Saturday, April 12, 2003

SARS news via blogs

There was a problem with updater engine yesterday, so I repost the original message threaded to this time stamp.

Screenshots on MSNBC. While many people and Asian economies suffer much from the SARS epidemic, this blog gained some publicity lately. Apparently, my blogs on the disease have caught the eyes of MSNBC's Weblog Central. A Google cache is available here. I have also created a composite screenshot, below:

Also, fellow blogger IreneQ - who wrote extensively on SARS - have linked several of my blogs on the same topic - here, here and here. And here, here and here.

Hopefully, the information we helped disseminate has been useful to Malaysians out there, especially those who were blacked-out by the government's initial succumbing to denial syndrome.

Researcher (Tun Tan Siew Sin's daughter) Tan Siok Choo described the authorities' handling of SARS information flow, among other things, as Emperor Syndrome mindset which can impede intellectual growth.

Mercy Malaysia doctors shot at;
Journalists abducted probably for ransom.

UPDATE: The NST has updated on this news a while ago (April 13, 12:34pm):

BAGHDAD, April 13 (10:15am): Malaysian Medical Relief Society (Mercy) president Datuk Dr Jemilah Mahmood, her colleague Dr Baba Deni and a third unidentified doctor have been shot by unknown gunmen outside Baghdad this morning (Baghdad time).

An Iraqi interpreter, who was with the three Malaysian doctors in the 4WD which was part of a convoy comprising the Malaysian media, was shot dead.

Three Malaysians journalists – Annuar Hashim, (New Straits Times photographer), Terrence Fernandez (The Sun reporter) and an unidentified RTM cameraman – were abducted after the shooting. Their whereabouts or conditions are still unknown.

The three journalists were in a second 4WD behind the shot Mercy Malaysia 4WD.

The three mercy Malaysia volunteers' condition is unknown although Mingguan Malaysia reported today (online version not available) that their condition are stable. They are being treated at a Baghdad hospital.

Mercy Malaysia is in Iraq to help war refugees and provide medical assistance wherever they are needed.


Meanwhile, Acting Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi pledged that the Government will help the abducted journalists in any way possible.

He also appeal for help from any parties who can secure the journalists' release.

"I advise our journalists in Iraq to use their discretion whether to stay in or leave Baghdad," he said in Penang. "They know the situation best."

A senior member of the press corp, who has been keeping in touch with Wisma Putra, informed me that the Malaysian journalists were probably abducted for ransom. The impression given was that the Malaysian government will pay, if necessary, to get them back hale and hearty.

I call upon all Malaysians to devote a little prayer for their safe return.

Our journalists in trouble

UPDATE: theSun deputy editor R Nadeswaran has confirmed (10:14:59 Sunday) my enquiry that Terence Fernandez has indeed been abducted.

Fate unknown. Nanyang Siang Pau Klang Valley final edition frontpaged this today: Three journalists from the Joint Media Team Malaysia (JMTM) who were making frontline reporting from Baghdad have been taken away by Iraqi militants after their local guide was shot dead point-blank.

The missing journalists were Terence Fernandez from The Sun, photographer Mohamed Anuar Hashim from The NST and Omar Salleh from Bernama.

However, none of the Malaysian news websites - including Nanyang - had updated this news item at the time I blogged this.

Friday (April 11), nine JMTM journalists arrived safely in Baghdad after going through various life-threatening obstacles. NST's Shamsul Akmar Musa Kamal had a gun pointed at him by a border guard on the Jordanian side of the border when he tried to walk across the boundary. Only after negotiations were he and other JMTM members allowed to enter Iraq.

I blogged on their first close-call yesterday.

Let's pray for our countrymen's safety.

Shopping list: Oil deals and ordeals

Reading time. I may have this herd mentality. Whenever there's a shattering world event, I tend to buys books, and DVDs, in connection to it. Some I read, some I let to dust after a few chapters depending on mood-swings.

Will the US invasion of Iraq, as in the words of Egypt's president Hosni Mubarak, trigger "horrible consequences" and produce "100 new bin Ladens"? At this point, all signs are pointing to the high-octane dangers of us seeing the entire Middle-East emerge as world's most volatile flashpoint.

It's about the economics and politics of oil. Iraq's Kirkuk oilfields, the second largest in the world, produce high-quality sweet crude that is relatively cheap to extract than sub-ocean depository.

Haifa - Kirkuk oil pipeline 1931 - 1935. This topic is now hotlly being debated in the run-up to erecting a Post-Saddam regime. There is something disturbing that I read from blogger Israeli Guy:

As the American attack proceeds the danger of Israel being hit is reduced. According to reports US-British forces have taken control over Iraqi airfields bases H-2 and H-3 in Western Iraq. From the surroundings of those airfields Iraq launched missiles on Israel in 1991.


I don’t know how many of you know but the letter H in H-2 H-3 airfields’ names stand for the Israeli port city of Haifa. During 1931-1935 an oil pipeline was built from the Iraqi oil fields in the north of the state city of Kirkuk to Haifa and to Tripoli in Lebanon. H-2 and H-3 were pumping stations along the oil pipeline. The oil running through that line boosted Haifa’s status, which led to its bombardment 25 times the Axis during WW2. In 1944 a decision was made to broaden the diameter of the pipeline but that plan was never carried out. Diane found an original Guardian article from 1935 about the opening of the pipeline. Interesting reading.

And if you'll allow me a moment of optimism: maybe one day this pipeline will be operating once again.

I first heard of this Haifa-Kirkuk oil pipeline from Dr Chandra Muzaffar during a public forum last week.

Talk of Israel, Lebanon pops up instantly. Lebanon has been embroiled in decades of ferocious civil war and subsequent Israeli invasion in 1982. It is largely regarded as a Western betrayal and the challenge to American power and prestige in the Middle East. Incidentally, the first suicide bombers came from here, targetting their first devastating strike at none others than the Americans. Osama ben Laden must have learnt his trade here. I must attempt to read up more on this.

For starter, I wish to get a copy of Pity The Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon (2002) by Robert Fisk.

Robert Fisk is a writer many hate to love. He is Middle East Correspondent of the Independent, based in Beirut and has a formidable record of twenty-six years' of reporting from Lebanon. He has covered the civil war and two Israeli invasions.

Fisk holds 24 journalism awards for his reporting of the Iranian revolution and wars in Lebanon, the Gulf, Kosovo and Algeria. He won the 2000 Amnesty International award for his reports from Serbia on NATO's bombardment of Yugoslavia and received the 2001 David Watt Memorial Award for his reporting from the Middle East.

I will certainly take out Bob Woodward's Bush at War and read it again. It was first taken as a compelling account of the Bush administration post-9/11. In the preparation to oust the Talibans from Afghanistan, Bush was quoted to have said: "Can we have the first bombs we drop before food?"

My first reading gave me the impression that Bob touches on many questions about the terrorist attacks and their aftermath, but leaves them largely unanalysed and unanswered. He only concluded that the question would always linger as to whether "September 11 was as much a failure of policy as it was of intelligence."

Malaysia's UN Special Rapporteur Param Cumaraswamy pointed out at the seminar I attended on how the hawks in Bush's administration had wanted Saddam's blood (or probably Iraq's oil). Frankly, I missed out Bob's finishing lines, as recounted by Houston Chronicle's reporter Tony Freemantle, November 29, 2002:
The discussions between Bush and his advisers also show just how early Iraq surfaced as a major part of the equation in the war on terrorism. Almost everyone agreed that Iraq would eventually have to be a target in any full-scale war against terrorism. They did not agree, however, on when.

According to Woodward, Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, were of the opinion that Iraq should be included in the first round of the war. Powell and the president believed the initial focus should remain on al-Qaida and bin Laden.

