed with regulators ahead of going public in New York or Hong Kong.

VIEs have never been formally endorsed by the Chinese government. But in an acknowledgment of their importance, officials will soon permit VIEs to go public in the country, allowing them to list on a new technology-focused exchange set to launch in coming months.

Complex Structure

Bytedance is, for now, a closely held VIE with a complex structure that involves layers of holding companies.

Its main business, Jinri Toutiao, is ultimately owned by Zhang and Bytedance Senior Vice President Zhang Lidong through a Beijing-registered holding firm, according to China’s National Enterprise Credit Information Publicity System.

Zhang pledged his 98.8 percent stake to another Beijing company, which in turn is owned by a Hong Kong-registered firm. That entity, where Zhang is a director, is owned by a company registered in the Cayman Islands. The principals won’t be disclosed unless there’s an IPO prospectus.

The Bloomberg Billionaires Index calculated Zhang’s net worth by pegging his stake at 65 percent and using the company’s valuation of $20 billion, a figure provided in 2017 by people with knowledge of the matter. The analysis assumes his stake has been diluted through funding rounds.

Bytedance is said to have secured a $75 billion valuation in late 2018, making it the world’s most valuable startup -- though the figure isn’t used in the net worth calculation because the details haven’t been confirmed.

Yin Ai, a Bytedance spokeswoman, declined to comment on Zhang’s wealth or the ownership structure.

Zhang uses a VIE because Chinese regulations limit foreign investment across more than 30 sectors including the internet, telecommunications and education. The VIE structure -- which allows offshore companies to control domestic Chinese businesses through contractual agreements -- circumvents the rules and allows, for example, Baidu’s holding company to be based offshore (and list in the U.S.) while still being a dominant force in China.

Internet giant Sina Corp. pioneered the VIE model so that it could transfer income from onshore operating businesses to an offshore holding company, an arrangement that meant the Cayman Islands entity could list on the Nasdaq Stock Market in 2000.

There are risks to the structure for foreign investors, said Donald Clarke, a specialist in Chinese law at George Washington University.

“A contract entered into for an unlawful purpose is invalid under Chinese law,” he said. “Any time the government wants to pull the plug, it can.”

Still, that hasn’t stopped more than 100 companies using VIEs in offshore IPOs, according to research by Zhou Fang, a Beijing-based partner at law firm JunHe LLP, who predicts that more companies will follow.

That growth helps explain why authorities are slowly embracing VIEs. Earlier this month, China enacted a foreign-investment law that allayed investor concerns about the future of such companies, while unicorn VIEs will be able to list on the new exchange in Shanghai, known as the Tech Board.

“To some extent, it shows the government easing concerns over VIEs -- but they still care about who’s the ultimate controller of the company,” said Zhang Biwang, a partner at Allbright Law Offices. As long as the controller of the company remains a Chinese citizen, “the government won’t shut their eyes and ignore reality to make the companies give up VIEs.”

ByBloomberg

Read more: 
China tech firms, seeking passion and energy,
promote younger staff
 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-tech-ageism/china-tech-firms-seeking-passion-and-energy-promote-younger-staff-idUSKCN1R60PS


The Insanely Popular Chinese News App That You've Never Heard Of ...

 

The rise of Toutiao | The rise of Toutiao  

 

 Chinese news aggregation app called Toutiao (meaning “headlines”). 

 

 TopBuzz News: Breaking, Local & More - Apps on Google Play

https://youtu.be/OelhULVNQnA



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Sunday, March 24, 2019

Apple CEO Tim Cook grateful for China's opening policy, calls for more global trade with China, he’s bullish on global economy

https://youtu.be/ROkQ0yZl89c

Apple CEO Tim Cook calls for more global trade with China in rare public speech.
 
https://youtu.be/VYTd-ctTx9o

Key Points

In a speech at an economic forum in Beijing, Cook said Apple is less concerned with the short-term economic outlook because the tech giant makes investments looking ahead years or decades.

His remarks come as China and the U.S. prepare to meet again to resolve their trade dispute, which has roiled global markets, and as Apple is expected to announce that it is launching a video service.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said Saturday that he is “extremely bullish” about the global economy based on the amount of innovation underway, and urged China to continue to “open up” amid complaints from the U.S. and others that it is shutting foreign firms out of key high-tech industries.

