Don’t allow another landslide tragedy to happen !


Image result for Tanjung Bungah landslide
Image result for Tanjung Bungah landslide
Image result for Tanjung Bungah landslide

Image result for Tanjung Bungah landslide

Image result for Tanjung Bungah landslide

 

STATE exco member Jagdeep Singh Deo should stop talking only of the 76m altitude restriction and also talk of 25-degree slope gradient restriction on hillside development.

According to The Star on Labour Day, state exco member Jagdeep Singh Deo wrote in his Facebook page: “I want everyone to get their facts right during this election campaign…”, and he went on to state that the Penang government did not approve projects on land more than 76m (250 ft) above sea level.

The Penang Structure Plan clearly states that sensitive hill land is defined not only as land over 76m above sea level but also slopes of more than 25 degrees; the development of such land is restricted to “special projects” only.

Any construction on slopes of more than 25 degree contravenes the second condition. Hillside development cannot be discussed only with reference to the altitude.

For slope stability, the higher the slope face and the steeper the angle, the higher the risk of slope failure.

While the previous Barisan Nasional government here approved many such hillside developments, the record of the present state government shows that more development on sensitive hillsides have been approved.

State exco member Chow Kon Yeow, in his reply to an enquiry in the State Assembly on November 2015, revealed that 56 high-rise towers have been approved on sensitive hill land between 2008 and end-2015.

In the case of the Tanjung Bungah landslide tragedy, DAP leaders claimed that the project was on flat land when it was evident that it was built on land that was once a slope and had been cut flat.

During the earthworks stage of that project, a 20m high, 60-degree angle slope was then formed at the boundary.

It was this slope that failed and buried 11 workers alive.

Under the Hillside Development Guidelines 2012, such a slope is classified as Class Three. Submission requirements include a geo-technical report by a geo-technical engineer and a geo-technical review report by an independent checker.

At present, another proposed project above the Miami Green Resort Condominium is on Class Four land (with slopes greater than 35 degrees) which is classified as “Environmentally Sensitive Areas with Disaster Risk”.

Under the draft Penang Structure Plan 2020, no form of development is allowed on such land.

A technical review of the site by Zeezy Global, a consulting firm, found that the proposed development is on a hill, on Lot 62, with height ranges from 40m to 140m above sea level.

Almost 50% of the slopes have a gradient of more than 25 degrees, and in some areas as steep as 40 to 50 degrees. Some parts of the area designated for construction are higher than 76m.

The project consists of two 34-storey towers of serviced apartments, each with 336 units, and a 20-storey “affordable housing” tower with 197 units.

Two retention ponds larger than an Olympic-sized pool with total capacity of 5.2 millon litres on the hill are planned to cater to expected high surface run-offs during and after construction.

The existence of such a huge mass of water poses potential risks to residents if the slopes de-stabilise during or after construction, particularly if monitoring, maintenance and enforcement are weak.

Existing gunite slopes in Miami Green are not designed for additional loading.

With the new project, exertion of loads at the upper slopes could endanger the residents.

The disturbance from the construction could affect the integrity of the existing slope. No assurance has been made regarding risks of landslides or slope failures during and after construction.

In light of the Tanjung Bungah tragedy, lessons must be learned. If the local and state authorities do not have the technical capacity to implement, monitor and enforce the present hillside guidelines, a moratorium on hillside development should be imposed until such time that this problem is resolved.

The public should not be put at risk anymore. Eleven lives were lost and hopefully not in vain.

By Dr Lim Mah Hui Former Penang Island City councillor
Dr Lim says hillside development cannot be discussed only with reference to the altitude

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Penang govt rapped over hill slope development


FMT – GEORGE TOWN: The Penang Forum has repeated its call for all hillslope development to be stopped immediately, following deadly hillslope collapse ...
Geotechnical engineer Aziz Noor says the new project puts the people and the place in danger

 

Engineer: Lives at risk in Penang hill project

 

GEORGE TOWN: The DAP-led state government has turned a blind eye on the imminent danger of hill slope development, said a Tanjung Bungah resident.

At a forum-cum-press conference yesterday, geotechnical consultant Aziz Noor (pic) said building the proposed multi-storey mixed development behind the Miami Green Resort Condominium would pose a danger to the condo and its residents.

The development which has been approved on the class four hill, comprises five 29-storey building blocks, two 34-storey serviced apartments with 336 units each and one block of affordable apartments with 197 units.

Meanwhile, former Bukit Bendera MP Zairil Khir Johari, who is the Tanjong Bungah candidate for Pakatan Harapan, said the state government would review the guidelines on hill slope development. – Bernama

 


GEORGE TOWN: An engineer has sounded a warning about “imminent danger” from a new hillside development of eight tower blocks of apartments planned in an environmentally-sensitive area of Tanjung Bungah.

Geotechnical consultant Aziz Noor, speaking at a forum-cum-press conference today, accused the DAP-led state government of turning a blind eye on the imminent danger of hill slope development.

The proposed mixed development behind Miami Green Resort condominium puts the existing residence and its people in danger, he said.