As early as Sept. 12 Rumsfeld argued that the United States should take advantage of the terrorist attacks to go after Iraq's Saddam Hussein immediately.

"Bush made it clear it was not time to resolve the issue," Woodward writes. "He emphasized again that his principal goal was to produce a military plan that would inflict real pain and destruction on the terrorists.

" `I don't want a photo-op war,' he told them."

This, of course, would change over time. The Taliban were eventually defeated, al-Qaida routed, although apparently with bin Laden still alive and in control. Iraq is now the focus of Bush's war on terrorism.

Woodward's last interview with Bush took place at the president's Crawford ranch on Aug. 20, 2002. He told Woodward that the story he was writing, the buildup and eventual successful execution of the campaign in Afghanistan, should serve as a blueprint for the president's thinking and strategy for Iraq. But the conclusion was clear, Woodward writes.

"He wanted Saddam out."

The whole thing has a new perspective, and unknown perils loom large for the world from now.

The war on terrorism has a new target. The US itself.

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Royale media manipulation?

Was pulling down of Saddam statue staged for cameras? Accusers of conspiracy theorists may jump reading this. But in photography, there are these rudiments called Big Close-up (BCU) and Full Long Shot (FLS).

With unilateral journalists vacating Baghdad and embedded ones filling the void before the Saddam regime collapsed - a state of fast-paced changes and chaotic commotion - media and public perspective can be controlled through the zoom lenses of a camera. Worse, when the calculated images are put on global broadcast. Imprints on the mind become eternalised.

That's what probing watchers of cablenews fear, and independent minds most suspect.

Days ago, I have blogged on the riveting images that captured the toppling of a Saddam statue, and, symbolically, his regime: here, here and here.

The small picture on the left is Fardus Square, where the statue-toppling was enacted, conveniently located just opposite the Palestine Hotel where the international media were based, and several journalists intentionally killed by allied forces. Independent's Robert Fisk was reported to be at the scene witnessing the event.

I got hold of these pictures after Francis Foo of Melbourne pointed me to a Russian site that tracks US invasion of Iraq.

Last night, Dan Gillmor blogged on the topic and pointed to the same information at another site: Information Clearing House (News You Won't Find On CNN). Dan said David Theroux of the Independent Institute had sent him the link.

As I googled around, I realised these sources are all pointing to NYC Indymedia.

Basically, these websites carry photos that indicate a choreographed event, with the presence of at most around 200 people – most of them US troops (note the tanks and armored vehicles) and assembled journalists. Examined under a wide angle shot, there was not large-scale jubilation like what was masterfully portrayed on reality TV.

It is these various images taken in BCU and FLS, and with additional information tied to them, that has become very disturbing for people like Dan and I. I wonder how would you feel about the whole damn war that has been spun beyond recognition..

Take a look at the pictures and study the message posted at the Indymedia site 5:43am Thu Apr 10 '03 (Modified on 5:03pm Thu Apr 10 '03):

April 6th: Iraqi National Congress founder, Ahmed Chalabi is flown into the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah by the Pentagon. Chalabi, along with 700 fighters of his "Free Iraqi Forces" are airlifted aboard four massive C17 military transport planes. Chalabi and the INC are Washington favorites to head the new Iraqi government. A photograph is taken of Chalabi and members of his Free Iraqi Forces militia as they arrive in Nasiriyah.

April 9th: One of the "most memorable images of the war" is created when U.S. troops pull down the statue of Saddam Hussein in Fardus Square. Oddly enough... a photograph is taken of a man (picture above) who bears an uncanny resemblance to one of Chalabi's militia members... he is near Fardus Square to greet the Marines. How many members of the pro-American Free Iraqi Forces were in and around Fardus Square as the statue of Saddam came tumbling down?

The up close action video of the statue being destroyed is broadcast around the world as proof of a massive uprising. Still photos grabbed off of Reuters (pictute above) show a long-shot view of Fardus Square... it's empty save for the U.S. Marines, the International Press, and a small handful of Iraqis. There are no more than 200 people in the square at best.

The Marines have the square sealed off and guarded by tanks. A U.S. mechanized vehicle is used to pull the statue of Saddam from it's base. The entire event is being hailed as an equivalent of the Berlin Wall falling... but even a quick glance of the long-shot photo shows something more akin to a carefully constructed media event tailored for the television cameras.

It is most regrettable that US and UK have waged a war - where justications are no longer valid as they have beenovertaken by history - without a UN sanction. Now comes the alleged media manipulation. I can only borrow Dan's words to express my disgust: "But if this event turns out to have been propaganda, it's pretty disturbing."

Almost gone

Close calls for Kivin Sites and Malaysian media team. CNN reporter Kevin Sites, whose warblog his bosses ordered to shut down, was captured by Iraqi Fedayeen soldiers outside Tikrit and held at gunpoint Friday along with other CNN crew members. There were released after about four hours, during which their captors fired guns at them, destroyed equipment, and repeatedly told that they were about to be executed.

Read his ordeal here and how they were saved by their Kurdistani translator.

The Malaysian joint media team made a near fatal mistake yesterday as they were threading to enter Baghdad. Deciding to put up at a mosque near Faluja, the newsmen, including five women, were greeted by some men, dressed in robes and typical Arabic headgears. They discovered that some of these men were armed with AK47 rifles.

Their guide quickly told them to get back into their vehicles while he kept speaking to the men, handing them cigarettes. When he bolted into the van and the vehicles were being driven off, blood curling sounds of gunfire exploded.

Read their shared despatch here.

Somehow, I am glued to news about the scribes at war-front. They risk their lives to give us the news.

Friday, April 11, 2003

Looting, what looting?

Rumsfeld irritated. US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, as reported in, looting in Iraq was "part of the price" for what the United States and Britain have called the liberation of Iraq.
"Freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things."

"They're also free to live their lives and do wonderful things. And that's what's going to happen here."

Then came a stinging attack on reports of widespread looting in Iraq. He did not hold back, claiming that the reports of a breakdown of law and order in Iraq are being exaggerated and that the same images are being seen over and over.

He struck back at the media, saying "people are losing sight of the big picture, that a country is being liberated."
"I picked up a newspaper today, and I couldn't believe it,” he said. “I read eight headlines. And it talked about chaos, violence, unrest ... I've never seen anything like it.”

“And here is a country that's being liberated. Here are people who are going from being repressed and held under the thumb of a vicious dictator. And they're free.”

Is SARS here to stay?

Unabated. Click on Google News today, SARS seems a stubborn disease that will not go away any time soon.

  • Originating from southern China last November, it has been reported to have spread to Inner Mongolia.

  • Star Cruise's SuperStar Virgo has been grounded in Singapore after two of its Indian-national crew members were admitted for "probable" SARS infection.

  • Major Asian carriers Cathay Pacific, Singapore Air and Malaysia Airlines have suspended flights connecting each other's hubs until further notice.

What else do we see from here?

I wonder if this information would be of help to give you a birds' eyeview of SARS' global impact.

Based on data available at the Cumulative Number of Reported Cases (SARS) page on the World Health Organization (WHO) website, LA-based Ted Kaehler uses Squeak applications to generate graph and predictions for the SARS epidemic on a regular basis.

This is the graph generated using Year-to-Date data available through April 1. It shows the number of world cases of SARS, world deaths, cases in the United States, and deaths in the United States. The vertical distance is the logarithm base 10 of the number of cases. Each factor of 10 increase causes the graph to rise by the same increment.

But in this case, only world cases after March 25, 2003 are used to compute the slope, because that is when China began reporting.

Data used included those from after March 25 through April 11, 2003

Predictions explained. Ted Kaehler says epidemics usually follow S-shaped curves. The predictions presentation above are based on pure exponential growth.