In a speech at an economic forum in Beijing, Cook said Apple is less concerned with the short-term economic outlook because the tech giant makes investments looking ahead years or decades.

“In the long term, I’m extremely bullish. I think the key to the economy, unlocking its potential has always been innovation, and when I travel around the world, I’ve never seen innovation at a more feverish pace than I do today, so I’m extremely optimistic,” Cook told participants at the China Development Forum, a gathering of business leaders in Beijing.

His remarks come as China and the U.S. prepare to meet again to resolve their trade dispute, which has roiled global markets, and as Apple is expected to announce that it is launching a video service

The iPhone has long been Apple’s marquee product and main money maker, but sales are starting to decline. The company is pushing digital subscriptions as it searches for new growth.

Apple is one of many American companies now grappling with increasing Chinese consumer anxiety. China is a major market for Apple and other smartphone makers, accounting for one-third of the industry’s global handset shipments.

In other comments, Cook said the world was “facing greater challenges than ever before.”

“Climate change is threatening our planet, poverty and inequality hold citizens and nations back from their potential, basic health care remains out of reach for millions,” he said.

“At the same time ... we can have a healthy planet and a thriving economy. We can continue to lift millions of people out of poverty, and we can give everyone a chance to learn and thrive. To fulfill this potential, we must all work hand in hand, government, academic institutions and businesses like Apple,” Cook said.- CNBC


Read more

China Development Forum 2019 held in Beijing - Global Times

  

Apple's Cook confident of China's huge market ...

 

 

 Italy joining BRI paves the road to closer EU-China relationship


As long as the rules of fairness, open tender, full disclosure of terms of deals, concern for the environment are respected, BRI can be a meaningful contribution to economic growth and social development.


Engineering school in Shanghai becomes China's first 5G university

Quiet lawns and playgrounds, students riding bicycles... it seemed to be an ordinary campus scene at the Shanghai University of Engineering Science on Thursday morning, but changes were taking place invisibly because of 5G.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Equinox to have small impact on Malaysia?

https://youtu.be/TDBi2s4J2A4 

PETALING JAYA: Equinox, a phenomenon where the sun is positioned on top of the head in the equatorial region, is expected to have a weaker impact on Malaysia.

“The effects of equinoxes on the equator area are generally lower than the effects of monsoon and climate patterns,” said Malaysian Meteorological Department director-general Alui Bahari.

The equatorial region, he said, receives maximum sunlight throughout the year.

“Due to the constant sunlight it receives, the region will only experience a small variation in its climate due to equinoxes,” he said when contacted about how equinox will affect the weather in Malaysia.

Alui was responding to a message that has gone viral via WhatsApp advising people to drink more water between March 22 and 28.

“Drink more water for the next seven days (March 22-28) due to equinox. The body gets dehydrated very fast during this period. Please share this news to maximum groups,” the message reads.

Alui said equinox happens twice a year, either on March 21 or 22, or Sept 22 or 23.

In Malaysia, it happens on March 21 and Sept 23.

Interestingly, MetMalaysia last year also had to refute news on the Equinox phenomenon.

The department had then said a hike in temperature was expected to take place but would not result in a heat wave as claimed in the message.

Alui said based on the monitoring of thermal wavelength status, as at 4.40pm yesterday, there was no area in the country experiencing heat waves, where the temperature exc­eeds 37°C in three consecutive days.

“However, there are some areas that are on the alert because the temperature in the area reaches 35 to 37°C, namely Chuping, Kota Setar, Pendang, Sik, Hulu Perak, Kinta, Jeli, Tanah Merah, Kuala Krai , Gua Musang, Jerantut, Maran, Tangkak, Sri Aman and Kapit,” he said.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s professor of climatology and oceano­­graphy Dr Fredolin Tangang said the hot weather in the Peninsula, especially the west coast, is expected to improve as the inter-Monsoon arrives.

“Usually, there will be thunderstorms in the afternoon and late afternoon. But in Sabah and the northern part of the Peninsula, the hot spell may continue until April,” he said.

The MetMalaysia website showed that several states in the country are expected to see thunderstorms in the coming week, starting today.

