Malaysian talent lost due to racial bigotry


Leng Siew Yeap

Leng Siew Yeap, a Malaysian, a graduate of UMS applied for a scholarship to do a doctorate degree but was refused outright by the local govt.

She was however offered scholarships by University of Edinburgh, London University and Cambridge University. She chose Cambridge University’s Dorothy Hodgkin postgraduate award to study stem cell.

On graduation she accepted the offer from Harvard to study human immunology. She is now working in research for a Shanghai university hospital.

She has successfully helped to create an method/procedure 4 the body to secrete
an antibody to fight HIV. She is now married to a Shanghai citizen, living and working in Shanghai. She and her achievements are never mentioned in any Malaysia newspaper.

View Full Profile – Shanghai Institute of Immunology

 

 

Shanghai Institute of Immunology, Shanghai Jiao Tong University
School of Medicine, China.
Research Interests

Our body is constantly attacked by pathogens. To fight against various pathogens, B cells produce a large antibody repertoire through different processes that involve genomic DNA alterations. During B cell development, a DNA cut and paste mechanism called V(D)J recombination generates a primary antibody repertoire by producing V(D)J exons that
are made up of combinations of different V, D and J segments. Upon activation by pathogens, mature B cells undergo secondary antibody diversification, whereby Somatic Hypermutation (SHM) generates antibodies with higher affinity, while Class Switch Recombination (CSR) generates antibodies with different effector functions. In theory, our body has the capability to generate all necessary antibodies to fight against different pathogens through antibody diversification mechanisms. However, this is not the case. For example, in certain infectious diseases such as Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection/ acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS), only a small percentage of the infected patients were able to produce effective antibodies. Our research aims
to elucidate molecular mechanisms that facilitate approaches in generating highly effective antibodies to fight pathogens and infectious diseases. We employ various approaches including mouse models, cell line systems, CRISPR-mediated genome editing and next-generation sequencing technologies (Yeap et al., Cell, 2015, Figure below) to address our aims.

 

 

Top Malaysian researcher working to wipe out infectious diseases

Dr Yeap heads the antibody diversification team at Shanghai Institute of Immunology, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, China.

LIKE many of her peers, Dr Yeap Leng Siew, 39, was raised believing that noble careers only include doctors and lawyers.

So when the Selangorian failed to enter medical school because she didn’t get straight As in the Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM), her childhood ambition of becoming a doctor came crashing down.

She was upset for awhile but remembered that as a secondary school girl, she had done well in Biology.

It encouraged her to take up Biotechnology at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS).

“I passed with flying colors and was the best student at university. If I hadn’t been rejected to do medicine, I wouldn’t have the career that I now enjoy. It was a blessing in disguise.”

Now married to a Chinese national and living in Shanghai, the mother-of-two graduated with first class honours from UMS in 2003, and received the Royal Educational Award and Tunku Abdul Rahman Medal. These awards recognise the country’s best student from each public university. After graduation, she was still unsure about her career path until a research stint at the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) sparked her interest in cell biology.

She went on to do her doctorate in stem cell biology at the University of Cambridge, before continuing as a Harvard Medical School postdoctoral fellow at the Boston Children’s Hospital.

“Initially I wanted to do a Ph.D in Singapore but my GRE score (a US-based graduate entrance exam) was not great.”

Though she did not receive any offers during the first round of application, she was determined to pursue a Ph.D degree.

“People are bitter about rejections because they do not have backup plans. Prof Bing Lim, my supervisor at GIS, once told me to be open-minded because a narrow mind narrows potential. His words were etched in my heart ever since.”

She was later granted the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Dorothy Hodgkin Postgraduate Award – a full scholarship for outstanding students from developing countries to pursue a Ph.D degree at the University of Cambridge.

She continued to make her mark when she was awarded the St Catharine’s College Graduate Prize for Distinction in Research during her stint in Cambridge. She then went on to receive the prestigious Cancer Research Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship in the United States.

