Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Physicists searching for creation's symmetry nab the Nobel.

Beauty Is Truth

Michio Kaku, 10.07.08, 11:38 AM EDT

Physicists searching for creation's symmetry nab the Nobel.


The media got it all wrong.

It seized on the silly idea that the Large Hadron Collider would destroy the world. But the Nobel Prize committee got it right, awarding the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physics to two Japanese physicists and one Japanese-American physicist who helped to lay the foundation of the Standard Model of particles. That's the theory being tested by that very same instrument, which smashes atoms against each other. Ultimately, their work may answer some of the deepest questions about the universe and genesis itself.

The real story concerns the search for beauty and simplicity in physics, the idea that guided Einstein for most of his life. Physicists think that nature, at its most basic level, must be fundamentally gorgeous. At the instant of the Big Bang, they believe, all the forces of the universe were unified into a coherent whole--into a single, mysterious, beautiful superforce. So beauty may ultimately reveal the true secret of creation.

To a physicist, however, beauty is not some squishy, touchy-feely, ephemeral concept. Beauty to a physicist means symmetry, which can be reduced to precise mathematical equations, whether it's the symmetry of a snowflake or starfish, the beauty of a blazing star, the radiance of a diamond or the patterns of sub-atomic particles.

Here's the rub. At the atomic level, everywhere we look, we see only shattered fragments of this master symmetry. Physicists were shocked to discover a whole zoo of sub-atomic particles in their atom smashers. (The father of the atomic bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer, was so frustrated by this deluge of particles that he solemnly proclaimed that the Nobel Prize should go to the physicist who had NOT discovered a new particle that year.)

Light, gravity and nuclear forces seem totally dissimilar. So physicists are like detectives, trying to arrange the shattered pieces together, hunting for clues, trying to recreate the scene of the "crime," for example, the Big Bang.

At the University of Chicago in the 1960s, Yoichio Nambu pioneered a radical idea--that the symmetry of a beautiful theory could be subtly broken. Think of a dam. From a distance, it looks beautiful, calm and elegant. But appearances are deceptive. The dam is actually unstable. If a tiny crack forms, it may burst, and the water may suddenly rush down to the state of lowest energy, that is, to sea level. Similarly, Nambu showed that even if a theory appears symmetrical, it could actually be unstable if a lower energy state exists in which that symmetry is broken.

Perhaps, he said, our infant universe was originally symmetrical but was also unstable. Suddenly, this symmetry broke, and the universe burst into a lower energy state, unleashing a tidal wave of energy. This could be the origin of the Big Bang.

(In physics, we have a saying. To understand the physics of the next 10 years, simply have a conversation with Professor Nambu.)

Similarly, Makoto Kobayashi and Toshihide Maskawa applied the ideas of symmetry to the theory of quarks, which are the building blocks of protons and neutrons, themselves the building blocks of atoms. Much to their surprise, in 1973, they found that the quark model could be formulated in a more balanced, elegant fashion if there were three generations of quarks instead of two. Sure enough, in 1976 the next generation of quarks was found in our atom smashers.

The work of Nambu, Kobayashi and Maskawa helped to lay the foundation of the Standard Model, often called the "theory of almost everything." It can unify everything except gravity. And there may even be a theory beyond the Standard Model, a true theory of everything that can unify all forces. It's called string theory.

Not surprisingly, one of the founders of string theory is Professor Nambu, a newly minted Nobel Laureate who has years of research ahead of him. The best is yet to come.

Michio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York, is the author of Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phases, Teleportation and Time Travel.

So You Want to Become a Physicist?

So You Want to Become a Physicist?

You have come to the right place

I’ve often been asked the question: how do you become a physicist? Let me first say that physicists, from a fairly early age, are fascinated by the universe and its fantastic wonders. We want to be part of the romantic, exciting adventure to tease apart its mysteries and understand the nature of physical reality.

That’s the driving force behind our lives. We are more interested in black holes and the origin of the universe than with making tons of money and driving flashy cars. We also realize that physics forms the foundation for biology, chemistry, geology, etc. and the wealth of modern civilization. We realize that physicists pioneered the pivotal discoveries of the 20th century which revolutionized the world (e.g. the transistor, the laser, splitting the atom, TV and radio, MRI and PET scans, quantum theory and relativity, unraveling the DNA molecule was done by physicists.

But people often ask the question: do I have to be an Einstein to become a physicist? The answer is NO. Sure, physicists have to be proficient in mathematics, but the main thing is to have that curiosity and drive. One of the greatest physicists of all time, Michael Faraday, started out as a penniless, uneducated apprentice, but he was persistent and creative and then went on to revolutionize modern civilization with electric motors and dynamos. Much of the worlds gross domestic product depends on his work.

Einstein also said that behind every great theory there is a simple physical picture that even lay people can understand. In fact, he said, if a theory does not have a simple underlying picture, then the theory is probably worthless. The important thing is the physical picture; math is nothing but bookkeeping.

Steps to becoming a Physicist:

1) in high school, read popular books on physics and try to make contact with real physicists, if possible. (Role models are extremely important. If you cannot talk to a real physicist, read biographies of the giants of physics, to understand their motivation, their career path, the milestones in their career.) A role model can help you lay out a career path that is realistic and practical. The wheel has already been invented, so take advantage of a role model. Doing a science fair project is another way to plunge into the wonderful world of physics. Unfortunately, well-meaning teachers and counselors, not understanding physics, will probably give you a lot of useless advice, or may try to discourage you. Sometimes you have to ignore their advice.

Don’t get discouraged about the math, because you will have to wait until you learn calculus to understand most physics. (After all, Newton invented calculus in order to solve a physics problem: the orbit of the moon and planets in the solar system.)

Get good grades in all subjects and good SAT scores (i.e. don’t get too narrowly focused on physics) so you can be admitted to a top school, such as Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, MIT, Cal Tech. (Going to a top liberal arts college is sometimes an advantage over going to an engineering school, since it’s easier to switch majors if you have a career change.)

2) next, study four years of college. Students usually have to declare their majors in their sophomore (2nd) year in college; physics majors should begin to think about doing (a) experimental physics or (b) theoretical physics and choosing a specific field.

The standard four year curriculum:

a) first year physics, including mechanics and electricity and magnetism (caution: many universities make this course unnecessarily difficult, to weed out weaker engineers and physicists, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t ace this course! Many future physicists do poorly in this first year course because it is made deliberately difficult.).

Also, take first (or second) year calculus.

b) second year physics - intermediate mechanics and EM theory.

Also, second year calculus, including differential equations and surface and volume integrals.

c) third year physics - a selection from: optics, thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, beginning atomic and nuclear theory

d) four year physics - elementary quantum mechanics

Within physics, there are many sub-disciplines you can choose from. For example, there is solid state, condensed matter, low temperature, and laser physics, which have immediate applications in electronics and optics. My own field embraces elementary particle physics as well as general relativity. Other branches include nuclear physics, astrophysics, geophysics, biophysics, etc.

Often you can apply for industrial jobs right after college. But for the higher paying jobs, it’s good to get a higher degree.

3) so then there is graduate school. If your goal is to teach physics at the high school or junior college level, then obtaining a Masters degree usually involves two years of advanced course work but no original research. There is a shortage of physics teachers at the junior college and high school level.

If you want to become a research physicist or professor, you must get a Ph.D., which usually involves 4 to 5 years (sometimes more), and involves publishing original research. (This is not as daunting as it may seem, since usually this means finding a thesis advisor, who will simply assign you a research problem or include you in their experimental work.) Funding a Ph.D. is also not as hard as it seems, since a professor will usually have a grant or funding from the department to support you at a rate of about $12,000 per year or more. Compared to English or history graduate students, physics graduate students have a very cushy life.

After a Ph.D: Three sources of jobs

a) government

b) industry

c) the university

Government work may involve setting standards at the National Institute for Standards and Technology (the old National Bureau of Standards), which is important for all physics research. Government jobs pay well, but you will never become wealthy being a government physicist. But government work may also involve working in the weapons industry, which I highly discourage. (Not only for ethical reasons, but because that area is being downsized rapidly.)

Industrial work has its ebbs and flows. But lasers and semi-conductor and computer research will be the engines of the 21st century, and there will be jobs in these fields. One rewarding feature of this work is the realization that you are building the scientific architecture that will enrich all our lives. There is no job security at this level, but the pay can be quite good (especially for those in management positions - it’s easier for a scientist to become a business manager than for a business major to learn science.) In fact, some of the wealthiest billionaires in the electronics industry and Silicon Valley came from physics/engineering backgrounds and then switched to management or set up their own corporation.