The development has been approved on a 12-acre plot with a 35-degree slope on a Class Four hill, which exceeds 250 feet above sea level.

It comprises five 29-storey tower blocks, two 34-storey blocks of 336 serviced apartments each, and one block of 197 units of affordable apartments.

Aziz said that the project was not only in an environmentally sensitive area, it also contradicts the 2007 Penang Structure Plan that forbid any development above a gradient of 25-degree gradient and 250 feet above sea-level.

The design of one development does not guarantee safety. A Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment must be conducted and reviewed. This development puts the place and people in imminent danger,” he said.

Residents of the area said they had vented their frustration multiple times since November but had not received any response from the state government and Penang Island City Council.

The residents, together with the Tanjung Bunga residents association, had spoken on the matter many times, but no one seemed bothered, said one of the residents, Lim Liew Ming.

“Our lives are at risk. The upcoming development is a ticking time-bomb. Are the authorities waiting for a tragedy to happen, and only then act on it?,” she asked.

State Barisan Nasional chairman Teng Chang Yeow, who is also BN candidate for the Tanjong Bunga state seat in the general election, said the project should have been shelved from the beginning.

“We will put a stop to this. Even if we need to pay compensation,” he said.

The Barisan Nasional has pledged to declare all highland and hill slope areas of 250 feet above sea-level as permanent forest reserve.

Former Bukit Bendera MP Zairil Khir Johari, who is the Pakatan Harapan candidate for Tanjong Bunga, said the state government would review the guidelines on hill slope development.

Source:FMT.Click here to get live updates throughout the GE14 season

 

GEORGE TOWN: An MCA state leader has criticised Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng over the latter’s statement that more stop-work orders have been issued against hillside development by the current state government.

State MCA Wanita chairman Tan Cheng Liang said Lim, who is also the DAP secretary-general, had “conveniently avoided” revealing the increase in number of protests in the state since 2008.

“He boasts about more stop-work orders being issued now compared to when Barisan Nasional was helming the state government.

“However, he failed to reveal that there have been more protests by Penangites against hillside development since Pakatan Rakyat took over.

“The latest is the chorus of dissatisfaction by residents of Mount Pleasure in Batu Ferringhi, objecting against approval accorded by the Penang Municipal Council (MPPP) for the construction of 21 four-storey villas and 80 two-storey bungalows there,” she said.

She said the 2008 DAP general election manifesto unveiled by Lim promised to “preserve our forest, wetlands and bio-diversity” while Pakatan Rakyat’s common policy framework stressed that the “environment must be preserved for the sustainability of future generations.”

“Just six weeks ago, Lim said in a speech that the Pakatan government was proud of its record of not approving any hillside development.

“However, the voices of disapproval by Penangites are evidence that Lim, the DAP and Pakatan are deceptive,” she claimed.

Citing examples, she said on April 8 this year, Sungai Ara residents protested against approval issued by MPPP Planning Department for two hillside development projects and in February 2009, Tanjung Bungah residents protested and submitted a memorandum calling on the state government to ban all current and future Class III and Class IV hillslope development projects.

“In view of these protests and to deliver the DAP and Pakatan’s pledge to protect the environment, I challenge Lim and the state government to issue a stop-work orders against all hillside development projects approved by MPPP,” she said in a press release yesterday.

Tan also took a swipe at Lim for focusing on luxury residences but allegedly had no regard for the poor.

“Approvals are given for exclusive housing and condominium projects on hills, but scant attention is given to low-cost housing for the poor where no low or medium cost units were constructed between 2008 to 2011,” she claimed.

On Tuesday, Lim said more stop-work orders had been issued by both local councils since 2008 compared to previously.

He said this proved that the state government was “more stringent in upholding the rule of law, demanding strict compliance with technical requirements and more unforgiving than Barisan.” – The Star

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What parents need to know about VR ?


The hottest tech in videogames is virtual reality. Find out its potential effects on kids before buying a headset.

 

VR can make you think and feel things you know aren’t real. —Dreamstime/TNS
EVERYONE who’s tried it agrees: virtual reality is mind-blowing. Once you strap on that headset, you truly believe you’re strolling on a Parisian street, careening on a roller coaster, or immersed in the human body exploring the inner workings of the oesophagus.

But for all its coolness – and its potential uses, from education to medicine – not a lot is known about how VR affects kids. Common sense Media’s new report, Virtual Reality 101: What You Need to Know About Kids and VR, co-authored by the founding director of stanford University’s virtual Human Interaction Lab, offers a first-of-its-kind overview of the expanding uses for the technology and its potential effects on kids.

Now that VR devices from inexpensive viewers to game consoles to full-scale gaming arcades are finally here – with lots more coming soon – it’s a good idea to start thinking about how to manage VR when it comes knocking at your door.

VR can make you think and feel things you know aren’t real. Other media can give you the sense of “being there” – what’s called psychological presence – but not to the extent that VR can. This unique ability is what makes it so important to understand more about the short- and long-term effects of the technology on kids. Here are some of the key findings from the report.

