Saturday, April 19, 2003

Good old English

Reminiscing, nostalgia... I always regard NST Group Editor-in-Chief Abdullah Ahmad as a man trapped in his time: MCKK - Tun Razak, and more MCKK and Tun Razak. A consolation is that, with it, comes his early up-bringing in English, which makes him one among rarity who could still dispense the language with much poise. Though, the few encounters I had with him left me the impression that he writes better than he speaks. He can quote Shakespeare at absolute ease.

Frankly, I look forward to his column - The NST Diarist - at my breakfast table every Sunday. His gossips on high-society partying are a gem to spice up a weekend.

This is one of his journal entries last Sunday. I thought I better blog it here before its URL expires.

Getting A Bit British. THE Diarist admires guests who bravely overcome their disadvantage of not having attended Oxford or Cambridge to attend Oxbridge dos.

Last Sunday, they and their Oxbridge hosts and hostesses were entertained by witty speeches by Sarina Karim (aagh! I missed her at MDC) for Cambridge and Prof John Zinkin (of Nottingham University Business School Malaysian Campus) for Oxford.

Sarina (picture right) said: "Cambridge has produced 60 Nobel laureates who have given mankind so many of the comforts of life ...a far cry from the 40 from Oxford. Oxford, however, is more proud of the 25 British prime ministers they have bred, many of whom have given the world more grief. Nehru and Tengku Abdul Rahman liberated their nations from British colonial oppression perpetuated by Oxonian prime ministers. Tony Blair is carrying out this proud tradition of creating war and mayhem in the Third World.

"Women who are thinking about marrying Oxonian men are well advised to consult Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Hurley first." Zinkin, in reply, said: "Cambridge has only had 13 PMs, making good some of the shortfall with Nehru, Tengku and Lee Kuan Yew.

"Oxford and Cambridge have yet to become the degree factories other universities have become and this shows in the quality of connections. Even today, 80 per cent of all top jobs in Britain are held by Oxbridge alumni. They believe in ‘good' and ‘bad' answers rather than ‘right' and ‘wrong' answers, exemplified by two famous answers to two philosophy questions: ‘Is this a question?' The student said, ‘Yes, if this is an answer.'

"Then, ‘What is courage?' An even bolder student answered, ‘This is.' And both obtained firsts. Oxbridge alumni are special people."

Your heart will cringe if you were to read this about our present breed.

Never mind his unashamed professed no-matter-what affinity to Establishment, I believe Pak Dollah would make an interesting blogger if he can type. I heard he still writes in long-hand.

Pak Dollah's From The UN series and other writings before he became a full-time editor are archived here.

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Reaction to EPF's lowest dividend in 40 years.

  • Kit Siang: 'If not for RM2.14 billion provision for "paper losses in equity", contributors should get 5.43% dividend.'

  • Zainal Rampak: 'Give us 6%, or we will picket nationwide.'

Crunching numbers. This is indeed a two-billion ringgit question for EPF which manages RM203 billion of monies on behalf of its 10.3 million contributors.

While business journalists and financial analysts have yet to come out with their perspectives, DAP chairperson Lim Kit Siang appears to be among the first who are able to ask some straight questions on EPF's 2002 dividend - the lowest in 40 years.

He said EPF was able to declare a dividend of 5% for 2001 when the country was only registering a 0.4% growth. However, EPF's 2002 dividend dropped to 4.25% while the country had registered a higher economic growth at 4.2% .

He claimed that the EPF should have been able to declare at least 5.43% dividend for 2002 "if not for the high provision of RM2.14 billion for the paper losses in equity last year".

The mathematics. He based his calculation on EPF Board Chairman Abdul Halim Ali's statement yesterday. Abdul Halim has revealed that for the year under review, the EPF required RM1.82 billion to pay a 1% dividend rate to its 10.3 million members compared with RM1.67 billion in 2001.

Kit Siang claimed that the RM2.14 billion set aside for "paper losses in equity" could have been distributed as dividend to the 10.3 million EPF contributors. And based on Abdul Halim's calculation, that RM2.14 billion could have translated a dividend of 5.43% for the EPF contributors - higher than the 5% dividend for 2001.