Disappointment, she said, is part of life.

“It is how we overcome disappointments and take up challenges that distinguishes us from the rest.”

The former research assistant at GIS now heads the antibody diversification team at Shanghai Institute of Immunology, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, China.

“Prof Huck Hui Ng from GIS once told me, ‘work hard, and the sky is the limit’. I now tell my students those very same words.”

In 2017, Yeap was selected by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) to receive the Excellent Young Scientist Fund, which is aimed at nurturing young talents with innovative potential.

She speaks to StarEdu about her work and advises young science students to expand their horizon. The world doesn’t end just because you didn’t get into medical school. There are many opportunities for those interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

> What is your area of research?I am interested in understanding why some people develop effective antibodies to fight diseases while others do not. For example, only a small percentage of HIV-1 infected patients develop potent antibodies against the virus, which is why this remains a major health problem globally. Another example is how despite being vaccinated for the flu or hepatitis B (HBV), some do not develop protective antibodies and are still susceptible to these illnesses. My research group is studying how the antibodies acquire high levels of mutations and other special characteristics. Understanding how these rare antibodies develop will shed light on developing HIV or new vaccines for the flu or HBV.

> How long have you been away from home? Sixteen years. During the final semester of my undergraduate studies, I did a 10-week research attachment at the National Cancer Centre of Singapore. It was a time when biological research was just starting to bloom there. I was very fortunate not to be sent home because of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak, and even luckier, because I landed my first job as a research assistant at the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS).

Seeing that I graduated from a university that didn’t even exist when he left his hometown, Kota Kinabalu, my supervisor at GIS, Dr Bing Lim, decided to hire me. He has been a great mentor ever since. In his laboratory, we were trying to culture human stem cells and I was fascinated by the idea that these cells may be turned into any type of cells for therapeutic purposes.

I realised then that I would have to pursue a Ph.D degree if I want to move further along in my research career. Two years later, I moved to the United Kingdom to begin my postgraduate studies in the lab of Prof Azim Surani at the University of Cambridge. When I completed my doctorate, my parents were expecting me to come home. So when I told them that I had planned on continuing my postdoctoral training in the United States, they were shocked. It took a while to convince them that a Ph.D degree is just the beginning of a career in research and that to have a chance of running my own laboratory one day, I would have to undergo a postdoctoral training as well.

In 2010, I started my postdoctoral training in the laboratory of a top immunologist, Dr Fred Alt at Harvard Medical School. During the five years of postdoctoral training, I met my husband and gave birth to my first child.

In 2015, we decided to move closer to home to start our career as independent researchers.

> What is it about home you miss the most?The food definitely – nasi lemak, durian, and my mum’s cooking.

> You helped find a way for the body to fight HIV. Tell us about that breakthrough.During my postdoctoral training, I developed mouse models to study how different antibody genes undergo mutation. We found that certain DNA sequences are more prone to mutations and that the same DNA sequences are also prone to deletions, another common characteristic of anti-HIV broadly neutralising antibodies.

These results suggest that DNA sequence direct the evolution of antibodies and these results were published in Cell in 2015, a top journal in the biological field. In 2017, we published in Proceedings of National Academy of Science on a related work where we analysed a mouse model carrying a human antibody gene and found that many mutations in anti-HIV antibodies are not easily achieved. Understanding how our bodies are able to elicit these rare antibodies will help in vaccine design strategies.

> What are you currently working on?We are continuously trying to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying highly effective antibody generation and developing approaches to guide our bodies to produce such antibodies during infection. We use animal models, cutting-edge gene editing techniques and next generation DNA sequencing in our research. We hope to one day wipe out infectious diseases like HIV.

> Are there any plans to work with other Malaysian researchers moving forward?We are constantly reaching out to researchers from all over the world, and Malaysia is definitely a priority. On Aug 9, I was in Malaysia with a delegation headed by Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine chancellor Prof Guoqiang Chen, and Shanghai Institute of Immunology director Prof Bing Su, to promote collaborations with Universiti Malaya’s Faculty of Medicine. We also visited the International Medical University (IMU).