But I personally think a university position is the best, because then you can work on any problem you want. But jobs at the university are scarce; this may mean taking several two-year “post-doctorate” positions at various colleges before landing a teaching position as an assistant professor without tenure (tenure means you have a permanent position). Then you have 5-7 more years in which to establish a name for yourself as an assistant professor.

If you get tenure, then you have a permanent position and are promoted to associate professor and eventually full professor. The pay may average between $40,000 to $100,000, but there are also severe obstacles to this path.

In the 1960s, because of Sputnik, a tremendous number of university jobs opened up. The number of professors soared exponentially. But this could not last forever. By the mid 1970s, job expansion began inevitably to slow down, forcing many of my friends out of work. So the number of faculty positions leveled off in the 1980s.

Then, many people predicted that, with the retirement of the Sputnik-generation, new jobs at the universities would open up in the 90s. Exactly the opposite took place. First, Congress passed legislation against age-discrimination, so professors could stay on as long as they like. Many physicists in their seventies decided to stay on, making it difficult to find jobs for young people. Second, after the cancellation of the SSC and the end of the Cold War, universities and government began to slowly downsize the funding for physics. As a result, the average age of a physicist increases 8 months per year, meaning that there is very little new hiring.

As I said, physicists do not become scientists for the money, so I don’t want to downplay the financial problems that you may face. In fact, many superstring theorists who could not get faculty jobs went to Wall Street (where they were incorrectly called “rocket scientists”). This may mean leaving the field. However, for the diehards who wish to do physics in spite of a bad job market, you may plan to have a “fall-back” job to pay the bills (e.g. programming) while you conduct research on your own time.

But this dismal situation cannot last. Within ten years, the Sputnik-generation will finally retire, hopefully opening up new jobs for young, talented physicists. The funding for physics may never rival that of the Cold War, but physics will remain an indispensable part of creating the wealth of the 21st century. There are not many of us (about 30,000 or so are members of the American Physical Society) but we form the vanguard of the future. It also helps to join the APS and receive Physics Today magazine, which has an excellent back page which lists the various job openings around the country.

Monday, March 30, 2009

And you said you fear PAS

And you said you fear PAS
31 Mar, 2009

You might not agree with Islam or PAS’ policies on Islam. But at least with PAS you know what’s coming and you can voice out if you don’t like it. With Umno, you are not allowed such luxuries.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

First read this:

News Item 1: Jerai PKR division dissolved

A PKR division chief has pulled out from PKR, taking over 400 party members with him. Jerai PKR division chief B. Kalaivanar said his decision to leave PKR was due to his disappointment and frustration, as well as many other members’, with the party’s leadership that has ignored the voices of those who had struggled for the party. (You can read the rest of the news item below).

Now read this:

News item 2: PKR man faces cheating rap

Parti Keadilan Rakyat candidate for the Gurun state seat in the last general election B. Kalaivanar was charged at the magistrate’s court yesterday with two counts of cheating involving RM3,600. Kalaivanar, who is also Jerai PKR division chairman, claimed trial to inducing R. Patchama, 59, to hand over RM2,000 in April 2004 as payment to process an application for aid with the Social Security Organisation (Sosco). (You can read the rest of the news item below).

Do I need to explain what is going on in Kedah or are you intelligent enough to grasp the situation? It is quite simple really. Contest the by-election and then win. And after you win you negotiate a deal to cross over to Barisan Nasional -- such as a cash payment of RM5 million plus for the court case to be dropped.

Sounds reasonable? Okay, enough about Kedah. Now read the following news item:

News Item 3: Delegates want Islamic law to be ennobled

The Islamic legal and economic systems must be ennobled immediately to ensure that the ummah remained strong and supreme in future, a Puteri Umno delegate, Seriwani Sabtu said today. The Setiawangsa Puteri Umno head said that the role and power of the syariah courts should be widened to enable them to hear various cases pertaining to Islam instead of confining to marriage and divorce cases only. (You can read the rest of the news item below).

What is that I hear? PAS is dangerous because it is propagating the setting up of an Islamic State based on Syariah laws? For those who speak without understanding what Islamic laws are all about, Syariah laws comprise of many laws. The Hudud law, which is a bone of contention to many, is just one of these Syariah laws. Hudud, however, deals with seven specific crimes. But there are other Islamic laws that deal with inheritance, marriage, and so on.

At least PAS openly propagates Islamic laws. In that same breath, however, PAS says it shall not unilaterally implement Islamic laws if it ever comes to power in the federal government. And that, of course, is another issue to argue. How can PAS implement Islamic laws if it comes to power in the federal government when it will need a two-thirds majority in Parliament to do so but it contests only one-third of the 222 seats and wins less than half that?

Nevertheless, PAS has agreed that any policy matter requires unanimous agreement by all the partners in Pakatan Rakyat (and the implementation of Islamic laws is a policy matter). A simple majority is not enough. So, if PAS wants Islamic laws, and even if PKR agrees to this (which it will not of, course), as long as DAP opposes the idea then it just can’t be done. Simple! So the issue is a non-issue from the word go.

But what should not be ignored here is Umno’s plan for Islamic laws. Forget about PAS. They can’t do it. First, they do not control two-thirds of the seats in Parliament. Second, DAP will not support Islamic laws so it can’t be done since it will not be unanimous. But Umno can do things unilaterally. Umno does not need to ask the other 13 members of Barisan Nasional permission to do anything. Umno does what it wants to do. Umno is Barisan Nasional and Barisan Nasional is Umno.

Furthermore, PAS announces what it wants to do. It makes no secret of its plan to eventually see Islamic laws implemented in Malaysia. But it can also accept the fact that it may never see that happening. And PAS is quite prepared to leave well enough alone.

Umno, however, Islamises Malaysia in secret. They don’t make any noise about it, like PAS, which talks but never really gets to do it. With Umno, you wake up one morning and suddenly find out that this or that is a new ruling.

Take the ‘Allah’ ban for Bibles as one example. Take the arresting of non-Muslims who hold hands in public places. Take the ban on the building of Buddhist temples. Take the demolition of Hindu temples. Take the body snatching cases. All these, and more, are either federal government policies or events that happened in Umno run states.

In PAS run states, the Hindus, Buddhists and Christians face no problems. In Kelantan, the Hindus were offered permission to build a temple even though they had not asked for permission. The biggest Thai temple in Malaysia is in Kelantan. While Umno says that non-Muslims can’t use the word ‘Allah’, Nik Aziz says they can. During the Umno days, the Chinese could not slaughter pigs in Kelantan. Now, they can.

Do I really need to run through the entire list, which I have already talked about so many times in the past?

With PAS, you know what you are getting. They will announce what they want to do and you are free to oppose it if you disagree. With Umno, they just go ahead and do it without telling you first. And if you oppose it because you disagree, they will accuse you of insulting Islam and take action against you.

You might not agree with Islam or PAS’ policies on Islam. But at least with PAS you know what’s coming and you can voice out if you don’t like it. With Umno, you are not allowed such luxuries.

If you think you are more protected from Islam by voting Barisan Nasional, think again. Let the track record speak for itself. I too don’t agree with some of the policies of PAS. But I will take PAS over Umno anytime. With PAS, WYSIWYG.



Jerai PKR division dissolved

By LOOI SUE-CHERN, The Star, 30 March 2009

SUNGAI PETANI: A PKR division chief has pulled out from PKR, taking over 400 party members with him.

Jerai PKR division chief B. Kalaivanar said his decision to leave PKR was due to his disappointment and frustration, as well as many other members’, with the party’s leadership that has ignored the voices of those who had struggled for the party.

“I am dissolving the Jerai PKR division, which has about 100 members; and the Kedah Indian Community Development Committee, of which I am also chairman.

“The commitee has 357 members, who are also leaving the party,” he said during a press conference at the Cinta Sayang Golf and Country Resort here Monday.

Kalaivanar, who is a long-serving member since 1998 and had been detained by police 29 times for taking part in demonstrations, claimed the PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim did what he liked and ignored those who had long fought for him and PKR.

“I am fed up. I don’t want to waste my time anymore and deceive the people. PKR had been deceiving the Indian people just to get their support.

“They played with our sentiments when they went on stage, talked about the five detained Hindraf leaders and shouted ‘Makkal Sakti’ (people’s power).

“When I suggested all Opposition MPs stage a walk out of Parliament for the five leaders’ release (from the Internal Security Act), none of them listened,” he said.

Among those leaving PKR with Kalaivanar are his wife Sungai Petani municipal councillor K. Deivanai, who is also state PKR Wanita deputy chief and Jerai PKR Wanita division chief; and Yan District councillor S. Poobalan, who is also Kalaivanar’s deputy.

