Saturday, March 22, 2003

More on CNN's muzzling of Kevin's warblog

Joseph D Lasica blogged this the first thing he woke up. Joi Ito also responded.

Seems like a kick-ass to CNN, BBC News has started a 4-person team warblog. My earlier blogs are here and here.

Clueless to post-war resolves

Why Collin Powell should go. New York Times columnist Bill Keller says: This war - undertaken at such cost to America's own interests - is specifically a failure of Colin Powell's politics.

The famous hardheaded definition of war is "the continuation of politics by other means." In the real world, though, war is the failure of politics.

Even if you believe that this war is justified, the route to it has been an ugly display of American opportunism and bullying, dissembling and dissonance. The administration has neglected other lethal crises around the world, alienated the allies we need for almost everything else on our agenda and abandoned friends working for the kind of values we profess to be exporting.

I can't count the number of times in the past two years I've heard — occasionally from my own lips — the observation that the Bush administration would be a much scarier outfit without Colin Powell. Allied diplomats, international businessmen and the American foreign policy mainstream have regarded him as the lone grown-up in an administration with a teenager's twitchy metabolism and self-centered view of the world. He was the one who acknowledged that other countries had legitimate interests, and that in the application of America's unmatched power there was a case for generosity because what goes around comes around. His pragmatic caution offset a moralism that sometimes verged on recklessness. If others, including the president, seemed given to hype and swagger, Mr. Powell's word seemed bankable — at least until the White House began misspending his credibility in its rush to the war that couldn't wait.

...Such a loyal and optimistic man would make some president a great secretary of state. Just not this president.

Washington Post editorial, March 21, War, Live:
Early shots of "shock and awe" were borrowed from al-Jazeera Arabic television -- grim close-ups of burning buildings, a river on fire. Reporters immediately began asking Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld if this was Dresden 1945. But cameras from American stations gave the opposite impression, of clean hits on Iraqi government ministries, mushroom clouds that rose straight up and disappeared.

The extent of damage will take time to sort out. So will the impact of this expanded broadcast technology: Will it desensitize viewers to the horrors of war or give a new appreciation of those horrors? In the meantime it's worth recalling that this new live coverage gives an amazing picture but far from a complete one -- gives such intimate visual knowledge that we may be deluded into thinking we actually know and feel what's going on.

The Observer editorial, March 23, How to win the peace:
Reconstructing Iraq is crucial. But for Tony Blair, it is just as important to rebuild his bridges with Europe... Much more than the fate of Saddam Hussein is now at stake.

Why does Bush administration seem unconcerned about an exit strategy from Iraq once Saddam is toppled? I blogged this before.

Local media implicated in Ling's war

Journalists face a host of dangers in the course of work. NST journalist Chow Kum Hor took MCA chief Dr Ling Liong Sik to task for selective persecution.

Last Wednesday, Ling Liong Sik accused the New Straits Times of "twisting his words" on his admitting that money politics in the MCA had run into millions of ringgit. Ling said other dailies carried the story "as it was" and he questioned why only the NST ran a different version. Ling's aides alleged conspiracy.

Journo Chow rebutted, Pag 4, top banner:

It must also be pointed out that Utusan Malaysia and The Sun carried the story along the same lines as that of the NST. Hence, the contention that the NST's March 3 report was different from the other dailies, was wrong.

If there was a conspiracy — as alleged by Dr Ling's aides — then shouldn't he also have pointed out that Bernama, an agency owned by the Government of which he is a key figure, also approached the story in the same manner? Why single out the NST? Is it because Dr Ling was ill-advised? There is also the question of why Dr Ling chose to only highlight the NST report some 17 days after it was published.

...For the record, the tabloid (The Sun) that ran a story with the heading ‘Paper twisted facts, says Ling' had also published an article similar to that of the NST on March 3.

...Journalists and newspapers take criticisms in their stride, whether from fellow Pressmen or politicians. But to accuse them of having private agendas is a different ball game.

Reporters and their newspapers do not take kindly to individuals telling them off just so the agenda of certain people can be fulfilled.

The People's Paper must be annoyed it is at all not implicated by NST and Chow in this issue.

"Friends" repeats are more popular than war repeats

Low war ratings puzzling. US television networks found that a repeat episode of "Friends" sitcom was more popular than the live war cover on ABC in the ratings. ABC is a Walt Disney company.

A preliminary data from Nielsen Media Research on Friday showed this: For the 8 p.m.-11 p.m. prime-time period, ABC's news coverage averaged 10.83 million total viewers, behind NBC's 13.65 million viewers for its mix of half-hour comedies and "Dateline". At 8 p.m., NBC's long-running hit comedy "Friends" drew nearly 4 million more viewers than ABC's news, even though it was a repeat episode.

The sampling involved audience groups aged 18-49, considered key by advertisers and used by the networks as a leading benchmark of performance. NBC drew a 6.3 rating for the night, compared with a 3.9 for ABC. One rating point represents one percent of homes that own television sets.

More snafus (Situation Normal, All Fouled Up) for ABC. Of all the networks covering the military conflict in the Gulf, ABC was last to come on with the news Wednesday night, nearly 10 minutes behind front-runner NBC. When it did report the bombing around Baghdad, it was without lead anchor Peter Jennings.

What's the cost? Goldman Sachs research estimated this week that the cost to the networks of continuous coverage of the war could be $5 million to $20 million per day, in a worst-case scenario, depending on the network.

Internet triumphs? Dan Gillmor says: People are flocking to the Net for the alternatives the networks won't provide -- nuance and context.

Me, no faith in my deputy?

Stop the rumours. PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad tells Umno leaders and the press that his return from leave to chair an UMNO meeting does not mean he distrusts Abdullah Badawi. His remarks were meant to pre-empt speculation that all was not well between him and his deputy, the acting Prime Minister, and that he had returned to take over from him.

Compare the news angles from The Star and Straits Times Singapore.

Peace pleas from Milan

Give peace a chance. Ju Lee sent me these pictures days ago from Milan, Italy. Unfortunately, I couldn't download them soon as my Streamyx broadband went down on War Day. Ju Lee aka empress_julz is a Malaysian from USJ Subang Jaya now serving her time in Italy. She writes regularly to

Here there are.

Pace is peace in Italian. The light of peace was emitted from candles in vigil.

Julz named it "Crime Scene": It's probably the most moving.... it's a picture sprayed on the floor of the main piazza in milan of a victim... his name is "mohammad" age 25.

Picture left: This is a good shot of a portion of the steps which houses thousands of candles, flowers, pictures and words of peace and support for the Iraqi people.

Picture right: This is a pic of a common pro-peace poster around Milan, this particular one was on a bus stop close to her apartment overlooking the Alps near the Swiss border.

Thanks Julz.

War and Press

Soaring circulation? The Star and New Straits Times (NST) both came out with a special edition March 20 evening, telling the war. The NST continued the special edition every day, hitting the streets around 3pm at major market centres (Klang Valley, Penang and JB). The Malay Mail adjusted to a later stop-press schedule to bring out war updates slightly after mid-day. A good service to readers who can't stay glued to TV during office hours.