For example, in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Putrajaya and Negri Sembilan, it is expected to see thunderstorms from March 23 to 25 and on March 28. No rain is expected on March 26 and 27.

There will be thunderstorms from March 23 to 28 in Penang.

In Sarawak, there will be no rain from March 23 to 25 and there will be thunderstorms over inland areas from March 26 to 28.

In the meantime, Malaysians are doing their best to counter the effects of the hot weather.

Lai Yuen Theng, who works in a daycare centre in Kepong, Selangor, said it was preparing porridge and herbal tea for the children to help “cool” their bodies.

Property agent Melissa Chen, who lives in Kuala Lumpur, said she will try her best to arrange house viewings for her clients in the morning as the weather is extremely hot these days.

“I will try my best to stay indoors. Last week, I brought clients to four places to look at condominium units. The temperature that day was about 37°C. I fell sick after dri­ving and walking under the hot sun,” she said.

She also expected a spike in the electricity bill as she used the air-conditioner more frequently.

By Yimie Yong The Star


Related:

Equinox - Wikipedia


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

China’s private companies reaching for the stars

Lift-off: A security cordon is placed around the launch site of an OS-X suborbital rocket, which was developed by OneSpace Technology Group Co Ltd, in northwestern China last May. — China Daily
SATELLITES have become the latest gold mine for private companies in China as they rush to reach for the stars in the space sector.

The country’s satellite industry, which used to be dominated by state-owned enterprises, is gradually changing and opening to private players.

More than 90 Chinese start-ups, mostly focused on satellites or rockets, have taken their first steps in the space industry in the past four years, a senior industry expert from a Beijing-based satellite startup, who wished to remain anonymous, told China Daily based on the start-up’s internal research.

“It means that on average, nearly two startups were founded every month in the past four years in China. It is significant if China is to grab a slice of the cake from the global competition in the budding space industry,” he said.

According to The Space Report 2018 issued by The Space Foundation, the total market of the global space economy was US$384bil in 2017, a year-on-year increase of 7.4%. Of that, commercial activities accounted for more than 80%.

Industry experts pointed out that China only accounts for 3%-5% of the space economy globally, but the country is gaining ground fast in terms of both scale and technology.

Since 2014, Chinese authorities have launched policies and called for private players to actively participate in the country’s space industry.

Earlier, the National Development and Reform Commission, along with the Ministry of Finance and the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence, also unveiled a 10-year blueprint to promote the commercial space sector.

LinkSure Network, a Chinese free internet access provider, announced a plan in November last year to launch China’s first Wi-Fi satellite in 2019.

It aims to send 272 satellites into space to provide free Wi-Fi globally by 2026. The first batch of investment will hit 3 billion yuan (US$447mil).

Similar to Elon Musk’s Starlink plan, the satellites will be used to expand internet coverage and boost internet speeds, the Shanghai-based internet firm said.

“The starting point of such a plan is to offer free internet connections to people around the world, especially those in underdeveloped areas or rough terrain,” said Wang Xiaoshu, rotating president of LinkSure Network.

The company, founded in 2013, became a unicorn – a startup valued at more than US$1bil – in 2015 by raising US$52mil in its A-round of financing.

“Satellite connection will be a great supplement to the ground network. The ground network, which relies on stations, has limitations due to, for example, weather and land form,” said An Yang, chief scientist of LinkSure’s satellite project.

“On a global scale, the number of satellites is far from meeting the huge demand for communication. The future of the communication sector must be a combination of space and ground,” he said.

Under the plan, revenue will come from services to high-end users as well as those provided to areas that the ground network is unable to reach, An said.

 
The space era: In this undated photo, An Yang, chief scientist of the satellite project at LinkSure Network, introduces the company’s satellite system at a news conference in Beijing. — China Daily

LinkSure is not the first. A string of startups have sent satellites into space for different purposes.

For instance, Guoxing Yuhang Co Ltd, or ADA Space, a private firm based in Chengdu, Sichuan province, launched two artificial intelligence satellites at the end of last year.

Though the country’s internet giants have not directly announced plans to develop, produce or launch satellites, they are showing a desire to do so.

Tech conglomerate Alibaba Group launched a communication satellite to support its online shopping gala last year while Baidu chief executive officer Robin Li said earlier that he hoped more support could be given to private companies in the civilian space segment.