When asked if he would ask other PKR divisions to pull out as well, Kalaivanar said he could not speak for them.

On whether he was leaving the party because he was not selected as PKR’s candidate for the Bukit Selambau by-election, he said it was a secondary issue.

“It is alright with me if they do not want me as candidate. The issue is they should have discussed with all PKR members on the selection.

“It also does not matter to me if the PKR candidate (S. Manikumar) wins the by-election or not. I will still be the person the Indian community approaches to solve problems as always,” he said, adding that he would not comment on Manikumar as he did not know him well.

Kalaivanar also expressed his grouses that the state PKR’s top leadership had never seen the appointment of a non-Malay member even though the party claimed to be multiracial.

He also said he was disappointed that the Pakatan Rakyat government in Kedah had done nothing for the people after running the state for over a year.

“They have done nothing but criticise Barisan Nasional and Umno since they won the state.

Kalaivanar said he would campaign for democracy this by-election and hold ceramahs these seven days to reveal the ‘actors’ in Pakatan Rakyat and PKR so Bukit Selambau voters would not be misled.

“I will not join any party. I have not approached Barisan.

“I will campaign under my two non-governmental organisations (NGOs) – the Alternative Action Team (AAT) and the Malaysia Indian Efficiency Movement,” he said, but clarified that his campaign would also not be in support of any of the 13 independent candidates.

Kalaivanar later met Umno deputy president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin at the resort’s restaurant by coincidence and congratulated the latter on his recent win in the Umno general assembly.

Asked if he was now siding with Barisan, he maintained that he and the NGOs he led would back ‘those who can serve’ and act as pressure groups for the people.



PKR man faces cheating rap

KPMU.net, 11 June 2008

SUNGAI PETANI: Parti Keadilan Rakyat candidate for the Gurun state seat in the last general election B. Kalaivanar was charged at the magistrate’s court yesterday with two counts of cheating involving RM3,600.

Kalaivanar, who is also Jerai PKR division chairman, claimed trial to inducing R. Patchama, 59, to hand over RM2,000 in April 2004 as payment to process an application for aid with the Social Security Organisation (Sosco).

Known as Kalai among PKR members, the 44-year-old also claimed trial to issuing a cheque for RM1,600 to Patchama on Sept 15, 2005, when he knew that there was no application for the amount with Socso. The cheque bounced.

The offences were allegedly committed at No 24, Kampung Sungai Ibur in Gurun, 20km from here.

Assistant public prosecutor Nuraswan Amuniddin proposed bail of RM4,000 in one surety for each charge.

Kalaivanar, a father of six, who was not represented, pleaded for a lower bail of between RM1,000 and RM1,500, saying that his wife was a housewife and that he worked as an activist with several non-governmental organisations.

Court Registrar V. Kanesan, sitting as magistrate, set bail at RM3,000 for each charge in one surety pending mention on July 6.

Kalaivanar posted bail, but was arrested again outside the bailiff’s office about 1pm.

It is learnt that he was detained in connection with investigations into his alleged involvement in another cheating case in Bahau, Negri Sembilan, several years ago.

Kuala Muda district police chief Assistant Commissioner Hashim Ali was not available for comment.

In the March 8 election, Kalaivanar lost to Dr Leong Yong Kong of Barisan Nasional in the Gurun state seat. He polled 7,035 votes against Dr Leong’s 8,589 votes, losing by 1,554 votes.

He also contested as a PKR candidate for the same state seat in the 2004 general election. He lost to the incumbent state MCA chairman Datuk Beh Heng Seong of BN.



Delegates want Islamic law to be ennobled

Bernama, 28 March 2009

The Islamic legal and economic systems must be ennobled immediately to ensure that the ummah remained strong and supreme in future, a Puteri Umno delegate, Seriwani Sabtu said today.

The Setiawangsa Puteri Umno head said that the role and power of the syariah courts should be widened to enable them to hear various cases pertaining to Islam instead of confining to marriage and divorce cases only.

"Those making statements that disputed the religion should also be heard by the syariah courts and upon conviction, stiff penalties should be imposed so that the religion will not be ridiculed easily," she said when debating the motion on the presidential policy speech, the motion on education and religion at the Umno general assembly, here today.

Seriwani also rejected the organising of any inter-faith discussions to avoid intervention by non-Muslims in Islamic affairs.

"If such discussions were allowed, it would enable certain groups to tarnish Islam. As such, measures to monitor and control such activities should be enhanced," she said.

Selangor Umno representative Datuk Zainal Abidin Sakom said Umno leaders lately appeared to be scared to enforce the existing political power to defend Islam.

Meanwhile, Johor Umno delegate Ayub Rahmat asked the supreme council to revoke the implementation of the teaching and learning of Mathematics and Science in the English language.

Since the policy was implemented in 2003, he said the numerous studies carried out by Umno itself had shown that it was detrimental to the Malay Malaysian students.

"Why is Umno reluctant to accept the outcome of the studies conducted by the party itself?" he asked.

He said studies carried out internationally also showed that out of 45 nations that used the English language as the medium of instruction, only five had emerged as a developed nation.

Najib It Is

Najib It Is
30 Mar, 2009

Malaysia's leading ethnic party names a scandal-ridden party hack as its head and the country's leader

While attention has focused on allegations of corruption in the submarine purchases, the fact is that as defense minister from 1999 to 2008, Najib presided over a cornucopia of defense deals that poured a river of money into the coffers of his close friends and UMNO cronies.


Asia Sentinel

On Friday, Malaysia is scheduled to end months of waiting to announce its new prime minister, Najib Tun Razak, after the United Malays National Organisation, the country's biggest ethnic party named him their leader during their annual convention.

Najib told the UMNO parley, held in Kuala Lumpur last week, that it is crucial that his party reform itself or it will lose its hold on the electorate. But Najib's history, and that of the party itself, portends instead a return to the politics and practices that got the national ruling coalition into trouble in the first place, losing its historic two-thirds majority in the national parliament in national elections last year. Najib's ascent to power more likely represents a clear preference by UMNO stalwarts to return to cronyism, money politics and corruption after an eight-year interregnum from the authoritarian reign of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

The new prime minister's history may make it problematical whether the leaders of major countries are going to want to be seen with him. Concerns include hundreds of millions of dollars in questionable contracts steered to UMNO cronies and friends, not to mention continuing allegations of his involvement in the murder of the Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu following the controversial purchase of French submarines and, more recently, his role in sabotaging the opposition in the state of Perak and his shuttering newspapers and thwarting opposition candidates during his own party's elections last week.

The convention itself was a good example. Opponents of the Najib team were denied places on the ballot by a panel supposedly charged with cleaning up money politics, although they let Najib's allies slide by after having committed the same offenses. The result was that the deputy president, Muhyiddin Yassin, and all three vice presidents are from the Najib faction although the Najib forces were unable to prevent Khairy Jamaluddin, the son-in-law of ousted Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmand Badawi, from becoming head of the important UMNO Youth wing. They also were unable to stop Shahrizat Abdul Jalil from defeating longtime party hack Rafidah Aziz to take over the Wanita, the women's wing of the party, also a Badawi ally.

The final election night erupted into name-calling, with allies of Mukhriz Mahathir, the son of the former prime minister, charging that Khairy had bought the votes to make him head of UMNO Youth. Mahathir Mohamad himself railed against the two candidates against his son, calling them corrupt. Rais Yatim, the foreign minister, who lost out in one of the vice president races, demanded that UMNO's disciplinary board investigate the entire new supreme council over allegations that they had delivered gifts and money to delegates in the effort to win their seats. Mahathir Mohamad has repeatedly launched furious attacks on UMNO leaders, calling them corrupt although he showed up at the last night of the convention to be seen with Najib and others.

The UMNO-owned New Straits Times described the top party positions as having "given much-needed breathing space to Najib as he sets out to unite UMNO and push the party to undertake the reforms he has promised. He will have less of a task to deal with the factionalism that so often arises after a bitterly fought contest in the party." But in fact, UMNO appears to be as much riven by factional politics as it was going into the convention.

As early as April 8, the party faces the first of three important by-elections – one for a seat in the Dewan Rakyat, or national assembly, and two more for state legislative seats. The first test is for a Perak seat in which support for the Barisan appears to be waning.

"The problem is not the opposition, but within our own ranks," a local leader told the Kuala Lumpur-based website Malaysia Insider, referring to the perennial problem of factionalism within Umno.

Najib has sought to nullify the opposition with force. Last Monday, a rally led by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim was broken up by police who fired tear gas at the audience. Other rallies have been cancelled as well. Two opposition newspapers were cancelled until after April 8, the date of the Perak national by-election, presumably because the two papers have hammered away at allegations of Najib's connections with the two men on trial for killing Altantuya in October of 2006 and her role in the €1 billion purchase of French submarines that netted one of his closest friends €114 million in "commissions."