When the middle of the S-shaped curve is reached, the rate of infection will slow, and exponential growth predictions will no longer be useful. The reported data shows that the epidemic is still in an exponential growth phase. More:
The number of reported cases of SARS in the world is doubling every 14 days. This is implied by the slope of the blue curve, using the data available on April 11, 2003. There will be 100,000 cases on about June 17, 2003. A million cases will be reached on about August 1, 2003, and ten million on about September 15, 2003. These predictions will change every day as new data changes the slope of the curves.

The slope of red curve implies that the number of reported worldwide deaths due to SARS will double every 12 days. The number will be 100,000 on about August 5, 2003. A million deaths will be reached on about September 14, 2003, and ten million on about October 24, 2003.

These predictions will change every day as new data changes the slope of the curves.

The slope of black curve implies that the number of reported cases of SARS in the United States will double every 7.5 days. The number will be 100,000 on about June 18, 2003. A million cases will be reached on about July 12, 2003, and ten million on about August 6, 2003.

Note that the US cases appear to be doubling faster than the world rate. Either the US number of cases will double much more slowly in the future, or the world rate will double faster. The projected date for a million cases in the US is probably inaccurate.

There have been no deaths in the United States, so no predictions can be made about future death rates.

Click here for daily updates of the trend. As the WHO does not report statistics on Sundays, so the graph does not change on Sundays.

The author permits unlimited reproduction and redistribution of the information he has compiled as a community service.

Creative prankster

This webpage cost Korea US$3b in stock fall

Bill Gates shot? My brother CC Ooi called Thursday afternoon, saying he received an SMS from Taiwan that Bill Gates was assasinated in LA. His SMS was attached with a URL that pointed to which purportedly ran a breaking news on it. I googled around but found nothing, and told him it could be a hoax.

Last night, he sent me the URLs, and I was initially shocked to see the CNN webpage - or look-alike - that reported Bill Gates' "death"(see image above).

On close scrutiny, I reckon it was the work of cyber-surgery, and the pranksters seemed to have used a trick on URL re-routing. The original URLs look like these:

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates murdered at Los Angeles charity event

Police officer clings to life

One of the make-believes is that, no matter when you surf the page, the dateline time-stamp will be refreshed to give a false impression that it's a breaking news. When I surfed just now, it showed March 11, 06:15 US time (and GMT 25:15 hr - when there are only 24 hours in a day!). It's believed the hoax went to town much earlier than April 3. Who knows, it could have been a spillover of April Fool's jokes.

I later routed to the homepage which masked on, at, which looks more like a hacker's den.

The hoax was given further credence as there is a parody site that helped push the sail of rumours.

By April 4, the rumours has caused the Korean stock market to dropp by 1.5% - a value loss of more than US$3 billion - after a local TV was fooled into reporting that Bill Gates had been gunned down.

There were red faces everywhere in Korean media.

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Throw out the American government if you want peace

Same rule applies? In the April 2 interview with Al-Jazeera, Dr Mahathir Mohamd said this:

"The only way for America to stop (war) is with their own people throwing out their government."

Same day, April 2 (Malaysia is 12 hours ahead of Washington), US presidential-hopeful, Massachusetts Senator (Democrat) John Kerry said this:
"What we need now is not just a regime change in Saddam Hussein and Iraq, but we need a regime change in the United States."

As could be expected, Republicans immediately sought to portray this remark as little short of treason.

On the issue of patriotism, renowned economist and New York Post columnist Paul Krugman questioned whether the GOP is setting the ground rules so that "nobody will be allowed to criticize the president or call for his electoral defeat." Krugman said in his April 8 column:
"The biggest test of a politician's patriotism is whether he is willing to sacrifice some of his political agenda for the sake of the nation. And that's a test our current leaders have failed with flying colors."

A regime change in White House 2004? Go tell 'em Americans.

Oily temptation

Just one chance for Washington to dispel lingering suspicions about America's motives for invading Iraq. The New York Times ran this editorial today: The Future of Iraq's Oil. A lovely 7-paragrapher, excerpts:

Iraq is no longer a republic of fear, but it is still a republic of oil. Some 112 billion barrels lie beneath its soil, more than a tenth of the world's known reserves. How the Bush administration handles the management of that resource as it gains control of the country will go a long way toward determining not just the future of Iraq but also America's worldwide reputation. Any effort to manipulate Iraq's oil for the benefit of the United States and American oil companies rather than the benefit of the Iraqi people will squander whatever political gains Washington has won in the war.


In the short term, oil revenues must be used to provide for the humanitarian needs of a population that has suffered from almost 13 years of sanctions and more than three weeks of wartime dislocation. They should not be used to pay for the costs of the war, but should be used to help build a livable peace. In the longer term, the future of the Iraqi oil industry, including its possible privatization, must be decided by the Iraqi people themselves once a legitimate, internationally recognized new government has been established.


But with tens of billions of dollars at stake, there are likely to be heavy pressures from interested parties to lock up lucrative long-range contracts during the period of American occupation.

Focus shifting to anti-US occupation

Rows dog general. The man chosen to run an interim Iraqi government, Jay Garner, may face acceptance problem due to his extremely close ties to conservative Jewish groups, says Al-Jazeera. He is a three-star general and a personal friend of US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld.

A website,, is dedicated to opposing his appointment to run Iraq. This is his bio:

As a former Army General who until recently was building weapons systems now being used in the Iraq war, Jay Garner is no man of peace. In fact, he's just the man to inflame Iraq and the region.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Reality TV: Ratings so far

They love TV war.The latest Pew Research Center war tracking survey of 912 Americans, conducted April 2 -to April 7, finds continuing strong support for military action in Iraq.

Intense information. The intense levels of information coming from Iraq have had immediate effects on the public's evaluation of the war's progress, as well as people's emotional states.

The percentage saying the military effort in Iraq was progressing "very well" dropped from 65% to 39% within the first week of the engagement, as news about Iraqi resistance to the ground war dominated the news, and has risen again to 55% in the last week as reports about the successful campaign against Bagdad became the central story.

Emotional reactions. The proportion saying that watching TV coverage of the war made them feel sad or was frightening to watch peaked March 25-27 (at 67% and 58%, respectively) and has since fallen (to 62% and 50%, respectively) in the latest poll.

Somewhat fewer (37%) say the war coverage tires them out than was the case last week (42%).

War support stays. Despite the variable reactions to news coverage of the war, public support for the military effort never faltered.

Currently, 72% say military action in Iraq was the right decision, while 20% say it was the wrong decision.

Support has not differed more than a few percentage points from this mark since the war began.

Organisation behind this survey:

The Pew Research Center, an independent opinion research group that studies attitudes toward the press, politics and public policy issues, is sponsored by Philadelphia-based Pew Charitable Trusts.

All of its current survey results are made available free of charge.

This report was released on April 9, 2003. More info:
Summary of Findings
About this Survey

Another survey from Pew Internet & American Life reveals the differences between war supporters and war opponents online.

Online Journalism Review has this: Net Trounced by Cable for War News

Schematic annihilation of non-embedded war correspondents

"You must be an idiot..." From Editor & Publisher, April 9:

"The suggestion that somehow the United States would have somehow deliberately attacked journalists is absolutely false," Vice President Dick Cheney told newspaper editors.

"With all the efforts we've taken so that journalists can report [the war] in real time, the idea that we would somehow deliberately attack journalists makes no sense at all. You'd have to be an idiot to believe that."


- Transcript of Dick Cheney's remarks to newspaper editors
- Editors debate war coverage at ASNE convention

Also read SHOOTING OF MESSENGERS Part I and Part II.

