Friday, May 29, 2009

Heard Of Blindsight?

Computer exercise helps stroke victims "see" again

Wed, Apr 01, 2009

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

WASHINGTON - Millie Sauer did not even know she had suffered a stroke until she tried to read a book as she recovered from surgery and saw only a gray blur for part of the page.

Hours or even days had passed since the stroke had damaged part of her brain responsible for vision and Sauer, 69, was far past the point for any effective treatment.

"I was told I would have to live with my situation," Sauer, who lives in Sun City West, Arizona, said in a telephone interview.

But an experimental computer-based program has helped Sauer regain some sight and given her hope of further recovery.

"We were very surprised when we saw the results from our first patients," said Krystel Huxlin of the University of Rochester Eye Institute in New York, who tested the system with seven stroke patients.

"This is a type of brain damage that clinicians and scientists have long believed you simply can't recover from. It's devastating, and patients are usually sent home to somehow deal with it the best they can."

Writing in the Journal of Neuroscience, Huxlin and colleagues said their approach used so-called blindsight -- when a person with vision loss senses something they cannot actually see.

"It is interesting that if you forced them to guess ... they can sometimes guess correctly. This is a phenomenon termed blindsight," Huxlin said.

Sauer and some other patients can drive, shop and live near-normal lives. "I think I have been able to live a pretty fulfilling life," Sauer said.

But it took months of staring at a computer screen to do so.

Strokes damage various parts of the brain and when the visual cortex is affected, the basic machinery involved in sight remains intact. The eye is taking in images -- but the brain is incapable of processing them correctly.

"A lot of neurologists and clinical practitioners are not aware that it is possible to regain vision after stroke," Huxlin said.

Patients with partial paralysis after a stroke are sent to physical therapy and can train new areas of the brain to control movement. Huxlin saw no reason why that could not be done with vision.

The exercise consists of focusing the damaged area of vision at a computer screen. A field of dots appears, moving like a school of fish or a flock of birds in one direction. The patient must decide the direction the dots are moving.

To Sauer, the improvement is subtle. To Huxlin, it is surprisingly substantial.

"The patients can't see the dots, but they're aware that there is something happening that they can't quite see. They might say, 'I know that there's something there, but I can't make any sense of it,'" said Huxlin.

Eventually, they learn to make use of this "blindsight" although it has yet to become vision in the way most people think of it.

She said the success rate went from 50 percent at first, which is what might be expected from random guessing, to 80 or 90 percent. For some of the patients, this meant they could resume driving and shopping, Huxlin said.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It’s all about belief

It’s all about belief
27 May, 2009

Muslims, for example, like the IGP, AG, CJ, and so on, believe they will go to heaven even if they do bad things in this world. And this is because they are Muslims and all Muslims eventually go to heaven -- never mind how bad they have been. At worse they will spend a short stint in hell. But after they serve their sentence they will get transferred to heaven.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

Someone sent me an e-mail saying that he disagrees with my view on forgiveness. He then quoted a passage from the Bible to support his argument. His contention is that the Christian view of forgiveness differs from my view and therefore I am wrong in my assumptions.

Fair enough. I would not want to even begin debating the correctness or otherwise of the Christian view. For starters, I am not a Christian. So definitely I would not understand Christianity as well as this person who sent me that e-mail. Secondly, even if I did have a fair understanding of the Christian view, not being a Christian means I would not share the Christian view. So, a debate would be futile when from the very beginning we do not share the same view.

But what this person who sent me that e-mail probably failed to comprehend is I said that this is the Muslim view. Whenever I start a sentence with ‘according to the Muslim belief’, this means this is what Muslims believe or are supposed to believe. I did not say this is according to what I believe.

Therefore, before you jump all over me, read properly what I write first -- then argue. When I say things like ‘the Malays believe’ or ‘the Muslims believe’, this is exactly what I mean. And just because I too am Malay or Muslim, don’t jump to conclusions and assume that this, therefore, must also be what I believe.

Malays believe Malaysia needs a New Economic Policy and Ketuanan Melayu (Malay Supremacy). Now, when I say that, did I say I believe Malaysia needs a New Economic Policy and Ketuanan Melayu? I said Malays believe Malaysia needs a New Economic Policy and Ketuanan Melayu.

Okay, maybe not all Malays believe this. Maybe just some Malays or probably even half the Malays believe this. But when I say Malays believe Malaysia needs a New Economic Policy and Ketuanan Melayu, do not read that as all Malays believe Malaysia needs a New Economic Policy and Ketuanan Melayu or that I also believe Malaysia needs a New Economic Policy and Ketuanan Melayu.

Some Malays and/or Muslims have certain beliefs that may appear strange to those who are not Malay or Muslim. But that is what they believe. I am sure there are Malays and/or Muslims who also think that the Christian belief is strange, maybe even downright blasphemous. And there are Christians who disagree with certain Christian beliefs, as there are Muslims who disagree with certain Muslim beliefs.

Take, for example, the belief of some Muslims that if you kill lizards (cicak) on Thursday night you receive a lot of pahala (blessings or ‘credits’) and probably can go to heaven if you end up killing one million lizards because of the excess pahala you have accumulated. I remember, as a child, we used to go around looking for lizards so that we can shoot them dead with rubber bands. I believed that when I was a child because the old folks told us this was so and we trusted the wise and respected old folks. Today, of course, I no longer believe this and I very much leave these lizards alone to do their own thing.

There are Muslims who believe in ‘contract marriages’. If you fancy a sweet young thing you can enter into a contract with her and after you have satisfied your lust and have exhausted yourself the marriage ends. Now, note that I said there are Muslims who believe this. I did not say I too believe this. And if I ever did try such a thing my wife would chop of my little pecker and feed it to the lizards -- who I am sure would gladly devour it as revenge for the suffering they have endured all those many years every Thursday night.

Now, on the issue of forgiveness and whatnot, Muslims believe that if you have wronged someone then that someone has to forgive you first before God forgives you. That is what I wrote and which was what attracted that response from the Christian who e-mailed me.

Anyway, that is what my Tok Guru said and that is the common belief of most Muslims. However, there are Muslims who do not believe this. They believe that the concept of heaven and hell and credits and debits are a Christian concept that some Muslims have borrowed from Christianity.

Now, this is where the problem lies. Not all Muslims believe everything that Islam says. But they would be very careful about openly saying so. They are worried that if they express views that differ from the mainstream Muslim view then they would suffer retaliation. Until today, Muslims are still being killed for expressing views that are classified as deviant or blasphemous.

Remember 700 years or so ago when Christians were tortured and made to confess to sins of heresy and then burned alive at the stake? Well, Islam is more or less still at this stage -- minus the torture and burning alive. Maybe, at worse, you would get detained without trial under the Internal Security Act or get cut down with a bullet in the head as you leave your home. Invariably, you will suffer some form of punishment for deviating from the true path of Islam if you are bold enough in opposing the mainstream view and openly express these views.

That is why many Muslims are ‘closet deviants’, if I may be permitted to put it that way for want of a better word. A Christian can openly declare that he or she does not believe in God and can even write a book about it. A Muslim does so at his or her own peril. You would not be around to celebrate Christmas if you dare say, do or write anything that upsets or antagonise other Muslims. And this is an undisputable fact.

Do you know there are Muslims who believe that the Quran was not written in Arabic? Yes, that’s right, they believe that the Quran was written in Syriac-Aramaic, not Arabic. These Muslims believe that written Arabic did not exist yet at the time of Prophet Muhammad. And they support this theory with the argument that this is why even Arabs who are proficient in their mother tongue have great difficulty in understanding the language of the Quran.

Those who disagree with this view argue that there is nothing strange in that. The Quran, they argue, is written in Classical Arabic, the way Shakespeare’s plays are written. Even if you speak English extremely well this does not mean you can understand Shakespeare, which is Classical or Olde English.

Now, I said there are those who believe this. How many Muslims believe this? I really don’t know because these people who do will never dare openly say they believe so. But those who do believe so will argue that ‘virgins’, if in Syriac-Aramaic, will translate to ‘raisins’. And suicide bombers get rewarded with raisins and not virgins when they go to heaven -- if, in the first place, they get to go to heaven.

So there you have it. You really don’t know what Muslims believe because they will never dare tell you what they really believe. At best, they will say: according to the Muslim belief. And, therefore, in that same spirit, you really don’t know what I believe.

So save your breath. No need to send me long e-mails disputing my beliefs. No need to even counter what you think is my belief with the Christian belief. You really don’t know what my beliefs are.