To say Najib brings considerable baggage with him is an understatement. While attention has focused on allegations of corruption in the submarine purchases, the fact is that as defense minister from 1999 to 2008, Najib presided over a cornucopia of defense deals that poured a river of money into the coffers of his close friends and UMNO cronies. A September 24, 2007 story in Asia Sentinel quoted Foreign Policy in Focus, a think tank supported by the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, as saying that "many foreign arms manufacturers generally used well-connected Malaysians as their lobbyists for contracts."

Three contracts approved under Najib have been widely cited by the opposition and fit well into Foreign in Policy in Focus's patronage scale. They have been forced back into public attention by his ascension to the premiership and by the exoneration under questionable circumstances of Abdul Razak Baginda, one of his closest friends, for Altantuya's murder.

Spending for defense accelerated across the board after Najib, called "the driving force" behind Malaysia's military modernization program by Foreign Policy in Focus. The shopping list, the think tank reported, "includes battle tanks from Poland, Russian and British surface-to-air missiles and mobile military bridges, Austrian Steyr assault rifles and Pakistani anti-tank missiles. Kuala Lumpur was also negotiating to buy several F/A 18s, the three French submarines and Russian Suhkoi Su-30 fighter aircraft.

It was the Sukhois that, after the French submarines, became the second controversial purchase brokered by Najib. The deal, worth US$900 million (RM3.2 billion), was through a Russian state company, Federal State Unitary Enterprise 'Rosoboronexport' on May 19, 2003. A company called IMT Defence Sdn. Bhd. was appointed the local agent for the Russian company and received 12 percent of the purchase price, US$108 million (RM380 million). The principal figure and chairman of IMT Defence is Mohamad Adib Adam, the former chief minister of Malacca, the previous Land and Development Minister and a longtime UMNO stalwart.

The involvement of IMT Defence only became known because in March 2005, a former director of IMT, Mohamad Zainuri Mohamad Idrus, filed suit against several Adib-related companies, alleging that Adib and his sister, Askiah Adam, "wanted to prevent him from exposing the reality of the Sukhoi deal." In 2006, Mohamad Zainuri lodged a police report alleging that Adib had stolen the US$108 million (RM 380 million) commission that was supposed to be channeled to the company.

According to Mohamad Zainuri's report, Adib had secretly registered a new company in the federal island of Labuan, Malaysia's offshore banking center, bearing a name similar to IMT Defence Sdn Bhd, allegedly in order to channel the commission illegally to the new company. The report was then sent to the Commercial Crime Investigations Department Headquarters. No report, however, has ever been released to the public.

Then, in late 2007, a third military scandal surfaced. Malaysia's Auditor General, in a report tabled in Parliament on September 7, alleged that a contract to build naval vessels given to PSC-Naval Dockyard, a subsidiary of Penang Shipbuilding & Construction Sdn Bhd, which is owned by another UMNO crony, Amin Shah Omar Shah, was near failure.

PSC-Naval Dockyard was contracted to deliver six patrol boats for the Malaysian Navy in 2004 and complete the delivery by last April. Those were supposed to be the first of 27 offshore vessels ultimately to cost RM24 billion plus the right to maintain and repair all of the country's naval craft. But only two of the barely operational patrol boats had been delivered by mid 2006. There were 298 recorded complaints about the two boats, which were also found to have 100 and 383 uncompleted items aboard them respectively.

The original RM5.35 billion contract ballooned to RM6.75 billion by January 2007. The auditor also reported that the ministry had paid out Rm4.26 billion to PSC up to December 2006 although only Rm2.87 billion of work had been done, an overpayment of Rm1.39 billion, or 48 percent. In addition, Malaysia's cabinet waived late penalties of Rm214 million. Between December 1999, according to the Auditor General, 14 "progress payments" amounting to Rm943 million despite the fact that the auditor general could find no payment vouchers or relevant documents dealing with the payments.

The auditor general attributed the failure to serious financial mismanagement and technical incompetence stemming from the fact that PSC had never built anything but trawlers or police boats before being given the contract. Once called "Malaysia's Onassis" by former finance minister Daim Zainuddin, Amin Shah was in trouble almost from the start, according to a report in Singapore's Business Times in 2005. The financial crisis of 1997-1998 meant he was desperate to find funds to shore up ancillary businesses, Business times reported.

After a flock of lawsuits, the government ultimately cut off funding in 2004 amid losses and a net liabilities position. Boustead Holdings effectively took control from Amin Shah, reducing him to non-executive chairman.

The scandal is bringing shame to the nation and damaging our international credibility. For the honour of the nation, for the honour of the office of prime minister, for the honour of the sovereign institutions expected to endorse, confirm and lend authority to him should he become prime minister according to Umno's plans, Dato' Seri Najib Tun Razak should finally face these suspicions and implied charges, submit himself to legal scrutiny, and come clean on them."

"Swearing on the Al-Quran is not the way out," Razaleigh continued. "Scoundrels have been known to do that. The truth, established through the rigorous and public scrutiny of the law, is the only remedy if an untrue story has gained currency not just internationally but at home among a large section of the people. Najib should voluntarily offer to testify at the trial of the two officers charged with killing Altantuya Shaariibuu. He could also write to these newspapers and if necessary he should take legal action against them to clear his name and that of our country."
The case has troubling aspects that have increasingly been noted in British and French newspapers after Asia Sentinel raised them in 2007. They bear repeating.

According to testimony in the trial of the two men accused of killing her, Altantuya accompanied her then-lover Abdul Razak Baginda to Paris at a time when Malaysia's defense ministry was negotiating through a Kuala Lumpur-based company, Perimekar Sdn Bhd, to buy two Scorpene submarines and a used Agosta submarine produced by the French government under a French-Spanish joint venture, Armaris, which in turn was bought by DCNS, a French contractor, in 2007. Perimekar at the time was owned by a company called Ombak Laut, which was wholly owned by Abdul Razak.

The contract was not competitive. The Malaysian ministry of defense paid €1 billion (RM 4.5 billion) to Amaris for the three submarines, for which Perimekar received a commission of €114 million (RM510 million). Deputy Defense Minister Zainal Abdidin Zin told the Dewan Rakyat, Malaysia's parliament, that the money was paid for "coordination and support services" although the fee amounted to a whopping 11 percent of the sales price for the submarines. Altantuya, by her own admission in the last letter she wrote before her murder, said she had been blackmailing Abdul Razak Baginda, pressuring him for US$500,000. She did not say how she was blackmailing him, leaving open lots of questions.

The French government has never shown any enthusiasm for investigating French companies alleged to be involved in corruption in gaining contracts overseas. It appears likely that it will in this case.

After Altantuya was murdered, one of her accused assassins, Sirul Umar, in a written confession, said he and his boss had been offered RM50,000 to RM100,000 to kill her. In the 22 months since the trial began, nobody in court has thought to ask who was going to pay the money. Abdul Razak Baginda was exonerated by the court and has left the country to study at Oxford.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Mum, where have you gone?

Mum, where have you gone?
Mon, Mar 30, 2009
The Straits Times

By June Cheong

There were times when management consultant Wong Chai Kee was afraid to visit his ailing but fiercely independent mother at her flat in MacPherson estate.

Mr Wong, 56, by most counts a filial son, would take his mother, Madam Lee Chye Yuen, out for meals thrice a week and would often pray beside her.

However, her battle with Alzheimer's disease took its toll on him too.

Diagnosed with it in 2004, she died two years later at the age of 93. He said: 'When her episodes were horrible, I dared not visit her.

'I remember one day, before visiting her, I had to first calm myself for an hour in the car.'

Despite her heartbreaking lapses into incoherence, he believes his late mother's condition was a blessing in disguise, for he ended up writing a book, Even When She Forgot My Name, describing his experience caring for her.

The book was launched yesterday at the 24th Conference of Alzheimer's Disease International at Suntec Singapore. The event ends on Saturday.

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive and fatal brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, one's ability to carry out daily activities. It has no cure.

Mr Wong, who is married to a junior college chemistry teacher and has one son, said: 'The book is a celebration of Alzheimer's disease. There were more positives than negatives in my mother's case.

'It brought the family together.'

There are eight siblings in the Wong family. Mr Wong's father died in 1989 at the age of 84 from a stroke.

Although Madam Lee was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2004, there were already signs of it in 2001.

Between 2001 and 2004, she went from walking with the aid of a cane to sitting in a wheelchair, and was finally bedridden.

She also lost interest in cooking and sorting out her bills - trademarks of her independence.