This morning, 7.45am, The Star and Mingguan Malaysia reached the newstand ahead of the rest, including the vernacular papers. Are they enjoying soaring circulation? Will those having always-on Internet at work and at home buy their special editions? I don't.

Mingguan Malaysia's Awang Selamat, reciting a poem by Omar Khayyam (see his magnum opus The Rubaiyat), entered his shortest ever Sunday column today:

TIADA topik yang sesuai ditulis untuk minggu ini kecuali tentang serangan bala tentera Amerika Syarikat dan sekutunya ke atas Iraq.

Tapi apa lagi yang hendak ditulis. Tiada apa lagi yang hendak dikata...

Tinggal doa, darah dan air mata.

The Star's war scene team has filed its first despatch - Brian Martin from Dubai, P.K. Katharason and Shahanaaz Habib from Amman. They reported on the evacuation of Malaysians from Kuwait, and three Malaysian students who slipped backed into Iraq, one with the blessing of his father. Embassy staff couldn't do anything to stop any of them.

Deputy Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin has called on Malaysians to take news reports on the war in Iraq carried by CNN and BBC with a pinch of salt. I don't think he can possibly stop people from taking heaps of sodium on his either.

TM Net Screamyx, from Terrorkom

Total disgust. TM Net announced last Friday (March 8) it was DDoS attacks that crippled its broadband services. It recovered soon after, but traffic went into a snarl several hours before the War on Iraq started (that's easy to remember as March 20 became a date of infamy). Yesterday, its IVR says the international link went down (the reason TM Net cited before the admitting to DDoS attacks), and might take over 24 hours to recover. Their ISP and corporate websites kept mum.

Folks from Subang Jaya, Malaysia's most networked population, gave out two turkeys to the ISP and its mother brand, Telekom Malaysia:

- TM Net Screamyx.
- Terrorkom.

As at last night, users were still keeping their singers crossed.

* Send me an email
* Suggest a column/blog topic

Bloggers condemn CNN for shuttling Kevin's warblog

CNN foolishness. I blogged this earlier today. Bloggers' reponse start trickling in:

Jeff Jarvis: CNN is not only disrespecting Sites, it is disrespecting his audience, and it is disrespecting bloggers as a whole -- which is a mistake, since we, fellow bloggers, are now influencers. CNN used to be the cutting edge network. It is no more. It needs blogs to get back to the future again... Bottom line is that CNN proves it is out-of-date.

Mitch Ratcliffe: Time for new media-making companies. That's what's next. Having swallowed most of the Web, the old media companies are sitting back and thinking they've got it tamed. It's the perfect time to start screwing with media reality, again, the way Pulitzer, Hearst, Sarnoff and Paley did before. Doing this does not mean just embracing new ways of reporting the news, but also marketing the hell out of the product you create.

Go to Daypop, type in keyword Kevin Sites, and you will get a host of listings about how bloggers regard Kevin's blog and how they detest CNN's decree.

San Francisco Chronicle described warblogs, a new experiment in war reporting, as an editor-free zone of personal observations from the front lines. They are "relatively new ingredients in an evolving online media stew in which people can seek out information not just from mainstream U.S. media outlets, but also from international newspaper and broadcast reporters as well as Internet-only operations."

Major electronic media in the US have started to use weblogs to complement their news reporting and commentaries. An excellent example is MSNBC which runs Weblog Central, edited by Will Fema, and positioned as "Your gateway to the world of personal news". Its March 21 entry described bloggers who write from warfront as Weblog Truth Squad.

Meanwhile, BBC has started to blog the war. Dan Rosenbaum: "They say that journalism is the first draft of history. This stuff is the first draft of journalism."

So you thought the Brits have taste...

Good old British contempt. London's The Sun (famous/infamous with its Page 3 girl) hit Paris yesterday to show the world its disgust at the cowardice of President Jacques “The Worm” Chirac for wriggling out of his responsibilities to the West.

The front page featured pictures of Saddam and Chirac and read: “One is a corrupt bully who is risking the lives of our troops. He is sneering at Britain, destroying democracy and endangering world peace. The other is Saddam Hussein.”

On the back page was an open letter to the people of France. It labelled Chirac as Saddam Hussein’s whore, describing his actions as those of a “Paris harlot”, and that he was as big a threat to the civilised world as Iraq’s tyrant.

The Sun's Sally Brook said Vincent Bouis, 32, who was shown the newspaper and interviewed on the street, was shocked at "our display of good old British contempt for the French president".

He screamed: “This is violent and destructive language.”

e-Revolution inspired by War on Iraq

More impact than the sum of parts. What do Streamyx Hotspot, Maxis Utopia, Wi-Fi, digital video and webcam, SMS, notebook PC, Bintang Walk and Starbucks all add up to if they were around in 1998? Anwar Ibrahim could have won the street-mob politics!

Such is the new utopia of convergent technologies. People who take advantage of wireless Internet access, aka WiFi, will be joining thousands others to exploit emerging technologies during anti-war protests around the world this week. "Prohibitively expensive only a few years ago, technologies ranging from the mobilephone to the mini digital video camera fomented and recorded anti-war protests from Brussels to Manila."

Here are two low resource/high impact applications for anti-war activitists around the world, according to an Associated Press report.

San Francisco: You don't have to carry an anti-war poster or wear a "No blood for oil" placard. Instead, you just need to lug about 40 pounds of technology in a backpack, and transform yourself into a mobile streaming video link to the Internet.

After finding volunteers to shoot video, John Parulis, the 52-year-old Web designer and peace activist, camped out Thursday at a downtown Starbucks Coffee shop, intent on beaming live protest footage to the world via the Web.

Parulis then fired up a T-Mobile Internet account from his laptop and launched software for his Web camera. He transmitted images from his Sony digital video camera and two smaller Web cameras through a Yagi antenna, an 8-tall series of pipes that linked the untethered video cameras to his laptop. The system transferred video to his Internet site in real time.

In Manila, this is a comparatively less complex and less expensive set-up using SMS, or "text-ing" to the Filipinos. They used this to bring down President Joseph Estrada in January 2001. Imagine, these text messages enabled thousands to gather a seemingly spontaneous dissent that led to a change of government. The cost? A single text message in the Philippines costs about 2 US cents (7.6 sen) to send; voice messages cost eight times as much.
This week, protesters coordinated the times and locations of the protests through text messages on their cell phones. These text messages "navigated" roving anti-war groups in Manila to group, disperse, evade police and regroup at new locations throughout the city. Riot police ultimately dispersed about 300 anti-war activists who tried to approach the U.S. Embassy on Thursday, injuring at least 12 demonstrators.

Of course, when you get caught by the authorities, remember to get somebody bail you out. SMS can do.

Friday, March 21, 2003

Fear of losing grip, CNN shuts down staffer's weblog

Old Media mindset. CNN has ordered its staffer Kevin Sites to discontinue his warblog which is being updated on-the-scene in the Persian Gulf. Kevin blogged on, suggesting that the blog may be resumed, but it is believed that will almost certainly not happen. The blog was started on March 9, and could possibly be one of the shortest-lived, but not because of a lack of audience.