Gazing at EPF's statement yesterday, the EPF Chairman did not give any details nor explanation on the necessity to set aside a higher provision of RM2.14 billion for paper losses in equity. It just gave a technical explanation that it is "an additional prudent measure in line with international accounting principles".

The timing. Kit Siang also questioned on the delayed dividend announcement by EPF:
Only four days ago, I had asked as to why there is the longest delay in 50 years to announce the lowest EPF dividend in 40 years, as in the past half a century, the EPF dividend for the previous year would normally be announced in February, and only on rare occasions in March, but never as late as April.

Was Abdullah, the Acting Finance Minister, waiting for the return of Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to his duties as Finance Minister for the bad news to be made public or had he directed the EPF Board to reconsider its decision on the lowest dividend in 40 years, demanding a full public accountability and transparency to keep the trust of the 10.3 million EPF contributors?

It would appear that there could be another reason for the long delay in announcing the EPF dividend for last year - until after the Dewan Rakyat meeting so that it would not become an issue in the recent meeting of Parliament!

MTUC president Zainal Rampak asked almost the same questions, issued a deadline and threatened to hold a nationwide picket to voice its disatisfaction. Excerpts from a NST story:
Zainal said he had talked with Acting Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Second Finance Minister Datuk Dr Jamaludin Jarjis and EPF, over the EPF's March 30 decision, on the dividends.

"We will only call off the picket if EPF increases the 2002 dividends to 6%.

"We hope the relevant parties that we have appealed to, will do something before April 21."

Friday, April 18, 2003

That's the lowest EPF dividend in 40 years.
Singapore paper hints of political dispute.

The EPF guarantees a minimum dividend of 2.5%, which was the rate between 1952, when it started, and 1959.

Its highest dividends were the 8.5% paid between 1983 and 1987. It fell to 8% between 1988 and 1994.

The 2002 dividend is lower than the 5% declared last year, and 6% in 2000. It's anything but the lowest in 40 years!

Intellectually challenging. Singapore Straits Times has a story by KL-based correspondent Reme Ahmad, with subhead: Critics call for change in management and ponder lawsuit, while board blames poor economy for lowest rate in 40 years.

It quoted secretary-general of the Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations (FOMCA) N. Marimuthu who said:

'This is the price we have to pay for having people with no ability in the investment committee of EPF.'

'Economics, marketing trends and the way of doing business have changed, so we should revamp the committee as people tend to overstay.'

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) warned was considering a class-action suit against the EPF for mismanagement.

Last week, MTUC warned that it would picket all the offices of the EPF if the dividend was lower than 5%. Its secretary-general G. Rajasekaran said yesterday the union would meet again soon to discuss the protest.

He said that while the union could accept weak economic conditions, there were other issues involved, including alleged poor investment decisions.

'We are very disappointed to hear of this, despite all the meetings with officials,' he said.

'If it was simply a matter of economic conditions then we will accept, but we see error in judgment. Of course, the present management is not to be blamed as it was due to past management, but we can't just say, 'Let's forget it', as this will haunt us for years to come.'

The NST carries on page 7 today responses from FOMCA Sec-Gen N Marimuthu and Ceupacs Sec-Gen Abdul Rahman Manan. No online version at the time I blogged this. No response statements can be found in The Star.

Deputy PM Pak Lah said the people should be thankful the EPF could still come up with dividends better than fixed deposits offered by the banks.

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That's your 2002 EPF dividend.
And Mr Wong Sulong, you are proven wrong!

The dividend is lower than the 5% declared last year, and 6% in 2000. It's the lowest in 40 years!

With this, Star Business Editor Wong Sulong and senior reporter M. Krishnamoorthy, who have been doing a PR exercise to prepare a soft-landing for EPF, are now proven wrong.

On February 22, they said the EPF is expected to declare dividend ranging between 4.5% and 4.8% for 2002. They observed the dividend for 2001 at 5% was the lowest since 1967. See my blog on March 2 here.

Today, The NST justifies it as a reflection of the difficult investment environment of a low interest rate regime for the last four years as well as a lacklustre stock market. It says the gross income has also declined to RM10.75 billion from RM11.26 billion in 2001.

To load you with more numbers, EPF board chairman Tan Sri Abdul Halim Ali said the 4.25% dividend offers a 2.45% positive real rate of return considering the inflation rate of 1.8%.