Okay, while still on the same subject but on another point. Muslims, for example like the IGP, AG, CJ, and so on, believe they will go to heaven even if they do bad things in this world. They can even beat up my son and force him to admit to crimes he never committed and they are still destined for heaven although my son may be sent to jail for crimes he never committed. And this is because they are Muslims and all Muslims eventually go to heaven -- never mind how bad they have been. At worse they will spend a short stint in hell. But after they serve their sentence they will get transferred to heaven.

Muslims like the IGP, AG, CJ, and so on, believe that non-Muslims, for example like Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Mandela, and so on, will all end up in hell. They will go straight to hell and will remain there for eternity. And this is because Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Mandela, and so on, are not Muslims. So it does not matter how much good they do in this world. It is all a wasted effort. They will still end up in hell in the end.

So Muslims do bad and they are not scared. They believe they will end up in heaven whatever they do. And they are not impressed by non-Muslims who do good. They believe that however good these non-Muslims are they will still end up in hell. And that is why we find Muslims like the IGP, AG, CJ, and so on, are terrible people. They have special protection and an exemption from hell. Because they are Muslims they will end up in heaven whatever they do. So why do they need to be good? It’s more fun being bad. And just before you die you repent and go to Mekah and all your sins will be cleansed and you come home as clean as a newly-born baby.

That is the Muslim belief. How many Muslims believe this? I don’t know because those who do not believe this do not dare say so. So they will just say this is the Muslim belief and will leave it at that.

Malaysia and the PPP disease

Malaysia and the PPP disease
25 May, 2009

And do you really want Aminah as President of the MPPP? I would not even offer her the post of Chief Dogcatcher of the Council let alone its President. And if you know her personally then you would know why I say this. She just does not have right credentials to head the Council as its President.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

Aminah Abdullah, the former Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Penang Wanita chief, alleges that the party offered her RM80,000 as an inducement to withdraw from contesting the Penanti by-election. Aminah is one of the three independent candidates in the by-election that will be held on 31 May 2009.

She says she was also offered the post of President of the Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP) if she agrees to withdraw. Furthermore, she alleges, she was offered the post of Deputy Chief Minister 1 (DCM1) if she manages to win the by-election. According to Aminah, all these offers were made during the two or three meetings that were held before Nomination Day.

She also claims she recorded the three-hour meeting with the middlemen, one of whom is a special officer to a Penang state executive councillor and a PKR supreme council member. She said the meetings were recorded at her home in Jelutong on May 13. She then gave journalists who had attended her press conference a copy of the recordings.

Aminah said she refused the offers and claims she had photographs taken of her with the two people who came to meet her. Her family members took the photographs using mobile phones without the knowledge of these two PKR representatives who came to meet her.

"I am one who believes in justice and the truth and I am doing this not out of spite but to counter the allegations made by PKR state chief Datuk Mohd Zahrain Mohamed Hashim who wanted me to show the evidence that I was offered these inducements. I will lodge a report with the Election Commission on Tuesday and expose who they are," she said during a press conference held at her operations centre in Simpang Tiga Kubang Ulu. She has also lodged a police report at the Seberang Perai Tengah district police station for fear of her safety following her expose.

I can only say that the two PKR representatives who went to meet her -- assuming that did happen -- are pretty stupid. First of all, why offer her the post of President of the MPPP if she agrees to withdraw and then the post of DCM1 if she does not withdraw but stays in the contest and wins? It should be one or the other. And would it not be better for her to contest and win and become the DCM1 instead of withdrawing and getting appointed as merely the President of the MPPP?

And RM80,000 is just too small an amount. Aminah would need at least RM200,000 if she contests the by-election. That would be just to contest without any plans to win. If she really wants to win then she would need at least RM500,000, going up to RM2 million if Umno is also in the race and decides to spend big money, as they normally do as the last ten years has proven.

This means Aminah already has at least RM200,000 in her pocket or handbag and probably even more if she is serious about winning the by-election. What is RM80,000 to her then? I would have offered her at least RM500,000 or RM1 million if I really wanted her to withdraw. RM80,000 is a downright insult.

And do you really want Aminah as President of the MPPP? I would not even offer her the post of Chief Dogcatcher of the Council let alone its President. And, if you know her personally, then you would know why I say this. She just does not have right credentials to head the Council as its President. And DCM1? I think Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng would probably resign in disgust and join Gerakan if she were made Penang’s DCM1. I doubt the DCM2, Professor Ramasamy, would even consider this a joke. It is beyond a joke. It is like the Prof appointing his typist as his new boss.

Aminah has always been a troublemaker since way back. She has been the wedge between Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and the PKR Penang people. I remember one meeting that I attended when I brought some PKR Penang chaps along and she gave me a downright dirty look. She did not want any ‘outsiders’ in the meeting. She did not mind me being in the meeting. It was the other PKR Penang chaps that she resented.

In short, she wanted exclusivity. She and only she can have access to Wan Azizah. All others must be kept out. You just can’t run PKR Penang single-handedly. You need a team. But she prefers that PKR Penang be run as a committee of one and she was to be the sole committee member. Invariably, PKR Penang lost all their good people because of her. Many either just went into retirement or crossed over to Umno. They were utterly disgusted with what was going on in PKR Penang.

Appointing her the DCM1 would be suicide. Her first task would be to drive a wedge between PKR and DAP. She has already antagonised the PAS people whom she looks down on -- even their State Assemblymen. The mind boggles as to why PKR did not get rid of her sooner. The longer she stayed as PKR’s Wanita chief the more damage she was causing the party.

It came to a stage that many preferred to stay away from PKR Penang and leave it to its own devices. The best thing that happened to PKR Penang was when she left. Now PKR wants her back as DCM1 or President of the MPPP or both? Heavens! What the hell is wrong with Anwar Ibrahim? Maybe it is time he stepped aside and allows someone else to run the party. Sheesh! Aminah as DCM1 and President of the MPPP? Rosmah Mansor is any time far more intelligent than Aminah.

It looks like Malaysia is suffering from PPP disease. No, I don’t mean the People’s Progressive Party, which now has two Presidents (okay, Confuses says ‘two heads are better than one, especially if they are on the same coin’ -- while Umno says ‘heads I win, tails you lose, so never mind if the coin has only one head'). The PPP ailment I am talking about is an overdose of Politics, Prostitutes and Perak.

By the way, did you realise that prostitution is a RM3 billion a year industry? This excludes political prostitution, which, according to some calculations, is another RM2.5 billion a year. Why do you think they want to avoid another state election in Perak? The 59 state seats up for grabs -- if a new state election is held -- will cost another RM2 million each. This totals RM120 million. Then there is the cost for the police, election commission, etc., which would come to another few hundred million. And with the fast-track development and whatnot, we are talking about a possible RM2 billion in total. Kuala Terengganu alone cost RM600 million for just one parliament seat with the RM500 million special fund included.

Yes, RM3 billion for prostitution, RM2.5 billion for political prostitution, and RM2 billion for a new Perak state election. And we say that Malaysia has no money. Malaysia does have money but it is just that it is not being spent on the right things. And even when it is spent on the right things the leakages are very high. Just ask any businessman, local or foreign, and they will have horror stories to tell. You just can’t do business in Malaysia unless you pay. And the bill for all these extra and hidden costs are charged back to us, the taxpayers. So, invariably, we Malaysians end up paying for the PPP.


Prove it Aminah, don’t just offer hot air to gain publicity

Monday, 25 May 2009

By Wong Choon Mei, Suara Keadilan

Independent candidate for the Penanti state seat Aminah Abdullah took another bite at her former party PKR, in a bid to kickstart her campaign against biggest competitor Mansor Othman, the flag carrier for the Pakatan Rakyat.

A former state PKR Wanita chief, she told a press conference on Monday that she was offered top jobs including the Penand deputy chief minister post and RM80,000 if she were to pull out from the contest.

“The offer to head the Penang City Council was on the condition that I did not contest in the by-election,” Aminah said.

“They wanted me to withdraw on the nomination and give a walkover to PKR candidate. Obviously I did not agree to their offer. That’s why I am here contesting this by-election.”

She declined to name the people who ‘bribed’ her but said that one was a special officer to an executive councillor in the Pakatan Rakyat state government and another a member of the PKR supreme council.

Aminah also distributed copies of an audio recording of the alleged offers made to her. The recording, in compact disc form, lasts about three hours.

