After laughs at Trump, globalism or patriotism?


US-ROK trade: ‘horrible’ to ‘wins’?

US President Donald Trump delivered his speech loud and clear at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday covering a spectrum of issues, ranging from global security, trade, and above all – his idea of “sovereignty.” His bragging also attracted some chuckles among the world leaders. What key messages did Trump fixate on? And how is the international community reacting to Trump’s speech and his “America First” policies?

The US has revamped a trade deal with the Republic of Korea (ROK). The new version of the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement specifically aims to boost US auto sale, but its effectiveness remains in doubt. Will this deal set a new precedent for more so-called “US wins” in its multi-front trade war?

 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Explains Why The UN Laughed At Trump

What’s next in the escalating China-US trade war?

 

China vs USA: Trade war

Trump’s tariff policy has failed: analysts

After China slammed US President Donald Trump’s accusation that China is meddling in the US midterm elections, analysts noted that Trump’s behavior shows he has been shamed as his policy toward China didn’t bring what he wants but has hurt his supporters.

If Trump discovers he is losing support due to China’s trade retaliation, which has hurt the interests of his supporters, then he should blame himself and people who convinced him to impose additional tariffs against China, because it was his administration that started the frictions and led to China’s retaliation, Chinese experts said on Thursday.

“We do not and will not interfere in any country’s domestic affairs. We refuse to accept any unwarranted accusations against China,” Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at the UN Security Council at once after Trump made his accusation.

Trump accused China during his remarks at the UN Security Council on Wednesday, saying, “Regrettably, we found that China has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 elections in November against my administration,” CNN reported.

Trump offered scant details or evidence, which came during a session meant to focus on nonproliferation issues. He suggested the meddling attempts came as retribution for the budding trade war he has waged with Beijing, CNN’s report said.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also responded to Trump’s remarks on Thursday. “China has always stood by the principle of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs, and this is a Chinese diplomatic tradition, and the international community knows this,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a routine press conference.

“The international community is also clear on which country is most interested in interfering with others’ internal affairs,” Geng noted. He urged the US to stop making groundless accusations and slandering China, and refrain from making wrong statements and actions that damage bilateral ties and the fundamental interests of the two peoples.

‘Not what he wants’

“They do not want me or us to win because I am the first president ever to challenge China on trade,” Trump said at the UN Security Council. “We are winning on trade. We are winning at every level. We don’t want them to meddle or interfere in our upcoming elections.”

However, Chinese analysts disagree with Trump’s rhetoric.

“This shows that Trump has been ashamed into anger due to his unsuccessful policy on China,” said Ni Feng, deputy director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of American Studies.

“After a series of tariffs and provocations on the Taiwan question, and sanctions on the Chinese military department and personnel, China has continued to retaliate without any compromise and even refuses to negotiate with the US under the current circumstances. So this situation is not what he wants, which is why he is so angry and tries to make new accusations,” Ni noted.

The US midterm elections are approaching, and the Republicans are facing a serious challenge and might lose the House after the elections. So Trump is trying to “pass the buck,” said Diao Daming, an American studies expert and associate professor at Renmin University of China.

“Blaming China is a good option for him, and some radical Trump supporters will believe him regardless of the truth,” Diao noted.

Due to the interdependency between China and the US, China’s retaliation will definitely hurt US people’s interests, including those of Trump supporters. But don’t forget it was Trump who irrationally began the trade frictions with China, and China is forced to retaliate, Diao said.

“If the US people want to blame someone, they should blame their president. If Trump wants to blame someone for losing support or even the elections, he should blame himself and his advisers who urged him to start the trade row, rather than pass the buck to China,” he noted.

A Chinese State-run English language newspaper inserted a four-page supplement in the Sunday edition of the Des Moines Register, an Iowa-based newspaper, to highlight the negative effects of the trade frictions Trump launched.

“China is actually placing propaganda ads in the Des Moines Register and other papers, and making them appear like news,” Trump tweeted on Thursday.

“According to US laws, foreign media can cooperate with US media,” and many other foreign media companies do the same thing. So, accusing this normal act as evidence of meddling in the elections is far-fetched and groundless, Geng said.