Go figure out.

This, is CNN...
Be the first to know.

CNN was fark-ed. US Vice President Dick Cheney, former US president Ronald Reagan, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, Pope John Paul II, South Africa's Nelson Mandela and US comedian Bop Hope, who is due to celebrate his 100th birthday on May 29, were presumed all dead when the website of 'Be The First To Know' satellite news had their obituaries published yesterday.

The problems is, all of them are still alive.

So, you can imagine the faces of CNN bigshots. They looked like cooked lobsters.

In the real-time world where news networks compete for the finishing lines in breaking news, it is usual for media organisations to prepare obituaries in advance. CNN did just that. Only with one slip-up.

The premature obituaries were inadvertently housed in a publicly accessible area of the CNN server, and made searchable via Google.

<--- The Vatican official website stated Pope John Paul II was born on May 18, 1920, and not in 1913 as stated by CNN.

The pages were discovered by the intrepid folks at and posted on its forum. CNN quickly have them yanked about 20 minutes after being exposed. But too late, had already cached them in the archive.

CNN apologised and blamed it on human error. As if remembering what Mark Twain once said, "reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated", it has hinted that reports of the demise of the person responsible for the gaffe - believed to be senior multimedia designer Peter Rentz - had not been exaggerated.

Take a look at the pre-prepared obituaries, it is evident that even the text was screwed-up.

Castro and Reagan, for example, became inseparable in their obituary of the Cuban dictator.

Next to a dignified photo of the dictator it says, "Fidel Castro". Above that is a Castro quote: "History will absolve me." However, featuring below Castro's name is a quote from Reagan: "Life is just one grand sweet song, so start the music."

Follow the links to view the snafu-ed obituaries for Dick Cheney (1941 - 2001), Ronald Reagan (1911 - 2001), Fidel Castro (1926 - 2001), Bob Hope (1903 - 2001), Pope John Paul II (1913 - 2001), Nelson Mandela (1918 - 2001) and Gerald R. Ford (1913 - 2001).

Spate of major mistakes. Riding on US victory in the invasion of Iraq, CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan revealed recently that he withheld some accounts of Saddam Hussein's brutality for years to protect the lives of Iraqi sources. It backfired and came under withering criticism in the media.

Digital Divide: 42% of USA fall on the wrong side

Online population is fluid and shifting. Would you believe it? As many as 42% of Americans are non-users of Internet. And a majority of these Internet-proof people do not think they will ever go online.

The latest survey by Pew Internet and American Life Project: A new look at Internet access and the digital divide, released April 16, reveals that out of these people,

  • 20% are Net Evaders, non-Internet users who live with someone who uses the Internet from home.

  • 17% are Net Dropouts, non-Internet users were once users but became dropouts because of technical problems such as broken computers or problems with their ISPs. An increase of 4% since April 2000.

  • 24% are Truly Internet Incommunicados: Americans who are truly offline - having no direct or indirect experience with the Internet.

  • 56% of non-Internet users do not think they will ever go online.

If you think these Internet non-users are from the Cherokee reserve land in the mid-west, you are wrong. They live physically and socially close to the Internet.
  • 60% of non-users know of a place in their community where Internet access is publicly available.
  • 76% of Internet users know of public access sites.
  • 74% of non-users say they have family members and close friends who go online.

  • 27% of non-users say that very few or none of the people they know go online.

Demographically, the digital divide in America is less startling:
  • Younger Americans are much more wired than older Americans.

  • Well-to-do Americans are more wired that less well-off Americans, and the employed are far more wired than the unemployed.

  • White Americans are more wired than African-Americans and Hispanics.

  • Well-educated Americans are more wired than those who only completed high school.

  • Suburban and urban residents are more wired than rural residents.

  • Parents of children living at home are more wired than non-parents.

You may read commentaries in New York Times, Washington Post, Poynter, and Slashdot.

Or download the full report in Adobe PDF format here.

With this Internet user pattern, Pew's earlier survey report, How online Americans have used the Internet to learn war news, understand events, and promote their views, released April 1, must be looked at with a fresh view.