Show us the evidence, or retract and apologise

The 56-year old, who left PKR on bitter terms, said that she had photographic evidence of her meetings and would release these in due time, along with the names of the alleged ‘bribers’.

Meanwhile, she said she has lodged a police report, seeking protection for herself and her family. She plans to lodge another report with the Election Commission, but had no answers when asked why she did not complain to the rightful authority instead - which is the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

Apart from PKR’s Mansor, a former USM lecturer, Aminah is up against two other Independents - former Gerakan Youth chief of Teluk Wang branch Nai Khan and Kamarul Ramizu Idris.

Meanwhile, PKR leaders denied her claims, challenging her to produce proof. Election director Saifuddin Nasution said PKR would be sending a legal notice to Aminah, seeking a retraction and an apology.

“PKR is unperturbed by her allegations. Our chances of winning in Penanti is as good as ever,” said Saifuddin, who is also the MP for Machang.

“Let her lodge the report, produce the evidence and allow EC to probe the case. Until then we have no comment.”


Malaysia sex trade reaping RM3 billion in 2008

Sex trade is illegal in Malaysia but that didn’t stop it from reaping whooping RM3 billion profits last year according to Tenaganita a non-governmental organisation.

Tenaganita estimated that the number of prostitutes in the country at least 150,000 with more than 10,000 operating in the Klang Valley alone.

A prostitute monthly earning easily surpassing that of a minister, university professor or high ranking government officers.

Charging an average of RM150 an hour, eight client per day, working seven-day a week, a prostitute ends up making RM36,000 a month said Aegile Fernandez, Tenaganita anti-human trafficking coordinator.

“Serving an average of eight clients a day, she ends up making RM1,200 daily and possibly RM36,000 a month,” she said.

According to Aegile, syndicates that run brothels usually have up to 100 girls under them.

The 1-Malaysia in reality

The 1-Malaysia in reality
26 May, 2009

There are many things the Indians should fight for other than for more ‘lucrative’ posts and positions. And the fight should not just focus on getting more Indians into committees. This does not work and has been proven so for more than 50 years.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

The Indians are upset. And they have every right to be upset. After all, have they not been neglected and marginalised for more than 50 years? I will be very surprised if they are not upset when even I am upset.

But these Indians appear to be upset over the wrong reasons. They are upset because Indians are not given enough posts and positions. They want more representatives here and more representatives there, in every council, committee and what-have-you. And they are upset not because not enough Indians are being given these posts and positions. They are upset because THEY are not being given these posts and positions. It makes you wonder whether they are fighting for their fellow Indians or for themselves.

Why fight for more temples? Are there not enough temples as it is now? Fight for more government land and government funds for expansion purposes for existing temples. After all, are not mosques being built on government land and with government money, which means it is our land and our money -- Malays, Chinese, Indians and ‘others’ included?

In other words, don’t talk about quantity, talk about quality.

Why fight for more Indian schools? Some Indian schools are so dilapidated and don’t even have enough students to qualify as a school. We don’t need more schools. We need to improve the existing schools. Again, quality over quantity!

Fight for the abolishment of race-based quotas in public schools, colleges and universities plus for Tamil to be part of the school curriculum as a second or third language so that Indian students can still learn Tamil if they want to.

The taxpayers are paying for the cost of public institutions of learning -- meaning you and me are paying for it. So why should only one race be allowed places in these institutions such as ITM? The Malays are not paying for these institutions. All Malaysians, non-Malays included and in particular, are paying for it. It is an open secret that the ‘other races’ are paying most of the taxes but they are denied places in public institutions of learning which depends on taxpayers to fund them.

Are posts and positions really that important? Indians have been given posts and positions since over 50 years of Merdeka. But have the lot of the Indians improved? Do these Indians holding all sorts of posts and positions really strive to improve the lot of their fellow Indians?

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad grumbled that he gave the so-called representatives of the Indian community all sorts of help. They got shares, contracts, land and whatnot. But did it filter down to the grassroots Indians or did those at the top sapu everything for themselves?

Today, the Indians might argue that MIC no longer represents the Indian community and that Mahathir should not have given all this wealth to the MIC leaders because they kept it all for themselves and never passed anything down to the people below them. Maybe, today, you say that. But, until very recently, 90% of the Indian voters voted for Barisan Nasional. The impression the Indians gave was that they regard MIC as their legitimate representative.

There are many things the Indians should fight for other than for more ‘lucrative’ posts and positions. And the fight should not just focus on getting more Indians into committees. This does not work and has been proven so for more than 50 years.

The Indians are being left behind. There are as many, or probably more, poor Indians as there are Malays. But Indians do not get special preferences when buying a home, the most important and fundamental requirement before anything else. A roof over the head is first and foremost. But a rich Malay house-buyer gets special preference because he is Malay while a poor Indian sleeps in a rented slum-house because he is Indian. Is this fair?

I support the Indian cause. But I do not support what they are asking for and the way they are going about doing it. Yes, call for the end of the New Economic Policy in spite of Najib’s warning to HINDRAF to ‘not to go to far’. It should no longer be about Malays first. It should be about poor and needy Malaysians first.

And you can demand this without asking for more places in committees. It is not about posts and positions. It is about getting other non-Indian Malaysians like the Malays and Chinese to join you and to support you in the fight to improve the lot of not only the Indians but the lot of all poor and deserving Malaysians regardless of ethnicity.


PKR man: Pakatan not doing enough for Indians

A grassroots PKR leader today lashed out at Pakatan Rakyat and its administration in Selangor for continuing to marginalise the Indian community in the state. “The sidelining of the Indian community by the Pakatan in Selangor is not much different from what Barisan Nasional has done,” said Petaling Jaya Selatan division’s deputy chief A Thiruvenggadam today.

He alleged that all promises made by Pakatan leaders, including PKR president Anwar Ibrahim and Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim, before the general election in March 2008 to uplift the Indian community remained unfulfilled.

“In Selangor, the PKR-led state government has so far failed to keep up with its promise to do something for the community. No job offers have given to the Indian community. No contracts have also been allocated for the Indian businessmen in the state,” said Thiruvenggadam, who is a PKR-appointee as a councillor to the PJ city council.

“I have been asking for the past one year or so for the state government under Khalid to make it a state policy to provide jobs and business opportunities for the Indian community but to date nothing has moved,” he said in a statement. He claimed that all Pakatan leaders were repeatedly lying to the Indian community by promising them better things as compared to the neglect committed by Barisan Nasional.

“They are only cheating the community to garner support. Nothing is being done. They have done nothing for the community by giving some money for the Tamil schools in the state. They must also help the community to be economically strong,” he added.

He said that the Pakatan leadership’s argument that it should not be looking after one particular race only does not hold water. “Why do you want to neglect an already marginalised community? There is nothing wrong in helping this community to find its feet. Otherwise, it will just remain neglected,” he said.

He added that it was ironic that many Pakatan leaders in power today were human rights defenders before this and now they were not seeing the sorry plight suffered by the Indian community in the state. He also challenged the state government to come up with statistics on what it has done to uplift the Indian community in the state. Thiruvenggadam said he would be revealing more on the state government’s failure in helping the Indian community at a press conference next Monday.

Nalla: I am not surprised by this

The Indian community, for long BN voters, shifted sides to Pakatan in the last general election after complaining that they have been neglected for years. Pakatan leaders had said that they would be different from BN and would help the community gain an economic status. However many observers, including insiders like Thiruvenggadam, have complained that the plight of the community remained the same.

Commenting on this, BN-allied Malaysian Indian United Party (MIUP) leader KS Nallakaruppan said he agreed with the contention that the Pakatan state governments have done nothing for the community. Pakatan won control of five states in the general election.

“The complaints are valid. I have travelled throughout the country, including to the five states under Pakatan control and the feedback I get is that they are still in the same poor, neglected state. Apart from appointing some Indians to some high-profile posts and local councils, Pakatan had failed to deliver its promise for the Indian community,” he told Malaysiakini.

He was referring to the appointment of DAP’s P Ramasamy as the deputy chief minister 2 in Penang and V Sivakumar as the Perak assembly speaker.

“Temples are still being demolished in the Pakatan states. Tamils schools are still in the same condition. Have they reduced poverty?” he asked. “I know full well about Anwar and other PKR leaders. They have never cared about the Indian community,” he added.

He said that while BN could have been slow in reacting to the needs of the Indian community in the past, it has now learnt its lessons with the federal government implementing some policies to overturn the situation. Nallakaruppan left PKR in 2007 after a fall-out with Anwar and formed his party.