However, the US government, the Congress and the media have done a lot to interfere in China’s internal affairs on Taiwan, Xinjiang and Tibet, Diao noted. “This is real interference in others’ internal affairs.” – Global Times By Yang Sheng

 

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Trump’s ‘blame China’ midterm strategy won’t secure GOP victory

It would be best if Trump could assert a level of caution when speaking at UN headquarters. Fabricated stories and slogans designed to trick American voters will not have the same effect with UN
members.

US trade war has no international support

As long as China keeps upholding its opening-up, foreign enterprises, including many US ones, will continue participating in the development of the China market. China should continue cooperating with the Western world and the US on climate change, anti-terrorism, nuclear nonproliferation, global poverty and stabilizing the financial
situation. As long as China keeps its development momentum, the US is doomed to lose the trade war.

 

Sovereignty, equality should go hand in hand, if Trump really means it

There are positive aspects as Trump emphasized the idea of national sovereignty in his UN speech. Meanwhile, it is common sense that sovereignty will only play a positive role if it is pre-conditioned on equality, the basic principle everyone abides by.

 

China won’t yield to US trade stick

We also hope that the Chinese public gets to know the causes and effects of the event and the steadiness of the Chinese government’s policies. No matter how long China-US trade conflicts last, China is doing what it should. China is honest and principled and a
major trade power with intensive strengths. No one can take us down.

 

US hysterical in blocking sci-tech exchanges

The US is anxious about its temporary gains and losses. One minute it wants Sino-US exchanges, but the next it worries China is taking advantage. Its relevant policies are bound to change all the time. Its latest decision is like the trade war. Washington’s purpose is to drag Beijing down, but it will mostly hurt itself.

 

China must open up despite external risks

The road to solidarity will reflect the times and China still needs to accumulate experiences. But as long as all of China’s policies aim at serving the people, the country’s solidarity won’t go wrong.

 

Lobbying Washington more challenging for Moon

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Benefits of Korean unification likely to be internal


Although there’s still uncertainty over prospects for peace on the Korean Peninsula, it seems that South Korea is highly optimistic about the economic aspect of its cooperation with North Korea.

North Korea has a population of about 25 million. The largest city, the capital of Pyongyang, has about 3.2 million people and other cities generally have populations of about 300,000. The country’s per capita GDP is a mere $530.

By comparison, with a population of 51 million, South Korea boosts per capita GDP of more than $27,500. But South Korea’s economic growth is believed to have peaked, and its export-oriented growth model has run into trade protectionism.

If the hypothesis of merging and unifying North and South Korea were true, South Korea’s population would increase by 50 percent. In light of this, although North Korea’s GDP is a negligible fraction of that of South Korea, there is a chance that South Korea could see a 50 percent rise in its GDP that now adds up to $1.4 trillion. With a GDP of more than $2.1 trillion, a unified Korea would have an economy half the size of Japan’s, or larger than the economies of Brazil, Italy or Canada.

South Korea’s economy is dominated by family-owned conglomerates known as chaebol, with the top 10 chaebol accounting for a hefty part of GDP. Economic growth is seen mainly benefitting big chaebol such as Samsung and Hyundai, which in theory would have the opportunity of maintaining a fairly high rate of wealth growth over the next 10 years.

An assessment of Asia’s economic future based upon the hypothesis of Korean unification indicates that it would be hard for Japan, China and even the US to derive any meaningful economic benefit from such an outcome.

North Korea’s abundant pool of cheap labor and its market eager to see wealth growth will mostly benefit South Korea. In the past, China used to host a certain number of North Korean workers, but that was during an era when North Korea was blockaded by the outside world and could only rely on China for foreign-currency earnings.

If Korean unification, or to be exact the two nations’ economic unification, becomes a reality, the situation will change. In this case, China or Japan will be just onlookers.

China might even find itself challenged by a unified Korea with lower costs in the world market. Japan might fare slightly better, considering its technological advantages and traditional partnerships with South Korean business groups. The benefits the US would get from unification would be limited or nil, taking into account uncertainties about its geopolitical interests.

For the world economy with total GDP of more than $70 trillion, Korean unification is likely to boost global growth by 1 percent. But much is still uncertain if this scenario is to play out.