Pulp fiction, anti-Americanism and kow-tow culture
Malaysia seen as fanning anti-American sentiments;
US threatens diplomatic and economic reprisals.

Sequential disruptions. People who watch not-shown-in-Malaysia movies must be familiar with Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. It's essentially three gangster tales structured to intersect and overlap at key points, but intentionally not presented in chronological order to deliver cathartic impact to the audience.

In the DVD version that I watched, I was indeed confused by the narrative structure. The director arranged his initial scene to dovetail with his final one in a remarkable example of showndown. I could only see everything clearly once the final line was spoken.

That was what flashed on my mind when I read an AP story picked by News Interactive Australia this morning. It has also been reported in The Age, Australia. UPDATE: The Malay Mail carried this story on page 6 today.

It's a source story about the US government threatening Malaysia with diplomatic and economic reprisals for seemingly "fanning anti-American sentiment" with its staunch opposition to the war in Iraq.

The story quoted a Malaysian official who said the US State Department last month warned Malaysia's ambassador in Washington that it might pull its ambassador out of Kuala Lumpur, urge American businesses to leave Malaysia and discourage further investments in Malaysia.

The report added, quoting one Malaysian official who demanded anonymity, that Washington subsequently decided against such action after Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi assured US ambassador in Kuala Lumpur on March 22 - day three of the war on Iraq - that Malaysia was not a foe of the United States.

Oon Yeoh and I talked about this just now: Is Pak Lah being put on a stringent probation over US invasion in Iraq?

Or are we seeing a Pulp Fiction in Malaysia-America relations these days? See if you can tie the staccato together.

April 6: A transcript of Dr Mahathir Mohamad's interview with Pan-Arab TV network Al-Jazeera - conducted at Putrajaya on April 2 - was carried in the New Sunday Times. Probed on his thoughts as the current chair of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) relating to the possibility of forging a new coalition in reviving the United Nations, such as co-operating with countries such as China and Germany, Dr M said:

The UN at the moment is totally ineffective, if not useless, because it has failed to uphold the law and it has no means to uphold the law. Our hopes lie in co-operating with countries in the North that are against the war and want to restore good international behaviour, respect for international law and the UN.

To achieve this, they must be strong in opposing the Americans and British. But at the same time, the only way for America to stop (war) is with their own people throwing out their government.

Asked about the safety of the weak and small countries in the future with the assumption that US achieves its objectives in Iraq (which it already did by now), Dr M said:
Firstly, a government imposed on Iraq by another country is not going to work. It will not get the cooperation of the Iraqi people, I believe. They will always look upon such a government as a foreign government, as a puppet government.

If the Americans succeed in defeating Iraq and imposing a government of their choice there, then other countries will feel very insecure. Already Syria is being targeted, ostensibly for helping the Iraqis, and now Pakistan is said to be co-operating in nuclear technology and is believed to be in possession of weapons of mass destruction.

We do not know whether Pakistan and Syria will be the next target for the same reason that these countries are a threat to the US. So any country, including Iran, will not feel safe anymore.

On the question of Malaysia having important economic ties with the US besides defence and security co-operation, how would Malaysia balance itself with its consistent stance on terrorism and Iraq? Dr M said:
We will have to try and ensure that our market remains our market, that is the US. But we cannot do that at the expense of the truth of the situation. Because eventually if this thing actually goes through and Iraq is occupied, we too will not feel safe.

That is why we must speak the truth now and not later. Of course, if we are the subject of an attack, all the good relations and trade will come to nothing.

Later part of the day, Bernama dispatched a story of its interview with US Ambassador in Kuala Lumpur, Marie T. Huhtala, who stated that the US has assured that its ties with Malaysia would remain intact despite the country's opposition to the war in Iraq.

She said the US regarded Malaysia as a "traditional friend and partner" and described Washington-Kuala Lumpur relations as "hugely important". "We are looking to our traditional friends like Malaysia to stay friendly and to remain friendly with us," she said.

Just when many thought it was all typical Mahathir-speak, and a PR response by the US, The NST came out with a definitive editorial two days later. Feathers Dr M has ruffled, I thought, and it's damage control time.

April 8: Excerpts of the NST editorial: Anti-war, not anti-US
American ambassador to Malaysia has assured that US-Malaysia ties will remain intact despite the country’s opposition to the US-led war on Iraq.

Marie T. Huhtala also expressed the hope that Malaysia will continue to stay "friendly" with the US and to be "mindful of the very important interests" that the two countries share.

While Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad has been a high-profile critic of the American invasion of Iraq, Malaysia is not, and has never been, anti-American. Malaysia opposed Saddam Hussein when he invaded Iraq in 1990 in clear breach of international law and supported the coalition organised by the US under the auspices of the United Nations. After the Sept 11 attacks, Malaysia has been, and still is, on the frontline of the global war on terrorism.

The American ambassador has asked the world to "give the US the benefit of the doubt". However, the Bush strategy of pursuing American foreign policy defiantly alone if need be, does not inspire confidence in what it believes. Its unilateral instincts in a range of multilateral issues ranging from the Kyoto Protocol to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to the International Criminal Court make it difficult for the world to give the US the benefit of the doubt.


Malaysia remains committed to becoming "friends and partners" not only with the US but with the rest of the world, partly because the world has become too intertwined, and partly because democracy means dialogue. The dialogue between Malaysia and the US must not be broken off, and both countries will need to continue to speak to and hear each other.

Something was brewing. I was cock sure.

The same day, The Star carried a story about National Economic Action Council (NEAC) Executive Director Mustapa Mohamed commenting on U.S.-Malaysia economic ties and Pak Lah's statement to not boycott US products:
In fact, efforts have been made to strengthen this friendship to enhance investment, commerce and business co-operation between the two countries... We must respect such a statement (about not being anti-American) because any hate campaign or boycott of American products will hurt the Malaysian economy.

OK, it's taking shape. It's about anti-Americanism. How angry was America?

April 10: The AP wire story: US 'threatened' Malaysia over Iraq filed by its "correspondents" in Kuala Lumpur
The official said the US State Department last month warned Malaysia's ambassador in Washington that it might pull its ambassador out of Kuala Lumpur, urge American businesses to leave Malaysia and discourage further investments in the Muslim-majority country of 24 million people.

Abdullah, who is Malaysia's acting leader while Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is on a two-month vacation, subsequently met with the US Ambassador to Malaysia, Marie Huhtala, and assured her that "Malaysia's anti-war stance should not be seen as being anti-US". "The tense situation has somewhat abated," the official said.

"Abdullah made it clear that the Malaysian government's disagreement with the US administration is confined to the war in Iraq and should not be taken out of context."


Frank Whitaker, a spokesman for the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, confirmed that Abdullah met Huhtala on March 22, but denied there had been any threats against Malaysia.

But other diplomatic sources said the US government had been upset with Mahathir's unstinting criticism of US policy toward Iraq, less than a year after the Malaysian leader met with US President George W Bush at the White House and was hailed as an ally in the global fight against terrorism.

"The US stand is basically that Malaysia is fanning anti-American sentiment in the region and that we are to stop it," a Malaysian official said.

"The US had misunderstood Mahathir's statements as being anti-American but the government has cleared up this misunderstanding."

But "Malaysia cannot back down or tone down where Iraq is concerned", he said.

"It is a question of credibility," the official said. "We must be seen providing credible leadership in the Non-Aligned Movement and the OIC. We hope the US will respect our right to dissent."

Now the big questions.
  • Has Pak Lah done the right thing by appeasing the US administration's unhappiness?

  • How will Dr M feel? Will he take it as a kow-tow by his deputy that has put his credibility in jeopardy?

  • Will anything harmful happen to Pak Lah when Dr comes back from his vacation?

Or will Dr M just shut up? After all, his retirement is but months away.