Even though we don’t yet have all the answers to how vR affects kids, we know enough to consider some pros and cons. And whether kids are using vR through a mobile device like Google Cardboard, on a console like the Playstation vR, on a fully tricked-out desktop rig like the Oculus Rift, or at a mall arcade, these guidelines can help you keep any vR experience your kids have safe and fun.

Pay attention to age ratings. Check the recommended age on the headset package and don’t let younger kids use products designed for older kids. The minimum age isn’t based on medical proof of adverse effects on the brain and vision, but it’s the manufacturer’s best guess as to who the product is safest for.

Choose games wisely. Because the vR game experience can be more intense than that of regular games, it’s even more important to check reviews to make sure the gameplay, the content and the subject matter are appropriate for your kid.

Keep it safe. A few precautions: Once you have the goggles on, orient yourself to the room by touching the walls; stick to short sessions until you know how you’re affected by vR; stay seated if possible; move furniture out of the way; and have a second person as a spotter.

Pay attention to feelings – both physical and emotional. If you’re feeling sick to your stomach, dizzy, drained, or sad, angry, or anxious – give it a rest for a while.

Talk about experiences. since vR feels so real, it’s an excellent time to talk through what your kid has experienced in a game. Ask what it felt like, what the differences are between vR and regular games, and how vR helps you connect to other people’s experiences by putting you in someone else’s shoes.

Find opportunities; avoid pitfalls. Don’t let your kids play vR games that mimic experiences you wouldn’t want them to have in real life, such as using violent weapons. On the other hand, take advantage of vR that exposes kids to things they wouldn’t normally get to see, feel, and learn, such as visiting a foreign country.

Keep privacy in mind. Devices that can track your movements – including eye movements – could store that data for purposes that haven’t yet been invented. — Common sense Media/Tribune news service.

Star2 Technology  by Caroline Knorr

BLOCKCHAIN beyond Bitcoin


Blockchain is beginning to enter the spotlight as organisations see uses for it over and above the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. From combating fake degrees to being able to track the origin of organic products, blockchain is proving to be a reliable solution in trust.

The underlying technology that powers cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and ethereum is blockchain.

Creating trust in transactions Varanasi: Blockchain can be used to store verified documents so that users don’t have to keep validating important documents every time it’s submitted to a new party.

While blockchain was confined to finanin cial tech the early days, many organisations are starting to employ it in other industries because the technology is highly secure and even allows for transparency.

This encourages trust and in some cases even eliminates the need for a third party to validate the data, making it valuable to many organisations.

WITH fake doctorates and degrees becoming increasingly common, how are employers and graduates to find an efficient way to bridge the gap in trust?

According to Dr Mohamed Ariff Ameedeen, from University Malaysia Pahang (UMP), the solution could lie with blockchain technology.

As director of IBM’s Centre of excellence, which has been based in the university since 2012, he is continuously exploring novel uses for blockchain beyond cryptocurrency.

he said one of the early ideas the team was working on was a secure database that would prevent students from hacking to change their grades.

however, his team then decided to solve a more pressing issue affecting universities – fake degrees.

Mohamed Ariff said some universities are already integrating QR codes into graduates’ certificates to help validate credentials. however, even QR codes are now easily tampered with.

Taking it one step further, the UMP team created a system called Valid8, a QR code linked to a student profile secured by blockchain, which contains the student’s name, photo, title of degree and the year it was awarded.

This made tampering with the QR code pointless, as it only acted as a key to the information on the blockchain.

“even if someone used another person’s QR code, the data would clearly show it was not the person’s name or photo connected to the certificate,” he said.

he added that all the info placed on the blockchain is already publicly available so it would not compromise the students’ privacy.

Mohamed Ariff said making the data trustworthy meant time savings – as employers don’t have to contact the university to verify the certificate, they can be quicker in deciding if they should hire the job applicant.

So far, UMP has run a pilot programme with Valid8 by issuing supplementary certificates to 180 graduates from the industrial Management Faculty.

Mohamed Ariff said it took a couple of days to configure the blockchain node and a few more days to input the 180 students’ data.

“Although entering the information is relatively straightforward, migrating 15 years of old data (of earlier graduates) that includes more than just the initial four data points is going to take a bit longer,” he said.

The full-scale test for Valid8 will be the students graduating at the year-end convocation, estimated to be around 2,000.

To make the student profiles more useful, Mohamed Ariff said the team is planning to add more information such as grades, attendance, courses and maybe even disciplinary records.

“The beauty of blockchain is that it can grow with time and track a student’s academic life. imagine how much data it would have if a profile was set up for students when they entered kindergarten,” he said.

To encourage such a situation, UMP is open to collaborating with other universities that wanted to adopt blockchain for student iDs.

however, eduValue founder Barry Ew Yong warned that even a secured system has an obvious point of failure – human error.

he added that once errors entered the system there is a chance that it will be perpetuated. “Technology does not increase trust. Systems increase trust, though technology can be a useful tool to do so,” he said.

Like with UMP’s Valid8, the quality assurance startup has adopted blockchain to secure graduate certificates, using the technology to store a softcopy of the degree.