North and South Korea still face tough obstacles including ideology, capital, nuclear weapons and internal political stability on the path toward genuine unification. The outcome also depends particularly on US political moves. Nevertheless, amid uncertainties there seems to be one certainty: The only way to avoid risk is to have the foresight to make future-proof plans.

By Chen Gong Source:Global Time

The author is the chief research fellow with Beijing-based private strategic think tank Anbound. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn

 

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Korean historic Kim-Trump summit begins with handshake in Sinapore, is ‘very, very good’


China Air carried Kim to Singapore talks with Trump

The historic meeting on Tuesday between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump began with a handshake at the Capella hotel, Singapore.

The handshake lasted about 20 seconds before the two leaders walked to the meeting room accompanied by their interpreters.

Trump and Kim sat next to each other and answered a few questions from the media. Trump said he hopes the historic summit would be “tremendously successful,” adding, “We will have a terrific relationship ahead” as he faced Kim.

Kim said there were a number of “obstacles” and “prejudices” which made today’s meeting more difficult. “We overcame all of them and we are here today,” he told reporters through a translator.

Of particular note is the display of the two countries’ flags at the hotel, which is unusual between two countries with no formal diplomatic ties. Observers believe that this is a positive sign.

Trump arrived at the hotel about 8:30am, with Kim arriving five minutes after.

Displaying the national flag of North Korea shows that the US wants to express its sincerity and kindness to North Korea, Cheng Xiaohe, an associate professor at the Renmin University of China’s School of International Studies, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

“The move toward establishing formal diplomatic ties could be an achievement of the summit,” Cheng said.

Hundreds of journalists are gathered at the Press Filing Center of the JW Marriott Hotel Singapore, where they can watch the livestream of the historic moment. Dozens of photographers attempted to get closer to Sentosa Island in the morning to film and take photos for the two leaders’ motorcades.

Trump and Kim met alone at 9:15 am and held an expanded bilateral meeting 45 minutes after. At 11:00, the two leaders are scheduled to have a working luncheon. Trump will leave Singapore at 7pm on Tuesday, the White House said.

Trump says summit with North Korea’s Kim is ‘very, very good’

SINGAPORE: U.S. President Donald Trump said he had forged a “good relationship” with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the start of a historic summit in Singapore on Tuesday, as the two men sought ways to end a nuclear standoff on the Korean peninsula.

Should they succeed in making a diplomatic breakthrough, it could bring lasting change to the security landscape of Northeast Asia, like the visit of former U.S. President Richard Nixon to China in 1972 led to the transformation of China.

“There will be challenges ahead,” Kim said, but he vowed to work with Trump. Both men sat against in the hotel’s library against a backdrop of North Korean and U.S. flags, with Kim beaming broadly as the U.S. president gave him a thumbs up.

With cameras of the world’s press trained on them, Trump and Kim displayed an initial atmosphere of bonhomie.

Both men had looked serious as they got out of their limousines for the summit at the Capella hotel on Singapore’s Sentosa, a resort island with luxury hotels, a casino, manmade beaches and a Universal Studios theme park.

But they were soon smiling and holding each other by the arm, before Trump guided Kim to the library where they held a meeting with only their interpreters. Trump had said on Saturday he would know within a minute of meeting Kim whether he would reach a deal.

After some initial exchanges lasting around 40 minutes, Trump and Kim emerged, walking side-by-side through the colonnaded hotel before re-entering the meeting room, where they were joined by their most senior officials.

Kim was heard telling Trump through a translator: “I think the entire world is watching this moment. Many people in the world will think of this as a scene from a fantasy…science fiction movie.”

Asked by a reporter how the meeting was going, Trump said: “Very good. Very, very good. Good relationship.”

Kim also sounded positive about the prospects.

“We overcame all kinds of scepticism and speculations about this summit and I believe that this is good for the peace,” he said.

Trump was joined by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton, and John Kelly, White House Chief of Staff, for the expanded talks, while Kim’s team included former military intelligence chief Kim Yong Chol, foreign minister Ri Yong Ho and Ri Su Yong, vice chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party.

MARKETS CALM

As the two leaders met, Singapore navy vessels, and air force Apache helicopters patrolled, while fighter jets and an Gulfstream 550 early warning aircraft circled.