I personally enjoy Kevin's weblog, a clever combination of news, audblog and photojournalism. His is a personal website not affiliated with, endorsed by, or funded by CNN. But archives of Kevin's work are available here, and at

Blogger J.D. Lasica, also Senior Editor of the Online Journalism Review, said he had heard yesterday that the honchos at CNN were unhappy with Kevin's independent reporting. Lasica will be on a panel at the University of California, Berkeley, this Monday night to meet with a dozen newspaper and broadcast journalists about incorporating weblogs into their publications. He promised the subject of CNN's cowardice will come up.

Bloggers stop no wars, they just put them in context

Looking up to Dan Gillmor. I have been waiting anxiously to know about Dan's stand on the war on Iraq. Not that his being an American will cloud my appraisal of him as a committed blogger/journalist. Here are his thoughts gathered before and after the war broke:

March 16, Domestic policies give cause for fear: America Heading the Wrong Way: "It's hard to be optimistic (though I still tend to be for long run) when policy runs so seriously awry, as it does today in Washington. Socially and economically, America's running toward trouble."

March 19, Bush's Gamble: "I find myself in a troubling place -- appalled by the recklessness George W. Bush and his top advisors are showing, even though I agree completely that Saddam Hussein is a murderous thug and tyrant who needs to be deposed for the sake of Iraq and humanity.

"Once the bombs fly I will be hoping for a swift U.S. victory, even though that will cement Bush and his horrendous, radical politics into place for at least six more years and maybe for a generation. To hope otherwise on the war would be to hope for death and suffering.

"But our victory, likely to be rapid in a military sense, won't be a long-lasting one. Because of the screw-the-world way the U.S. has planned and entered this conflict, we are more vulnerable in the long run. We have just about killed the United Nations. We have inflamed the world against the new uber-American design to dominate the globe militarily and economically. We can't possibly stop all of the people who will attack us as individuals and small groups, sometimes with terrible impact, in years to come. Someday, this victory will look hollow because we couldn't be bothered to do it the right way.

"...Give Bush credit for leadership, at least. He may be reckless, but he's showing steel. He's taking the kinds of chances that real leaders take. America may suffer deeply from this leadership, sorry to say."

March 21: War News: Go Beyond the Usual Suspects: "This time around, however, a minority -- but a growing one -- had learned a lesson from the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. They had a robust online alternative. The World Wide Web, e-mail lists and other online sources offered content with context and nuance.

"...Some of the coverage will come from media that do not parrot the U.S. government's view of the conflict. In the weeks leading up to the war, when much of the American press dismissively covered internal dissent and mocked the rest of the world's misgivings as weak-kneed whining, many people started looking to British media for the kind of information and opinions they weren't finding here.

"Several weeks ago, the London Observer broke a story of U.S. spying on the United Nations delegations of Security Council members. It quoted a memorandum by a National Security Agency official. The U.S. media organizations that bothered to cover the story downplayed it, but it was big news elsewhere -- and on the Web. (I blogged this on March 2.)

The rise of the passionate amateur, meanwhile, has given us valuable new insights. Nowhere is that more true than in weblogs and other kinds of personal media that transcend the soapbox genre. Collectively, they expand the marketplace of ideas.

Will this war bring a new meaning to nano-publishing, weblogs, online media, new journalism all in one? Dan's take:
"I don't know if the most deeply interactive nature of the Net will emerge fully in this war, not the way it will when information technology and networks are even more pervasive than they are today. We'll get a hint of it as on-the-ground journalists with fancy portable telecommunications gear give us their perspectives.

If you want to be informed, roam widely. Watch and read things that support your own beliefs. Then look for commentary and data that don't. It's all out there.

The need for a better-informed citizenry has never been greater, not in an era of such pivotal changes and world-shaping decisions. Yet there has rarely been such prevailing shallowness in public discourse.

Our business and political leaders know that reality is an infinite palette of grays, not starkly black and white. We know that, too, because we deal with those subtleties in your everyday life. Yet our leaders -- and, yes, major elements of the mass media -- reduce complex issues to simplistic slogans. Why do we go along with this?

I'm not asking you to change your mind on fundamental issues. But I implore you to use these new tools to keep it ajar.

Hence I slog to blog.

Baghdad in the shadow of war

Birds taking flight over the Tigris, Baghdad. Like most great cities of the world, Baghdad's story begins with a river. The civilisations of ancient Mesopotamia and modern-day Iraq stemmed from the rivers Tigris and Euphrates.

It took 12 centuries for Baghdad to fall from its zenith, awash in cultural and material riches, to become the frayed, delusionally grandiose city that the United States is poised to attack again.

Some people have the courage to say privately that they are impatient for the war to start, that they want to see an end to Saddam’s regime, but they are also terrified of what is about to happen.

Read City of bygone charm, by Matthew McAllester, LAT-WP, syndicated by The Star.

The most arresting war picture so far

Day 2 of war: 21.03.2003: Iraqi soldiers surrendering

A television image shows Iraqi soldiers surrendering on the outskirts of the key port of Umm Qasr
Agency: Reuters

Source: Guardian

CNN kicked out of Baghdad

British press stay put. Iraqi authorities have expelled four CNN journalists from Baghdad yesterday, accusing the news team of being a "propaganda tool" of the US army. The news team includes correspondent Nick Robertson and producer Ingrid Formanek, who were also in Baghdad for CNN at the beginning of the 1991 Gulf war. Guardian:

CNN said on-air it was "sad" its news team had been told to leave and they would probably have to travel overland to Jordan. It later cut to the ITV news channel to carry its reports of the bombing of Baghdad by Ian Glover-James.

CNN was the only US TV network to cover the conflict from the Iraqi capital - the Fox news team was expelled from Baghdad a month ago. CBS, ABC and NBC decided to pull their journalists out of the region earlier this week after President George Bush advised journalists to exit the region on Monday.

The BBC, ITV and the British press plan to remain in Baghdad.

Not a problem for me, as I have switched to BBC World as my main staple of news long before the war started.

Turkey: Was/will there be a quid pro quo?

Splinters at work? Turkey and the Kurds in northern Iraq are arch enemies. Will the Kurds take advantage of the present conflict in Iraq to form a breakaway independent state? The Turks fear a Kurdish state - Iraqi Kurdistan - on their doorstep could incite their own Kurdish minority to seek independence. With 12 million to 17 million Kurds among Turkey's 72 million people, it could threaten Turkey's stability. Turkey also wants to prevent the Kurds from taking control of oil city, Kirkuk. UPDATE: Guardian: Turkish troops have crossed into Iraqi Kurdistan, a move which threatens to open a "war within the war".

This makes a sticky issue for the Turks. UPI reports:

On Thursday, the Turkish parliament passed legislation allowing U.S. military use of Turkish airspace in the war against Iraq. The same resolution authorized the Turkish army to deploy troops in Northern Iraq.