Yesterday, Pak Lah stated Malaysia's demand for proof of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

We are living in very interesting time. Let's give it a context.

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In the eyes of warring UK tabloids

Dove & Hawk: Same headlines

Now that Baghdad is taken, help find Salam Pax

Last posting: 24.04.2003 Both Jeff Jarvis and Glenn Reynolds asked all mainstream media journalists - embedded or unilateralist - who would be making a beeline to Baghdad to help find Raid Jarrar aka Salam Pax, who has been blogging from the heart of Baghdad since December 21 last year..

He stopped posting after March 24. Is he/she OK?

Home Streamyx may not be broadband per se

What is broadband? The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in UK has concluded that any of claim "broadband", without qualification, is likely to be misleading. I picked this up from The Register.

While accepting UK cableco NTL's 128kbps Internet offering as a broadband service - as it met industry definitions laid down by regulator Oftel - the ASA said "it considered most consumers would understand broadband to mean a service of upwards of 500 kbps."

The April 9 ruling follows a complaint from rival ISP Freeserve and a member of the public, both of whom objected to an advert for NTL's cable service headlined "High Speed Broadband Internet only £14.99 a month".

TM Net's Streamyx offers slightly better bandwidth to home users, at 384kbps down/128k up ADSL link.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Schematic annihilation of non-embedded war correspondents

It's premeditated. I blogged on the End of independent witnessing of war yesterday, shortly before the fall of Baghdad.

Being mortals, no one could possibly not take sides when faced with the grim sights and images of wounds and deaths inflicted by a war. More so, for this war is now fought without a UN sanction, but based on fickled premises that changed like quicksand ranging from disarming of WMD, morality, regime change to the liberation of the Iraqis.

The real war begins when Rtd Lt-General Jay Garner moves in as Iraq's de facto head of government. Doubtless he will take sides, and the Iraqis might not feature on his top priority.

We can expect full-blown looting of Iraq's riches that will make yesterday's video images (of Iraqis looting of government properties and banks) look like a D-grade movie.

Between the devils and the deep blue sea, I would like to rely on the war correspondents, knowing full well they are writing with their respective "nuanced objectivity". It's best thing next to watching CNN, CNBC, Fox News, BBC World and Al-Jazeera from the comfort my armchair.

This is an eye-witness' account scribed by a war correspondent who was at the crime-scene, from Robert Fisk of The Independent, UK. The Sun, Malaysia, carried an abridged version today under the headline: After civilians, it's time for scribes.

First the Americans killed the correspondent of al-Jazeera yesterday and wounded his cameraman. Then, within four hours, they attacked the Reuters television bureau in Baghdad, killing one of its cameramen and a cameraman for Spain's Tele 5 channel and wounding four other members of the Reuters staff.

Was it possible to believe this was an accident? Or was it possible that the right word for these killings – the first with a jet aircraft, the second with an M1A1 Abrams tank – was murder? These were not, of course, the first journalists to die in the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq.

And we should not forget the Iraqi civilians who are being killed and maimed by the hundred and who – unlike their journalist guests – cannot leave the war and fly home. So the facts of yesterday should speak for themselves. Unfortunately for the Americans, they make it look very like murder.

(Not the first US missile attack on al-Jazeera newsroom.) Now for America's problems in explaining this little saga. Back in 2001, the United States fired a cruise missile at al-Jazeera's office in Kabul – from which tapes of Osama bin Laden had been broadcast around the world. No explanation was ever given for this extraordinary attack on the night before the city's "liberation"; the Kabul correspondent, Taiseer Alouni, was unhurt. By the strange coincidence of journalism, Mr Alouni was in the Baghdad office yesterday to endure the USAF's second attack on al-Jazeera.

Far more disturbing, however, is the fact that the al-Jazeera network – the freest Arab television station, which has incurred the fury of both the Americans and the Iraqi authorities for its live coverage of the war – gave the Pentagon the co-ordinates of its Baghdad office two months ago and received assurances that the bureau would not be attacked.

Then on Monday, the US State Department's spokesman in Doha, an Arab-American called Nabil Khouri, visited al-Jazeera's offices in the city and, according to a source within the Qatari satellite channel, repeated the Pentagon's assurances. Within 24 hours, the Americans had fired their missile into the Baghdad office.

(Al-Jazeera down, Reuters' next.) The next assault, on Reuters, came just before midday when an Abrams tank on the Jamhuriya Bridge suddenly pointed its gun barrel towards the Palestine Hotel where more than 200 foreign journalists are staying to cover the war from the Iraqi side. Sky Television's David Chater noticed the barrel moving. The French television channel France 3 had a crew in a neighbouring room and videotaped the tank on the bridge. The tape shows a bubble of fire emerging from the barrel, the sound of a detonation and then pieces of paintwork falling past the camera as it vibrates with the impact.

In the Reuters bureau on the 15th floor, the shell exploded amid the staff. It mortally wounded a Ukrainian cameraman, Taras Protsyuk, who was also filming the tanks, and seriously wounded another member of the staff, Paul Pasquale from Britain, and two other journalists, including Reuters' Lebanese-Palestinian reporter Samia Nakhoul. On the next floor, Tele 5's cameraman Jose Couso was badly hurt. Mr Protsyuk died shortly afterwards. His camera and its tripod were left in the office, which was swamped with the crew's blood. Mr Couso had a leg amputated but he died half an hour after the operation.

(Response from US General.) The Americans responded with what all the evidence proves to be a straightforward lie. General Buford Blount of the US 3rd Infantry Division – whose tanks were on the bridge – announced that his vehicles had come under rocket and rifle fire from snipers in the Palestine Hotel, that his tank had fired a single round at the hotel and that the gunfire had then ceased.

The general's statement, however, was untrue.

I was driving on a road between the tanks and the hotel at the moment the shell was fired – and heard no shooting. The French videotape of the attack runs for more than four minutes and records absolute silence before the tank's armament is fired. And there were no snipers in the building.

Indeed, the dozens of journalists and crews living there – myself included – have watched like hawks to make sure that no armed men should ever use the hotel as an assault point.


General Blount's explanation was the kind employed by the Israelis after they have killed the innocent. Is there therefore some message that we reporters are supposed to learn from all this? Is there some element in the American military that has come to hate the press and wants to take out journalists based in Baghdad, to hurt those whom our (Britain's) Home Secretary, David Blunkett, has maliciously claimed to be working "behind enemy lines". Could it be that this claim – that international correspondents are in effect collaborating with Mr Blunkett's enemy (most Britons having never supported this war in the first place) – is turning into some kind of a death sentence?

'The American forces knew exactly what this hotel is'. The Sky News correspondent David Chater was in the Palestine Hotel when the hotel was hit by American tank fire. This is his account of what happened as quoted by Robert Fisk in his story:
"We saw the tanks up on the bridge. They started firing across the bank. The shells were landing either side of us at what we thought were military targets. Then we were hit. We are in the middle of a tank battle.

"I don't understand why they were doing that. There was no fire coming out of this hotel – everyone knows it's full of journalists.

"They knew exactly what this hotel is. They know the press corps is here. I don't know why they are trying to target journalists. There are awful scenes around me. There's a Reuters tent just a few yards away from me where people are in tears. It makes you realise how vulnerable you are. What are we supposed to do? How are we supposed to carry on if American shells are targeting Western journalists?"

Stop the war against journalists. This is an AP story, datelined Madrid, picked up by Anchorage Daily News:
Journalists snubbed Spain's prime minister and Britain's foreign minister Wednesday, putting cameras, microphones and notebooks on the ground to protest the death of a Spanish TV cameraman killed by a U.S. tank shell in Baghdad.

Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, arriving at the Senate for a meeting with his party's lawmakers, found the floor outside the chamber covered with equipment and 30 to 40 journalists standing in stony silence.

Most of the journalists boycotted a speech in which Aznar, a strong supporter of the war in Iraq, expressed condolences for the death of Tele 5 cameraman Jose Couso, 37, killed Tuesday at the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, and El Mundo reporter Julio Anguita Parrado, who died Monday when an Iraqi missile hit U.S. infantry troops south of Baghdad.

In a further display of anger, about 20 Spanish journalists walked out of a news conference with British Foreign Minister Jack Straw and his Spanish counterpart, Ana Palacio, after just one question.

More protests on the intentional and schematic killing of non-embedded war correspondents are available at Google News.

The NST's Shamsul Akmar, now in Amman with the Joint Media Team Malaysia (JMTM) says:
"Arab journalists believe the "attacks" on Arabs and "unfriendly" media teams in Baghdad were intended to get them out of Iraq to ensure their war crimes go unreported.

"It is a crime. The American forces had committed war crimes when they started killing Arab journalists intentionally," said Odeh Odeh, a senior journalist with Arabic daily Al-Rai Al-Am.

Though not a fan of Shamsul, this time I have no reason not to agree with him. I shall focus on this in the days ahead.

The picture of war

Quick turnaround:
Occupation or Liberation?

The images they choose, and choose to ignore. Robert Jensen writes in Al-Jazeera, which I transcribed in full without prior approval from its websmater:
It was the picture of the day -- the toppling of a Saddam Hussein statue in Baghdad -- and may end up being the picture of the war, the single image that comes to define the conflict.

The message will be clear: The U.S. liberated the Iraqi people; the US invasion of Iraq was just.

On Wednesday morning (US ET) television networks kept cameras trained on the statue near the Palestine Hotel. Iraqis threw ropes over the head and tried to pull it down before attacking the base with a sledgehammer.

Finally a US armored vehicle pulled it down, to the cheers of the crowd.

It was an inspiring moment of celebration at the apparent end of a brutal dictator's reign. But as US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has pointed out at other times, no one image tells the whole story.

Questions arise about what is, and isn't, shown.

One obvious question: During live coverage, viewers saw a US soldier drape over the face of Hussein a US flag, which was quickly removed and replaced with an Iraqi flag.

Commanders know that the displaying the US flag suggests occupation and domination, not liberation. NBC's Tom Brokaw reported that the Arab network Al Jazeera was "making a big deal" out of the incident with the American flag, implying that US television would -- and should -- downplay that part of the scene. Which choice tells the more complete truth?

Another difference between television in the US and elsewhere has been coverage of Iraqi casualties.

Despite constant discussion of "precision bombing," the US invasion has produced so many dead and wounded that Iraqi hospitals stopped trying to count.

Red Cross officials have labeled the level of casualties "incredible," describing "dozens of totally dismembered dead bodies of women and children" delivered by truck to hospitals.

Cluster bombs, one of the most indiscriminate weapons in the modern arsenal, have been used by U.S. and U.K. forces, with the British defense minister explaining that mothers of Iraqi children killed would one day thank Britain for their use.

US viewers see little of these consequences of war, which are common on television around the world and widely available to anyone with Internet access.

Why does US television have a different standard? CNN's Aaron Brown said the decisions are not based on politics. He acknowledged that such images accurately show the violence of war, but defended decisions to not air them; it's a matter of "taste," he said.

Again, which choice tells the more complete truth?

Finally, just as important as decisions about what images to use are questions about what facts and analysis -- for which there may be no dramatic pictures available -- to broadcast to help people understand the pictures.

The presence of U.S. troops in the streets of Baghdad means the end of the shooting war is near, for which virtually everyone in Iraq will be grateful.

It also means the end of a dozen years of harsh US-led economic sanctions that have impoverished the majority of Iraqis and killed as many as a half million children, according to UN studies, another reason for Iraqi celebration.

And no doubt the vast majority of Iraqis are glad to be rid of Hussein, even if they remember that it was US support for Hussein throughout the 1980s that allowed his regime to consolidate power despite a disastrous invasion of Iran.

But that does not mean all Iraqis will be happy about the ongoing presence of US troops. Perhaps they are aware of how little the US government has cared about democracy or the welfare of Iraqis in the past.

Perhaps they watch Afghanistan and see how quickly US policymakers abandoned the commitment to "not walk away" from the suffering of the Afghan people.

Perhaps we should be cautious about what we infer from the pictures of celebration that we are seeing; joy over the removal of Hussein does not mean joy over an American occupation.

There is no simple way to get dramatic video of these complex political realities. But they remain realities, whether or not US viewers find a full discussion of them on television.
--- Al Jazeera

Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and author of "Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream."

Anarchy after regime change...

24 hours ago, these Iraqis could have invited a death sentence.

(Chang W. Lee - The New York Times)

Regime changed

Operation of Iraqi Liberation (OIL)
Of the (US) People,
By the (US) People,
For the (US) People.

Hold Your Applause

When war is over, peace must go on.

We are so caught up with our own story of "America's liberation of Iraq," and the Arab TV networks are so caught up with their own story of "America's occupation of Iraq," that everyone seems to have lost sight of the real lives of Iraqis.

America broke Iraq; now America owns Iraq, and it owns the primary responsibility for normalizing it. If the water doesn't flow, if the food doesn't arrive, if the rains don't come and if the sun doesn't shine, it's now America's fault. We'd better get used to it, we'd better make things right, we'd better do it soon, and we'd better get all the help we can get.

Thomas L. Friedman dispatched from Umm Qasr, Iraq.
New York Times April 9, 2003.
Day 21 of US invasion of Iraq.

Schematic annihilation of non-embedded war correspondents

Ciar Byrne of Guardian UK wrote this: Iraq - the most dangerous war for journalists:

End of independent witnessing of war

The war in Iraq is the worst ever for journalists and could spell the end of the "independent witnessing of war", veteran war reporters and experts have claimed.

Twelve journalists have died in the conflict so far. Yesterday a Spanish TV cameraman and a Reuters cameraman were killed when US troops fired on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad and an al-Jazeera cameraman died when a bomb hit the TV station's office in the city.

Abu Dhabi TV was also hit, which means the US forces have attacked all the main western and Arab media headquarters in the space of just one day.

GPS coordinates given, Al Jazeera hit in precision

Former BBC war correspondent Martin Bell warned the conflict could be the most dangerous yet for journalists.

"I think it's very worrying that independent witnessing of war is becoming increasingly dangerous and this may be the end of it," Bell said.

"I have a feeling that independent journalists have become a target because the management of the information war has become a higher priority than ever."

Another senior BBC journalist, who preferred not to be named, said he was alarmed that the Pentagon did not seem to pay heed to information they had been given by al-Jazeera and every other TV organisation based in the capital.

"I know al-Jazeera gave the Pentagon all their GPS [global positioning system] co-ordinates. It was in a different part of town to the Palestine Hotel and my sources at al-Jazeera are saying the attitude of the Pentagon seemed to be 'maybe we'll take your details'," the journalist said.

The Pentagon's claim that US troops fired at the Palestine Hotel in response to sniper fire has been greeted with incredulity by reporters on the ground, including Sky News' David Chater, and at central command in Qatar.

Palentine Hotel, crime scene for manslaugter, reports Sydney Morning Herald:
An American tank fired on the Palestine Hotel early yesterday, where foreign journalists have been covering the war from balconies and the roof.

Less than 2km away, a reporter for Al-Jazeera television was killed when US-led forces bombed his office. Nearby, coalition artillery battered the Baghdad office of Abu Dhabi television, trapping more than 25 reporters who phoned for help from the basement.