Financial markets were largely steady in Asia and did not show any noticeable reaction to the start of the summit. The dollar was at a three-week high and the MSCI index of Asia-Pacific shares was largely unchanged from Monday.

While Trump and Kim search each other’s eyes and words for signs of trust or deceit, the rest of the world will be watching, hoping that somehow these two unpredictable leaders can find a way to defuse one of the planet’s most dangerous flashpoints.

A body language expert said both men tried to project command as they met, but also displayed signs of nerves.

In the hours before the summit began, Trump expressed optimism about prospects for the first-ever meeting of sitting U.S. and North Korean leaders, while Pompeo injected a note of caution whether Kim would prove to be sincere about his willingness to denuclearise.

Officials of the two sides held last-minute talks to lay the groundwork for the summit of the old foes, an event almost unthinkable just months ago, when they were exchanging insults and threats that raised fears of war.

Staff-level meetings between the United States and North Korea were going “well and quickly,” Trump said in a message on Twitter on Tuesday.

But he added: “In the end, that doesn’t matter. We will all know soon whether or not a real deal, unlike those of the past, can happen!”

The combatants of the 1950-53 Korean War are technically still at war, as the conflict, in which millions of people died, was concluded only with a truce.

On Tuesday morning, Pompeo fed the mounting anticipation of diplomatic breakthrough, saying: “We’re ready for today.”

He earlier said the event should set the framework for “the hard work that will follow”, insisting that North Korea had to move toward complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation.

North Korea, however, has shown little appetite for surrendering nuclear weapons it considers vital to the survival of Kim’s dynastic rule.

Sanctions on North Korea would remain in place until that happened, Pompeo said on Monday. “If diplomacy does not move in the right direction … those measures will increase.”

He added: “North Korea has previously confirmed to us its willingness to denuclearise and we are eager to see if those words prove sincere.”

The White House said later that discussions with North Korea had moved “more quickly than expected” and Trump would leave Singapore on Tuesday night after the summit, rather than Wednesday, as scheduled earlier.

Kim is due to leave on Tuesday afternoon, a source involved in the planning of his visit has said.

One of the world’s most reclusive leaders, Kim visited Singapore’s waterfront on Monday, smiling and waving to onlookers, adding to a more affable image that has emerged since his April summit with South Korean leader Moon Jae-in.

‘CHANGED ERA’

Just a few months ago, Kim was an international pariah accused of ordering the killing of his uncle, a half-brother and scores of officials suspected of disloyalty.

The summit was part of a “changed era”, North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency said in its first comments on the event.

Talks would focus on “the issue of building a permanent and durable peace-keeping mechanism on the Korean peninsula, the issue of realising the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and other issues of mutual concern”, it added.

Ahead of the summit, North Korea rejected unilateral nuclear disarmament, and KCNA’s reference to denuclearisation of the peninsula has historically meant it wants the United States to remove a “nuclear umbrella” protecting South Korea and Japan.

Trump spoke to both South Korea’s Moon and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday to discuss developments ahead of the summit.

“I too, got little sleep last night,” Moon told his cabinet in Seoul as the summit began in Singapore.

“I truly hope it will be a successful summit that will open a new age for the two Koreas and the United States and bring us complete denuclearisation and peace.” – REUTERS

 

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Silicon Valley faces tech backlash: maybe needs to be taken down to size


Polarising content and Russian manipulation of social media are fuelling calls for greater regulation of firms like Google and FB. — 123rf.com

 

Demonstrators at a rally in opposition to white supremacists and the postponed right-wing “March on Google” protest of James Damore’s firing that was originally planned the same day. — Bay Area News Group/TNS

Once a darling, tech hub Silicon Valley is under attack for its technologies which are damaging our lives.

ONCE upon a time, there was a beautiful land filled with bright minds and gleaming prospects.

People called it Silicon Valley, and out of it flowed knowledge, ideas and innovations that gave us almost-unthinkable powers to learn, to communicate, to transform our lives into exactly what we wanted them to be. The region’s denizens toiled happily at the cutting edge, and day by day, they were making the world a better place.

But today, this beautiful land is under attack from within and without. The products and services it sends out into the world are being called addictive, divisive and even damaging, raising the cry that instead of making the world better, they are making it worse.