When the United States objected to the linkage between the overflight rights and troop deployment in Iraq, the Turkish government said it would delay the permission.

But following all-night negotiations and a phone conversation Friday between Powell and Turkish Prime Minister Recip Tayyeb Erdogan, diplomatic sources said, U.S. combat planes were again allowed to fly over Turkish territory.

However, the issue of whether Turkish troops would go into Kurdish territory apparently remained unresolved. Powell said the overflights and the troop incursions were separate issues, and the question of whether Turkey could send the military to Northern Iraq would be discussed later.

The Turks have said they need a military presence in Northern Iraq to control the expected flood of war refugees seeking to cross the border into Turkey. Powell said there was no such need, obviously mindful of the fact that the Kurds, who are lightly armed and no match for the Turkish military, are apprehensive at the prospect of a sizeable presence of Turkish troops in their midst.

Background Info: Ankara's desire to position troops of its own in Northern Iraq has bedeviled U.S. efforts to negotiate access for 60,000 U.S. troops through Turkey to establish a northern front in Iraq. An earlier agreement would have allowed Turkish troops into Northern Iraq but the Pentagon quickly reversed this quid pro quo.

Earlier this month, the Turkish parliament rejected legislation that would allow the United States the basing rights for ground troops and in the process lost their best opportunity for a $30 billion package in grants and loan guarantees. The rejection of the first motion killed the aid option.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said yesterday: "Previously, there had been discussion of a package of aid for Turkey that was contingent on Turkey's acceptance of a total cooperation package. That did not develop and that package is not on the table and that package will not be on the table."

The news dampened hopes in Turkey that "closer cooperation" with the U.S. would boost the country's indebted economy. Daily News, Turkey's largest English newspaper: "How could we mess up like this?" It quoted U.S. sources as saying that Turkey "would not get a penny from Washington" for passing only the watered-down second motion. It editorial calls for Turkish president and prime minister to shut up.

Good read:

The Kurds Factor. There are about 9 million in Iran, 5 million in Iraq and about one million in Syria. Dubya mishandles this, and the whole equation will change. Perhaps sustained instability in Middle East is what he wants. It would be too premature to conclude there won't be a quid pro-quo for now. And waging a war to rid off Saddam Hussein is not as simplistic as it has been made to be.

* Send me an email
* Suggest a column/blog topic

Truth used to be lies told three times

War chant. The Bush administration had three messages for the American people, repeated over and over again:

  • The war might be longer than expected.

  • There might be significant casualties, although every effort would be made to protect innocent Iraqi civilians.

  • A growing number of countries around the world were joining the "coalition of the willing."

Washington Post: "They were first voiced by Bush in his televised statement Wednesday night, the talking points were distributed overnight and reiterated in conference calls among communications officials. Now, virtually every administration official who said anything publicly hammered them home, from Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld to department spokesmen to senior officials in background interviews with reporters."

Blair has dutifully echoed.

Cisco buys over Linksys

Networking specialists unite. Cisco, market leader in commercial networking equipment and almost a by-name for industrial-grade Internet routers, has bought over Linksys, the market leader in networking equipment for homes and small businesses, according to an Associated Press report. The deal, worth around $500 million, is said to enable Cisco enter new market.

Cisco has been a big buyer. The AP story says "between 1993 and December 2000, it acquired 71 companies before the tech slump battered Cisco's stock price". During the boom years it was swallowing about one a month.

Will my Wi-Fi cards and access points get cheaper or more costly from now?

Bush supporters wouldn't wanna read this

Pax Americana, real meaning. Why does Bush administration seem unconcerned about an exit strategy from Iraq once Saddam is toppled?

Because we won't be leaving. Having conquered Iraq, the United States will create permanent military bases in that country from which to dominate the Middle East, including neighboring Iran.

Read The president's real goal in Iraq by Jay Bookman, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Star sends team to war fringes

Yesterday, I blogged about the possibility of local media organisations sending their news corp to the warfront.

I learnt from The Star today that, indeed, it has dispatched a three-man team to West Asia to cover the Iraq War. The team is made up of Star's regional associate editor (Sabah and Sarawak) P.K. Katharason, senior writer Shahanaaz Habib and senior writer Brian Martin.

The first two arrived in Amman early yesterday morning. They will file on-the-spot accounts of the war from Jordan, and make forays into Iraq if circumstances permit. Brian flew into Dubai Wednesday, and is understood to be stationed there with fellow Malaysian journalists from other media groups.

I wonder what are the digital news gathering tools and gears they brought along. Digitalcam, notebooks... videophones?

Thursday, March 20, 2003

The India that also can say NO!

Eating humble pie. Acting PM and Home Affairs minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has asked the Foreign Ministry to “take whatever action necessary” to convey apologies to the Indian authorities over shortcomings in handling a group of Indian nationals during a police raid recently. He said the Malaysian Government was willing to apologise to India as “good bilateral ties with India are more important than pride.”

This is prominently carried by the press in India: Hindustan Times, The Hindu, Deepika, PTI News, Economic Times, Mid-Day Mumbai.

Despite the initial denial syndrome by the authorities, I must say Pak Lah handled the case rather well. When it's time to say sorry, just do it. We shouldn't be doing any more silly things that give us bad press internationally.

We should now be wiser as much has been said about the procedural lapses involving our law enforcement authorities when they checked on the immigration and employment documents of a group of Indian IT professionals who work here. Immediate response from the diplomats and mass media in India has been daunting. There appeared to have been a host of issues that soured Malaysia’s government-to-government relations with India. That Malaysia has to extend its diplomatic apologies over the "short-comings" (nice words!) of the enforcement authorities - including alleged incidents of human rights abuse that reached SUHAKAM - denotes how serious the case has been. I believe positive steps would be taken to smoothen the ruffled feathers through diplomatic channels, and impaired relations repaired.

The incident set me thinking about India's coming of age as a force, especially in IT, that rivals Malaysia. Not only Japan, but India can now say NO to terms and conditions it feels it's not happy with.

It was Shintaro Ishihara who first made a nationalist clarion call, in his book The Japan That Can Say No: Why Japan Will Be First Among Equals, which was first translated into English in 1991. Dropping conventional Japanese protocol and diplomacy, he berated the world for misreading his country.

Ishihara especially condemned America’s racialist policies. He forcefully contended that the atomic bomb was not used on Germany because Germans were white, and Japanese were yellow. He asserted that nations colonised by Japan have been far more successful after World War II than those colonised by the United States. He stated that Japanese computer technology was second to none, and that it should be used as a negotiating tool to enable Japan build its own defence forces. Those were very disturbing views when I first read the book.

Reading in retrospect, this book seems dated, and history may not have accommodated all the author’s views. There is but one salient point in his argument where he said Japan should rightfully rise as the most influential power dealing with Asian nations. In reality, his advocacy for trade liberalisation and his critique of domestic economic policy fell on deaf years in Japan. His country continued on its decade long recession. Time has changed. China and India are now Japan’s major competitors in terms of the sphere of influence in the region.