With the Chinese government’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative, there are plenty of funding opportunities for academic exchanges and scholarships for graduate studies. Hopefully, more people will come to know about research and academic opportunities in our school.

I have been exposed to different research environments in top laboratories and research institutes around the world, and the current biomedical research environment in Shanghai and other major cities in China, is definitely on par with the places that I have been to.

>What is the most challenging aspect of working in a lab?As an independent researcher, my job is to design and supervise experiments, analyse the results with my students and postdocs, and write manuscripts for publications. I also have to make sure that the lab has enough funding to do research.

Some of the challenging aspects include dealing with failed experiments, manuscripts and grants being rejected, and harsh criticisms by peers. But the satisfaction in being the first in the world to discover something new and potentially textbook-changing, makes all the hard work worthwhile.

> What qualities would a young, aspiring researcher need?Passion, persistence and determination. In the labs I’ve been to, I’ve seen college or even high school students doing research internships during school holidays. These kinds of opportunities allow students to experience the laboratory culture and life as a researcher. Being exposed to different career options at an early stage allows students to make better career choices and develop greater potential. I hope young Malaysians can be more pro-active and seek out such opportunities to enrich themselves in their spare time. I didn’t know there was such a possibility when I was in school.-Source link

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Recession fears can by itself be a self-fulfilling prophecy


 

AS talk of a recession picks up, a veteran fund manager, Ang Kok Heng of Phillip Capital Management Sdn Bhd, correctly points out that the Malaysian stock market has been in “recession” in five of the six years since 2014.

Hence, he does not envisage how it can get worse for the Malaysian stock market if the global economy does go into a recession next year. Fears of a global recession have picked up pace based on the behaviour of the US yield curve.

The yield curve, which charts the spreads of US debt papers of various tenures, has inverted several times in the past few weeks. Most people would not understand what an inverted yield curve means.

Simply put, it means long-dated debt papers of 10 years giving lower returns compared to shorter-term debt papers such as two-year US Treasuries. It causes what is called an inverted yield curve.

It goes against the normal behaviour of US Treasury yields because long-term debt papers should give a higher return than short-term papers.

The consequence of an inverted yield curve is that it will lead to banks reducing their lending activities because their margins are narrow. Eventually, it results in companies reducing their activities and the country going into a slowdown or recession.

An inverted yield curve has been the precursor to all past recessions (see diagram).

However, there are some who are disputing the fears of an impending global recession based on the behaviour of the bond yield curve. Their reason is that the bond yields are not behaving as what they should due to the governments all around the world printing money to keep interest rates artificially low since 2009.

Interest rates have become so low to the extent that European banks are offering no returns on deposits. This means depositors do not get any money for keeping their money in the banks. Borrowers instead get discounts on their installments.

It’s happening in Europe because government bond yields there have turned negative.

For instance, the yield on 10-year Switzerland bonds is negative 0.74%, while German bonds of a similar tenure yield negative 0.52%. From France to Denmark, government debt papers have negative yields.

Only some countries such as Portugal and Spain still have positive yields on their debt papers.

Analysts believe that this has resulted in investors resorting to buying US debt papers that still offer positive yields. Hence, the price of bonds across all tenures in the US has gone up, causing their yields to come down.

The search for yields has also resulted in the narrowing of the difference between what the two-year and 10-year debt papers offer. And there have been several occasions in the last one month when the yield on the 10-year paper was lower than the two-year debt papers.

Apart from the behaviour of the yield curve, the other indicator that is seen as a precursor to a recession is the declining manufacturing sector all around the world caused by the trade war between the US and China. The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), which is a leading indicator to assess the state of the economy, has been declining for all major economies.

For Malaysia, the PMI has been less than the 50-point benchmark for almost a year now. The same trend is seen in China, while the indicator has started to decline in the US in the last few months, which some see as a result of the trade war.