"I'm astonished and shocked," said Art Bourbon, news director of Abu Dhabi. "We've been in this office for more than 2-1/2 years. Anyone going into military operations would have known our location."

Early today, the network announced that it had been unable to broadcast live video from Baghdad overnight, saying American tanks were posted outside its offices. Its live shots are often used by television networks, including those in the United States.

Al-Jazeera, whose offices are alongside Abu Dhabi television, also did not broadcast live scenes of Baghdad overnight.

Yesterday, Al-Jazeera chief editor Ibrahim Hilal said the US military has long known the map coordinates and street number of his network's office. Witnesses "saw the plane fly over twice before dropping the bombs. Our office is in a residential area, and even the Pentagon knows its location," Hilal said in Qatar.

Military officials offered different explanations for the attacks.

Brooks initially said the hotel was targeted after soldiers were fired on from the lobby. Later, he told reporters, "I may have misspoken."

US Army Col David Perkins, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade, which deployed the tank, said Iraqis in front of the hotel fired rocket-propelled grenades across the Tigris River. Soldiers fired back with a tank round aimed at the Palestine Hotel after seeing enemy "binoculars", Perkins said.

More than 50 news cameras were set up on hotel balconies when the tank fired, according to Associated Press photographer Jerome Delay. "How can they spot someone with binoculars and not (see) cameras?" he asked.

Journalists said they heard no gunfire coming from the hotel or its immediate environs. They had been watching two US tanks shooting across the al-Jumhuriya bridge, more than a kilometre away, when one of the tanks rotated its turret toward the hotel and fired.

The round pierced the 14th and 15th floors of the 17-storey hotel, spraying glass and shrapnel across a corner suite serving as Reuters' Baghdad bureau.

Killed were Taras Protsyuk of Ukraine, a television cameraman for the Reuters news agency, and Jose Couso, a cameraman for Spain's Telecinco television. Spain asked its journalists to leave Baghdad following Couso's death.

Tareq Ayyoub of Jordan died at al-Jazeera's office, located in a residential neighbourhood fronting the Tigris. In all, 10 journalists have been killed since war began on March 20.

The wounded, all Reuters employees, were identified by the company as TV technician Paul Pasquale of Britain, Gulf Bureau Chief Samia Nakhoul of Lebanon and photographer Faleh Kheiber of Iraq.

Pasquale underwent surgery yesterday at a Baghdad hospital for serious leg injuries, according to colleagues. Nakhoul suffered shrapnel wounds and may require surgery.

"Clearly the war, and all its confusion, has come to the heart of Baghdad," said Reuters Editor in Chief Geert Linnebank. "But the incident nonetheless raises questions about the judgment of the advancing US troops who have known all along that this hotel is the main base for almost all foreign journalists in Baghdad."

Media demands answers. More of Sydney Morning Herald reports:
The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists has demanded US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld investigate the firing on the Palestine Hotel and attacks that hit the Baghdad office of the Qatar-based al-Jazeera satellite network and damaged the nearby office of Abu Dhabi TV.

Amnesty International also called for an independent investigation, saying the Palestine Hotel was protected under international humanitarian law and should not have been attacked.

In Belgium, the International Federation of Journalists said it appeared the attacks may have deliberately targeted journalists. "If so, they are grave and serious violations of international law," said Secretary-General Aidan White.

I saw the footages over BBC World this morning. I will tell my kids these are a schematic annihilation of war correspondents and merciless manslaughter by George Bush and all Americans who supported him. They should be tried as war criminals, Nuremberg style.

Because, these Americans who invaded a sovereign state without UN sanction are traitors of world citizens who want peace. They are not with us. They are against us .

Pulitzer Prize 2003

Journalism's Hall of Fame. The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times won the lion's share of the 2003 Pulitzer Prizes announced yesterday, with each capturing three of the 14 journalism categories, while The New York Times managed only one award after a record-breaking performance last year.

The prestigious public service prize was given to The Boston Globe for its "courageous, comprehensive" coverage of the clerical sexual abuse crisis that rocked the Roman Catholic Church in the United States.

Two screenshots which I admire:

Editorial Cartooning:
Winner: David Horsey of Seattle Post-Intelligencer
For his perceptive cartoons executed with a distinctive style and sense of humor.

Feature Photography:
Winner: Don Bartletti of Los Angeles Times
For his memorable portrayal of how undocumented Central American youths,
often facing deadly danger, travel north to the United States.

Click here for full list of 2003 Pulitzer Prize winners.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

SARS: Sentiments are mutual between the Minister and Press

Recalcitrant. The NST news editor Balan Moses wrote a Page 4 commentary yesterday on the public’s right to all available information on issue of health. He, like Star's Wong Chun Wai, cited Brendran Pereira's commentary to give the government's attempts to black out the inflormation flow a contextual relevance. He said:

The ministry may not have realised it in its feverish effort to set things right, but the unvarnished truth is that the country is in the international spotlight for the wrong reasons. Even the Singapore Straits Times, not the most representative of what a newspaper should be in a thriving democracy, took a swipe at Chua last week for his reticence in thorny issues affecting public health.

Underlining the fact that his "deafening silence speaks volumes", the newspaper outlined its version of how Chua had allegedly kept mum in all major health issues since he became Health Minister in 1995.

It is obvious that the Health Ministry and Chua are facing a credibility crisis, with indications that the situation may not improve in future.

The difference between an Establishment newspaper like The NST and the others is that it has shown an erect vertebrate by defying the Home Ministry's gag order in some ways in its daily SARS updates. Against Chua's play of semantics, The NST was the first newspaper which reported the first SARS fatality in Malaysia days before the government made an official admission. Balan said the DPM has lent the media his hand in telling the truth:
Fortunately, this cloistered view is not shared by those at the very apex of public administration like acting Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, whose directive to the officials handling SARS to bare all, is a breath of fresh air. Lest it be forgotten, the Malaysian media have always been responsible to the people and can be expected to perform its onerous duties professionally at all times.

The last thing that a responsible media want is to cause panic among the populace.

It is, therefore, understandable that the Press has reacted unfavourably, in this instance, to the big brother attitude of some in public service.

Such was the circumstances under which Health Minister Chua Jui Meng called senior journalists in for a tete-a-tete April 7 - attended by Home Ministry secretary-general Aseh Che Mat and Health Ministry director-general Dr Mohd Taha Arif - to discuss the manner in which the media have been treating SARS. The displeasure between both sides is evidently mutual.

Chua called for greater co-operation of the Press in reporting SARS "in a positive sense". This is the response from The NST:
How does Chua define the term "positive"? Does the minister mean that the Press should not provide the facts and figures that the public justifiably craves on a daily basis? Does he expect the media to eschew comment and analyses — accepted pillars of professional journalistic conduct? If this is indeed what Chua wants (although his wants in the briefing were couched in most agreeable terms), then he obviously has not learnt from recent medical history in the country.

The Nipah virus episode left the Health Ministry's credibility in tatters, with different segments of the public generally concluding that more information should have been disseminated much earlier.

It was almost the same with the Coxsackie virus, with the paucity of information for the man in the street begging the question if the full story was being told.

The debate on whether the health authorities have been fully forthcoming in respect of the dengue fever outbreak is still ongoing.

The common denominator in all these has been the precious little information in the early days of the crisis, when rumour mills work overtime and the grapevine is full of unsubstantiated drivel on the situation.

But few can be chastised for believing in such, if the official version of events unfurling lack the ring of complete truth.

A day earlier, Dr Chan Chee Khoon, who holds a doctorate in epidemiology, wrote in Malaysiakini about the ethics and semantics of managing a SARS outbreak. He said:
And this month, we have a nationally televised hair splitting over whether we have "probable" and/or "suspected" cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) in Malaysia.