With a vast US population insulated from Internet, Bush may well remain their cablenews Cowboy Hero who trounced that Sad Damn and plain-sail into the second term.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Comatose Justice Mohtar to be boarded out?

Invalid since August 5 last year. Online newspaper Malaysiakini said yesterday the government medical board has recommended that Federal Court judge Mohtar Abdullah, 58, be considered a permanent invalid.

It said the board had confirmed in a report o­n the judge's health that Mohtar, who has yet to recover from a stroke on August 5 last year, is in a "vegetative state".

The report added, as quoted by Malaysiakini, that his condition may not improve, and this has rendered Mohtar unfit to continue his duty as a judge or as a government officer.

Government-paid expenses. Malaysiakini said it had obtained a copy of the medical board's report which stated that Mohtar had been put under rehabilitative care (rawatan pemulihan) since December 17 last year.

It quoted the report as saying the board had proposed that Mohtar be discharged from the Kuala Lumpur Hospital (HKL), where he is currently being warded, and continue receiving nursing care at home, but at the expense of the government "considering his contributions to the country".

Malaysiakini also hinted the medical board's report has been sent to Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim for further action though the CJ's special officer could not confirm it.

Controversial. Mohtar, who served as attorney-general from January 1994 to December 2000, headed the prosecution team in the corruption and sodomy trials of ex-deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim in the late 1990s.

Click here to read more about how the trials have been slammed by international legal bodies as a miscarriage of justice.

Mohtar was appointed a Federal Court judge January 23 last year, amid much controversy.

Malaysia Boleh in 2003

Time-tested NST Business Times has this on its front page yesterday: Taiwanese-controlled Wonderful Wire & Cable Bhd (WW Cable) is about to be transformed into a Bumiputera company, as part of its strategy to win jobs from government-related companies.

Its newly-appointed deputy chairman Dr Abdul Razak Abdul, who currently holds about 14.15 per cent in the company, said:

“In order to go into the government sector, a company must be seen as Bumiputera-controlled. WW Cable now mainly concentrates on consumer-based cable products, such as wire harnessing for motor cars and motorcycles.”

“I want to convert WW Cable into a Bumiputera company. If this happens, it has better chances of getting jobs from government-related agencies projects such as Tenaga Nasional Bhd and Telekom Malaysia Bhd.”

Abdul Razak said the value of the electrical wire and cable market is about RM4 billion annually.

The paper said other Bumiputera-related shareholders include Johor Corp Bhd and Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera, which together own about 20 per cent of the company. This puts Bumiputera control of WW Cable at slightly less than 35 per cent.

To push past the 50 per cent mark, WW Cable may be looking for other Bumiputera investors, either through direct share purchases or a swap of equity for assets from Bumiputera companies within the industry.

Admittedly, this is a time-tested business strategy for corporate Malaysia since the seventies.

The crutches are very much valid.

Public getting sick of MCA problems
UMNO sent Anwar Ibrahim and Harun Idris to jail. MCA must get prepared.

Guess who said all these if it was not Team B? This story by Chow Kum Hor appears on page 10 New Straits Times today. Here are the interesting paragraphs touching on MCA president/Transport Minister Dr Ling Liong Sik's silence over the series of allegations by Soh Chee Wen against him:

"The public at large is getting sick of all the problems in MCA, whether it is Soh's allegations or the split in the party. This must stop or it will affect BN," he said.

Asked what was the best way to end the problems in MCA, (he) said he hoped wisdom would prevail and MCA leaders must be prepared to make sacrifices.

However, he refused to elaborate on the measures the leaders should take to resolve the problems.

"If sacrifices must be made, than MCA leaders must be prepared to do so for the sake of BN and the country. In Umno, (former Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri) Anwar Ibrahim went to jail. So did (former Selangor Menteri Besar) Datuk Harun Idris. These people made sacrifices."

This may not surprise you. The observation above came from Barisan Nasional secretary-general Mohamed Rahmat. He said Ling’s silence on his alleged wrongdoing may affect Barisan Nasional’s performance in the next general election

Last week, Soh challenged Dr Ling to say whether he would take action against the two party leaders who had allegedly misused public funds.

The NST said Dr Ling, in his weekly post-Cabinet Press conference Wednesday, refused to respond to Soh's challenge.