Another tech giant Tencent Holdings Ltd has also jumped on the bandwagon by investing in US startup Moon Express, which was founded in 2013 by a group of space entrepreneurs.

The US startup is looking to profit from the commercial space sector through leveraging core technologies including using drones to mine asteroids.

Compared with state-owned companies, private firms are better at commercialisation including attracting and using money and resources, which will greatly improve efficiency, said Yang Feng, chief executive officer of Spacety, a commercial aerospace company specialising in developing commercial micro and nano satellites.

“It is also a promising area that state-owned and private space companies can supplement and co-operate with each other,” he added.

Notably, some private players have also entered the overseas market. China Communication Technology Co Ltd in Shenzhen, a satellite-based communication services provider, has been beefing up its overseas presence to exploit foreign opportunities.

“We aim to extend our business to Africa this year and will tap into one or two Belt and Road economies each year,” said Wu Guangsheng, president of CCT.

CCT is currently offering services and products in the US, Europe, the Middle East and nine other countries and regions that are participating in the Belt and Road Initiative.

In 2017, its overseas revenue was about 9 billion yuan, which made up more than 60% of the total.

It also plans to further explore South-East Asian markets including Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, and promote its products in Central Asian economies such as Kazakhstan.

Last year, the company entered the Philippines by acquiring G Telecoms Inc, the third-biggest telecom operator in the local market.

“In the past, we could only co-operate with local (telecom) carriers in foreign countries by selling our equipment to them. But with this big step, we can operate independently, be it launching our own satellites or providing data-related services,” Wu said.

The business could have huge potential as some 75% of the Philippines’ 100 million population are aged 25 or under and they have a voracious demand for communication services.

So far, CCT has received orders from civil aviation and public security departments in the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia.

In 2018, at least 15 private space companies disclosed their financing with the total amount estimated to reach more than 2 billion yuan, according to a report from 36Kr, a science and technology media group.

A report from China Money Network pointed out that seven private space companies had raised more than 1.66 billion yuan by August 2018.

MatrixPartners China, IDG Capital, China Growth Capital and Shunwei Capital were among the major investors.

Despite intensive capital support, industry insiders pointed out that there is still a long way to go for Chinese private firms to gain a lead.

For startups, money is still the bottleneck, said Jiang Yunwei, president of CITIC Juxin (Beijing) Co Ltd Capital Management, in a report.

“A company cannot earn money by launching a single satellite and the commercialisation of satellites needs a network of dozens of satellites, which costs a lot,” he said.

A satellite network requires at least 1.8 billion yuan to 2 billion yuan, according to Xie Tao, founder and chief executive officer of Beijing-based space startup Commsat Technology Development Co.

Facing such pressure, satellite startups are expected to address another challenge – to reduce the cost of developing and launching up satellites.

“Companies should change their approach of using costly accessories made only for space,” said Xie. “Private companies can leverage commercial components to replace expensive ones.

” Zhang Jiacheng, an investor in space startup OneSpace, agreed.

“China is still at the starting point in the commercial space sector. A well-rounded system needs to be established to offer space startups affordable and sustainable services.” — China Daily/Asia News Network

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Sunday, March 17, 2019

White supremacy - Terrorists attack mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand

https://youtu.be/lUrXuS0sPOo
https://youtu.be/P82abyLlid8
https://youtu.be/MelLrrx9PFk
https://youtu.be/IHqp9V1-8eY
https://youtu.be/klL6Go-FC5Q

 

Gunman live-streamed shooting at mosques
 

CHRISTCHURCH: An Australian gunman (pic) involved in attacks on New Zealand mosques that left at least 49 people dead published a racist manifesto on Twitter beforehand then livestreamed his rampage, according to an online analysis. 

Police called for people not to share the video, which showed the gunman shooting repeatedly at worshippers from close range.

“Police are aware there is extremely distressing footage relating to the incident in Christchurch circulating online,” New Zealand police said in a Twitter post.

“We would strongly urge that the link not be shared. We are working to have any footage removed.”

The media analysed a copy of the Facebook Live video, which shows a clean-shaven, Caucasian man with short hair driving to the Al Noor Mosque in central Christchurch, then shooting as he enters the building.