The company serves around 30 private schools, mostly tertiary schools offering up to Masters. Founded in Singapore in December 2012, it only just started employing blockchain.

he said the company uses a two stage system to ensure that only qualified students would be given certificates.

in the first stage it will help set up the standard by which students will be evaluated in order for them to graduate, and the approval process will be audited – schools found lacking will be struck off the system.

in the second stage it will vet all data being uploaded to the platform.

For UMP this is just a start – it’s also testing a blockchain based e-wallet called Xchain that students, lecturers, staff and vendors would eventually use for all transactions in UMP.

Beyond the security benefits, Mohamed Ariff said the open-nature of blockchain’s shared ledger meant the spending patterns could be analysed, making the university a giant data pool.

“With a population of 13,000 users, there’s a lot of potential data. And as a university, we love data,” he said.

Xchain is still in beta as the team is waiting to get Bank Negara to issue it an e-wallet license.

Mohamed Ariff concluded that blockchain is promising, especially for the education field, which relies on data that is open to peer review while also being trustworthy and tamper-evident.

ACADEMICIAN hu Dong, who advises Shanghai Jiaotong University’s Zero Bay incubator, said the supply chain industry could see huge advantages by having a more efficient and transparent data manto agement system.

Blockchain can be used track a product’s origin and determine if the materials were sourced as claimed, which is invaluable to sectors such as organic farming and ethical diamond mining. Also, by tracking the product’s trail along each stop on the supply chain, should an issue arise that requires a product to be recalled, the company could zero in on where the fault occurred.

For example, if a company found that the computer it’s making has a faulty hard drive, it would be able to identify which one of its factories was responsible. it then only needs to recall the computers that originated from the affected factory instead of all its products.

This would save cost as the recall will be smaller

and speed up the process which could help limit damage to the company’s reputation.

Dong, who was in Malaysia for a conference by blockchain incubator WeMerge, said the highlight of blockchain is accountability and transparency so it would create a higher degree of trust, which makes it great for smart contracts.

A smart contract can digitally facilitate, verify, or enforce the performance of a contract without the need for third parties. And if executed via blockchain, the transactions are trackable and irreversible.

He said smart contracts could ensure factories, for instance, get paid faster, as the payment can be released once the contract is verified through the blockchain instead of waiting for a third-party to process it.

Startup Eximchain, which has raised US$20mil (rM78.41mil) in funding to continue developing blockchain solutions, is offering Smart Contracts.

Its solution allows banks to verify the validity of orders and provide the necessary financing; and the transaction history can be used by suppliers to prove their reliability to buyers and rating institutions. For banker turned blockchain technologist Bobby Varanasi, limiting the technology’s application to Bitcoin is just shortsighted.

The co-founder of Thynkblynk Technologies, along with partner Parag Jain, have developed ChainTrail, a “trust platform” for storing verified documents, including education certificates, medical records and contracts.

By using ChainTrail, you don’t have to keep verifying a document each time it’s presented to a new party.

However, Varanasi said the company was not in the business of certification and that the onus was on the data provider, be it a university or bank, to ensure that the data is correct.

“A lie, once committed to blockchain, would become an immutable one,” said Jain, referring to how data can only be added but not modified on a blockchain.

To mitigate such risks, ChainTrail vets customers by validating their credentials and ensuring that they are authorised to represent stakeholders.

For instance, it would verify that a lecturer is from the university he or she claims to represent.

It also offers templates for agreements such as contracts and term sheets.

“In today’s world, lack of trust is increasingly permeating the world of trade, both politically and financially… blockchain as a tech has finally presented an opportunity to create trust amongst a variety of parties that transact with each other,” said Varanasi.

Chain of trust:

 

Built for cryptocurrency Bitcoin, blockchain is being used in innovative ways in a number of industries.

  

Basics of blockchain

LIKE a lot of complex technologies, blockchain is easier to understand once you break it down.

A blockchain is made up of a block of “transaction data” which is why it’s also called a ledger. Each block also has a hash – a string of numbers which uniquely identifies the block.

And similar to how a person has their parent’s names added to theirs, a block features a portion of the preceding block’s hash.

Put in terms of family lines, it’s like how you could tell that Amir bin Ali is the son of Ali bin Abu, who is in turn the son of Abu bin Bakar, and so on.

Basically, the hash “chains” the blocks together, by affirming their place in relation to the blocks before and after, hence the term blockchain.

Security in numbers

A key feature of blockchain is security. Blockchain runs on the paraphrased adage that you can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all the people all the time.

So rather than making it tamper-proof, blockchain is tamper-evident – this is done by making a copy of the blockchain available to all members of the network, which is why blockchain is sometimes referred to as a public ledger.

As members of the network all have a copy of the same blockchain, if anyone’s chain is compromised by a hacker, it would look different from others.

If you have ever tried to organise a movie night with an extended group of friends on a WhatsApp group, you’ll get the idea.

Say, you want to watch Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War and get the ball rolling by choosing the day and cinema, and then ask whoever that’s interested to add their names to the list.