Since returning to the country in 2002 after spending three years overseas, Soh had alleged that:
  • Dr Ling had offered Soh party positions in exchange for him building a business empire for the Minister after retirement;

  • called Dr Ling a "liar";

  • Dr Ling used the Transport Ministry's office to conduct private business deals;

  • confirmed allegations that Dr Ling offered to sell classified maps of the country to a foreigner; and,

  • alleged that two MCA leaders, including a minister, had illegally used public funds for their personal expenses.

Dr Ling had not responded to any of the charges, except for saying that "my conscience is clear" and that he was leaving such matters to his lawyers.

The Star did not carry this story. But I must alert you that The NST is pissed with Dr Ling blaming the paper for twisted reporting on MCA factional fights.

Yesterday, I blogged on how feuding MCA ministers have made Dr Mahathir's cabinet dysfunctional in the handling of SARS crisis.

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WHO: Monkey tests offer proof of SARS' cause

No monkey business here. International Herald Tribune used a New York Times story for its April 17 edition: World Health Organization announced Wednesday scientists have confirmed the identity of the virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome, SARS.

In experiments conducted at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, scientists infected monkeys with the coronavirus suspected of causing SARS and found that the animals developed the same symptoms that humans do. The test was a crucial step in verifying the cause of the disease.

The monkey experiments are essential in fulfilling the steps, known as Koch's postulates - a criteria set out by Robert Koch in 1890 - that are needed to establish proof that a virus or other microbe causes a disease. As part of the postulates in SARS, scientists must determine whether injecting the coronavirus into animals causes similar symptoms to those that humans experience.

For those uninitiated, Dr Robert Koch (1843 - 1910) was the winner of Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1905. Read his biography here and presentation speech here.


David Heymann, executive director in charge of communicable diseases for WHO, had said earlier that the agency was "99 percent sure" that, based on the Dutch experiments, SARS was caused by the new coronavirus. Preliminary findings showed that the monkeys developed an illness resembling SARS after the coronavirus was put in their nostrils. Some monkeys developed pneumonia and examination of their lungs under a microscope showed that the coronavirus caused a pattern of lung damage similar to that in affected humans. Such findings include the formation of syncytia, or giant cells, in the lungs.

Scientists from the WHO's network of 12 international laboratories that have been seeking the cause of SARS met Wednesday in Geneva and by teleconference to review the evidence concerning the new coronavirus.

Verifying the cause of SARS is essential for the development of reliable diagnostic tests to determine who has the disease so that affected patients can be treated in isolation and those who do not can carry on with their normal activities.

Heymann expressed hope that new tests aimed at the coronavirus would help contain SARS.

Light seems to be coming in from the end of the dark tunnel.

April 12: Scientists at the British Columbia Cancer Agency in Vancouver completed decoding genome of the SARS virus. Their findings are posted on Genomes Sciences Centre's website.

April 14: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention followed suit in sequencing the SARS genome and has the results published.

Mankind's saviours are from Canada, USA and the Netherlands. China is engrossed in cover-ups, and Malaysia... when Star's Wong Chun Wai has the wisdom to comment that (Malaysians) don't need an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease among politicians, well, enough has been said.

SARS: 'Probable' monkeys in the Cabinet?

Still monkeying around. Someone who read my earlier blog suggested why don't I change the headline to suit the SARS semantics: Probable monkeys?

I thought for a while, and have decided to stick to the original headlines.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

SARS: Monkeys in the Cabinet

Health and Transport ministers don't (or can't?) work together. Dr Mahathir Mohamad has a dysfuntional cabinet. While he is away on leave, PM-in-waiting Pak Lah probably has endured a monkey show at yesterday's Cabinet meeting.

His senior ministers critical to fighting SARS don't seem to work together. They have started to wash dirty linens in public.

Monday, April 14: Health Minister Chua Jui Meng accused six SARS-affected countries of not conducting proper screening at the ports of departures on passengers bound for Malaysia - a mandatory requirement set by Malaysia. The affected countries include China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore and Canada.

Chua also said the Transport Ministry has been directed by the National Committee on SARS to contact their counterparts and work out a plan whereby the other countries' health authorities would ensure 100% screenings at the airports.