Mr Wong said: 'On one visit in 2001, she smiled at me like I was a stranger.

'She sat me down formally and we chatted idly for half an hour. Suddenly she said 'You're my son'. Back then, I wanted to deny the reality of her condition.'

Three months after Madam Lee's diagnosis, Mr Wong's brother, Bert, 55, who lives in New Zealand, returned to Singapore for three weeks to help care for her.

During Bert's stay, Madam Lee's condition took a turn for the worse.

Mr Wong said: 'After dinner, she'd want to sit up but she just kept sliding down her chair. For hours, she'd rock her body and call for help.

'That was when the reality of the diagnosis sank in.'

He enrolled her in day care but that arrangement did not last long as she complained of boredom with the floral arrangement classes and the 1950s music piped over the sound system.

He said: 'My good intentions caused her suffering.

'She showed irritation, frustration, extreme reluctance and resistance whenever I tried persuading her to go for further sessions.

'I saw her unhappiness myself when I spent a morning with her at the centre. She smiled brightly whenever the centre's staff passed by but her smile faded the moment the staff went away.'

In the end, Madam Lee's family agreed that she would be unhappy if moved to a nursing home as she treasured her independence. Her live-in maid Karma became her full-time caregiver.

Mr Wong said: 'I learnt that when you deal with Alzheimer's patients, you must keep trying various options. Every Alzheimer's patient is different.'

In June 2004, Mr Wong's sister, See Fah, 72, who lives in China, visited Singapore for a month to help care for their mother. It was a heartrending experience.

Madam Lee neither registered her daughter's presence nor recognised her throughout the month.

Mr Wong said: 'When my sister left, she tried to say goodbye to our mother but there was no goodbye because there was no hello to begin with.'

He added: 'It was eerily scary whenever my mother was catatonic. She'd look through me almost like she was dead.'

Comparing his mother's struggle with Alzheimer's disease to a roller-coaster ride, he said: 'My moods were pulled and pushed around like a plaything. When my mother was in a good state, I'd fear it would not last.

'When she was in a bad state, I'd fear it would get worse.'
She see-sawed between uncontrollable bouts of confused wailing and quiet moments of lucidity.

Once, Mr Wong quizzed her on his name. She reprimanded him: 'I'm your mother. You're my son. Isn't that enough?'

Later, she softened and said: 'Your name is in my heart. That's the most important thing. Other things don't matter.'

He recalled: 'Those words went straight to my heart. That was the re-emergence of my mother.'

He relied on his Christian faith to help him cope with her physical and mental deterioration, often leading her in prayers together.

Asked what he missed most about his mother before the disease struck, he said: 'I miss the banter. We would talk politics; watching television was never a silent affair.'

As her disease progressed, she became a woman of few words.

In October 2004, she told him while they waited outside the doctor's office for her regular check-up that her mind was in chaos and she felt she was going mad.

That was when he practically begged the doctor to give her something to halt the progress of the disease.

The doctor prescribed Reminyl, a drug which treats symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease and is believed to improve the patient's cognitive function and ability to perform daily activities.

The drug, which cost between $400 and $500 for three months' supply, worked for Madam Lee and she regained her cheery, chatty self.
She also got her wish to see her family all together one last time.

A month before she died on Jan 31, 2006, all eight siblings gathered at her flat to celebrate Chinese New Year.

Mr Wong said: 'My mother recognised See Fah this time. She could even sit up in her wheelchair and clink glasses with us all.'

Even When She Forgot My Name is available at leading bookstores at $15.80 (without GST).

This article was first published in Mind Your Body, The Straits Times.

Bodoh RPK!

Bodoh RPK!
30 Mar, 2009

Keep lamenting. Keep grumbling. Keep complaining. Keep bitching. It is good you do all that. And then, come the next general election, go vote for Barisan Nasional, the only party that can look after Indian interests and guarantee Indian rights.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

Now that you have finished with Bodoh Cina, Bodoh India and Bodoh Melayu, I think it is time we finish it off with a Bodoh RPK! What say you?

You must be smoking pot or drinking something way out to talk about Bangsa Malaysia as if it is here and now. This is absolutely what we must all strive to achieve, but are we anywhere near that at all?

Just because you and the rest of your family are half this and half that, that does not make for Bangsa Malaysia today for everyone. Every bloody corner we turn we are reminded that we are Indians, Chinese, non-Malays, non-Muslims, Malays, Muslims.

Whenever I help one of our discarded citizens (who, for your information, also happens to be Indian…...or is it that I am making it out to be Indian this and Indian that) to fill in a form for this or that to prove their existence so they can claim their rights guaranteed in the constitution, every form asks… Bangsa? Agama? Every bloody form, RPK, every bloody form! Now are you telling me that tomorrow if the opposition takes over that is going to away? Tomorrow?

This branding by race is something that’s been going forever, started by the colonialist who raped the country raw and left us where we are today. The way we identify ourselves has to do with this history of gross conditioning which suited the bloody colonialists and afterwards the Malaysian ruling groups. So, if you want to cure a problem, don’t hit at the symptoms, hit at the root cause – problem solving 101 bodoh RPK. Start at the cause of it all, the racist system.

You want to apply for a job – Bangsa? You want to start a business – Bangsa? You want to get a licence – Bangsa? You want to enroll your kids in school – Bangsa? You want to take a loan – Bangsa? You want to sell a house – Bangsa? You want to die – Agama? You want to claim your rights as a citizen in this country – Bangsa? Agama?

Except for the businesses that are owned by foreigners, look at the mix of races in the Malaysian companies. Look at Petronas. Look at Public Bank. You must be blind, not colour-blind, if you cannot see what is around, 360 degrees, 24 hours, in Malaysia. That is all not because I think I am Indian or because I say Indian this or Indian that.

So, Bodoh RPK, go hit at the root cause and leave the Bodoh whatever alone!!!

Naragan N


Naragan N sent me the e-mail above and requested that I publish it, so I will. As I have always said, I invite criticism and I don’t expect everyone to agree with my views. However, I also reserve the right to reply, which I will now do.

Naragan has rightly pointed out what ails this country. And, as he said, we have to attack the cause of the disease, not the symptoms. I have repeatedly said the same thing myself in many of my articles. Whenever readers comment, lamenting about this and that, I have always reminded them that it is no use arguing about the symptoms of the problem. We should instead focus on the cause of the problem. In that sense Naragan took the words right out of my mouth.

In a way, Naragan is saying what I have been saying all this while. Why he even bothered to write this e-mail just to repeat my points is beyond me. It would have been more productive if he had argued some fresh points rather than argue my same points. Is Naragan trying to convert the already converted?

Naragan says he is an Indian. And he laments about the plight of the Indians since way before Merdeka. I can understand that because the Indians first came to this country around 1850 until the British Colonial government stopped bringing the Indians into Malaya around 1920.

The history of the Indian migration into Malaya is actually not that well known to most Malaysians. Before 1850, the British set up tea and coffee plantations in India, in particular in Ceylon, now called Sri Lanka. These plantations were one day hit with a disease that killed everything and at the same time contaminated the land. So the land could no longer be used to plant tea or coffee.

Malaya, which had the same conditions as Ceylon, was a suitable alternative for these plantations. So the British planters relocated to Malaya. But the Malays would not work these plantations so the British had to bring in the workers from Ceylon and Southern India, who already had the experience anyway, as labourers for these plantations.

And that was how the Indians came to Malaya. Of course, there are others who came not as labourers in plantations. These were the traders and Chetiahs who were in the money-lending business. Basically, the Chetiahs served as bankers to the small man who could never qualify for bank loans. Some also came as clerks and teachers to serve the British Colonial Government who needed English-speaking Asians and the Malays at that time were not yet schooled in English, at least not until the early 1900s.

So the early Indians were mostly servants of the British, one way or another. When Malaya gained independence from Britain, some Indians went home but many chose to remain in this country and thereafter obtained Malayan citizenship.

The first election, the Municipal election, was held in 1955, two years before Merdeka. The Alliance Party won 51 out of 52 seats it contested. The second election, which was the first Parliamentary election, was held in 1959, two years after Merdeka. In that election, the Alliance Party won 74 out of the 104 seats up for grabs. PAS won 13, the Labour Party 6, Parti Rakyat 2, PPP 4, Parti Negara 1, Parti Malaya 1, and independent candidates 3.

Basically, the opposition depended on Malay and Chinese votes. And that is why the Islamic party, which had a Malay base, and what was perceived as ‘Communist’ parties, which had a Chinese base, grabbed 30 out of 104 seats. The Indians, since before Merdeka in the 1955 Municipal election, then two years after Merdeka in the first Parliamentary election, voted government. And the Indians continued voting government for another 50 years, whereby 90% of the Indian votes went to the Alliance Party and, later, to Barisan Nasional, right until they woke up in November 2007.