Acupuncture clears the air

Acupuncture clears the air
Tue, Mar 31, 2009
The Straits Times

By Gerard Yeo, SINSEH SAYS

Qn. My nose is often blocked due to the deviation of my nasal septum. Can TCM improve my sense of smell and minimise inflammation in my nose?

Ans. The nasal septum is a bone structure in the centre of the nose which separates the airways and nostrils.

A deviated septum occurs when this bone shifts from its position and obstructs the passage of air through the nostrils.

This may cause the sufferer to experience sinusitis, infection and nose bleeds.

This condition is caused by a deficiency in the functions of the lung, spleen and kidney, as well as excessive heat accumulated in the lungs. A weak immune system and pathogenic factors such as wind, cold, heat and phlegm also play a part.

Chinese medicine, acupuncture, cupping therapy and tui-na massage can improve your condition by strengthening your organs and dispelling the pathogenic factors.

Chinese medicine such as Dahurian angelica root (baizhi), biond magnolia flower (xinyi), grassleaf sweetflag rhizome (shichangpu), Manchurian wildginger (xixin) and cablin patchouli herb (huoxiang) are prescribed to relieve nasal congestion and to improve one's sense of smell.

Baical skullcap root (huangqin), white mulberry root-bark (sangbaipi) and cape jasmine fruit (zhizi) rid the lungs of heat, while thunberg fritillary bulb (zhebeimu) and heartleaf houttuynia herb (yuxingcao) reduce mucus and phlegm.

Chuling (zhuling), coix seed (yiyiren) and oriental waterplantain rhizome (zexie) reduce inflammation, while tangshen (dangshen) and largehead atractylodes rhizome (baizhu) improve your immune system.

You should abstain from cold, spicy and oily food as they create heat and dampness, which weaken your immune system. Instead, take porridge and vegetables such as radish and winter melon as they reduce dampness and phlegm.

Exercises such as taiji, yoga and brisk walking, together with sufficient sleep, improve your immune system and prevent cold and flu.


Information provided by Ms Lim Lay Beng, a TCM physician at YS Healthcare TCM Clinic at The Adelphi.

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

Sex so painful that I avoid it

Sex so painful that I avoid it
Mon, May 25, 2009
The Straits Times

Q: I did not realise that I suffer from vaginismus until after my marriage. Sex is almost impossible. However, I was really fortunate to get pregnant and I thought the problem would be solved after a natural birth.

Sex is still so painful that I avoid it. I read that Botox can help, but is it a permanent solution? Are there alternatives?

A: Vaginismus is characterised by an uncontrolled, involuntary contraction of the muscle surrounding the vagina (called the pubococcygeus muscle), which makes intercourse either painful or impossible.

Fear of penetration is the main emotional obstacle.

The causes may be psychological - such as previous sexual abuse, strict home upbringing that sex is immoral, fears and misconceptions about sex being painful; or physical - such as genital infection or childbirth injuries.

Treatment may be psychological or physical. Psychotherapy can help the psychological aspects while physical therapy involves vaginal exercises, lubricants and desensitisation with vaginal dilators.

Botox has been used recently with some success, especially when standard treatments fail. Minute amounts of the drug are injected directly into the pubococcygeus muscle (a hammock-like muscle which stretches from the pubic bone to the tail bone, controls urine flow and contracts during orgasm) under anaesthesia to paralyse the muscle, thereby eliminating the pain.

Once the element of pain is gone, psychological fears subside and normal coitus is possible as the brain readjusts to a new situation and feelings.

However, repeat treatment (four to six months) may be necessary and side effects include headache and flu-like symptoms.

As every case of vaginismus is different, an individualised approach by a gynaecologist and a therapist working as a team is the best.

Dr Tan Yew Ghee is an obstetrician and gynaecologist at Raffles Hospital and a senior partner and consultant at Raffles Women's Centre.

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

Bride dies 2 weeks after this photo was taken

Tue, May 26, 2009
The New Paper
Bride dies 2 weeks after this photo was taken
by Chong Shin Yen

FOR a few precious moments, the pallid spectre of death was replaced by the blush of true love. In a place of pain, there was joy. In the midst of crisis, there was celebration.

She was dying. But on that special day in a hospice, she was alive with love.

Her boyfriend of 15 years, retired businessman Teo Jit Sin, proposed. Two weeks later, on 26 Apr, they got married.

Exactly two weeks later, she died.

Breast cancer had taken away Madam Goh Guat Eng, 54, a former secretary, just as it had killed Mr Teo's first wife.

This time, however, he refused to buckle under the certainty of death.

'I wanted to give her a proper status as my wife,' Mr Teo, 62, told The New Paper on Sunday at his wife's wake in Ang Mo Kio.

'I wanted everyone to know her as Mrs Teo.'

The couple had been going out for 15 years but the idea of marriage never came up.

'To us, a marriage certificate was just a piece of paper. We felt that as long as we were happy together, that was enough.'

But towards the end of Madam Goh's life, Mr Teo changed his mind.

Recalling the day he popped the question, Mr Teo said that it was a 'simple' affair. There was no ring or flowers.

Nods with a smile

'I asked her 'shall we get married?', and she nodded with a smile. That was it.'

The couple held their customary wedding in a hall at the HCA Hospice Care on 26 Apr, a Sunday.

Exactly two weeks later, on 10 May, Madam Goh died in the hospice at about 1.30am, with Mr Teo and other relatives by her bed.

HCA Hospice Care is a voluntary welfare organisation at Jalan Tan Tock Seng.

Madam Goh moved to the hospice in March after her condition deteriorated.

She was unable to breathe on her own.

On her big day, she was a 30kg shrunken shadow of her former, healthy 60kg self. She had to be in a wheelchair throughout the ceremony. A tube attached to her nose helped her breathe.

But in the eyes of her husband, relatives and friends in the room, she was radiant in a red floral top and black skirt.

Said Mr Teo: 'The guests commented that although she was feeble, she was glowing with joy and she looked contented.'

The couple's guests included their friends and relatives, and doctors and nurses at the hospice.

The hall was decorated with pink and red heart-shaped balloons. A violinist played in the background.

Guests cheered and clapped as the couple exchanged wedding rings and cut their two-tier wedding cake.

But there were fears before the festivity.

'She was worried and scared,' he said, 'that she might not live till that day.

'But on our big day, I could tell that she was very happy. It was as though her last wish had been fulfilled.'

As Mr Teo spoke about that day, he flipped through their wedding album, pointing to photos of Madam Goh beaming.

He said the most tender and touching moment was when he picked up the microphone and sang a Mandarin song for his new wife.

'Everything that I wanted to tell her was all in the lyrics of this song,' he said.

The song was titled 'zui ai de ren' (Mandarin for The One I Love Most).

He and the guests fought back tears as he sang, while Madam Goh smiled calmly.

'She was her usual unassuming and cheerful self,' he said.

Madam Goh was diagnosed with breast cancer about two years ago. She completed the chemotherapy treatment and her cancer went into remission.

'We thought she was all right and we went on a lot of holidays together. We travelled to Dubai, Turkey and even drove to Malaysia and Hatyai,' said Mr Teo.

But at the start of this year, Madam Goh's condition worsened and she lost weight rapidly.

That was when she stopped working.

Said Mr Teo: 'She told me not to be sad. She also asked me not to cook any more expensive food such as bird's nest for her as it would be wasted.

'She said that as long as I'm by her side, it was enough.'

Two months before her death, Madam Goh moved to the hospice on the advice of her doctor.

Mr Teo would visit her twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening.

'I would cook her favourite dishes like fish and double-boiled soup and bring it to the hospice to eat with her,' he said.

This was Mr Teo's second marriage and Madam Goh's first.

Mr Teo's first wife died of breast cancer in 1992. She was in her 40s and she left behind three children.

Called her 'mother'

The children, who are now in their 30s, grew close to Madam Goh and called her 'mother'.

Mr Teo said he first got to know Madam Goh in the '80s.

Back then, he was a businessman dealing with building materials, while Madam Goh was a secretary for one of his business associates.

Mr Teo recalled: 'I was married when I first met her. We became friends. Whenever I encountered problems, she was there to help me.'

Love blossomed in 1994, two years after Mr Teo's first wife died from cancer. The couple had been together since.

After Madam Goh became ill, Mr Teo moved from his Pasir Ris home to her Ang Mo Kio flat so he could care for her.

'She was someone who put others at ease and would never reject any friend who needed her help,' said Mr Teo.