The original message can’t be altered as it has been sent to the group. Instead everyone adds to the data by including their names and maybe a request for a specific timeslot. This concept is called “persistence”, wherein the older data cannot be retroactively altered.

Though a cheeky friend could change the date to try to troll the group, he wouldn’t be able to hide the fact that earlier messages will show a different date. This is what makes a public ledger like the blockchain tamper-evident.

Blockchain transaction

The blockchain is stored on computers, also known as nodes, that are connected via a peer-to-peer network.

Related posts:

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5,000 Malaysians are illegals in South Korea, lured by higher pay, living underground !


A tough life: Malaysians seen working at a vegetable farm near Seoul. 

SEOUL: An estimated 5,000 Malay­sians are working and staying illegally in South Korea, with the less fortunate ones forced to live like refugees and always on the run from the authorities.

Lured by job advertisements that claimed they could make money hand over fist in the land of K-pop and Descendants of the Sun, they paid recruitment agents thousands of ringgit in fees and entered the country on tourist visas.

Unfortunately, many of them have been left in dire straits after finding out that reality did not match up with the promises.

Star Media Group’s Bahasa Malaysia news portal mStar Online sent a team to South Korea to look into their plight and found many of these Malaysians stranded and destitute.
These 5,000, based on figures that volunteer aid workers pieced together from Malaysians and recruitment agents, are part of an estimated 251,000 illegal foreign workers in the country as reported by The Korea Herald.

Their problems, first highlighted by the portal in a series of special reports in association with The Korea Herald in January, ranged from suffering permanent disability after workplace accidents to being left broke and homeless when they were fired by their employers.

Among the locations the team visited were Itaewon in the central region and Daeso and Muguk in Eumseoung district, about 80km from Seoul.

A Malaysian who wanted to be known only as Farhan said he and two of his friends have been homeless for more than two months since they were fired without pay after working at a seaweed processing company for just one week.

“I was fired because I came down with fever a week after starting work. We have to rely on our friends for food,” he said, adding that sometimes they only had biscuits to eat.

The 24-year-old said that on weekends, they would sleep at the Seoul Central Mosque, while on weekdays, they would stay at a friend’s house.

Visiting the mosque, the mStar Online team found several bags in the corridors, believed to belong to the foreign workers who sleep there.

Another Malaysian, who did not want to be named, said she had to live in one house with 18 others.

The woman, who works on an onion and sweet potato farm, said the house is so overcrowded that some of them have to sleep in front of the toilet or on the kitchen floor.

She and her housemates said there had been cases of Malaysians being physically abused if they did not work fast enough.

Their story was echoed by others the team interviewed, as well as those who came forward in the earlier reports in January, and because of their illegal status, they are often exploited, made to work long hours without rest and barred from talking to their colleagues.

The risk of accidents is also great because they are seldom given briefings or safety equipment and protective gear.

After such hardship, their labour sometimes even goes unrewarded because of employers who, taking advantage of their workers’ illegal status, hold back their pay in the belief that they would not dare report it to the authorities.

As a result, many suffer in silence for fear of being detained by the authorities, and are ignorant of their rights as workers.

Winter in South Korea will come to an end later this month. Without money, shelter or a way home, these stranded Malaysians can only wait it out, and hope for new job opportunities that will be available in the spring.

Source: The Star by nadia shaiful bahari

Malaysian workers ‘living underground’ 

Some of them are forced to live on the streets.

SEOUL: The 5,000 Malaysians working and staying illegally in South Korea may be grouped into six categories, based on the findings of the mStar Online team that visited South Korea and spoke to some of those affected.

The lucky ones

These are the “successful” ones who entered the country on tourist visas, have the funds to return home or travel to other countries after these visas expire. They then return to South Korea on new tourist visas and take up jobs here again.

Those in this category are considered fortunate because they have responsible employers who pay them as promised. They have also managed to evade the authorities.

Those who overstay

There are also Malaysians who took the risk of overstaying. They are either working or waiting for other job opportunities. They can get by as long as they are not caught or face workplace issues such as accidents or exploitation by their employers.

Generally, it can be said that those who belong to the first two groups managed to realise their dream, have a place to stay, and are living comfortably in a foreign land.


• The unemployed and homeless

On the other hand, there are those who have been made homeless and forced to sleep in mosques or rely on the kindness of friends.

Their situation is caused by several factors: they may have been cheated by recruitment agents, had their salaries withheld, or had their contracts terminated, leaving them with nowhere to live and no funds to return to Malaysia.

• Waiting for spring

Job opportunities drop considerably during winter. Those without work are forced to endure the cold and wait for spring, which brings more job openings with it.

Those who have the money would not find the winter months a problem, but the unemployed have to depend on others for food and shelter.


• Accident victims

There are also those who overstay because of workplace accidents. They have to remain behind while waiting for their cases to be heard at the Labour Office so that they can claim compensation from their employers.


• Those on medical visas

Some of those hurt in workplace accidents are fortunate enough to be granted medical visas by the authorities, enabling them to stay in South Korea until their treatment is completed.