The trade war has caused supply disruptions, impacting the manufacturing sector.

However, there are other indicators that do not indicate a recession is imminent.

Banks are fairly well-capitalised and have pulled the brakes on lending. We do not hear of banks being impacted by major corporate defaults except for some financial institutions in China. Malaysian banks, for instance, have weathered the storm quite well so far, thanks to Bank Negara keeping a tight rein on their lending activities.

There has not been any run-up in asset prices. Property prices in countries such as Malaysia have remained subdued since 2015 after Bank Negara pulled the brakes on lending. Since 2014, Bursa Malaysia has closed lower every year, except for 2017.

The only exception of rising asset prices is Wall Street that has soared to record highs. Stock prices are hitting all-time highs due to improved earnings growth.

Technology companies such as Apple and Amazon are US$1 trillion companies. The other technology companies such as Facebook and Alphabet are enjoying growing valuations because of earnings growth.

No other stock exchange in the world has such a large concentration of technology companies than the exchanges on Wall Street. All technology companies, even from China, want to list on Wall Street.

Even Alibaba is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and not in Hong Kong.

It has been 11 years since the last recession, but the world’s central banks have resumed their printing of cheap money to keep interest rates low. The European Central Bank has resumed quantitative easing, while the US Federal Reserve is reducing interest rates. In essence, central banks are taking these measures to prevent a slowing economy going into recession.

In the meantime, it has caused fear among people and companies. Companies are holding back on spending, and in fact, cutting down on their debt.

A clear indicator is in the US where companies raised the most amount of corporate debt. Apple and Disney raised US$7bil worth of debt papers to reduce their borrowings.

In Malaysia, corporations have been deleveraging for the past few years in anticipation of a slowdown. Companies are not expanding, as indicated by the declining private-sector gross capital formation.

It is only reasonable for companies and people to save for the upcoming rainy days. Even governments are cautious in spending. For instance, in the upcoming Budget 2020, many are expecting the government to start spending. But there is also a view that the government will adopt a cautious stance as it continues to strengthen its balance sheet and reduce debts.

If nobody spends for fear of a recession, it would be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Most people are expecting a recession, meaning negative growth. Fear of a recession has translated into a slowdown that the world and Malaysia are experiencing. If this fear continues to perpetuate, a recession would be a self-fulling prophecy.

It is good to be fearful, but being too fearful and conservative will also result in lost opportunity.

As Ang of Phillip Capital puts it, in times when fears of a recession seap in, cash must be held to seize opportunities. Holding cash as an investment is not a wise option.

By M. SHANMUGAM , The views expressed here are solely that of the writer. Source link

 

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Investors await rate cuts and trade talks  

Fund managers give tips on where to park investments in case of a downturn

 

Trump’s call for negative rates threatens savers – Reuters

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China challenges U.S. tariffs, lodging case at WTO
A World Trade Organization (WTO) logo is pictured on their headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, June 3, 2016.

 

Coming recession in 2020? Possibly earlier

 

 

 

China challenges U.S. tariffs, lodging case at WTO


A World Trade Organization (WTO) logo is pictured on their headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, June 3, 2016. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

 

China files WTO lawsuit against US tariffs on $300 billion Chinese goods

China filed a lawsuit under the WTO dispute settlement mechanism on the US’ 15 percent tariffs on $300 billion Chinese goods, the first batch of which started on September 1, China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) announced on Monday.

China lodges tariff case at WTO against the U.S. – Reuters

 

 

New China-U.S. tit-for-tat tariffs go into effect

Costco’s opening in China defies US attempts at decoupling

China will not proactively escalate the trade war, and will not discriminate against US companies that invest in China due to the trade war. As the trade war is messing up the world, China is bound to be stronger.

https://youtu.be/yjzsDNMEe1U

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Design engineers at fault in landslide tragedy, act against negligent engineers


Design engineers at fault in landslide tragedy | The Star Online
https://rightways.files.wordpress.com/2017/10/8723e-penang2blandslide_tanjung2bbungah1.jpg

GEORGE TOWN: The State Commission of Inquiry (SCI) tasked with investigating the Tanjung Bungah landslide in October 2017 has found the design engineer of the slope primarily responsible for the incident that claimed 11 lives.