Yes, Naragan talks about the cause of the disease. We should attack the cause rather than the symptoms of the disease, argues Naragan. I agree. And the cause of the disease is that the Indians were solidly behind the ruling party in spite of all the problems the Indians (and Chinese as well, of course) had been facing since long before Merdeka.

Naragan laments about this and that. I am happy he is lamenting. Okay, maybe the Indians have just started lamenting since the last 18 months from November 2007. But I have been lamenting about all this, the same thing that Naragan is lamenting about, for more than 380 months since 1977. Naragan, 18 months, and me, 380 months. And Naragan’s 18 months of lamenting makes him more of an expert on Indian problems compared to me who has been harping on the same thing for 380 months.

I suppose, as they say, better late than never. Welcome to reality-land, Naragan. I am glad you finally woke up, although it took you 50 years to finally wake up. Keep lamenting. Keep grumbling. Keep complaining. Keep bitching. It is good you do all that. And then, come the next general election, go vote for Barisan Nasional, the only party that can look after Indian interests and guarantee Indian rights. Maybe we can start with Bukit Selambau where there is currently a by-election being held. Maybe the Indians can help swing a victory for Barisan Nasional so that the Indians can have a better future after getting a raw deal since 1850.


29 Mar, 2009



English and Racism in our public universities

English and Racism in our public universities
29 Mar, 2009

After 13 years Malaysian public education, I have come to realise that the majority of our students will never be able to stand on their own later in a life. Since primary one till form five, we were not really guided to become good thinkers, leave alone great ones. We were spoon fed entirely.

After achieving excellent results in my STPM, I managed to get into the top university in Malaysia that is University Malaya. Being at the top of the world, my perspectives of the medical faculty has really taken a turn. It is not about the academic staff which is no doubt excellent. The worrying issue here is the students of the faculty in particular the medical students. The standard of our students are no where compared to any top University in the region. We are so called the top achievers in pre-university exams, which by the way is split between STPM and matriculation even though the quality and standards are a world of different.

Leaving the difference in pre-u exams alone, we have at least one common exam, which is MUET (Malaysian University English Test). I was told that in order to get into course such as medicine, one will need to obtain band 5 and above with 6 being the maximum. However that was not the case when I arrived here where there are students pursuing medicine with a band 3. Band 3 represents a modest user of the English language on the score sheet. That is the capability our so called top students. I question why have the double standards? Why push a form six students to get a minimum of a band 5 and matriculation students get in with 3, or is this result not considered during the admission process? Lately, the standard of our English is deteriorating and vital resources have to be spent on English classes for medical students. English classes are important in order to improve the student’s proficiency; however it is definitely avoidable if they were to meet certain requirements before being accepted into the university.

In the light of the Science and Mathematics in English controversy, I would like all those people who are pushing so hard for the policy to be abolished to look at the standard of our English. These individuals whom have absurdly nothing better to do than criticize the policy rather than help meet its objectives. Besides the NGOs which have been opposing the policy , yet the biggest surprise to me was when there was circular by PIMUM(society in UM) in which our recently elected head of student council called it a ‘jenayah’(crime) for this policy to be implemented. First of all, I doubt he can read and write in English satisfactorily but is all out to prevent his younger brothers and sisters the chance of proficiency in the language. His statement by all does not represent the students in University Malaya and is definitely not why the people elected him. I guess he better buck up and stay with his responsibility of upholding the student affairs and needs.

Besides the English scenario, the medical faculty has an extremely racist orientation where everyone is segregated into their racial backgrounds. This is due to the fact of fear of failure and the overdependence of the undergraduates who cannot fend for themselves. The tradition of this racist orientation has been long ongoing and slowly being spread to other faculties and universities. The racism is so bad that even during eating hours you see the people sitting according to race. Books, elusive past-years, information are only shared between a particular race. After class stay backs for the Malays, meeting outside lecture for the Chinese and many more. I did not mention the Indians as their numbers are too small that a sms will do. Pre-exam prep for the Malays or Chinese or Indians only. They are also against briefing a person from another race and threats to scare those who want to. Mind you that these people are going to be future doctors, and what stops them from being the same when treating patients as they are brought up in this manner.

There is much more stuff to be mentioned but I think if those issues mentioned do not get any attention, what is stopping us seeing separate lecture halls for the different racial backgrounds in the years to come. Those in medical faculty can deny all you want to but that is the truth and to be honest doctors we should start a change to see through all these menace.


Car repossessor hacked to death

Car repossessor hacked to death
Mar 29, 2009
The Star/Asia News Network

JOHOR BARU, Malaysia: A car repossessor was murdered in a brutal attack that severed his arms.

Lew Yoon Choy, 33, who was involved in a fight in front of SMK Sri Tebrau at around 6.45pm on Friday. Shortly after he was walking near Jalan Serampang in Taman Pelangi when at least eight men in two cars attacked him.

They hacked him and left him to die with five slash wounds on his head.

Passers-by rushed Lew to a specialist hospital in Johor Baru. He was later moved to another specialist hospital in Seri Alam at around 10.30pm.

Lew died at about 5.30am yesterday.

Johor Baru (South) OCPD Asst Comm Zainuddin Yaakob said the motive of the attack could have been revenge.

No arrest has been made yet.

Those with information related to the case can contact the nearest police station or the police hotline at 07-2212999. -The Star/ANN

Zapping off those brown blotches

Zapping off those brown blotches
Sun, Mar 29, 2009
The Straits Times

By Poon China Hui

Many women have melasma, a skin discolouration condition caused by hormonal changes, but not all of them know it.

'I would say that melasma affects three-quarters of Singapore women,' said dermatologist Joyce Lim, who owns Joyce Lim Skin and Laser Clinic. 'However, I've had patients who suffered for many years without knowing that they have it.'

She said the condition affects more women than men - nine in 10 people who get melasma are women.

Appearing as brown patches, melasma commonly affects the face. In women, the condition is linked to menopause but many experience it for the first time during pregnancy.

For this reason, melasma is often termed the 'mask of pregnancy', said Dr Lim.

Although public awareness of melasma is greater now compared to about five years ago - thanks to media reports and public forums on the skin condition - it may still be mistaken for other skin pigmentation problems, she said.

Some examples are freckles, acne scars, inflammatory pigmentation from procedures like chemical peels and post-injury pigmentation.

'The key difference is that melasma follows a pattern and the discolouration is more symmetrical,' said Dr Lim.

Melasma develops in three distinctive patterns - the centrofacial (chin, nose and forehead) pattern is the most common, followed by the cheeks and, lastly, the jawline.

Asians are more susceptible to the condition, as well as Latin Americans. This is because their skin produces more melanin - pigments that cause skin colour to darken, said Dr Lim.

'Most women try to treat it themselves by using whitening products sold in pharmacies,' she said. 'However, most of these do not contain the active ingredients that fade melasma, like hydroquinone and retin-A.'

Ms L. Li, who is in her early 50s, had taken that route. 'I had brown spots on my cheeks when I was about 40 years old,' she said. 'I didn't know it was a medical condition and I also had no idea where to seek treatment then.'

She resorted to over-the-counter whitening products, to no avail. After living with the condition for more than a decade, she finally consulted a polyclinic doctor in January this year.

'My job requires me to be exposed to the sun and I was worried that the pigmentation will worsen,' said Ms Li, who works in the sales department of a company.

She was referred to a dermatologist who prescribed Tri-luma, a face cream that has to be applied once a day. She feels that the pigmentation is fading.

The other option to treat melasma is with laser. However, effects may not be permanent and subsequent laser treatments are needed if the pigmentation reappears.

It is possible to limit the extent of melasma. For one, use sunblock regularly, said Dr Lim. Sunlight makes the skin produce melanin and sunblock helps to prevent these pigments from forming.

In addition, use whitening products that contain soy or niacinamid as they help block the transfer of pigments to the skin surface, thus reducing the appearance of spots, she said.

This article was first published in Mind Your Body, The Straits Times.

DEWAN DISPATCHES: Anwar and Kit wield the Wall Street Journal Asia as their hatchet job on Najib

DEWAN DISPATCHES: Anwar and Kit wield the Wall Street Journal Asia as their hatchet job on Najib

by: Azmi Anshar
DEWAN RAKYAT March 11, 2009

IT WOULD TAKE some doing and able convincing too to prod the RM60 billion stimulus package tabled by the Deputy Prime Minister to move to a more secure position - in the hands of people, as many of them and as fast as possible, capable of disbursing, allocating and, most crucially, spending the money in a manner that vigorously stirs and percolates the Malaysian economy in getting its groove back to a humming higher percentage that the dismal figure quoted at 4.15pm yesterday.
But as the colossal figure sinks into the sceptical opportunism of naysayers and by Jove there are innumerable, Malaysia’s economic revival, maintenance and continuous health is set to define his administration once he officially takes over as Prime Minister next month, at least until the next general election slated for 2013 at the latest.