'All these years, she never asked me for anything. The first and last thing I could give her would be a proper status as my wife.'

He added that although they only went through a customary wedding, to them and their relatives, they are already considered man and wife.

When Madam Goh was cremated on 14 May, 15 years of love and devotion, and two weeks of life as husband and wife, had come to an end.

Truly, sadly, till death did they part.

This article was first published in The New Paper

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Little gland, big impact

Little gland, big impact
Sun, May 24, 2009
The Straits Times
[Top: Puffy eyelids can be a sign of thyroid problems.]

By Poon Chian Hui

Many things can go wrong when the thyroid gland malfunctions.

At the heart of thyroid disorders is the hormone thyroxine, produced by the butterfly-shaped gland that sits in front of the windpipe.

Thyroxine is akin to the "energy source" for all bodily functions, said Dr Luke Tan, a consultant ear, nose and throat - head and neck surgeon at Gleneagles Hospital.

Dr Tan has a special interest in thyroid surgery.

"It affects general well-being, energy levels, body weight, mood, can cause menstrual irregularities and skin and hair changes, among other things," he said.

Abnormal hormone production can result in two conditions.

Hyperthyroidism results when excessive amounts of thyroid hormones are produced. Also known as Grave's disease, this is the most common thyroid disorder in Singapore, said Dr Daphne Khoo, head and senior consultant at the department of endocrinology at Singapore General Hospital.

"Women between 20 and 40 years old are especially affected by Grave's disease," said Dr Khoo. Symptoms include weight loss with increased appetite, breathlessness, muscle weakness, moodiness, fast heart rate and irregular periods. Some may also experience more visible signs like puffy eyelids and protruding eyes.

"It really bothers the patient when the eyes are affected," she said. "One can go blind due to increased eye pressure, and women get very upset over their 'fish-eye' appearance."

However, for hypothyroidism - caused by an underactive thyroid gland - the signs are more subtle.

Common effects are weight gain, constipation, increased cholesterol level and, in women, very heavy periods. Other than symptoms being fairly innocuous, the progression of the disease can be quite gradual as well.

However, this does not mean that it should be taken less seriously. Early screening and treatment is important because both thyroid disorders can be life-threatening, said Dr Khoo.

For instance, in pregnant women, excessive thyroid hormones increase the risk of miscarriages. Insufficient hormones, however, can cause the baby to have brain development problems, like a lower IQ, as thyroid hormones are heavily involved in growth and development.

In general, thyroid hormone disorders hit women harder - about 80 per cent of cases involve women, said Dr Khoo - although Oriental (Chinese, Japanese and Korean) men may suffer a rare complication called thyrotoxic periodic paralysis, which normally renders their limbs immobile. An injection of potassium ions can correct the temporary paralysis.

Another class of problems arise from tumour growth. Dr Tan said: "It appears as a mass in the lower part of the neck, which typically moves up when the person swallows." Tumours that are cancerous will have to be removed by surgery. Benign ones are removed if the person encounters breathing or swallowing problems, he said.

Although thyroid cancer is less common than hormone-related problems, the lack of symptoms means that it usually goes undetected by the person, he said.

According to the American Thyroid Association, thyroid problems are three times higher in Asians compared to other ethnic groups. Dr Khoo estimates that up to 4 per cent of the population in Singapore have some kind of thyroid disorder.

However, one should not panic when faced with a thyroid problem.

"Although it can be a lifelong problem, as long as you take your medication, it can be managed well," said Dr Khoo.
In addition to medication to regulate hormone levels, surgery and radioactive iodine therapy can be used to treat cancer and also to reduce the size of the thyroid gland for hyperthyroidism sufferers.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Sigh… Hafidz Baharom does not respect me

Sigh… Hafidz Baharom does not respect me
23 May, 2009

But they refuse to allow it to end there. They refuse to acknowledge that they can’t get me in spite of bending the rules and moving the goalposts so many times halfway through the trial. This is no longer even a kangaroo court. They have set new standards for what a kangaroo court should look like.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

Today, Hafidz Baharom’s piece ‘Why I don't respect RPK’ was published in The Star. Once upon a time, The Star used to be known as ‘Suara Tunku Abdul Rahman’ -- when it was then merely a regional newspaper for Penang folks. Now, of course, it is better known as Suara MCA and has since been transformed into a national newspaper.

Back in the early 1990s, I too used to write for The Star. At that time I was just a freelance columnist writing for the Cycling, and later, Motorcycling columns in The Weekender. The Weekender’s editor then was Sharifah Intan. I think she is the Tunku’s granddaughter but I never did ask her.

Hafidz echoes what many Umno types have repeatedly said: berani kerana benar. What he means is: I have lied. So I should be man enough to face the music and walk into jail with my head held up high. First of all, they assume I have lied. Secondly, since I have lied, then I should suffer a sham trial and accept the verdict of a kangaroo court and go quietly to jail.

Okay, let us focus on that one issue for the meantime. We can always talk about the other issues later.

The issue they raise is: I have lied. Since the court has not ruled either way just yet, let us assume, therefore, that I have. And we will give them the benefit of the doubt and agree that I have lied. I shall not dispute that. And this means I need to go to court so that the court can rule whether I did or did not lie.

I have no problems with that. In fact, in the beginning, that was what my sedition trial was all about. Superintendent Gan made a police report against me alleging that I had lied. And I was arrested and charged for sedition because it is said I had lied. And I faced trial and defended myself against the allegation that I had lied.

Then Gan was called to testify. He was not my witness but the prosecution’s witness. And he went into great detail relating how he arrived at the conclusion that I had lied -- and which was why he made that police report against me.

It was an open and shut case. Raja Petra Bin Raja Kamarudin lied in that article he wrote. So Gan was forced to make a police report against me. He was the investigating officer in the Altantuya murder. He knows the full details of the murder investigation. And he therefore knows very well that what I wrote are total lies.

Then it came to our turn to cross-examin him. He had already testified for the prosecution. Now it was our turn to cross-examin him on his testimony he gave the prosecution.

And that was when he changed his story.

No, he did not investigate the Altantuya murder after all. Another person did. So he is not that knowledgeable about the details of the murder investigation. He just knows small patches of the investigation.

Okay, but he said I had lied. Which parts of that article were the lies? My lawyer went through the article and identified four (4) paragraphs where, according to Gan’s police report, I was supposed to have lied. Okay, now let us look at the charge. The charge says seven (7) paragraphs contain lies. But only three (3) of the seven (7) tally with the three (3) of the four (4) that Gan had identified. This means there is one paragraph that does not tally. So, Gan has four, the charge says seven, and there is one where Gan and the prosecutor can’t agree whether is a lie or not.

The next step is to try to establish the truth. Only by establishing the truth can the lies be established. Since I was alleged to have lied, let us then seek the truth and only when we know the truth can it be proven whether I had lied or not.

But when Gan was asked about the truth he refused to reply to YB Gobind’s questions. He would just not reveal what was the truth. Each time he was asked a question he replied he does not know or does not know how to answer or does not know what to say.

How then does he know I had lied when he does not know what is the truth? Well, he came to the conclusion that I had lied because he had never stumbled across what I had written before. This means, if I were to write that female mosquitoes bite humans while male mosquitoes feed on fruits and not on blood, since he had never stumbled across this fact before, this means I must be lying. There are no two ways about it.

YB Gobind then goes through the article, paragraph by paragraph. He reads each paragraph and asks Gan where in that paragraph are the lies. Then it is discovered that Gan was not able to tell the court where the lies were. In short, what he initially thought to be lies were in fact not.

How did Gan then come to the conclusion they were lies when he made that police report, but when testifying on the stand he can’t stand by his allegation that I had lied? And remember, his police report said I had lied and that I had committed sedition because I had lied.

At this point, when it became clear that the prosecution’s case against me on the basis that I had committed a crime of sedition because I had lied appeared to be falling apart, the prosecutor stood up and told the court that the truth of the matter, or otherwise, is not important. Sedition has nothing to do with true or false. It would be seditious and therefore a crime even if I had told the truth.

But Gan’s police report and testimony were very clear. It was based on the fact that I was supposed to have lied. Now that the lie allegation can no longer stand, they want the court to forget about the lying part and focus on whether I did write what I was alleged to have written even if it is true. And even if it is true they still want the court to send me to jail.

To add insult to injury, the prosecution wants the court to ignore the four or seven paragraphs and whether one paragraph does not tally between the police report and the charge. The article, the court was told, has to be looked at in its entirety, not based on four paragraphs or seven paragraphs.