The SCI, in its 116-page report made public, has recommended that the engineer be investigated by the police under Section 304A of the Penal Code for gross negligence.

Besides the engineer, the commission found another design engineer responsible for being “contributorily negligent” for allowing excavation to be carried out without design, engineering calculations and supervision.

Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said the commission found that the slope failure was a man-made tragedy and entirely preventable if those in charge had taken necessary and proper steps to ensure the stability of the slope and the safety of the workers.

“The landslide did not develop overnight, it was a disaster waiting to happen over a period of time.

“There were ample warnings which were sadly unheeded or inadequately heeded,” Chow said of the report at a press conference at his office in Komtar here yesterday.

Chow said the report, dated July 22 this year, was a result of public hearings conducted over 26 days with testimonies from 28 witnesses.

“The commission also considered voluminous documents, reports, photographs and drawings, as well as the opinions of six expert witnesses.

“The report provides further analysis of the background facts, excerpts of testimonies recorded during the hearings and findings on liability against several parties,” he said.

The commission also found the Occupational Safety and Health Department negligent for failing to take adequate steps to ascertain the extent of the danger posed by the unsafe slope, by not promptly issuing a prohibition notice after its visit to the site on Aug 18, 2017, which was two months before the fatal incident.

Chow said copies of the report would be sent to the police, Attorney General’s Chambers, Board of Engineers Malaysia and other authorities involved.

“The report also contains nine recommendations that the commission hopes will serve as guidelines and prevent such incidents from recurring,” he added.

On Oct 21, 2017, a temporary slope in the construction site of a high-rise apartment block in Tanjung Bungah collapsed while workers were trying to stabilise it. Tonnes of earth crumbled, killing 11 workers.

The full SCI report can be bought at Level Three, Komtar, for RM50 per copy between Sept 3 and 30. For more details, call 04-650 5480.- Source link

Chow: Agencies have to act against negligent engineers

Penang chief minister Chow Kon Yeow

GEORGE TOWN: It is up to the relevant agencies to take action against the consultant engineers who were found negligent, resulting in the Tanjung Bungah landslide tragedy, says Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow.

“It is up to the agencies and the police to take action as recommended by the State Commission of Inquiry (SCI).

“I have also directed the Town and Country Planning Department, Penang Island City Council, Seberang Prai Municipal Council and other related agencies to come up with recommendations to improve hill development.

“It was discussed at the State Planning Committee meeting and I have directed state housing, town and country planning and local government committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo to head the committee and come up with the recommendations within a month, ” said Chow at Komtar here yesterday.

It was reported that the SCI tasked with investigating the Tanjung Bungah landslide in October 2017 had found the design engineer of the slope primarily responsible for the incident that claimed 11 lives.

The SCI, in its 116-page report made public, had recommended that the engineer be investigated by the police under Section 304A of the Penal Code for gross negligence.

Besides the engineer, the commission found another design engineer responsible for being “contributorily negligent” for allowing excavation to be carried out without design, engineering calculations and supervision.

Penang Island City Council engineering director A. Rajendran, who was also present at the press conference, said the stop-work order on the project was lifted after the developer completed mitigation works.“However, different engineers have been overseeing the project since work resumed some time ago, ” said Rajendran.

On Oct 21,2017, a temporary slope at the construction site of a high-rise apartment block in Tanjung Bungah collapsed while workers were trying to stabilise it.

Tonnes of earth crumbled, killing 11 workers. – Source link

Read  more:

 

Tanjung Bungah landslide incident entirely preventable, concludes …

Act against engineers for negligence, urges Tanjung Bungah …

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Penang commission moots criminal charges against consultant …

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Is Trump insane? Escalating trade tension woos equity bears to Asia


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Stocks fall amid fresh tensions in US-China trade war

KUALA LUMPUR: Asian markets started the week on a weak note amid escalating trade war concerns after the US and China announced plans for additional tariffs against each other.