The specific reasons for not returning home vary from one individual to the next. Some may be victims of circumstance, while others are just determined to achieve their goals and earn as much as they can before coming back.

And with each new job opportunity that comes along, a new set of risks and hazards arises.

Malaysians lured by higher pay

Getting the story: Nadia speaking to an agent about the risks of illegal employment in South Korea.
Getting the story: Nadia speaking to an agent about the risks of illegal employment in South Korea.

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysians who brave the perils of working and staying illegally in South Korea do so because of monthly salaries advertised in the range of RM6,000 to RM12,000.

In fact, recruitment agents say, they choose to go even after being told of the risks involved.

It is estimated that as many as 5,000 Malaysians have gone there since 2016, to work in factories producing kimchi, cosmetics, calendars, furniture, auto spare parts and aluminium, among other items.

When the big pay they expected does not materialise, usually because of workplace accidents or exploitation by unscrupulous employers, they often find themselves homeless and broke.

An mStar Online team probing their plight spoke to one agent who said about 800 Malaysians had used his services last year alone.

The agent, who asked to be known only as Nasir, said he charged each customer RM2,800.

The amount covers securing the job, a return air ticket and a South Korean job agency’s fees.

According to The Korea Herald, there are about 251,000 illegal workers from various countries working in South Korea.

This group is highly exposed to occupational hazards and is at risk of being duped or exploited by employers because of their immigration status.

Local agents as well as aid volunteers in Seoul said Malaysians made up about 5,000 of the overall figure.

Taufik, another agent, said he knew of about 20 others who were in the same line.

“I personally handled trips for almost 100 Malaysians to South Korea since 2016,” he added.

He said not all agents were responsible enough to inform their clients of the risks.

Taufik said he was honest in his dealings and made sure those who used his services were fully aware of the risks they faced as illegals working in South Korea.

However, he was surprised to see that all these potential problems did not deter a single one of his clients from going to South Korea, which reportedly had the highest household income in Asia.

“There are agents who do not give clear information, but I tell my customers about the real situation and ask them to think carefully before going.

“Among the most important things they must have is a strong spirit.

“This is just my side job. I have my own business. I don’t depend on their money,” he told mStar Online.

Taufik claimed he only pocketed RM500 to RM600 of the RM2,500 fee he charged clients.

Based on surveys and from talking to agents and their clients, the team learned that an agent stood to make up to RM15,000 for every batch of recruits – ranging from 10 to 30 per group – sent to South Korea.

Another agent, Azhar, said it was easy to get through immigration checks there as the job seekers posed as tourists.

To prove they were just visiting, Azhar said he would provide them with fake return tickets to show to South Korean immigration officials.

His package, priced at RM2,500, includes one night’s accommodation, a prepaid T-Money payment card, job arrangement charges and transport to the workplace.

Source:Star by nadia shaiful bahari

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Penang govt shocked at payment of RM22m to Datuk Seri to cover-up alleged corruption in undersea tunnel project.


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//players.brightcove.net/4405352761001/default_default/index.html?videoId=5742093581001

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang state government is shocked at claims that RM22mil was paid to two individuals to cover up investigations into alleged corruption in Penang’s undersea tunnel project – and wants the developer consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd (CZC) to come clean on the matter.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the state government was shocked by news that CZC allegedly paid RM19mil to an unnamed businessman and RM3mil to Baling MP Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim.

“This is something we had no knowledge of,” he said.

Lim was referring to the remand of a high-profile “Datuk Seri” for allegedly receiving RM19mil to close the corruption probe into the controversial RM6.34bil Penang undersea tunnel project.

An online news portal, quoting sources, has also reported that CZC has issued a demand letter on Feb 24 to Abdul Azeez.

The portal also reported that CZC was planning to sue Abdul Azeez and the businessman for allegedly failing to execute their tasks. – The Star

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Bitcoin: Utter pipedream


No intrinsic value: Unlike enterprises, bitcoin has no business, no intrinsic value, no cash flows and no balance sheet. — AFP

I JUST returned from a meeting of the Asian Shadow Financial Regulatory Committee in Bangkok.

The group comprises Asian academic experts on economics and finance. Their role is to monitor the state of the world economy and the workings of its financial markets in the light of existing and prospective policies; and draw lessons and give advice on vital public policy issues of current interest to regulators and market practitioners to make the world a better place.

The group comprises 23 professors from 14 countries, coming from a diverse group of universities and think-tanks, including the universities of Sydney and Monash, and of Fudan, Hong Kong and Sun-Yat-Sen in China, Universitas Indonesia, universities of Tokyo and Hitotsubashi, Yonsei and Korea universities, Sunway University, Massey University in New Zealand, University of the Philippines, Singapore Management University, National Taiwan University, Chulalongkorn University and NIDA Business School, University of Hawaii and University of California at Davis, University of Vietnam, and Tilburg University in the Netherlands.