While Najib’s super-challenging position will focus intently on the economy, just as Barack Obama is doing over the other side of the globe for the American economy, the long knives are already out of their cleavers and already slashing away at the numbers, distribution and prospects, especially from antagonistic competitors who fear that he may just pull it off. And how does one engage in this endgame probability? If you’re Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim (PKR-Permatang Pauh) and former Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang (DAP-Ipoh Timor), you expend the Wall Street Journal Asia to do your initial hatchet job.

Both leaders have linked to their respective blogs, Harapan Baru Untuk Malaysia and Lim Kit Siang for Malaysia, the five-paragraphed WSJ opinion piece published in the business organ’s website that bashes the stimulus package Najib presented under the condescending headline “Najib knows best” plus the sub-heading “With the announcement of a huge stimulus package, Malaysia’s next leader shows that he’s no economic reformer”. The hatchet job carried no byline of the writer.

Maybe it was a co-incidence and maybe it was concerted, but the fact that Najib’s chief adversaries chose their blogs to start the slashfest in sync on the stimulus package is just too uncanny. But it is likely that Najib and his financial wonks had anticipated the backlash. What he is also likely to work on is the winding up to the points raised in the House as backbenchers and the opposition bloc square off on the pros and cons of the package.

The WSJ moaned that the package was a “effectively a restatement of Malaysia’s old, government-knows-best policies” besides lobbing a speculative bomb that the package too was a “political risk” for Najib and his ruling coalition, alluding to a possibility that Malaysian voters may reprise the March 8 general election debacle for Barisan Nasional should the package fail.

While Kit has not sounded off yet his trademark hyperbolic rhetoric into chomping the mini-budget to shreds, Anwar has, with the glee of a menacing wolf in a chick’s coop, especially after hearing in disgust that the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission cleared the then Attorney-General and then Inspector-General of Police of being complicit in his 1998 black-eye affliction complaint. The MACC complaint was a gambit that Anwar, while he won’t concede it anytime soon, would have come out just as he expected it, only that it injected more atomic fuel into his hyperdrive political ambitions to grab Federal power.

The MACC’s decision was all the incentive Anwar needed to jump into the debate into the stimulus package with fangs sharpened and claws extended ala Wolverine of X-Men. And he lived up to this slash and burn rhetoric: swathing surgical-like strokes on the olive branch extended by Najib that rival political parties work together to rebuild the economy. And it was uncanny too that he prescribed another sharp object, a durian this time, to characterise Najib’s olive branch.

"It is not that we don't want to work together but at the same time we do not forget easily,” Anwar blasted away. “If he (Najib) is sincere, why were the views of the members of Parliament not heard? Why was there no discussion prior to the unveiling of the stimulus package? Unless he is consistent, a durian should be thrown at the person holding out the olive branch.”

That “durian throwing” characterisation didn’t go down well with Dr Puad Zarkashi (BN-Batu Pahat) who interjected pointedly Anwar’s flow of thought before he demanded suggestions on how Anwar can help revive the economy. But Anwar wasn’t unfazed by the distraction, refocusing on damning provisos in the stimulus package that appeared to put money into the hands of giant corporations instead of the working class.

But there was one stimulus package truism that Anwar granted: the RM60 billion sum itself, which he agreed was “necessary but too late in the giving. “It is a necessity but we should have done it earlier. The issue now is not a question of whether or not we need the stimulus package. It is how it is managed. Under the Barisan Nasional, I do not think the stimulus package will achieve what it was intended for," he told a news conference at the Parliament lobby.

In perspective, the aspersion of the WSJ’s piece was clear: it leapt into the “Bash Najib-at-all-cost” juggernaut long before he assumes the Premiership and has an even chance to invoke his authority to make the necessary but radical changes to rebuild confidence. They just won’t let him, it would seem. Like Anwar, Kit and Pas president Hadi Awang before it, the WSJ, whether unwittingly or not, has swallowed the vicious agenda to destabilise, demonise and criminalise the Prime Minister-in-waiting, so that as soon as he takes the PM’s oath, he is smeared, deconstructed, criminalised and indicted for alleged political and perceived crimes. That‘s how much they really fear him. That’s how much they also fear the immense possibility that he can reconcile Umno members with the party they abandoned by the stadium-loads on March 8.

In doing so by the time the Umno general assembly and elections on March 24-29 concludes, Najib would be in a more tenable position to regroup the fractious factions in Umno and reorganise them into a lean and mean fighting machine in time to launch an assault into the “two peaks and a river” by-elections.

The Opposition had dubbed these by-elections as a referendum of sorts to denounce the BN’s intrepid takeover of the Perak government. Najib will see it as an endorsement of the takeover, that the people are already bored with the Pakatan Rakyat scrappy administration. That and the stimulus package that he is fine-tuning on the go as soon as a bad word escapes from Anwar’s, or Kit’s mouths.

Malaysia ruling party in disarray over vote-buying

Malaysia ruling party in disarray over vote-buying
Wednesday, March 18, 2009

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Malaysia's ruling party was in disarray Wednesday after an internal probe found a top leader and 10 officials guilty of vote-buying ahead of elections for office bearers.

The revelations Tuesday exposed the depth of corruption and venality in the United Malays National Organization party, which have long been whispered but rarely admitted or confronted openly.

"This will send a shock wave through UMNO," said Mohamad Mustafa Ishak, a political analyst at North Malaysia University. "They just cannot simply ignore (problems in the party) by not taking any action at all."

The trigger for the self-examination was the drubbing the party received in last year's general elections at the hands of a disgruntled public, which made leaders realize their position was no longer secure after 51 years of uninterrupted power.

"The public perception is that UMNO is arrogant and has unhealthy practices. We have to clean up UMNO," Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said. "We have to change or be changed."

The UMNO disciplinary committee, which investigated 29 politicians, found a prominent politician, Mohamad Ali Rustam, guilty of violating party ethics and barred him from contesting the deputy president post.

Mohamad Ali said Wednesday he will appeal the ruling and urged his backers to remain calm. He has strong grass roots support, and his followers are not likely to accept his ouster quietly, deepening party divisions.

The party will hold a vote March 24-28 to elect top office bearers to occupy senior government positions. The party's deputy president usually becomes the deputy prime minister.

Najib is standing unopposed for the post of party president, which will make him the prime minister. He will replace Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

"We have to defend our party which is facing many challenges," Mohamad Ali said. "We also want to see a smooth transition of power to (Najib)."

The committee also suspended 10 senior party officials, including three of Mohamad Ali's aides, for up to three years.

Former Law Minister Zaid Ibrahim, who was expelled from UMNO last year for attending opposition gatherings, urged the country's king Wednesday not to appoint Najib as premier. He claimed Najib was tainted by public perceptions of corruption.

Najib "will most certainly divide us and in doing so, will nudge us closer to the edge," Zaid said in a public speech.

Other cracks were already becoming evident. Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar said the timing of the disciplinary committee's decision was wrong, and could further destabilize the party.

Party members are also grumbling that Prime Minister Abdullah's son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin, was let off with a warning even though he was found guilty of the same crime as Mohamad Ali.


Associated Press writers Julia Zappei and Sean Yoong contributed to this report.

Next Malaysian PM linked to murder (1)

Next Malaysian PM linked to murder (1)
GOTCHA By Jarius Bondoc Updated March 18, 2009 12:00 AM

Upon winning unopposed as head of his ruling UMNO party at month’s end, Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak will become the new PM. Allegations of sleaze have marred his political rise. Now a fresh report in French newspaper Liberation of ties to a murdered Mongolian model threatens his career. Reprinted in two parts is the English version, “The Altantuya Case: How and Why She Was Killed”, with permission from author Arnaud Dubus. Writing from Kuala Lumpur, Ulan Bator and Paris, Dubus presents a gripping account from his investigative journalism:

Sharibu Setev is bitter, disappointed — but determined. Seated at an Ulan Bator hotel lobby, the 60-year-old Mongolian is ready to fight. With face hardened by suffering and harsh climate, his intense gaze tells it all. “My daughter has been murdered by Malaysians on Malaysian soil. And they did not even offer a word of apology,” states the psychology professor of the National University of Mongolia. Altantuya Sharibu was assassinated in Oct. 2006. It was a murder unlike others in a region where business conflicts or petty politics are often settled with a gun. Everything about it, starting 2002 when French-Spanish company Armaris sealed a sale of three submarines to Malaysia for a billion euros, is out of the ordinary. The “Altantuya case” has yet to reach full impact in France, Malaysia and Mongolia. The 28-year-old model’s murder was the result of a 114-million euro “commission” from Armaris to its Malaysian counterpart. This “commission,” acknowledged in Malaysia’s Parliament, triggered a chain of events that led to the slaying of Altantuya and the disappearance of several key witnesses.