But the police report clearly marked four paragraphs. And it was these four paragraphs that constituted my so-called crime. The charge, on the other hand, marked seven paragraphs. And this was why I was on trial. Now they want the court to agree that all these paragraphs are no longer relevant and instead the article must be seen as a whole, minus the marked paragraphs.

Okay, the court was told, forget about whether I had lied or in fact had told the truth. Forget the police report. Forget even the charge. Let us just look at the article. Did I or did I not write that article? That is all that matters. And if I did then I must be sent to jail.

Fine, let us do just that. Let us forget about whether I had lied or in fact had told the truth. Let us forget the police report. Let us even forget the charge. Let us instead just look at the article. Did I or did I not write that article? That will be the focus.

The prosecution then adduced the article. This, according to the prosecution, was the article I was alleged to have written. And this article was downloaded from the website called Malaysia Today.

Then it was discovered that the article was NOT downloaded from Malaysia Today. It was in fact typed out. This means this was not the original evidence. It was created or fabricated and NOT downloaded from Malaysia Today. For all intents and purposes, I did not write that article. They, the prosecution, wrote that article. It is a copy. It is not an original article download from Malaysia Today.

When they realised that it was game over, they asked for a postponement so that they could amend the charge. The new charge, this time around, will have the real article downloaded from Malaysia Today.

Then they read out the new charge. But the new charge also had a fabricated article. It DID NOT have the original article downloaded from Malaysia Today. So, again, they were stuck. And at this point the court should have just acquitted me without the necessity of my defence having to be called because the charge was clearly defective and the evidence had been fabricated.

But they refused to give up. Instead, again, they applied for a postponement so that they can do a SECOND examination of the computer. They already did one examination but could not find any copy of that article. The article just did not exist. That is why they had to fabricate the evidence -- because they could not find the evidence.

And why did they need to do a SECOND examination of my computer? So that they could prove that I had used the computer to update the website. This would be the evidence to prove I had published the article.

At this point they were asked how, in the first place, did they even know that the computer belongs to me? Well, because it was confiscated from my house. Am I living in that house alone? No! When they raided my house there were other people there as well. Then how do they know that I own that computer? They don’t, they just assume.

In fact, they confiscated TWO computers and one of them actually belongs to someone else and the files in it prove this. But when they confiscated the two computers they never asked me whether I owned those computers and I never said that I did. So who owns those two computers? The police do not know.

They then summoned an IT expert to testify. They wanted the IT expert to testify that the computers the police had confiscated were used to update Malaysia Today on the day the article was published. The IT expert, however, testified that the computers never accessed Malaysia Today on the day in question. In fact, many days before the alleged crime was committed, the computers they confiscated never accessed the Internet at all, let alone Malaysia Today.

So there goes their case against me. They confiscated two computers that they can’t prove belong to me. Even if the computers do belong to me, they were never used to publish the offending article. In fact, there is no copy of that article in the two computers so there is no evidence I had even written it in the first place. They can’t prove that I lied. They are no longer interested whether I lied or not because they can’t prove that I lied. So where do they go from there? And why are they still pursuing their case against me when they no longer have a case?

Not willing to admit that they no longer have a case, the prosecution told the court they still have many witnesses to call. Okay, they are supposed to tell the court before the trial starts who they are calling as witnesses. How many NEW witnesses are they calling and who are they? They don’t know yet. They are still figuring it out and will inform the court later once they have decided.

Yes, berani kerana benar, all these people say. If I am benar, then I must be berani to face the court. Hey, I did. I did just that; I faced the court. And I allowed them to build their case against me. I allowed them to get to the truth so that they can establish that I had committed the crime of lying and therefore I am seditious. But they failed to do so, each step of the way. And each time they failed they asked for a postponement so that they could go back to the drawing board and come out with new charges, new witnesses, new testimony, new evidence, new rules of the game, and whatnot. And, still, they failed to nail me.

But they refuse to allow it to end there. They refuse to acknowledge that they can’t get me in spite of bending the rules and moving the goalposts so many times halfway through the trial. This is no longer even a kangaroo court. They have set new standards for what a kangaroo court should look like.

Yes, berani kerana benar. I berani walk away from this sham trial and tell them to go to hell kerana benar. And I beranikerana benar. And I berani say to their faces: no more bullshit. And I berani tell them I refuse to allow them to detain me, yet again, under the Internal Security Act. And I berani do all this kerana I benar. And I will not lose any sleep over the matter just because Hafidz Baharom does not respect me and challenges me with berani kerana benar.
face the warrant of arrest they have issued for not turning up in court

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Malaysia-Singapore ‘cold war’

The Malaysia-Singapore ‘cold war’
23 May, 2009

Surely Dr Mahathir can’t agree to Najib giving in to Singapore’s demands like what is currently happening. Are we going to see Dr Mahathir going berserk like back in 2006 with all these concessions Najib is granting Singapore?


Raja Petra Kamarudin

An old acquaintance of mine who was once quite senior in the Fisheries Department related this story, which he said stunned everybody in the room. The occasion was a briefing session and the man who was the target of the briefing was Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the then Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia.

This government officer who was conducting the briefing tried to impress Dr Mahathir on what they were doing. He went into great detail talking about their plans and strategies and how things are going to improve once these plans and strategies are in place. And he concluded by assuring Dr Mahathir that it will work because this is exactly what Singapore is doing.

Dr Mahathir gave the briefing officer a long and hard stare and said, “Please never mention Singapore in front of me again. Don’t you know we are at war with Singapore?”

From that day on, word spread like wildfire that you must never, at all costs, mention Singapore in front of Dr Mahathir, unless it is in a negative light that is. To say that Malaysia too is doing such and such because Singapore is doing the same is to invite disaster and a dead-end career in the government.

We both had a good laugh and I never thought about this incident again until 2006, something like 30 years after I was first told the story about the briefing session. And 2006 was when I started my association with Dr Mahathir soon after the dialogue session that Malaysia Today organised at the Kelab Century Paradise in Taman Melawati in Kuala Lumpur.

“Singapore is just a little red dot,” Dr Mahathir would tell all and sundry, sometimes to a crowd of 1,000 or more.

Why is Dr Mahathir so upset with Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi? Because Pak Lah tunduk (kow tow) to Singapore.

Why is Dr Mahathir so upset that his Crooked Bridge has been aborted, and at a price that is more costly than if they went ahead and built it on top of that? Because Singapore does not want it -- so, by aborting it, Malaysia is bowing to Singapore’s demands.

Why is Dr Mahathir so angry with Kalimullah (whom he calls Hindu God and Muslim Priest)? Because Kalimullah is a Singapore agent.

Why is Dr Mahathir so angry with Khairy Jamaluddin? Because Khairy works for Singapore and is being funded by that ‘little red dot’.

Anything and everything even remotely associated with Singapore is a no-no in Dr Mahathir’s books.

“Of course I can’t get along with Singapore,” laments Dr Mahathir. “I can’t go to Singapore and play golf with Singapore’s leaders and pat each other on the back like those in Pak Lah’s government.”

“Who cares if Singapore wants a new straight bridge to replace the Causeway or not. They can keep their half of the Causeway. We will demolish our half and build half a bridge. And if half a bridge is too short then we shall make it longer by building a crooked bridge.”

“Lee Kuan Yew told me that Goh Chok Tong is too sentimental. That’s why he does not want to see the Causeway demolished. So we will have to wait until Chok Tong retires and then, after he retires, we shall demolish the whole Causeway.”

“Malaysia fought hard to gain independence from Britain. We opposed the British and the British plan for a Malayan Union. However, after 50 years of Merdeka, we are still not independent. We still can’t decide what to do in our own country. Singapore tells us what we can do in our own country. So we are not really that independent after all.”

And it goes on and on -- Singapore this and Singapore that. It is all about Singapore. And all of Dr Mahathir’s unhappiness is because Singapore is the cause of everything that is wrong with this country and all his plans are being torpedoed because of Singapore.

There are those in Umno who say that in 2006 I abandoned Anwar Ibrahim and then jumped into Dr Mahathir’s camp. Then I left Dr Mahathir and swung over to Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah’s camp. And after that I left Tengku Razaleigh to return to Anwar. Why I ‘left’ Dr Mahathir is not clear because there was no quarrel or bad blood between Dr Mahathir and me. I sort of just moved on without any reason offered.

That is what the Umno chaps say and they say this openly enough in their Blogs.