Locally, the FBM KLCI stayed in negative territory for the whole of yesterday, before paring losses to close 8.8 points or 0.55% lower at 1,600.53 points. Before the closing, the index hovered below 1,595, falling 1.17% to an intraday low of 1,590.51.

Despite the fall, the local index was among the least affected by the regional selldown, compared with other Asian indices. The biggest loser among the regional indices was Japan’s Nikkei 225, falling 2.17% to 20,261.04. This was followed by Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index and the Taiwan Stock Exchange, down 1.91% and 1.74% respectively. India’s Sensex notably closed 2.16% higher.

In Southeast Asia, Singapore’s Straits Times Index was the biggest decliner, down 1.45% at 3,065.33, and the Jakarta Composite index closed 0.66% lower at 6,214.51.

Last Friday, US President Donald Trump announced an additional duty on some US$550 billion worth of targeted Chinese goods, following China’s move to hike trade levies on US$75 billion worth of US goods.

Trump said US tariffs on US$250 billion of Chinese imports will increase from 25% to 30% on Oct 1, while an additional 5% tax on US$300 billion worth of Chinese goods — raising the tariff to 15% from 10% — starts on Sept 1.

The president made it clear that the US was responding to China’s threat of additional tariffs on US$75 billion of goods including soybeans, automobiles and oil.

“This looks like a tit-for-tat [response] and I don’t see an easy resolution to the trade war, as there seems to be no middle ground between the US and China. It is very unsettling for the market because there is no direction from day to day,” said Inter-Pacific Securities Sdn Bhd research head Pong Teng Siew.

However, the tensions eased a bit towards the later part of yesterday, as Chinese Vice Premier Liu He said China was willing to resolve the trade dispute through calm negotiations, stating the nation was against the escalation of the conflict.

Trump responded positively to China’s suggestion and, on the sidelines of a summit in France, had hailed Chinese President Xi Jinping as a great leader and welcomed the latter’s desire for calm negotiations.

It remains to be seen how the trade dispute will be resolved, given the constant retaliatory tariffs between the two economic behemoths since early last year.

Several trade talks between the two nations have not brought any solutions to the trade war, still affecting investor sentiments towards global markets. For the KLCI, the trade war remains a major factor affecting analysts’ forecasts.

Kenanga Research said the index’s underlying trend remains bearish but does not discount the possibility of a technical rebound as the KLCI has been in oversold territory for about a month. “Look out for overhead resistance levels at 1,630 and 1,650. If selling pressure continues, the key support levels to keep an eye on are 1,570 and 1,550,” Kenanga Research wrote in a note yesterday. – Source link
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Clout eroded as US shirks intl duties

I think it’s necessary to include something Liu once said that also applies here, “The world needs a new America. It needs an America that is free of prejudice and intolerance. It needs an America that understands respect, that matches words with deeds, that understands the principles of benevolence, righteousness, propriety,
wisdom, and faithfulness. The world would be lucky if the new America could become such a country.”

Why are the Chinese brushing aside Trump’s tweets?

Trump has turned Twitter into a stage for his political show, where he says things to gain votes for reelection. He repeats what he has done for the US – to provide Americans welfare, and to “make America great again.” But he is actually damaging the interests of his own country and people.

China unfazed by swaying US policies

In today’s world of production patterns, no country can marginalize China anymore. Whichever country forcibly cuts economic ties with China will only harm itself. After Trump tweeted, he received almost one-sided opposition and doubts, which showed how inappropriate was his unrealistic proposal.