As technology plays a deeper and more pervasive role in nearly every aspect of our lives, the industry that has upended everything from shopping and travel to education and human relationships is facing a backlash the likes of which Silicon Valley has never seen.

Polarising online content and Russian manipulation of social media platforms have fuelled calls from the right and the left for greater regulation of firms like Google, Facebook and Twitter. World wide web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, Republican US Senator John McCain, leftist billionaire George Soros, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and conservative Fox News host Tucker Carlson have all joined the chorus demanding the government take action.


Terrific or terrible?

Critics argue that the big tech firms have become too economically dominant, intruded too far into our lives and have too much control over what gets seen and shared online. At the same time, critics contend, those same companies have failed to take responsibility for the misuse of their services by malevolent actors, for the spread of fake news and for the way their platforms and algorithms can be gamed.

Stanford computer science students are protesting Apple, demanding it make less addictive devices.

The #MeToo movement has amplified a debate over sexual harassment and diversity in Silicon Valley. And conservatives have attacked the whole region as a liberal echo chamber that stifles precisely the open debate it claims to embrace.

Thus the backlash.

“What makes it categorically different now is that this is the first time I have seen that people are saying, ‘Hmmm, maybe Silicon Valley needs to be taken down to size,’ said Leslie Berlin, project historian for Stanford University’s Silicon Valley Archives. “This notion that what Silicon Valley represents actually threatens rather than embodies what makes the country great, that is new.”

Berners-Lee in an open letter recently called the tech giants “a new set of gatekeepers” whose platforms can be “weaponised” to widen social rifts and interfere in elections. Benioff told CNBC in January that social media was “addictive” and should be regulated like cigarettes.

Carlson wants Google treated like a public utility because it “shuts down free speech for political reasons”.

Former president Barack Obama, at a February conference at MIT, said social media was Balkanizing public discourse, creating “entirely different realities” that contribute to “gridlock and venom and polarisation in politics”.

Even Facebook has jumped in with an unusual mea culpa, issuing a news release in February admitting it was “far too slow to recognise how bad actors were abusing our platform”.

Raking in the money

Despite its critics, Silicon Valley remains hugely successful and influential, with 21% of employed people working in tech, according to a 2017 Federal Reserve Bank report. Though the region’s economy has shown some signs of slowing, job growth in Silicon Valley has been more than double the national rate since the beginning of the economic recovery in 2010.

And the region remains home to the two most valuable public companies in the world, Apple and Google’s parent firm Alphabet, as well as world-class universities. Every day, people around the world benefit from Silicon Valley-built tools that have transformed communication, opened access to information, and made life easier.

The notion that Silicon Valley’s best days are over is far from new – people have been predicting its demise ever since the advent of the microprocessor, said Berlin.

“It was going to be the oil shocks of the 1970s that were going to take it down, and then competition from Japan, India and China, the Dot Com bust, Y2K – it’s just been one thing after another, the 2008 crash,” Berlin said. “Time and again, Silicon Valley has bounced back from these perceived threats. Silicon Valley has always been sort of the golden child of the Golden State.”

But this time, Berlin and others see something shifting.

“It is unprecedented,” UC Berkeley Haas School of Business professor Abhishek Nagaraj, said of the backlash. “I think this is because of how deeply penetrated tech is in people’s lives.”

Nagaraj, who studies the tech industry, compared the demonisation of Silicon Valley to the outcry against Wall Street after deceptive investment banking practices knocked the United States into the Great Recession.

“It appears as if, basically, tech is the new finance,” Nagaraj said.

Overwhelming force

Increasingly, the public views the tech industry as a force against which they are powerless, said San Jose State University anthropology professor Jan English-Lueck, who researches Silicon Valley’s culture.

“It’s now on people’s radar screen to be a place of the elite, where they’re changing the world in a way that ordinary people don’t have an influence on that change,” EnglishLueck said.

While the devices and social media platforms created by hugely successful Silicon Valley tech firms have given us new ways to connect, they’ve also thrown the worst of human nature into our faces, said English-Lueck.

“You don’t have to look in somebody’s eyes when you’re telling someone something ugly,” English-Lueck said. “That’s really exaggerated people’s ability to hate.”

She believes the optimistic view of technology as the great liberator and connector helped keep major tech firms from building more safeguards into their platforms to prevent vicious online attacks, dissemination of fake news and nation-state intrusions.