He said he would raise the matter at the Cabinet meeting. I think he would have, yesterday.

Wednesday, April 16: Transport Minister Dr Ling Liong Sik said Chua had been misinformed because all airports were already conducting the surveillance. It's in a story by Foong Pek Yee, Star's usual reporter assigned to cover Ling's functions.

Ling said all air passengers arriving from affected countries have been double-screened – before boarding their aircraft and upon arrival in Malaysia. He said pre-screening was conducted by all airlines during check-in while Malaysian health officers did the post-screening, and additionally, airlines at local airports would also carry out pre-screening for outbound passengers.

He said in future it was the job of the Health Ministry to liaise with their counterparts overseas for cooperation in conducting such screening.

Dr Ling said he had briefed the Cabinet on the surveillance yesterday, and that no suspect case had been detected among air passengers passing through Malaysian airports so far.

For more helpings of the monkey shows on SARS, visit The Star, the paper effectively owned by the political party that houses the two squabbling ministers.

Rumours-mongering. Meanwhile, telcos reaped in more revenues from rumours-laden SMS traffic - an issue which I raised in my blog March 30 and April 1 respectively, which was captured by MSNBC Weblog Central April 4.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2003

The picture of war

Not a poster boy. The picture of Ali Ismaeel Abbas (picture below) is now the icon of US the merciful.

The Iraqi boy was reduced to stumps of what he used to call hands when a missile hit his Baghdad home.

He has now been air-flown by US forces to Ibn Sina hospital in Kuwait for intensive treatment.

Ali's parents, younger brother, three cousins and three other relatives staying with them died in the strike on their house in the Diala Bridge district east of Baghdad.

Ali's nurse Fatin Sharhah is reported to have written a letter to Tony Blair and George Bush to have Ali moved to a specialist unit where he could be treated. Ali pleaded when he first arrived at the hospital in Baghdad:

"Can you help me get my arms back? Do you think the doctors can get me another pair of hands?"

"If I don't get a pair of hands I will commit suicide."

A story from says:
Orphaned Ali will require weeks of specialist treatment and years of support to cope with his extensive injuries, according to medical experts.

The 12-year-old lost both arms and suffered 60 per cent burns when the missile hit his home.

The medical care he needs will be traumatic and will call on the skills of many surgeons, therapists and other support staff.

His fate? "Michael Tyler, a consultant burns and plastic surgeon at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, said:
"The surgery is traumatic. It's a large operation and he would need several lots of transfused blood."

"There is a significant risk of him dying but, having said that, there are plenty of children who have those sorts of burns and survive.

I believe Ali is not the only casualty of Shock and Awe. He is just made one of the luckier ones by US spin masters.

theSun orders Terence to come home ASAP

Forget the stories. Time to leave. theSun has ordered its chief reporter Terence Fernandez to leave Baghdad at the first available opportunity. The paper says "It is our decision, and our decision alone." No story is worth a journalist's life.

Last week, Terence survived two gunfire attacks en route to and reporting in Baghdad.

Terence is one of nine journalists under Joint Media Team Malaysia (JMTM) - government-sponsored using taxpayers' money - and sent to cover news in war zone Baghdad.

The rest - some 31 of them, including chef de mission Ahmad A. Talib of NST - are relatively "safe and sound" reporting from 5-star hotel rooms in Amman, Jordan.

In contrast, Terence and his colleagues are stuck in Baghdad. There is no electricity for the JMTM journalists to charge the batteries of their laptops and satellite phones.

Yesterday, he used a borrowed satellite phone to call theSun office in PJ, to say that he can't send his stories because there's no power in their hotel, the much looted Sheraton Baghdad. The call lasted less than a minute before it was disconnected.

Editor of theSun wrote in Page 2 today:

"No use wasting taxpayers' money if there is nothing fruitful he can do."

I will blog on the JMTM misadventures later. More information is coming in.

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Monday, April 14, 2003

SARS: At last China admits grave seriousness

Better never than late? China finally owns up and admits the grave seriousness of SARS - five months after it erupted in its mainland but was kept under wraps. The epidemic is now dubbed the "21st century disease".