Former U.S. treasury secretary criticizes policies of Trump administration

American expert accuses Western countries of double standard in HK affairs

Poking its nose into other countries’ affairs is an American obsession

The past few months have been sad and depressing for those who live in Hong Kong. The safety guaranteed on the streets of Beijing and Xi’an should be available to the people of Hong Kong. China should not be asked to compromise its sovereignty. If Americans want to boycott anyone, they should do so with their politicians who support the
Hong Kong unrest.

West will shed no tears for Hong Kong

Many Hongkongers are confusing right from wrong while Western public opinion constantly delivers the ideological energy that the radical protesters need. The West has shed no tears for Iraq, Syria and Ukraine, which had gone through similar hardships. Now, it is turning Hong Kong into the forefront of the struggle with China, and, as usual, they will shed no tears for the city’s misery.

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Singapore growth forecast down to 1%


Unknown future: As Singapore further cut its growth forecast, New Zealand, India and Thailand also cut their interest rates signalling concerns on growth outlook. — AFP

SINGAPORE: Singapore slashed its full-year economic growth forecast as global conditions were seen worsening and data confirmed the slowest growth rate in a decade amid mounting fears of recession in the city-state.

The government cut its forecast range for gross domestic product in Singapore – often seen as a bellwether for global growth because international trade dwarfs its domestic economy – to zero to 1% from its previous 1.5%-2.5% projection.

Singapore’s downgrade adds to concerns globally about the effect of increasing protectionism on exports and production.

The deterioration in the global outlook has pushed central banks to cut interest rates and consider unconventional stimulus to shield their economies.

“GDP growth in many of Singapore’s key final demand markets in the second half of 2019 is expected to slow from, or remain similar to, that recorded in the first half, ” the trade ministry said in a statement to the media yesterday.

The ministry flagged a host of growing economic risks including Hong Kong’s political situation, the Japan-Korea trade dispute, the Sino-US tariff war, slowing growth in China and Brexit.

Final second quarter GDP data yesterday showed a 3.3% on-quarter contraction on a seasonally-adjusted annualised basis. That was slightly smaller than the 3.4% decline seen in the government’s advance estimate but deeper than a 2.9% fall predicted in a Reuters poll and a sharp contrast to the robust 3.8% first quarter expansion, which was driven by brisk construction activity.

Yesterday’s data also confirmed annual GDP expanded 0.1% in April-June from a year earlier, its slowest rate in a decade, and lower than poll expectations of 0.2% and the first quarter’s 1.1%.

Singapore’s benchmark stock index fell 1.2% to a two-month low in early trade, underperforming other bourses in the region.

Singapore has been hit hard by the Sino-US trade war, which has disrupted world supply chains in a blow to business investment and corporate profits.

Also yesterday, Singapore cut its full-year forecast for non-oil domestic exports to a 9% contraction from an 8% fall previously.

That comes after a 26.9% drop in electronics exports in the second quarter year-on-year.

“With trade tensions between the US-China unlikely to abate anytime soon, we expect exports and trade-related services to push the economy into technical recession in Q3, ” said Sian Fenner, lead Asia economist at Oxford Economics.

New Zealand, India and Thailand all cut interest rates last week, signalling major concerns about the outlook for economic growth. Last month, the US Federal Reserve cut interest rates for the first time since 2008.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in an annual speech last week that the government stood ready to stimulate the economy.

“It feels like the storm is coming if you look at the whole macro economic fundamentals softening, ” said Selena Ling, head of treasury and strategy at OCBC Bank.

“All the downside risks are piling up on one side, ” Ling added, pointing to the myriad of global risks flagged in the trade ministry statement. — Reuters

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FBM KLCI dives below 1,600 level to near four-year low
FBM KLCI dives below 1,600 level to near four-year low

by Wong Ee Lin

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China warns the U.S. of tariff ‘countermeasures’

Poised for correction: A file picture showing a woman walking by an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo. After 10 years of continued rise in asset prices, markets are poised for correction. — AP

Tariffs are here to stay and likely to disrupt the 10-year economic cycle

IF investors ever needed a reminder that not all is right with the equities market, the shock waves the world capital markets, including Bursa Malaysia, had to endure earlier this week are proof enough.