True, I did ‘swing over’ to Dr Mahathir back in 2006. But come 2008, I was involved in the general elections and after that the Pematang Pauh by-election followed by the Kuala Terengganu by-election. In between that I was arrested for sedition and then for criminal defamation after which I was detained a couple of months under the Internal Security Act. So that sort of kept me busy for the last year or so, in between going to the police station numerous times and the many court appearances.

Nevertheless, while I may have been too busy to personally go meet Dr Mahathir in his house and office like I used to from 2006 to early 2008, I still kept in touch by phone and by passing messages through a mutual friend. I also met Matthias many times for lunch, tea or dinner to spend hours discussing matters of mutual interest. And most times the messages would be passed to and from Dr Mahathir through these people.

Dr Mahathir understood that our association was only because we both wanted the same thing -- we both wanted to see Pak Lah ousted from office. That was the one thing that united us. However, after Pak Lah leaves, who should be the man to replace him?

Dr Mahathir knew that my choice of successor was Tengku Razaleigh. In fact, I had personally gone to meet Dr Mahathir in his house during Hari Raya of 2007 to inform him about this. Furthermore, we had a series of meetings with Tengku Razaleigh together with Mukhriz’s boys to discuss how Tengku Razaleigh could make a bid for the Umno Presidency.

I was not naïve in thinking that Anwar would be the next prime minister. This was before the 8 March 2008 general election and we were not sure yet at that time whether there was even going to be a Pakatan Rakyat (or maybe there would be three- or four-corner fights with PKR, PAS and DAP all contesting the same seat against Barisan Nasional). So the man who becomes prime minister has to be someone from Umno and that would have to be Tengku Razaleigh.

But we were not really sure whether Dr Mahathir would endorse Tengku Razaleigh in spite of Mukhriz’s boys appearing to be backing him. When we asked Dr Mahathir to his face whether he preferred Najib over Tengku Razaleigh, he did not give the impression he preferred Najib.

We never thought Dr Mahathir would want Najib because of the ‘Singapore connection’. He is angry with Pak Lah, Kalimullah and Khairy because they are said to be tools or agents of Singapore. But then would this not also be so for Najib?

Tun Daim Zainuddin has personally told Dr Mahathir that Singapore possesses all the evidence that Najib, Razak Baginda and Altantuya met at the Oriental Hotel in Marina Square one year before she died. This means, with the evidence that Singapore possesses, they would be able to blackmail Najib. Surely Dr Mahathir would not want someone who can be blackmailed into doing Singapore’s bidding become the next prime minister knowing how he feels about Singapore and those perceived as under Singapore’s control?

Najib has just made a trip to Singapore and while in Singapore he announced that Malaysia agrees to build a third bridge linking Malaysia and Singapore. Third bridge? If there is going to be a third bridge then there would certainly be a second bridge. And we are no longer talking about crooked bridges as what Dr Mahathir wants. We are talking about straight bridges as what Singapore wants. And Najib also announced that the New Economic Policy would most likely be abolished as what Singapore would like to see.

Hmmm…this is interesting. Does Dr Mahathir know what Najib is doing? Surely Dr Mahathir can’t agree to Najib giving in to Singapore’s demands like what is currently happening. Are we going to see Dr Mahathir going berserk like back in 2006 with all these concessions Najib is granting Singapore?

Well, Dr Mahathir knows I support him in his move to oust Pak Lah. But I just can’t support him on the move to replace Pak Lah with Najib. My choice of successor was Tengku Razaleigh and I never hid that fact from Dr Mahathir. Probably the whole of Umno knows this as well. Anwar Ibrahim and the PKR people certainly do.

Of course, if Pakatan Rakyat forms the government, and Anwar Ibrahim becomes prime minister instead, that is also okay with me. But back in 2006 no one imagined that Pakatan Rakyat would ever be formed, let alone win five states and deny Barisan Nasional its two-thirds majority in parliament.

So the choice was either Tengku Razaleigh or Najib and I never dreamt that Dr Mahathir would choose Najib considering he is so pantang about Singapore and would never accept as prime minister someone whom Singapore can squeeze by the balls -- especially when this someone can be blackmailed about a very secret and sensitive meeting with a woman in the Oriental Hotel in Marina Square who is later found murdered.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

With Due Respect : Tycoon and philanthropist

With Due Respect : Tycoon and philanthropist

By Artemio V. Panganiban
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: May 16, 2009

IN A capitalist democracy such as the Philippines, private enterprise is both the engine of economic growth and the propellant of social responsibility. Hence, I measure the success of a business conglomerate not so much by the profits it rakes but by its ardor in caring for the less fortunate. Indeed, fabulous wealth can be justified only by the zeal to share it with the poor.

Passion for philanthropy. This is why I accepted to be the guest speaker during the “13th Presentation of SM Scholar-Graduates” held on May 12 at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City: to find out how one of the biggest conglomerates in our country and its principals fulfill their social responsibility.

I was not disappointed. The presentation was considered a major milestone by taipan Henry Sy Sr. (fondly called “Tatang” by his friends), his wife Felicidad, his children led by BDO Chairperson Tessie, and the top executives of the SM Group. They celebrated the event as significantly as their annual shareholders’ meeting.

For four hours, they listened with rapt attention to several beaming scholars (and their tearful parents) who narrated how they were cared for (not just funded) by the SM Foundation from their first year in college up to their graduation. At the sidelines of the huge convention hall, personnel managers of the SM companies set up booths to offer choice jobs to the scholars.

The Foundation, proudly described by Tatang as the “heart and soul of SM,” undertakes multimillion-peso educational, health and medical projects as well as livelihood and religious programs. However, it considers the scholarship program as its flagship endeavor. Currently, it has 750 beneficiaries 103 of whom graduated this school year while the rest are still enrolled in 29 institutions nationwide. This year’s batch includes five magna cum laudes and 20 cum laudes. So far, 1,176 have graduated under the SM scholarship program.

‘SYnergy’ in business. In my address, I recalled that as a student in the 1950s, I met Tatang when I bought my shoes at the original Shoemart store in Carriedo Street in Manila at, believe it or not, P10 a pair. Since then, I marveled at how that store metamorphosed to SM and expanded so rapidly. Three of the world’s biggest malls are located in our country: SM Mall of Asia, SM Megamall and SM City North Edsa. SM generates nearly P150 billion in revenues, employs over 75,000 and operates 100 stores.

SM has forayed to other fields that always seamlessly blended with one another pursuant to Tatang’s business philosophy of “SYnergy.” Tatang sticks to his core business and area of expertise. His business empire may seem diversified but it has really been interconnected – retail, tourism and entertainment, shopping centers, real estate development, and banking.

SYmmetry in personal life. Though highly successful in all his ventures, Tatang remains humble, self-effacing and low profile. He seldom makes public appearances. He treasures, if I may quote him, “my six children who are my teammates and friends in the office and at home, and most especially my wife of [over] 50 years, Molly, who is my lifetime companion, treasurer, adviser, and best friend.”

He also professes deep faith in God, who according to him “is good and generous with His gifts to us.” That is why at the center of his major projects is always a house of the Lord. In the frenzy of buying and dining at the SM Megamall, shoppers can still find peace and tranquility at the Chapel of the Eucharistic Lord inside that huge shopping center. Even before he built his gigantic Mall of Asia and SMX Convention Center, he first constructed the Shrine of Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life near them.

He describes his low profile, God-oriented, family-centered lifestyle as “balance.” I prefer to call it “SYmmetry,” a word that – in my humble opinion – reflects, yes, balance and also, harmony and evenhandedness in personal relations.

SYmphony with God. Although Tatang has been acclaimed for many years as one of the richest men in the world, he has not forgotten his roots. He always reminisces that he was once poor, that he was a simple and hard-working commoner who has been blessed abundantly.

His passion is no longer to accumulate more wealth but to distribute it to the hopeless and the helpless so they could later help others. His zeal to share his resources has thus brought him to the league of the world’s mega philanthropists like Bill Gates, Henry Ford, John Rockefeller and Li Ka Shing.

Philanthropy is not just a civic duty. For the endowed, it is the way to a final reunion with God. The Good Book (Matthew 25) teaches that only those who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, and visit the imprisoned can reach the Eternal Kingdom. By the same token, when we finally knock at the pearly gates, our Lord will not ask us how many digits were in our bank accounts, or how many doctoral degrees we earned, or how lofty our government positions were.