It was determined the video was genuine through a digital investigation that included matching screenshots of the mosque taken from the gunman’s footage with multiple images available online showing the same areas.

The manifesto detailing motivations for the attack was posted yesterday morning onto a Twitter account with the same name and profile image as the Facebook page that streamed the attack.

Entitled The Great Replacement, the 73-page document said the gunman had wanted to attack Muslims.

The title of the document has the same name as a conspiracy theory originating in France that believes European populations are being displaced in their homelands by immigrant groups with higher birth rates.

The manifesto said the gunman identified himself an Australia-born, 28-year-old white male from a low-income, working-class family.

He said that key points in his radicalisation were the defeat of the French far-right leader Marine Le Pen in 2017 elections, and the death of 11-year-old Ebba Åkerlund in the 2017 Stockholm truck attack.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed the attacker at the Masjid al Noor mosque was an Australian.

“We stand here and condemn, absolutely the attack that occurred today by an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist,” said Morrison.

New Zealand authorities said that three people had been arrested, but their identities were not made public.

The media confirmed the authenticity of the live-streamed video partly by matching the distinctive features at the mosque seen in the footage with images available online.

These included a fence, postbox and doorway at the entrance to the mosque. — AFP

Christchurch appears to be the latest in a global series of rightwing terror

People arrive for Sunday services at the Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina after a shooting.
People arrive for Sunday services at the Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina after a shooting. Photograph: John Taggart/EPA
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/16/a-history-of-recent-attacks-linked-to-white-supremacism

In the past eight years, across continents, white supremacists have repeatedly chosen the same targets for shootings, stabbings, bombings and car attacks.

The mass shootings on Friday targeting two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 49 people, appear to be the latest in a drumbeat of attacks motivated by the belief that the white race is endangered. The perceived threats include Jews, Muslims, immigrants, refugees, feminists and leftist politicians.

The attackers have not been part of a single white supremacist group. But they are steeped in the same global racist propaganda, fluent in the same memes and conspiracies, and the perpetrator of one attack often references the names of the killers who came before.

In less than a decade, these attacks have included:


Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/16/a-history-of-recent-attacks-linked-to-white-supremacism

Massacre livestream tests internet governance

The internet has promoted economic and social development. Such a function must be ensured, its openness maintained. Meanwhile, chances should be reduced for the internet to stir up troubles for society or severely mislead social ideologies. Which country does a better job will be tested by its internet economy's achievements and comprehensive fulfillment of the nation's economic and social development.
Source: Global Times | 2019/3/18 21:38:42

Mass shooting exposes Western flaws

The Western established advantages are indeed tremendous, but its self-adjustment ability is weakening, and some so-called adjustments often surrender to populism. The West is entering a problematic period that strikes at its very foundation.
Source: Global Times | 2019/3/17 20:43:40

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Than Hsiang - Engineering change for greater good

Guan Yin - Goddess of Mercy"
http://thanhsiang.org/en/

Than Hsiang Foundation was established in January 1990 to promote Buddhist education, welfare and cultivation based on the Conviction of: "The Young to Learn, The Strong and Healthy to Serve, The Aged and Sick to be Cared For, The Departed to Find Spiritual Destination." 
Ven Wei Wu (right) speaking at a dialogue commemorating the 25th anniversary of his renunciation on April 29, 2017.

Retiring engineer-turned-abbot has made big contributions to education, culture and welfare

BEFORE answering his calling to serve as a Buddhist monk, Neoh Kah Thong was a successful engineer, having done very well in Penang’s pioneer high-tech sector.

He learned Total Quality Management (TQM) from his Japanese teacher and friend, Prof Noriaki Kano, and implemented it successfully at his workplace in Penang, a sales office in Kuala Lumpur, and many government and private organisations.

For 19 years after graduating from a New Zealand university, Neoh worked tirelessly as an engineer, manager and consultant in New Zealand, Malaysia, Asia, the United States and Europe.

He also travelled extensively during this period and learned about the various cultures and acquiring knowledge while building up a wide network.

When he became a monk at 43, Neoh took up the name Venerable Wei Wu and continued to implement the TQM system at Bayan Baru’s Than Hsiang Temple which he founded with a group of friends working in Penang’s multi-national companies, mostly from Hewlett Packard.