President Hu Jintao said he is very worried, Premier Wen Jiabao said China's SARS pneumonia crisis is "grave" and ordered quarantine for plane, boat and train. Hong Kong SAR chief Tung Chee-hwa reported to the Chinese president that SARS has not been brought under effective control.

Click Google News and you will find the disease has not been contained.

Stats so far. WHO's cumulative number of reported "Probable" (ahemmmm...) cases of SARS, collated from: 1 Nov 2002 to 14 Apr 2003, 16:00 GMT+2:

Affected countries in alphabetical order:
  • Asia: China (Mainland China), China (Taiwan), Hong Kong Special Administrative Region China, Indonesia, Kuwait, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam.

  • Europe: Italy, Republic of Ireland, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom.

  • The Americas: Brazil, Canada, United States.

  • Africa: South Africa.

Cumulative number of case(s): 3,169
Number of new cases since last WHO update: 213

Final Status
Number of deaths: 144
Number recovered: 1,499

How SARS affects Asian businesses: Click here.
How the US and Europe react to SARS: Click here.

SARS genome decoded by BCCA (Apr 12) and CDC (Apr 14)

SARS genome decoded. A UPI story says scientists at the British Columbia Cancer Agency in Vancouver completed work Saturday, having decoded genome of the SARS virus. Their findings are posted on Genomes Sciences Centre's website.

UPDATE: Now, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Monday it has followed suit in sequencing the SARS genome and has published the sequence of the virus, according to CNN.

Meanwhile, Reuters says the Hamburg-based Artus GmbH had developed the test for the virus with the Bernhard-Nocht-Institute.

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Why Syria? What stops US from having war with Russia?
Bush, you said "You're either with us or against us". Remember?

Go for Putin if you dare! UK's Pro-War paper Sunday Telegraph reported yesterday: Russia spied on Blair for Saddam. Its editor went on CNN live interview with Jim Clancy.

Put it this way. The stage is now set for Bush to have a show-down with Putin. Conspiracies of the highest degree were all there: Saddam, Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaeda:

Top secret documents obtained by The Telegraph in Baghdad show that Russia provided Saddam Hussein's regime with wide-ranging assistance in the months leading up to the war, including intelligence on private conversations between Tony Blair and other Western leaders.

Moscow also provided Saddam with lists of assassins available for "hits" in the West and details of arms deals to neighbouring countries. The two countries also signed agreements to share intelligence, help each other to "obtain" visas for agents to go to other countries and to exchange information on the activities of Osama bin Laden, the al-Qa'eda leader.


A letter from the Iraqi embassy in Moscow shows that Russia kept Iraq informed about its arms deals with other countries in the Middle East. Correspondence, dated January 27, 2000, informed Baghdad that in 1999 Syria bought rockets from Russia in two separate batches valued at $65 million (£41 million) and $73 million (£46 million). It also says that Egypt bought surface-to-air missiles from Russia and that Kuwait - Saddam's old enemy - wanted to buy Russian arms to the value of $1 billion. The Russians also informed Iraq that China had bought military aircraft from Russia and Israel at the end of 1999.

<--- Take them down, Bush, take them down! Two of three European veto powers are all here.

Bush told the whole world YOU ARE EITHER WITH US OR AGAINST US.

The invasion on Iraq says US can start a war without UN sanction.

You don't even need to give a damn to world pleas for peace.

You don't even need a reason to start a war.

Now, public opinion is working for the US. Polls say job approval is soring.

Daily Telegraph has been of great help. It followed up what it let off yesterday: It's time for Russia to choose our side in the Great Game

Together, London Times says Russia spied and helped Iraq. Fox News says so! Moscow Time says so! CNN says so!

Putin deserves a pre-emptive strike. Why stop short at Syria?

Hello, hello... What do you mean you say you cannot?

Sunday, April 13, 2003

Journalists report the news, not make the headlines

Harrowing day for the editor: "No story is worth your life"

UPDATE: Read Terence's first-person account: Bargain with God.

theSun deputy editor R. Nadeswaran rushed to his office before 8.00am yesterday. Unusual routine for him as it was a Sunday. His chief reporter Terence Fernandez has been abducted by militiamen in Baghdad the night before. He has many phonecalls to make. To get information, to seek help.