They examined key issues surrounding the theme: “Cryptocurrencies: Quo Vadis?” focusing on the role and activities of the flavour of the month, bitcoin. At the end of it all, they issued the following statement:

“Cryptocurrencies in general, and bitcoin, in particular, have been receiving considerable press of late, driven mainly by wide swings in value in the cryptocurrency exchanges. There are now in excess of 2,500 products considered to be cryptocurrencies and in the last three weeks alone their combined market value has plummeted from US$830bil to US$545bil as of today, of which US$215bil is attributed to bitcoin and bitcoin cash.

To keep this in perspective, however, Apple Inc has a market value of US$880bil as of today. Market value measures the equity value of a business – or what investors are willing to pay for its future profits. Unlike enterprises, however, bitcoin has no business, no intrinsic value, no cash flows, no profit and loss statement, and no balance sheet. It is a speculative instrument.

Cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin, are not considered currency today because they are not a universal means of payment, nor a stable store of value, nor a reliable unit of account. Buyers purchase on the basis that these cryptocurrencies would rise in value. While market value has been the main focus of the current interest, the more important issues are around the role of cryptocurrencies both as financial assets, and the role they can play in transaction settlements, and their implications, if any, on financial stability.

While there is much interest in cryptocurrencies, especially bitcoin, the volume of transactions remains very small currently. For example, total US dollars (cash) in circulation amount to US$1.6 trillion as of today. M3 (broad money) is valued by the Federal Reserve at US$14 trillion. Total US economy assets in 2016 were valued at US$220 trillion. So why the fascination with cryptocurrencies? Supporters of Bitcoin claim it to be a superior store of value to fiat money issued by central banks because its supply is limited by design and therefore cannot be debased. In addition, the technology behind bitcoin, called the Blockchain, provides anonymity to its players. That is why it is a favourite with money launderers, tax evaders, terrorists, drug smuggler, hackers, and anyone who wants to evade the rule of law. Many people who use cryptocurrencies assert that they pay minimal transaction costs mainly because it avoids the cost of financial intermediation.

Still, there is large potential for capital gains because of the wide volatility of its price movement. This is the main driving force behind the popularity of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. However, there are high risks involved including extreme volatility and opaque, unregulated exchanges that are prone to cyberattacks.

Authorities and regulators worry about bitcoin because they fear it is a bubble. In the event of a bust, investors in bitcoin – they are many, spread over various continents and countries – will be hurt; and they exert pressure on governments to regulate this business in order to protect investors.

In addition, they worry about the impact – in the event that cryptocurrency trading becomes a significant element in maintaining financial stability – in terms of the impact on the transmission of monetary policy and on its effects on the banking system, and most of all, on systemic risk, if any.

Authorities have responded in different way. In South Korea, new regulations today require banks and exchanges to identify who their customers are, imposing greater transparency in the conduct of the cryptocurrency business. On the other hand, Japanese authorities are more liberal. They only require the registration of companies engaged in this business at this time.

Many other authorities, including those in the US, are adopting a wait-and-see attitude while studying the issues, recognising that there may be a role for them to introduce some regulatory measures in the event that the volume and price volatility of cryptocurrency transactions become more and more significant.

In the meantime, government and tax authorities feel uneasy about the impact on revenue collection. Other regulators are worried about crowdfunding through ICOs (initial coin offers). Authorities in a number of countries, including the US, have introduced measures to regulate the issue of new ICOs to ensure that investors are provided with the necessary information before making such investments.

At the same time, central banks in many countries are looking into the desirability and possibility of issuing their own digital currencies, including to counter privately-issued cryptocurrencies.

Recommendations:

1. Bitcoin came into prominence because of an apparent lack of confidence in fiat currency. It is imperative that governments and central banks continue to give priority to (i) protecting the integrity of their currencies; (ii) designing policies to contain inflation to prevent it from debasing the currency; and (iii) strengthening their mandate to promote financial stability over financial development, if needed (including ensure fintech development does not undermine confidence). Also, in cases where authorities do not have the power to regulate the cryptocurrency business, they should actively seek such authority where appropriate.

2. Monetary authorities should be open to creating digital currencies rather than confining their money supply to notes, coins and deposits. But they should do so in a transparent manner and only after careful consultation and study.

3. It is the role of government to warn their citizens and investors about the high risk involved, and ensure transparency in bitcoin activity, and not to unduly introduce more and more regulations that will stifle innovative initiatives. Blockchain technology, for example, does have other useful applications apart from the issue of its use in the creation of digital currency.

Investor protection

As we see today, bitcoin and the other cryptocurrencies are not currencies. Mostly, they reflect speculative activity. Hence, investing and transacting in them involve high risks. It is imperative that investors realise this and approach investing in cryptocurrencies with great caution and with as much information as is available to help them manage these risks.

Investors must fully understand that cryptocurrency prices need not necessarily always rise, particularly because they have no intrinsic value, they could just as easily fall. So investors beware: Caveat emptor.”

Update

The following developments are noteworthy:

> Columbia’s Prof N. Roubini (Dr Doom) claims bitcoin is not a currency. Few price anything in bitcoin. Not many retailers accept it (even bitcoin conferences don’t accept it as payment). And it’s a poor store of value because its price can fluctuate 20%-30% a day. Worse, he labelled it “the mother of all bubbles” because its claim of a steady-state supply is “fraudulent”.