He will just ask whether we shared our resources with the poor, used our talent to defend the weak, and spent our time to help those in most need. I call this direction given by the Lord to share our blessings and gifts with the less fortunate a concert, a “SYmphony” with God.

In his own big way, Tatang has proven that one could be both tycoon and philanthropist, an entrepreneur and a Christian, a hard-knuckled realist and a softhearted humanist. May his philanthropic ardor ever increase.

Facebook's foreign clones

Facebook's foreign clones

Andy Greenberg,
June 18, 2008

Since Facebook opened to the general public in 2006, anyone can become a part of Mark Zuckerberg's booming social network. But if users aren't satisfied to merely create a Facebook profile, Agriya Infoway, based in Chennai, India, offers another option: Create your own Facebook.

Agriya sells what it calls "Kootali," a $400 software package that lets developers replicate Facebook's design and features, complete with friend networks, photos and "mini-feeds"--even Facebook's font. Fifty copies of the software have been purchased in the last six months, says Agriya's chief technology officer, Aravind Kumar, though he says many hundreds more have been distributed on peer-to-peer file-sharing networks.

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Kumar isn't concerned about the legal implications of piggybacking on the Palo Alto, Calif.-based social network's success. "We haven't stolen any of Facebook's content or images, so we haven't done anything wrong," Kumar says. "We're just giving Facebook's look and feel to our customers."

Those customers, mostly unknown sites like and, don't pose much of a competitive threat to Facebook. But, according to Forrester Research analyst Jeremiah Owyang, Agriya's cloning software represents a more general problem for Facebook: that any skilled developer can recreate the site's basic social networking functions. "Social networking features are a commodity," Owyang says.

In other words, Facebook's advantage is not in its proprietary software but in its massive user base. And in countries where Facebook has yet to penetrate the mainstream Web audience, that low competitive barrier may mean the site is no more likely than its copycats to attract users.

Some international sites that closely mimic Facebook's design and features are already enjoying Facebook-like success. Creators of the German look-a-like site StudiVerzeichnis--German for "Student Index"--have gathered around 6 million registered users. VKontakte, a Russian university-based networking site whose name translates to "In Contact," boasts that it's not only the most popular social networking site in the country, but with 4.5 million unique visitors a day and 13.3 million registered users, the most popular site in Russia.

The Chinese site Xiaonei, whose name means "In the School" in Mandarin, claims to have received around 15 million unique visitors in April. The site's parent company, Oak Pacific Interactive, received $430 million the same month in venture capital funding targeted at Xiaonei from the Japanese investment firm Softbank.

The copycats' explosive growth comes at a time when Facebook seems to be exploring its own international offshoots. Since January, the social network has invited volunteers to translate its pages into languages ranging from Italian to Mandarin and has launched Spanish, French and German options. Li Ka-Shing, one of Facebook's biggest investors, recently upped his stake in the company by more than $40 million, saying he saw synergies between Facebook and the telecom business of his conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa (other-otc: HUWHY.PK - news - people )--a company that runs mobile networks in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

But Facebook's clones may have already saturated some international markets. In China, for instance, where the Web audience numbers more than 220 million users by the count of research firm BDA China, Xiaonei has already registered more than 90% of college students, according to Oak Pacific Interactive's chief operating officer, James Liu. He compares Facebook to Google (nasdaq: GOOG - news - people ), eBay (nasdaq: EBAY - news - people ) and MySpace, all of which have tried to penetrate China's Web market and been trounced by local competitors.

"We've seen what happens to these multinational corporations that try to enter to China," he says. "Every one has failed miserably. We don't expect any exception in the case of Facebook."

Taking legal action against international doppelgangers isn't likely to help, says Gregory Rutchik, head of the Arts and Technology Law Group. Web design, he says, is a form of expression where even minor tweaks may be enough to avoid copyright infringement. Litigating country by country, he adds, would be a long, expensive and uncertain process.

Facebook may have another reason to avoid copyright lawsuits, points out John Dozier, an Internet-focused intellectual property lawyer. Flinging copyright complaints, he suggests, might work against Facebook if it finds itself on the receiving end of a copyright suit--a likely possibility on a site where users can post any content they choose.

"Facebook is being particularly careful," Dozier says. "They recognize the danger that overly aggressive copyright claims can backfire."

As for Facebook's mimics, they emphasize small differences they say set them apart. VKontakte's founder, Pavel Durov, argues that his site's shade of blue is slightly different from Facebook's, and that it offers better location-based searching. Xiaonei's James Liu points out that Xiaonei has fewer barriers separating networks of friends, and offered instant messaging even before Facebook added the feature in April.

But Wang Xing, who created Xiaonei in 2005, admits that the site's design was originally "borrowed" from Facebook. In fact, he's borrowed it twice: After selling Xiaonei to Oak Pacific Interactive in 2006 for an undisclosed sum, Wang essentially cloned his Facebook clone.

Hainei, Wang's second social networking project launched near the end of 2007, is aimed at adults rather than students, but its design is practically identical to Xiaonei's--and Facebook's. In six months, it's attracted more than 100,000 registered users, Wang says.

Asked if he feels any compunction about taking features wholesale from Facebook--twice--Wang points to Mark Zuckerberg's own copycat problems. Since 2004, the owners of rival site ConnectU have claimed that Zuckerberg stole intellectual property from their social network while working as a software developer for the site.

"ConnectU accuses Facebook of stealing their idea. Does that matter?" Wang asks. "No. We don't worry about that. It's not about the idea. It's about execution."

Jane Tuv contributed to this article.

Research sheds new light on why pancreatic cancer drugs fail

Research sheds new light on why pancreatic cancer drugs fail
Published on 21 May 2009, 11:27

An international team of scientists, led by researchers based at the Cambridge Research Institute, have discovered a new mechanism that may explain why pancreatic cancer patients are often resistant to a common chemotherapy treatment, germcitabine.

The study, published in the journal Science today, shows that a genetically modified mouse model of pancreatic cancer, which closely resembles human cancer, is largely resistant to germcitabine treatment. It is hoped that these results will help scientists overcome a common resistance to germcitabine and make future chemotherapy drugs more effective.

The scientists had set out to discover why promising drugs generally fail in pancreatic cancer clinical trials. They found that in these mice studies pancreatic cancer is resistant to chemotherapy because the tumours tend to have poor networks of blood vessels called vasculature, which makes it harder for drugs to reach the tumour.

Working with groups at Addenbrooke's Hospital, the Johns Hopkins Hospital, the University of Dresden, MD Anderson Cancer Centre, University of Pittsburgh and the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Centre, they also noted that human pancreatic cancer samples also contained a deficient blood supply, suggesting that their observation should also be applicable to patients.

Senior author Dr David Tuveson, group leader in tumour modeling and experimental medicine at Cancer Research UK's Cambridge Research Institute, said: "We're extremely excited by these results as they may help explain the disappointing response that many pancreatic cancer patients receive from chemotherapy drugs."

The study also found that the genetically modified mice displayed the same resistance to gemcitabine as seen in human pancreatic cancer, whereas the transplantation mouse models traditionally used to develop chemotherapy treatments were sensitive to gemcitabine. This means that the new genetically modified models could prove superior in developing new treatments in the future.

When the scientists added the compound called IPI-926, created by Infinity Pharmaceuticals, to gemcitabine, they noticed increased cell death and a reduction of the pancreatic tumour size. Using this combination the researcher believe that it could re-open the door to several new treatments which have, so far, proven disappointing in patient trials for pancreatic cancer because of poor drug delivery.

"But these are early days and we need to show this approach is safe to use in humans before we can consider adding the new compound to cancer treatments," said Dr Tuveson.

These findings may also help to explain why pancreatic cancer does not respond to anti-angiogenic drugs such as VEGF inhibitors when many other cancers do. These are a new class of drugs which starve the tumour by restricting its blood supply. As pancreatic cancers don't seem to need as good a supply of blood to the tumour as other cancers, the scientists believe that they may need to introduce additional drugs to help stop tumour growth.

The scientists at Cancer Research UK's Cambridge Research Institute were co-funded by The Lustgarten Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

The Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute is a major new research centre which aims to take the scientific strengths of Cambridge to practical application for the benefit of cancer patients. The Institute is a unique partnership between the University of Cambridge and Cancer Research UK. It is housed in the Li Ka Shing Centre, a state-of-the-art research facility located on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus which was generously funded by Hutchison Whampoa Ltd, Cambridge University, Cancer Research UK, The Atlantic Philanthropies and a range of other donors. For more information visit

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Source: University of Cambridge