However, there are several questions which linger on many lips: Do India’s IT personnel matter to us as a factor in realizing our Multimedia Super Corridor (MCS) goals? Would India have reacted differently has it not commanded that capacity to say no the Ishihara way? This is besides the fact that India is the world’s biggest democracy, and now a member of the Nuclear Power Club. Another hard fact is that a vast part of America’s Silicon Valley was built on the IT skills of its people.

In relation, many are aware that prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad co-authored a book with Ishihara in 1994: The Voice of Asia. This was what Dr Mahathir commented when he touched on China, Japan and India on regional challenges (page 126):

No discussion of the prospects for Asia can overlook the changes taking place in India… Indians are an open people… They are also tremendously able at business, and many have been educated in the West... If India opens up the economy, the combination of world-class expertise, a huge population, low labour costs, and an industrious workforce will make it an economic giant in the twenty-first century.

I believe much of Dr Mahathir’s observation about India some 10 years ago, especially on ICT development, has seen astounding truth today. Last October, he led a 25-member high-level delegation to Andhra Pradesh, paying working visits to its Hi-Tech City, the International Institute of Information Technology/(IIIT), Infosys and Satyam's technology centre at Bahadurpally.

During the Hyderabad leg of his visit, Dr Mahathir extended his welcome to Indian IT professionals to Malaysia, and in particular to the MSC, with a view to boosting Malaysia's IT development as Malaysia faced shortages of skilled IT professionals, such as those in software engineering. Obviously, to leverage the huge talent pool in the software sector in India is a good option to fast-track our ICT agenda.

How resounding is India’s IT expertise and its standing in world market? Recently, Indian President A P J Abdul Kalam described IT as India's "trump card". He called for networking of talents to make India a superpower in the field of information technology.

President Kalam may sound gung-ho, but he touched on a hard fact in that, today, India’s IT industry has earned the trust of 260 out of the Fortune 500 companies as its clients. The president, much like our PM, said things motivational to encourage his country to leap-frog to the next level.

That’s sufficient enough for us to wake up to the fact that we have peers in our midst. India can now say No to the world.

The war as tabloids see it


US & UK:

The day in quotes

As at March 20 11.00pm, Malaysia Time:


US president George Bush: We will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime...

Iraqi president Saddam Hussein: We are all for Jihad. Take the sword without any fear.

Queen Elizabeth II: I would like to express my pride in you, the British service and civilian personnel deployed in the Gulf.

French president Jacques Chirac: France regrets this action, taken without approval of the UN.

Russian president Vladimir Putin: The military action against Iraq is a big political mistake.

Kong Quan, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman: Military action against Iraq is violating the norms of international behaviour.

Joschka Fischer, German foreign minister: This is a bitter defeat. War is the worst of all solutions.

Australian prime minister John Howard: It will send a clear signal to other rogue states and terrorists groups like al-Qaida... that the world is prepared to take a stand.

Kursheed Kasuri, Pakistani foreign minister: Our position is very clear: we are against war.


Jeremy Binnie, Middle East editor of Jane's Sentinel Security Assessment:
This does not look like the previous campaigns, where we were looking to grind the enemy into surrendering through air power. If you break off the communications, then the regime cannot communicate with the army, then the army will not fight.

Before, in previous conflicts, they have used a large campaign to grind the country down, to make it clear who is powerful and to psychologically defeat the people. This is radical new military thinking.

Oil prices rise as Iraqi wells set ablaze

A Guardian report, March 20:: Oil prices jumped this afternoon (London time) following TV reports that oil wells in southern Iraq were burning out of control after apparent acts of sabotage.

On the London exchange, North Sea Brent crude surged to $27.25, up 50 cents a barrel, after hitting an early morning low of $25.53.

The jitters came despite an earlier statement by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec), which sought to calm oil markets by announcing that its members had pledged to maximize output to make up for any disruption in crude exports from Iraq. The oil cartel has tried to keep prices within a price range of $22 to $28, with varying degrees of success. Opec's big fear is that prices will eventually crash, as they did after the end of the 1991 Gulf war.

A week ago, a barrel of Brent crude was trading at $33.70 as stock markets around the world fell sharply on diplomatic wrangling between UN security council members. Iraqi crude exports, totalling 2m barrels a day, are expected to cease as the war intensifies.

I am watching oil price movement very precariously. More information on oil and petrol here.

First casualty

Broadband my foot. My Streamy was down again last night, and partially recovered this morning. Verrrrry slow.

TM Net can blame it to Saddam and the war and the choked international traffic. But there's no denying that the systemic problems at TM Net/Streamyx is more than the DoS attacks they announced earlier. They have not solved the problems after close to a month.

One informed reader told In-Tech its ATM-ADSL architecture is frail.

Many customers are having problems just connecting, and when they finally do, it’s typical to get a 20 Kbps international throughput – half the speed of a decent dialup modem! The trans-Pacific delays are up to 3.8 seconds – worse than sending a signal to the Moon and back.

TM Net claims that the Home packages provide a connection to the Internet at 384 Kbps. This is not very accurate – while the ADSL connection is indeed 384 Kbps, with Streamyx, the Internet data goes over ATM [*] first then only over the ADSL connection.

This results in an effective maximum Internet connection of about 348 Kbps (384 x 48/53) or 43 kilobytes/sec. Saying an Internet connection is 384 Kbps just because the ADSL line is that speed is as silly as saying your Internet connection is 10 Mbps or 100 Mbps just because your network card runs at that speed.

After all, the Internet runs on IP (Internet Protocol), not ATM or Ethernet. A 9% shortfall is pretty significant.

But at the moment that’s almost academic since many of us are getting way slower speeds than that.

I declare defeat in this War. I can't surf!

[*} Asynchronous Transfer Mode: A communication protocol that uses 53 byte cells: A 5-byte header and 48-byte payload.

* Send me an email
* Suggest a column/blog topic

What is "decapitation attack"?

Decapitate = Behead. The opportunistic attempt to kill Saddam Hussein and the rest of his leadership with a salvo of cruise missiles and bombs was an US attempt to "decapitate" the Iraqi government. By now, details of this morning (in Malaysia)'s "decapitation strike" are still sketchy. Guardian reported:

It turned out that President George Bush had not really meant to start the war last night but changed his mind when a "target of opportunity" turned up. It appears that US military intelligence (Washington Post said it was CIA) thought they knew where Saddam Hussein was, along with other members of his regime, and proposed a "decapitation strike". If successful, this would have brought the war to a halt even before it had properly got under way.

The assassination plan was presented to Mr Bush at a four-hour meeting which ended at 0020 GMT (08.00am Malaysia).

At 0315 GMT (11.15am Malaysia) he appeared on television to announce that "coalition" forces were in the early stages of military operations against selective targets. Every effort would be made, he said, to show respect for Iraqi citizens, for the country's "great civilisation" and its religious faiths.

But there would be no half-measures, he warned. "We will accept no outcome but victory"

With these words, according to CNN, Mr Bush went straight to bed.