“There was no looking back. With the help of my colleagues, friends, benefactors and supporters, we embarked on the mammoth task to build up the Buddhist organisation till today,” he said.

For many years, the Buddhist fraternity, especially those staying in Penang and the northern states, have regarded Ven Wei Wu as synonymous with Than Hsiang and vice versa. He is highly revered as a fatherly religious figure.

However, come March 16 this Saturday, Ven Wei Wu will retire as the Than Hsiang abbot at a ceremony where Ven Zhen Dian will be installed as the new abbot.

Born into a wealthy family, Ven Wei Wu, now 70, said his parents passed away before he was ordained.

“My eldest sister and foster mother were initially concerned about me abandoning my successful career. But they soon came to accept my decision and happily witnessed my ordination by Senior Ven Xiu Jing.”

 
Than Hsiang now has extensive ‘cradle to grave’ services and facilities including 10 kindergartens, Dharma classes for children and adults, Taiji classes, pre-marital courses, free clinics, vegetarian canteen, counselling centres, homes for senior citizens at several branches in the country as well as the International Buddhist College in Thailand.

He recalled that Than Hsiang was mooted at the Hewlett Packard canteen when his colleagues questioned him about his vegetarian diet.

“They also questioned me about Buddhism and its practices. We then started meditating and doing puja together in a colleague’s house before setting up a centre in Bayan Baru, which later became Than Hsiang.

“I received my higher ordination at the Hsi Lye Temple in the United States. I later received my Chan (Zen) Dharma transmission from Senior Venerable Bo Yuan in the Zhaodong Chan Dharma lineage,” he added.

Than Hsiang Temple was initially a place mainly for spiritual practice.

Later, it extended to play a social role in promoting education, welfare and cultural activities.

According to Ven Wei Wu, although Than Hsiang is a spiritual organisation, it is also active in education, social and cultural work.

“I believe that Than Hsiang will become better when I retire as abbot but I will still play a different (advisory) role.

Than Hsiang now has extensive ‘cradle to grave’ services and facilities including 10 kindergartens, Dharma classes for children and adults, Taiji classes, pre-marital courses, free clinics, vegetarian canteen, counselling centres, homes for senior citizens at several branches in the country as well as the International Buddhist College in Thailand. 
Than Hsiang now has extensive ‘cradle to grave’ services and facilities including 10 kindergartens, Dharma classes for children and adults, Taiji classes, pre-marital courses, free clinics, vegetarian canteen, counselling centres, homes for senior citizens at several branches in the country as well as the International Buddhist College in Thailand.

“My successor Ven Zhen Dian was among the first batch of monks and nuns to be ordained at Than Hsiang Temple after me, so he is no stranger to the older devotees,” he said.

On his future plans, Ven Wei Wu said he would want to attain spiritual liberation, ultimately Buddhahood. He would also like to share the Dharma with friends in China and Western countries, if necessary to continue in future lives.

Than Hsiang started with about 20 members in the 80s, today it has 20,000 members and some 200,000 who support the organisation directly or indirectly in and outside Malaysia.

They have set up facilities such as a Metta Free Clinic, 10 kindergartens, two Mitra counselling centres and four senior citizens’ homes.

In Malaysia, there have branches in Penang, Kedah, Selangor, Wilayah, Negri Sembilan and Perak.

In Thailand, they have a Foundation and the International Buddhist College (IBC) which will be celebrating its 15th anniversary this year.

International Buddhist College IBC
 
https://youtu.be/4ONLBYIa0VA

IBC is an accredited institution offering BA, MA and PHD degree in English and Chinese mediums.

They have produced graduates from more than 30 countries. The students were recruited from top schools and universities such as Yale, Columbia, HKU, MU and NUS.

IBC graduates have been accepted into top universities of the world.

Currently, Than Hsiang is supporting the four Phor Tay schools financially as well as providing teachers with Buddhist classes.

The good work of Ven Wei Wu is the visible outcome of Than Hsiang’s noble mission: “For the young to learn, the strong and healthy to serve, the aged and sick to be cared for, and the departed to find spiritual destination.”

Source: Metro News

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