Most stock markets are at the tailend of a 10-year bull run, although the same cannot be said for Bursa Malaysia which has generally has been more bearish than others in the last five years. Going by the current trends, Bursa Malaysia is likely to finish the year lower, which if it happens will be the fourth time in the last five years.

But the leading platform in the world which sets the pace for global flow of capital – the Wall Street – has been hitting new highs although it corrects from time to time largely due to the tweets from President Donald Trump.

Wall Street’s run started in May 2009 and seems to have the strength to carry on for a few more legs, defying conventional logic that economic boom-bust cycles corrects after 10 years. Other stock markets have had good and bad times since 2009 but the US has been consistently on the rise.

The benchmark Dow Jones Industrial Average, the Nasdaq and S&P 500, which charts the broader market, have all hit news highs. Bursa Malaysia on the other hand has languished between the 1, 600 and 1, 700 levels, with only one year of positive returns since 2014.

There are several reasons for Bursa Malaysia’s poor performance compared with other markets. For instance, the United States slashed tax rates, which spurred earnings of companies and has the best technology companies listed there. It’s not the same elsewhere in the world.

Nevertheless, after 10 years of continued rise in asset prices due to the combination of a low interest rate environment and advancement in technology, the markets are poised for correction. Until earlier this week, nobody had an inkling of an idea where and how the correction will take place.

However, after President’s Trump latest statement that the US would impose 10% tariff on an additional US$300bil worth of exports from China, it clearly underlines that the trade war is here to stay.

If anybody had a view that the trade war would end if President Trump does not retain his position in the US elections next year, they are wrong. Even some Democrats are leaning towards imposing tariff as measure to help the US keep its competitive edge in the world economy.

Reverse globalisation is no longer a bad word in world trade.

A 25% tariff has already been imposed on US$250bil worth of China’s exports to the United States since March this year.

It is bringing in billions to the US coffers with some going towards helping the farmers overcome the woes of the trade war. The person who takes over from Trump is not likely to dismantle the structure.

Any other president will want to get more from China, which is led by the influential President Xi Jinping, who is seen as the most powerful man that rules the second biggest economy in the world after the late chairman Mao Zedong.

China has retaliated by imposing tariffs on US$110bil worth of imports from the US so far including the produce from farms. It has also allowed the yuan to weaken, sparking concerns that the trade war is evolving into a currency war.Latest data from China shows that the exports are still growing and imports dropping in July even though there is a trade war, suggesting that President Xi will not yield to pressure from the US easily.

A new cold war in the form of the trade war has emerged. As a result, it has caused upheavals in the capital markets that should worry investors.

There have been significant shifts in asset prices from bonds to equities and commodities such as oil. Among all asset classes, dramatic movement in bond prices of government debt papers is the first to feel the impact from the trade war.

This is on the back of increasing certainty that the Federal Reserve and other major central banks will reduce interest rates more aggressively to stimulate the sagging economy. It has caused for money to seek safe haven such as US government debt papers.

For instance the yields on the 10-year US debt paper is 1.69% now. It was 1.9% a week ago and 2.06% a month ago. The yields moves inversely with the price of the bonds.

The yields on the five- and two-year government debt papers have also moved by up 18 points in the last one week. Such movements on billions of dollars will have an impact in the months to come.

The trade war has caused a major disruption in the global supply chain, evidence of the economy slowing globally.

If anybody wants any evidence of the disruption in global supply chain, they only need to go to the KLIA cargo complex and see for themselves the number of idle lorries that do not have enough cargo to move about.

In Malaysia’s case, apart from a slowdown in movement of goods around the world, the uncertainties in Hong Kong have exacerbated the situation.

The combined effects of the trade war, China’s economic uncertainties and Hong Kong’s future as Asia’s financial hub will only be felt in the fourth quarter of this year.

Until then, asset prices will continue to adjust to the new norm.

The views expressed here are solely that of the writer. Source link 

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