The decapitation attacks seemed to target two sites on the southern outskirts of Baghdad. An updated report by Guardian said Around 40 Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched from four US warships and two US submarines with the first strikes heard hitting targets on the outskirts of Baghdad at 0234 GMT (5.34am local time). US stealth bombers also dropped 2,000 pound bombs.

The Pentagon later released video clips, filmed in the dark, showing flashes and puffs of smoke as cruise missiles blasted off from a warship. The video clips were said to have been transmitted back to Washington by the technological miracle of email.

CNN has the same story, it's likely that the shared resources among news networks are working out fine.

Blair's war cabinet convenes

Blair is key driver of Britain's strategy. He will chair the daily war cabinet meetings and is understood to take the final decision on both military and political matters.

War cabinet members:

  • John Prescott, deputy prime minister

  • Jack Straw, foreign secretary

  • Geoff Hoon, defence secretary

  • David Blunkett, home secretary

  • Clare Short, international development secretary (persuaded to stay in the cabinet on the basis that she can make a contribution to the rebuilding of Iraq)

  • Gordon Brown, chancellor (has little direct involvement in the war but a political heavyweight included in all major decisions)

  • John Reid, chairman, Labour party

The professionals:
  • Sir Admiral Michael Boyce, chief of defence staff

  • Sir Richard Dearlove, head of MI6 (secret intelligence service)

  • Eliza Manningham-Buller, head of MI5

The aides:
  • Alastair Campbell, the prime minister's director of communications and strategy

  • Jonathan Powell, the prime minister's chief of staff

SOURCE: Guardian

Al Gore joins Apple's board

Good date. CNET Apple Computer on Wednesday (March 19) named former Vice President Al Gore to its board of directors.

Joi Ito: "Al Gore and Apple sure picked an interesting day to announce this. I wonder if they are going to declare war on Microsoft?

War: The Star special edition this evening

Only in Klang Valley and Penang. A special 16-page issue of The Star will hit the streets around 7.00pm Thursday evening. It will feature the latest reports and pictures from the war in Iraq which officially began this morning.

Where to get. Subang Jaya: Taipan, SS15 Subang Jaya, KTM Station near Carrefour. PJ: Atria (Damansara Jaya) and One Utama.

The newspaper will be priced at RM1. All proceeds will go towards the Malaysian Red Crescent Society.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

"You are either...
With US or against US

US allies in the War. BBC News quoting US State Dept, March 18:

The US has named 30 countries which are prepared to be publicly associated with the US action against Iraq:

  1. Afghanistan

  2. Albania

  3. Australia

  4. Azerbaijan

  5. Bulgaria

  6. Colombia

  7. The Czech Republic

  8. Denmark

  9. El Salvador

  10. Eritrea

  11. Estonia

  12. Ethiopia

  13. Georgia

  14. Hungary

  15. Italy

  16. Japan

  17. South Korea

  18. Latvia

  19. Lithuania

  20. Macedonia

  21. The Netherlands

  22. Nicaragua

  23. The Philippines

  24. Poland

  25. Romania

  26. Slovakia

  27. Spain

  28. Turkey

  29. United Kingdom and

  30. Uzbekistan

The state department says there are an additional 15 countries which are providing assistance, such as over-flight rights, but which do not want to declare support. Could they include:
  1. Bahrain

  2. Egypt

  3. Israel

  4. Kuwait

  5. Portugal

  6. Qatar

  7. Saudi Arabia

  8. Singapore, and

  9. Other Arab states

It's War! without UN sanctions

George W Bush declared in a hurried speech over television a while ago that he had launched war against Iraq, promising a "broad and concerted campaign" to disarm Baghdad and topple Saddam Hussein. Bush's speech, here:

My fellow citizens, at this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.

On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein's ability to wage war.

Headlines, early edition:

War perspectives: In whom we trust?

Embedded journalists from Malaysia? Are financially well-endowed media, like The Star, TV3, Sin Chew Daily, assemblying their teams of journalists to cover this war, nomatter it's from the frontline or the sidelines?

I understand MGG Pillai covered the Vietnam war, and Steven Gan covered the 1991 Gulf War from Baghdad. Are there Malaysian journalists physically and mentally fit to take the war tolls, and having seen any war in their lifetime, raring to go as "embedded journalists", not necessarily with the Pentagon? What could they do if they do go? If they don't, who do we rely on for perspectives of war at close-range?

How about an internship with al-Jazeera?

"Embedded" journalists covering the war

New name, old game. Over 500 journalists and photographers have been deployed as "embedded journalists" to cover the war, which some said has already started.

For people in the IT industry, embedded technology is not anything new. Simply put, embedded technology is software or hardware that is hidden—embedded—in a large device or system. It typically refers to a fixed function device, as compared with a PC, which runs general-purpose applications.

Embedded technology has been all around us for years. Your microwave oven has embedded technology in the form of a microcontroller, which is what tells it to thaw your meat at 10 a.m. Even the vending machine you bought your cans of Coke has it too. Overall, billions of devices woven into everyday life use embedded technology. But, embedded journalists?

I first learnt of this term recently, after reading an article by Washington Post ombudsman Michael Getler:

"As the U.S. military gets into position for war, news organizations are getting into position to cover it. For both institutions, not to mention the rest of us, this is a very big deal. Many news outlets have reported on the media's preparations and on the Defense Department's plan for about 500 reporters and photographers to be taken along, or "embedded," as the Pentagon describes it, with U.S. forces.

Early in February, the Pentagon produced new policy "guidance," nine pages of it, that says "the media will have long-term, minimally restrictive access" to U.S. military forces for coverage of future operations "through embedding." This means that reporters and photographers will be assigned to, and will travel with, individual units for weeks or months at a time. "Commanders will ensure the media are provided with every opportunity to observe actual combat operations," the guidance says. The media will be able to use their own communications equipment, and the guidance lays out the process, if necessary, for quickly reviewing possibly sensitive material on the spot. Reporters, as is usual, are expected to abide by clear security guidelines with respect to what should not be divulged.

The guidance is extremely detailed... and the fine print is crucial, because it could shut down coverage at critical moments. The real test will come if combat begins and if things go wrong. On paper, the new guidance seems to be a step forward -- in terms of access and timely transmission of reporting -- from the restrictive policies and tactics the Pentagon has employed in every conflict since Vietnam.

Read those lines I underscored again. Does this mean coverage of this war, given Pentagon's rules and all the trappings, will be sanitised to suit circumstances? Will you trust despatches by these "embedded journalists"? Los Angeles Times has this alternative view:
Cable news came of age during the first Gulf War. Online commentary -- or blogging, as it is known -- may have found its moment in this second campaign against Saddam Hussein.

It is an unexpected turn of events.

Web logs -- hence the geekish contraction "blogs" -- began as cyberspatial diaries on which writers posted snippets of whatever came to mind or to their attention. Narcissism and tedious anarchy were the order of the day. Over time, the blogs began to take on many of the characteristics of privately printed 19th century pamphlets -- places where overlooked or simply eccentric preoccupations could be aired.

But as the form's potential to reach a global readership almost instantaneously became clearer, it has become a favored medium for political commentators and opinion journalists with a desire to make their case with more urgency and timeliness than print -- or even television -- will permit.