A Malaysian police report, kept secret till now, reveals details of how the young member of Asian high society was killed. In the document one of the killers, agent Sirul Omar of the Malaysian Special Branch, told police investigators at a station near the murder scene: “When the Chinese woman saw me drawing a gun she begged me to spare her, saying she was pregnant. Azilah (Sirul’s commanding officer) grabbed her and [threw] her to the ground. I immediately shot the left side of her face. Azilah tore off her clothes and put them in a black plastic bag. He noticed that her hand was still moving. He ordered me to shoot again, which I did.” This is the first confirmation of the killers’ identities. “Then we carried her body into the woods. Azilah wrapped explosives around her legs, her abdomen and her head, and we exploded her.”

Revelation of this report in Liberation is the latest chapter in the saga featuring French weapons sellers, Mongolian shaman, and Malaysian pols. It is explosive not only for the Malaysian government, since deputy prime minister Najib Razak (scheduled to become Prime Minister) is suspected of having links to the case, but also because it could embarrass the DCNS, the French firm specializing in military ship-building. Armaris, which sold two Scorpène and one Agosta submarines to Malaysia in June 2002, was bought by DCNS in 2007.

With magnetic beauty and sophistication, Altantuya is reminiscent of Mata Hari. She grew up in Saint Petersburg (Russia), then studied at Beijing’s Institute of Economic Management. Besides speaking English, she is fluent in Russian, Chinese and Korean. By fate Altantuya came to meet Abdul Razak Baginda in Hong Kong in 2004. Baginda is a security expert and director of Malaysia’s Strategic Research Centre, a pro-government think tank. The two quickly became romantically involved. Altantuya, or Tuya to friends, proved to be a useful assistant, helping Baginda translate Russian to English. Rich and alluring Baginda is well known among Kuala Lumpur’s elite, notably because of his closeness to deputy prime minister and defense minister Najib Razak (he is also his security affairs adviser). He struts around the most exclusive circles, at times accompanied by his real wife. In Mar. 2005 Altantuya and Baginda departed for Europe, touring France, Germany, Italy and Portugal in his red Ferrari, staying in posh hotels and dining in the finest bistros. It was not solely for tourism: the contract for the submarine sale had been signed in 2002, but important details had yet to be settled. “We knew that Baginda was used by Najib Razak as intermediary for weapons systems deals, especially high level ones,” said a regional security affairs expert.

Najib Razak met up with the couple in Paris end of March. A photo shows the threesome in a Parisian private club. “Tuya showed me the pix. She said one of the men was her boyfriend, Abdul Razak Baginda, and the other the ‘big boss’, Najib Razak,” said Amy, Altantuya’s best friend. “I asked her if they are brothers because of the names; she said no, and that Najib Razak was the ‘prime minister’.” (Najib Razak has sworn on the Koran that he has never met Altantuya.) According to a private detective, now hiding in India, beautiful Tuya was also the occasional mistress of the deputy prime minister, whom Baginda introduced to her at the end of 2004. (Continuation on Friday)

Muslim smokers seen "worse than cows"

Muslim smokers seen "worse than cows"

Fri Mar 27, 2009

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Muslims who smoke and try to portray themselves as pious are worse than cows which defecate in the street, a top Malaysian Muslim cleric and politician said.

"...a cow which defecates in the middle of the road, (we) cannot take legal action against it because it has no brain and cannot think," said Nik Aziz who is the spiritual leader of the country's Pan-Islamic Party (PAS).

"But human beings, who have brains, for them to do something which is wrong in religion ... when they are in an attire which symbolises Islam, they can be regarded as being more despicable than cows," he said Friday, according to Malaysia's state news agency Bernama.

PAS is one of the three parties in Malaysia's opposition alliance led by former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim.

Nik Aziz said that smoking was forbidden by Islam.

Recently, Indonesia's top Islamic body passed a fatwa or ruling banning smoking. Malaysia's top Islamic body has also banned smoking.

Despite the ban in Malaysia, where over half the population of 27 million is Muslim, 50 percent of the male population smokes according to World Health Organisation (WHO) data.

Tug-of-war in Umno

Tug-of-war in Umno
27 Mar 09 : 8.52PM

By Zedeck Siew

Muhyiddin Yassin (pic courtesy of theSun)

IF the Umno general assembly debates of the past two days are any indication, there is a grave disconnect between what the party leadership is publicly indicating change to be, and what the party grassroots themselves feel.

Talking to the press this afternoon, newly-minted Umno deputy president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin continued the talk of reform he espoused before party polls.

"We want to address all the pertinent issues post-2008 general elections to meet the demands of a multiracial society," Muhyiddin said. And, since Muhyiddin will also be deputy prime minister, his talk about Umno's need to reclaim "political and psychological ground" may be extended to encompass the entire Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition. Since the 12th general election, the BN's stranglehold on Malaysian politics has waned considerably.

Implicit in this admission of renewal is an acknowledgement of the party's need to shift towards a more centrist position in the Malaysian discourse, and ability to practice a more inclusive brand of politics. This would mean a consolidation of the BN coalition, which party leaders such as Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin now admit is in shambles.

In his opening address, Najib (left) suggested that the Umno constitution be reviewed (pic courtesy of theSun)

The new Umno leadership seems to support concrete internal reform, such as the suggestion in new president Datuk Seri Najib Razak's opening address that the Umno constitution be reviewed with regards to the quota system. The suggestion was to ensure the selection of Umno leaders will be more inclusive.

By giving votes to more Umno members, the party polls' reliance on delegates will decline. This would be a strong step to reducing the incidence of "intense lobbying", — an euphemism for money politics, as observed by the likes of United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (Upko) president Tan Sri Bernard Dompok.

Citing developments such as Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal's election as vice-president, Muhyiddin styled Umno delegates as being mature. "This is a strong representation and reflects that our delegates are adopting a Malaysian outlook instead of confining to their respective regions," he said.

Challenging Umno's political will

With a line-up that is favourable to Najib, observers think that the new Umno will be able to make some good changes. This is, of course, provided that Umno actually has the political will to do so.

However, speeches made at the Umno general assembly today demonstrate that this may be unlikely.

Debates on the motion of thanks for the presidential policy speech, motion on economy, and the motion on education and religion have been the general assembly's main agenda from last night and throughout today, 27 March 2009, in the Merdeka Hall of the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC).

The addresses, delivered by representatives from various states and the party wings, saw delegates urging the party for consolidation. Umno Puteri representative Mazlina Mohammad Lazim said that "If Umno doesn't help Umno itself, how can it help others?" Such a statement might appear to represent a call towards introspection.

But it was really a call for more free gifts. Mazlina said that the government must ensure Umno loyalists are given positions in government-linked companies (GLCs). The day before, Penang representative Musa Sheikh Fadzir echoed this, saying that Umno division chiefs should be appointed to GLCs.

Musa also called for the dissolution of Umno's disciplinary board, as the action taken against some leaders convicted of money politics had caused internal strife. Further, the board's investigations had brought bad press to the party. It was shameful, Musa believed, for the party to have been so shamed in public.

"We should deal with the question of money politics amongst ourselves," Musa told delegates. "No need to talk about it in the papers!"

Defending racial superiority

The speeches also resisted inclusiveness. Today, Selangor representative Datuk Ismail Tijo played up the need to defend the racial supremacy of Malay Malaysians, saying that some quarters were willing to "insult the Malays, as if we have no dignity".

"And then there is Anwar Ibrahim, [who] wants to put us on the same level as other races," Ismail said, taking a dig at opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, and the Pakatan Rakyat (PR)'s overtly multi-cultural rhetoric. "If we are not careful, this country will be the next Palestine," Ismail asserted.

"We have to go to Selangor and take back Selangor!" Ismail added, alluding to the state, which is currently under PR rule.

Surely this would be a bad move for Umno, considering the public relations disaster its take-over of the state of Perak has since become?

The speeches showed that reform for Umno, to its delegates, meant that the party had to become even less transparent and practise more patronage.

In other words, the party appears to be far from cognisant of the reasons behind past failings. It appears unwilling to transform itself, despite what Umno's new leaders seem to want to believe.