He told me last night: "It had been a harrowing day for me at the office, but nothing is more satisfying to note that our boy is still there, making me proud of being a journalist, his colleague, friend and confidante."

Picture above: SURVIVAL OF THE POWER TRIO...From left: Fernandez, Omar and Anuar. - Pix by Kamaruddin Ahmad (JMTM)

theSun doesn't have a website, so I transcribe in full what has been a torturing day for an editor:

Journalists report the news, not make the headlines

Dear readers,

IN his first e-mail from Amman in Jordan, chief reporter, Terence Fernandez wrote: From what I have been gathering from people here, I don't know if I am here to report the news or make the news.

Having read first-hand reports and having watched how journalists at the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad had been killed, he filed a report on the mood of the media crew gathered in Amman.

"Doesn't sound too good, but we are making arrangments to cross border later this eveing. Zero-two hundred-hours, Malaysian time," he said over the phone last Wednesday.

He was told in no uncertain terms: Safety comes before everything. No story is worth your life.

Within three days of stepping foot on Iraqi soil, he has done both - reported and made the news.

Dubious or otherwise, it is an honour which no journalist wants to be accorded, but the consolation is that he came out of a life-threatening situation to file a first-person account, which appears elsewhere on this page. (Read Terence's story on The Sun Pages 1 and 2 today).

It speaks volumes of his conviction, dedication and commitment to his chosen profession.

It also tells us of his courage - banging on the laptop, just hours after being led away with the barrel of a gun pointed to his head.

If he had an indication of what was to come, he did not hide it.

After going through a harrowing experience of being shot at by Iraqi bandits in Fanuja, about 100km from Baghdad on Thursday night, Terence filed his report with these words: "As the journey continued (towards Baghdad), the most weary from fear dozed off, waking up at every bump and sudden braking of the vehcile.

"I clutched the rosary given to me by my parish priest, Father Simon Laboooy so hard that it left imprints in my palms. When another checkpoint came up, all I could think of was: 'Why does a newly-married man take up an assignment such as this?'"

Yesterday evening, Terence answered his own question. Shortly after being released and escorted to his hotel room, he called the office.

"I will be filing a report - a first person account of what happened," he said over the telephone.

How long would it take?

"It will be there in an hour," was his prompt reply.

Speaking about the conditions in Baghdad, he said: "It's too dangerous out here. They (the Malaysian government officials) are trying to get us out of here."

But until he is taken out, our readers will continue to read his reports in this newspaper.

The Editor.

Now, go grab a copy of The Sun today. Front page headline:

Bargain with God
Our man relates his ordeal under a hail of bullets

I won't transcribe Terence's story so soon. I want you to get a copy of the paper (Seven Eleven, McDonald's etc), I want you to read his story and feel the trembles in your hands.

Terence almost paid his life to get you the news.

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Journalists released unharmed

Alhamdullillah. An AP story datedlined Kuala Lumpur and picked up by Washington Post at 3:15 AM EST (3.15pm Malaysia Time) has this good news:

Deputy PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced that abductors have released unharmed the three Malaysian Journalists - Terence Fernandez (picture), a reporter for The Sun, Anuar Hashim, a New Straits Times photographer, and Omar Salleh, a cameraman with Radio Television Malaysia (RTM).

They were sent to a Baghdad hospital, according to Zukri Valenteno Ali, a spokesman for the Malaysian media team speaking from Amman, Jordan.

Two doctors who have been helping to treat Iraqis - Jemilah Mahmood, president of the Malaysian Medical Relief Society, and Baba Deani - were wounded, but were recovering in a hospital.

The Malaysian doctors and journalists were attacked by gunmen while traveling in two vans early Saturday from the Sheraton Hotel in the Iraqi capital to a hospital. Washignton Post and San Jose Mercury News both say:

Baghdad has been swept by waves of looting and lawlessness since U.S. forces moved in and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's hold on the capital was shattered. The U.S. military and the Iraqis have agreed to joint patrols to restore order.

Abdullah said the remaining Malaysian journalists should leave Baghdad "if the situation is panicky." He urged the United States to "take the initiative" to rein in the chaos in Baghdad as soon as possible.

Bernama has dispatched a newsflash earlier. No other details were immediately available.

My earlier blogs are here and here.