...As the opinion polls have consistently shown, many serious-minded people of goodwill have found themselves conflicted over the necessity -- and morality -- of military conflict with Iraq. An unusual void has opened in a country increasingly divided along ever hardening partisan lines. The bloggers have stepped into that breach.

Another interesting read in USA Today: Iraq War Could Herald a New Age of Web-Based News Coverage

More on embedded journalists and trustworthy reporting in this blog. As I have said, don't fall prey to US propagandists ala CNN, go get a balanced diet of media feed in days to come. screwed up

Backtracking on costly mistake. Amazon UK, Europe's most popular e-commerce site, has refused to honour orders from thousands of shoppers who snapped up handheld computers worth hundreds of pounds each that were erroneously placed on sale for less than £10. One of the two Hewlett-Packard iPaq handheld pocket PCs, which usually retails at around £500, was advertised for just £23. A cheaper model, normally £192, was on sale for £7.

The site was deluged with orders after the mistake was posted on Internet bulletin boards and spread like wildfire in offices around the country as customers emailed their friends.

Amazon UK finally took its site down altogether at lunchtime. Visitors were redirected to its US site for 50 minutes while the items were removed.

* Send me an email
* Suggest a column/blog topic

Wiretapping found at French, German EU offices

Bugs, bugs all over. Reuters reported from Brussels: Telephone tapping systems and interception devices have been found at offices used by France and Germany in the building where European Union leaders are due to hold a summit from Thursday.

A EU Council spokesman said other delegations were also affected, but it was not known who was behind the espionage. Another Council official said the wiretapping was detected some time ago during a routine sweep by the EU's security service of suites used by national leaders, ministers and senior officials when they attend EU meetings in Brussels.

The French newspaper Le Figaro accused the United States of being behind the wiretapping. The Belgian security authorities have not been involved, the official said.

March 2, this blog chronicled an Observer's expose on spies from US National Security Agency (NSA) who intercepted phone and email messages of "Middle Six" Security Council members, a dirty trick which was largely blacked out by US media.

Malaysiakini launches War Watch

Malaysiakini goes interactive. Online news portal Malaysiakini has just launched War Watch a few hours ago. Its editorial staff were seen testing out with sample postings.

War Watch is introduced as "a mini website created to track the war against Iraq." It appears to be running on open source applications similar to phpNuke, as readers are allowed to participate interactively by posting comments to stories and by contributing in the Forum section.

So far, postings in War Watch do not have embedded links commonly featured in weblogs. But that does not stop it from being placed under the "Weblog" category, together with Oon Yeoh's Transition.

New media has taken a step forward, allowing more latitude for readers to say their piece. We need that here, in Malaysia

Yesterday, Malaysian police returned two of the content update servers taken away from Malaysiakini in January. Another two servers are still in police custody.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Major Labour revolt, but Blair wins

Blair got his way. Commons give go-ahead for war.

War: Get a balanced diet of media feed

CNN captured the mindscape of millions during the 1991 Gulf War as purvasive Internet wasn't available then, and cable/satellite (CabSat) programming had not proliferated. This has changed for the coming round of war which is expected to start in hours. I have despatched an editorial on this to The Star In-Tech, which may run it tomorrow. (URL later).

My point is, this war will be fought on two fronts, the geo-political and the Internet. We now have sufficient choice for a balanced diet of media feed in contrast to US propagandists.

Writers at Guardian think Internet will beat conventional media in breaking news on Gulf War II. They cite weblogs as the most likely source of speedy information emerging from the war zone. Others have even suggested that the 'blogosphere' will come to supplant traditional media as the main news source for a web-savvy public.

Online Journalism Review (OJR) believes the media coverage of Gulf War II will be markedly different this time around, for two reasons: First, competition among media organizations will be much more intense than before; and second, advances in digital and communications technology have created a more level playing field for all media players who chase exclusives from the front lines.

CNN will no longer be enjoying solus position with anchors like Peter Arnett and Bernard Shaw it had in the last decade (the former joined NBC, the latter retired). There are now new rivals, MSNBC (partially available through CNBC on ASTRO) and Fox News Channel (partially available here in Chinese via the Pheonix Channel as Rupert Murdoch has substantial control over both), BBC World's 24/7 news, and Qatar-based al-Jazeera. For a balanced report, you should use the remote control to switch away from CNN as often as you can.

I have bookmarked these few sites as my major sources and resources to this war, admittedly with a certain bias:

Hard news as the war unfolds: Guardian, BBC News, Independent, Washington Post, New York Times, Boston Globe.

News and commentaries: Poynter Online, The Nation, NY, Christian Science Monitor, OJR,

Media ombudsmen who will alert readers of war propagandists' spin:, Observer, Guardian, Washington Post, National Public Radio (NPR), Project for the New American Century.

Hardcore anti-war websites: AlterNet, ElectronicIraq, These are anti-war websites maintained by Americans.

Exercise your rights to information. Turn it into knowledge (about the real Axis of Evils) you can share through the Internet.

* Send me an email
* Suggest a column/blog topic

Monday, March 17, 2003

Cook's speech a good read

Standing Ovation. Robin Cook won an unprecedented standing ovation in the House of Commons after telling MPs why he resigned from the government over the looming war with Iraq. BBC News Online political correspondent Nick Assinder says the resignation speech was riveting, as Cook attempted a forensic, line-by-line demolition of the prime minister's case. Guardian's Westminster correspondent David Hencke calls the 11-minute speech electrifying. Tony Blair was not in the chamber at that time.

I heard him deliver the speech on BBC World, equally astounded. If you missed the live telecast, and have broadband, the video clip is available here. Real Media required.

Here's the initial response from BBC news team:

Andrew Marr, BBC political editor: "Without doubt one of the most effective brilliant resignation speeches in modern British politics."

Nick Assinder, BBC News Online: "The anti-war rebels have finally got what they have so far been lacking - a leader with the ability to scare the socks off the prime minister."

First casualty? So, Cook will go down in history as the first casualty of war? Describing Cook as having quit on principle - the first New Labour minister ever to quit on those grounds - Assinder has a witty remark on Cook, who has a colourful private life, and once demoted from the post of Foreign Secretary by Blair:
In that case, he has given up a job that was already running out of steam - thanks to his leader - on a matter of principle. His biographers will give him a good write up for that.

The letter exchange between Cook and Blair is available here. Now, Britain is saddled with the debate of whether the war is legal. The attorney general - A talented lawyer arguing a weak case - says it is.

Former US president Bill Clinton wrote in Guardian today: Trust Tony's judgment. He said:
"I wish that Russia and France had supported Blair's resolution. Then, Hans Blix and his inspectors would have been given more time and support for their work. But that's not where we are. Blair is in a position not of his own making, because Iraq and other nations were unwilling to follow the logic of 1441.

"In the post-cold war world, America and Britain have been in tough positions before: in 1998, when others wanted to lift sanctions on Iraq and we said no; in 1999 when we went into Kosovo to stop ethnic cleansing. In each case, there were voices of dissent. But the British-American partnership and the progress of the world were preserved. Now in another difficult spot, Blair will have to do what he believes to be right. I trust him to do that and hope the British people will too."