It has already created thee similar currencies: Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin and Bitcoin Gold. Together with the hundreds of such other currencies invented daily, this creation of money supply is debasing the currency at a much faster pace than any major central banks ever did. Furthermore, bitcoin’s claimed advantage is also its Achilles’s heel – for, even if it actually did have a steady supply of 21 million units, it is not a viable currency because the supply won’t track potential nominal GDP growth; hence, prices will become deflationary – the kind of phenomenon that economist Irving Fisher believed caused the Great Depression.

Indeed, the head of the European Central Bank had since declared to the European Parliament that cryptocurrencies are unregulated and “very risky assets. Their price is entirely speculative”. That’s not what we want or need. It’s a pity the FOMO (fear of missing out) of many retail investors will end them in a wild goose ride!

> Over its nine-year history, bitcoin has had five-peak-to-trough falls of more than 70% each. The recent decline offers a dose of reality to new investors – bitcoin dropped to a low US$7,850 on Feb 2 for the first time since November 2017 – crashing 60% from the high of nearly US$20,000 in mid-December. Sentiment has shifted dramatically this year.

On Feb 5, it fell another 4% to US$7,524. Also, the fledging market has taken a number of blows: Facebook has since banned advertisements on it (for being misleading); US Securities and Exchange Commission has accused some latest ICOs as “outright scams”; US and UK largest banks have put up “road-blocks” to financing bitcoins; and the recent Japanese hack theft of 523 million crypto-XEM (worth US$500mil) brought back memories of Mt Gox, which collapsed after a similar hack in 2014.

> Arbitrage traders (buying where it’s cheap and reselling where it is dear) have been active – taking advantage of price differentials in multiple places and different times. They call it “capturing the arb”. Hedge funds, high frequency traders and even amateur enthusiasts are giving it a shot. Price divergences can be due to glitches or network traffic jams. In South Korea, exchanges quote abnormally wide prices reflecting high investors’ demand for bitcoin in the face of strict capital controls – giving rise to a “Kimchi premium” (of as high as 50% above US price; now down to 5% as price disparities are swiftly traded away).

> Concern over cryptocurrency activity is spreading beyond China, Japan, South Korea and India. This prompted the governor of the Bank of England, who also chairs the Global Financial Stability Board, to voice his unease over the anonymity embedded in blockchain technology underlying their use, especially for illicit activity (including money laundering). He disclosed that it would be on the agenda at the next G20 meeting. Tax authorities have also expressed concern over the under-reporting of capital gains tax.

> Bitcoin futures trading on Chicago’s CME and CBoE exchanges have been slow to catch fire – at the pace of a “slow walk”.

What then, are we to do

Reality check: Bitcoin is proving that cryptocurrencies can erase wealth as fast as they create it. In January 2018 alone, it wiped off US$45bil from its US$200bil in market value generated in all of 2017 – the biggest one-month loss in US dollar terms in its short history. Since then, more value is being lost. For most economists and finance experts, they don’t represent an investable asset – there are liquidity issues, safety issues, exchange issues; most of all, they have no intrinsic value.

Can’t realistically put a fix on their fair value. They are for speculators who are prepared to lose everything. Of course, its something else for those who use them for illicit activity (home to criminals and terrorists), including money laundering. Anonymity means you are potentially closing a chain, while at somewhere along it had some illicit activity that cannot see the light of day.

Fair enough, these concern regulators. But we shouldn’t lose sight of the huge range of opportunities presented by the underlying technology – a view shared by many in relation to raising the efficiency of payment systems. Regulators are right to want to regulate crypto but also, continue to encourage innovation on blockchain. As I see it, so far in 2018, bitcoin has been a total dud. The list of factors driving its decline is growing, especially rising regulatory clampdown occurring around the world.

So, the cryptocurrency market has fallen on tougher times. For sure, Bitcoin has been highly profitable for many investors. Indeed, there continues to be strong interest among millennials.

Bottom line: the year so far has been terrible for bitcoin. But the fundamental positive story for crypto appears to remain intact. Protecting consumers should make it harder for charlatans to sell digital dust. There is a point where it goes from “buying on the dip” to “catching a falling knife”. Only time will tell. So, beware!

NB: Following global regulatory crackdown, bitcoin’s price has on Feb 6 fallen to a low of US$5,947, wiping out over US$200bil so far this year. Bitcoin’s market cap is now US$109bil, about one-third of the total crypto market (that’s down from 85% this time last year). The Bank for International Settlements (banker to central banks) has now condemned bitcoin as “a combination of a bubble, a Ponzi scheme and an environmental disaster” (refers to huge amounts of electricity used to create it) and warns it can even become a “threat to financial stability”.

By Lin See-yan – what are we to do?

Former banker Tan Sri Lin See-Yan is the author of The Global Economy in Turbulent Times (Wiley, 2015) and Turbulence in Trying Times (Pearson, 2017). Feedback is most welcome.

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