We can speculate as to whether this is the legal mind at work, or the health ministry's sudden conversion to scientific rigor.

By the criterion of isolated and definitively identified etiological agent (pathogen), there have been no confirmed cases of Sars anywhere in the world to date, since the World Health Organisation is still evaluating the evidence implicating a novel coronavirus, and the possible, independent or simultaneous involvement of a metapneumovirus, and possibly even other as yet unidentified pathogens.

By these semantic devices, the health minister may try to avoid Malaysia's listing as a country where "probable" SARS cases have been "confirmed" (overriding consideration for the tourism and related industries).

However, public health responses to epidemic emergencies operate on the basis of the precautionary principle, i.e. you cannot wait for the i's to be dotted and the t's to be crossed, before you take action on a presumptive basis - the basis of best available and rapidly evolving knowledge.

... In confronting national emergencies, we expect the government to exercise accountable, exemplary leadership in implementing well-considered and firm but necessary measures in a difficult situation, and in ensuring that these are equitably borne as a national, social compact. There is no other way to sustain confidence, broad-based support and unity in facing such challenges.

"Gag orders on public and professional discourse, and media blackouts fail miserably in averting disquiet and panic - this can only be achieved by accurate, timely information from a credible, competent and responsible source.

"In its handling of information dissemination in two disastrous epidemic outbreaks (Sarawak 1997 and Ipoh/Negri Sembilan 1999), and in these recurrent seasonal smogs, the government has repeatedly transgressed the reasonable limits of responsible information management.

"Its mindset of obsessive, unwarranted secrecy and its unwillingness to divulge legitimate information to the Malaysian public, is reprehensible and totally unacceptable."

Still a recalcitrant. On April 7, Chua told the media: "The fact speaks for itself. Singapore has 101 probable SARS cases and six deaths thus far. Malaysia still has only one probable SARS case and one death, which was the same person." However, he stressed that he was not suggesting that Singapore was not doing well in handling the outbreak of the deadly disease.

I think I should give up on this minister, politician, lawyer rolled-in-one. Suffice just to quote Balan further as I couldn't have said it better about the minister and his closed-mind officials:
History is replete with instances of those who chose not to learn from their mistakes being doomed to repeat them.

Chua and his functionaries will be well advised to pay heed to maxims like these, which more often than not, have an element of truth in them.

The public has an undeniable right to all available information on the issue of health. The media will not renege on this duty to the people.

DAP chief Lim Kit Siang wants Suhakam to keep an eye o­n Chua's ministry to ensure there is no cover-up.

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Agonist warblogger is a plagiarist

Blown cover. Sean-Paul Kelley, the blogger described by The New York Times (March 25) as "the mastermind and lightning-fast typist" behind The Agonist warblog, is a plagiarist.

Kelly shot to fame with almost real-time combat information presumably gleaned from a string of high-level sources worldwide. He even gained interviews in US mainstream media including The New York Times and on NBC's Nightly News, Newsweek online and National Public Radio.

The high profile brought him trouble. On March 31, he was caught red-handed by fellow blogger General Roy, who runs Strategic Armchair Command. Roy charged Kelley with nearly a dozen instances of plagiarizing proprietary newsletter, published by Texas-based commercial intelligence news company Stratfor.

Wired News reports: "You got me, I admit it.... I made a mistake," Kelley said. "It was stupid."

Dan Gillmor said it was both sad and bizarre.

TM Net, do you understand what Internet is?

Streamyx fables. Dinesh Nair thinks TM Net is a pile of horseshit when the ISP asked all its customers to be "very economic and prudent in the usage of the Internet, for example eg, (sic) you can log off whenever you are not browsing the Internet".

TMNet seems to think that logged in idle connections are contributing to the congestion. Knock, knock, here's a clue: congestion happens only when there is traffic. You can't congest a line with idle logged in connections if they're not downloading anything. Did their PR people actually talk to an engineer before releasing that statement or was it pulled out of someone's rear end?

Tm Net, which appeared clueless for Streamyx outage in the last two months, also seems to screw up on earth time. Here's another Dinesh bulls-eye:
They're blaming this congestion partly on the war in Iraq it seems, since they cite subscribers downloading large images and video feeds from international sources.

Well, TMNet, the war started 19 days ago. What was the cause of the congestion before that then ? Carrier pigeons being hit by anti-aircraft flak?

All this while I thought I was the least forgiving on Streamyx. I now have a spokesman.

Monday, April 07, 2003

Screaming about fixing Streamyx woes

More bandwidth! The tauke at TM Net's Streamyx broadband, which came under heavy shelling by end-users for incessant severe outages that lasted from February through this day as I blogged, apparently thought it has fully identified the problem areas.

To fix the problems, TM Net will put in more bandwidth to ease congestion at international gateways, but it made no commitment on beefing up customer service - the whole works that include new account application, installation, service activation, troubleshooting of faults and swift problem turnaround which we call brand promise and customer experience.

March 14, TM Net CEO Baharum Salleh disclosed that the problems were due to denial-of-service (DoS) attacks on its servers, which began around early March, and it has been the worst and the most frequent the ISP had experienced so far. The attacks caused congestion and the slow data rates experienced by Streamyx subscribers, as well as problems with authentication.

On this matter, this is TM Net's assurance to you: "We wish to assure our customers that our broadband network system is in conformations to the type of system available elsewhere in developed broadband markets around the world."

Here is a summary of TM Net's press release Ref No: TM NET/PR (20) dated April 4 issued by its Public Relations:

Traffic congestion, "the principal cause of the problem":
  • Better affordability has caused a surged in new subscribers.

  • A bigger subsriber base caused a surged traffic - more copngestion.

  • The congestion was exacerbated by current world events - more info-seekers surfing the net especially those who access broadband footages and video feeds from international sites.

  • Some congestion caused by the high usage have been made worse by recent outages in international links.

Short-term solutions: Routing part of the traffic through an alternate gateway.

"Permanent-term" (sic) solutions: Installing more 155 Mbps links
  • TM Net now has 4 x 155Mbps international links to the US.

  • A new 155 Mbps line to the US has been commissioned on March 28 and another on April 3, 2003.

  • An additional 155 Mbps link to the U.K. will be installed by mid April 2003.

  • An extra link of 155 Mbps to the U.S. will be installed in May this year.

  • Three more 155 Mbps links to the U.S., Hong Kong and Japan, respectively. will be installed by the end of Q3 2003.

  • In total, TM Net expects to have 12 x 155Mbps circuits by the end of this year.

I take it as these circuits will also be considered as shared resources to service the corporate users and some 1.5 million TM Net dial-up users. Something which TM Net did not show and tell fully.

TM Net's appeal to the users to help ease connectivity problems:
  • "We would like to appeal to customers for their cooperation of all our customers to be very economic and prudent in the usage of the Internet, for example, you can log off whenever you are not browsing the Internet."(This is TM Net's lingo in toto)

  • Users who have the older version of broadband dialer installed in their PCs may be the cause for log in failures and intermittent connectivity "We wish to advise all affected customers to upgrade the dialer to the latest version to avoid further problems. The dialer upgrade can be downloaded from the following website, under WinPoET utilities:

Last but not least... for all your troubles: "In light of the inconvenience faced by our tmnet streamyx customers, TM Net will be giving a "two-week rebate to all streamyx customers, which will be reflected in our bills by May 2003."

Meanwhile, I repeat, TM Net makes no comment on the Customer Interaction Centre at 1300-88-9515.

If in doubt, contact its PR department by contacting:
Haniza Abd. Aziz 03 — 8318 8148
Asma Abdul Aziz 03 — 8318 8012

Hopefully, you will get through the line whenever you call. But with TM Net, you mesti klik!

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