Ultimatum. Meanwhile, Bush has given Saddam Hussein and his sons 48 hours to leave Iraq or face a US invasion. Full text of Bush's speech here.

All things said, nobody can guarantee if it's going to be a short, sharp war as planned by US strategists.

Rebuilding Iraq?

The moment of lies. US secretary of state, Colin Powell, yesterday emphasised that there would be room for international institutions in the rebuilding of Iraq after any possible military action.

This is in great contrast to a Wall Street Journal story yesterday, which said that the Bush administration saw private US companies taking over most of the post-conflict reconstruction. Bush's administration has prepared a blueprint for a "sweeping overhaul of Iraqi infrastructure and society" that sidelines the UN development agencies and multilateral organisations that normally direct reconstruction.

According to the Wall Street Journal, more than £1bn in contracts would be offered to US firms under the proposals, while just £60m is set aside for humanitarian organisations.

Watch out for that Dick. US Vice President Dick Cheney has become the war counsellor with the lowest profile but the highest credibility with the president, and has defined the bottom line for Iraq: Remove Saddam Hussein, with or without a broad international coalition. Source: The Wall Street Journal.

Robin Cook resigns. Clare Short to follow?

The first, possibly not the last. Guardian UK: Robin Cook left Downing Street before the start of an emergency cabinet meeting, which began at 4pm (last night Malaysian time). He became the first, but possibly not the last, cabinet minister to resign over the looming conflict in the Gulf. The international development secretary, Clare Short, is "reflecting overnight" on her position. This is from Cook:

"It is 20 years ago that I first joined Labour's shadow cabinet. It is with regret I have today resigned from its cabinet. I can't accept collective responsibility for the decision to commit Britain now to military action in Iraq without international agreement or domestic support."

In his letter of resignation, Cook made clear that he had raised his worries over a US/UK attack over some time with the prime minister - although he absolved Blair from blame for the failure of the UN to secure a second resolution. He wrote:
"At cabinet for some weeks I have been frank about my concern over embarking on military action in the absence of multilateral support.

"In principle I believe it is wrong to embark on military action without broad international support. In practice I believe it is against Britain's interests to create a precedent for unilateral military action.

"As our foreign secretary I was impressed by the energy and skill with which you ended Britain's isolation in Europe and achieved for our country equal status and influence to Germany or France. I am dismayed that once again Britain is divided from our major European neighbours.

"As president of the party of European socialists, of which the Labour party is a member, it troubles me that I know of no sister party within the European Union that shares our position."

Blair, in response, praised Mr Cook's service as foreign secretary and leader of the Commons, but used the majority of his letter to justify the government's position - largely blaming the French. (US, UK and Spain have withdrawn their proposed second resolution on Iraq.)
"As I have said to you, the threatened French veto set back hugely the considerable progress we were making in building consensus among UNSC members."

What has Cook got to gain? Guardian says: Cook's decision to quit the cabinet will cost him almost £70,000 a year in lost pay. As Leader of the House of Commons he was entitled to a salary of £124,979. As a plain backbench MP, his salary will be £55,118 a year.

Brace for a highly dramatic moment, Cook was given a standing ovation by Labour MPs when he announced that he would be voting against an attack on Iraq. Cook is a veteran Commons orator, and is expected to take apart the legal basis for a pre-emptive attack on Iraq with forensic skill.

Guardian has started a resignation watch on British government.

Diplomacy collapsed, war looms in hours?

Last night, I was flipping back-and-forth the CNN and BBC World channels, watching the frenzy at UN Security Council and the collapse of diplomacy. Fellow Subang Jaya folk, Ju Lee aka Julz, who is now in Milan, Italy, sat through the same torment and logged in her agony here, as the world drifted to the abyss of war hour-by-hour. She observed:

What I find despicable is how the UK and the US is attempting to pin the blame on France. No one has to go with the US and the UK, and to even suggest that is unfair.

It is also quite sad how the UN has diminished in prestige - we may never reached the same level of understanding, and if that is a possibility, it would take years to mend. The Iraq civillians are not taking things too badly, though it does seem that their sense of normality is dissipating. Pharmacies and food places have been swamped for supplies.

Whatever religion you believe in, pray. We are approaching a very dark hour.

War drums beat louder.
CNN: Annan orders inspectors out of Iraq.
New York Times: Bush to Give Hussein an Ultimatum: Choose Exile or War
Washington Post: Bush to Give Hussein Ultimatum Tonight (Tuesday Malaysian time)
CNN INternational: France: Most on council oppose war
Voice of America: Britain Blames France for Failed Diplomatic Efforts With Iraq
ABC Online: France, Russia restate veto threat

In a few hours, brace for the moment of truth... and lies.

* Send me an email
* Suggest a column/blog topic

Questions for Yen Yen

Letters to Editors start to trickle in on Yen Yen's questionable loyalty.

Robert Hum of Melbourne, writing to Malaysiakini, says cost of education may be her motive:

Permanent residency of Australia entitlement includes not having to pay full fees for one’s children's tertiary education. A PR only pays the home student’s scale of fees.

There is a fourfold difference between home student fees and foreign student fees. A Bachelor of Commerce fee for a home student is about RM9,100 (A$4,000) per annum whereas a foreign student pays about RM36,500 (A$16,000).

Also in Malaysiakini, Ll Ding posed her three questions, point-blank:
  • By sending all her three children to study in Australia, is it clearly tantamount to casting a vote of non-confidence in our education system?

  • The second, and more serious, question: Are her children and husband still holding Australian PR? If the answer is yes, then it seems to imply that the family does not have confidence in Malaysia’s future.

  • Were it not for vested political interest (getting appointed as a Senator), would she have surrendered her PR status?

In New Straits Times, J.K.LEE of Penang says Ng has no option but to resign her office. Or else Chinese Malaysians' loyalty to the country may be in serious question, if history and the the chapters on communist insurgency are revisited, according to the letter writer.
For a person in high government office to have been, or to remain, a permanent resident of another country is morally unjustifiable and politically unacceptable.

It is a serious act which calls his or her allegiance to the country into question.

The honourable thing for Deputy Culture, Arts and Tourism Minister, Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen to do is step down from her office to which she has brought disrepute by her admission to holding an Australian PR.

MCA leaders have, even before Merdeka, been at pains to convince the Malay political elite and leadership, moderates and extremists alike, that the great majority of Malaysian Chinese are loyal and owe no allegiance to any other country in their efforts to safeguard their legitimate rights and interests.

They faced the most difficult task during and in the aftermath of the communist insurgency when most subversive elements happened to be Malaysian Chinese. Malays could not be blamed for not whole-heartedly trusting Malaysian Chinese.

Dr Ng, as a leader of the MCA, has negated MCA's efforts to fight off the erroneous perception of Malaysian Chinese loyalty to the country. There may be others like her in the party. They should also own up and step down from their high offices.

Your answer, Yen Yen?