“Do we want free speech and free action that’s amplified by the Internet?” she said. “Sometimes we don’t want that.”

Stephen Milligan, CEO of pioneering San Jose data-storage firm Western Digital, doesn’t think technology can solve everything.

But Milligan doesn’t buy the notion that Silicon Valley has lost its bloom. The region’s companies are still trying to solve “real problems” in the world and having a positive impact on people’s lives.

“It’s still cool,” Milligan said. “I actually think it’s more cool.”

Silicon Valley boosters such as Peggy Burke, CEO of Palo Alto branding agency 1185, will tell you the technology industry can fix the problems it creates.

“You have to weigh the good and the bad, and if the bad gets so bad that it outweighs the good, someone will solve for that,” Burke said. “If there’s a problem – traffic, transportation, housing, stopping Russians, fake news – someone in the Valley right now is working on solving for that problem. I’ve been in the Valley for 30 years and I’ve seen it happen over and over.”

A reckoning for the region is likely, but it won’t be a fatal one, Berkeley’s Nagaraj said. The problems arising from technology will exacerbate the ongoing decentralisation of innovation, as boot camps bring entrepreneurial skills to new regions, and clusters of expertise – in “deep learning” artificial intelligence in Toronto, for example – lead to cooperative projects linking the Valley to other areas, he said.

“It’s going to be a much more collaborative process than one of replacement,” he said. “We are moving to a world where not all the big hits come from Silicon Valley.”

Source: By Ethan Baron – The San Jose Mercury News/Tribune News Service

 

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Telling fact from fiction, fake news


Easy target: Fake news is a big problem here because many of us are too impressionable when it comes to news on the Internet.

HARDLY a day passes without someone sharing a video with me. No one bothers to check, not for a minute, if this could be nothing more than a fake video gone viral. Yet, amazingly, they are quick to forward such things to me.

And that doesn’t even include the unsolicited political messages, through which senders expect their receivers to echo their political enthusiasm.

More alarmingly, residents chat groups on uncollected rubbish or poor maintenance, suddenly see political messages popping up in them. Even prayer and old classmates chat groups aren’t spared, my goodness.

Blame it on what is often dubbed “silly season”, leading up to the general election, but don’t test our patience by diverting our attention to something trivial. It is downright irritating and insulting. And who cares about these politicians, anyway? Not everything in life is about politics, after all.

On Friday, a video went viral on what looked like a gun fight between the police and a notorious gang in Kuala Lumpur.

Some truth-seekers took the trouble to check with the media, but most would have despatched it to their friends in no time at all.

As trained journalists, we obviously scrutinised the video to look for give-aways. It doesn’t take a detective to pick out the holes, but then, there are many gullible Malaysians.

For one, the tiny yellow taxis in the video don’t exist in KL. There is no such building with that staircase structure in the capital, either, and there was a camera crew in plain view running around filming the action scenes, clearly indicating a movie set.

Most of the cars in the video aren’t even models we regularly see in Malaysia, and there was also a guy who ran by wearing what appeared to be heavy clothing.

On Thursday night, it got even sillier.Leaping out of the world wide web was a video of what’s been made to look like a Malaysian student being bullied in a classroom.

The comments by some racist airheads really infuriated me. With the victim appearing Chinese, the bully possibly Malay – he looked Indian to me – it became fertile ground to sow the seeds of hate.

At no point did it occur to them that this video could have come from Singapore. It didn’t even cross their minds that Malaysian students no longer wear uniforms entirely in white. The last time students were decked completely in white was probably in 1979 – during my time as a student. And desks and chairs in green? In our schools?

The Education Ministry has come out to confirm that the incident in that widely-shared video happened in Singapore on Feb 9.

Describing the footage as a “severe case of bullying”, Deputy Education Minister Datuk P. Kamalanathan urged netizens to stop spreading the clip.

“This happened at Westwood Secondary School in Singapore. Please don’t spread this video and claim that it happened in Malaysia.

“Before forwarding anything, it would be wise to authenticate its veracity to avoid confusion and misinformation,” he added.

A group of students from Westwood Secondary School were filmed punching, kicking and throwing chairs at a classmate in a video that then went viral, reported Singapore’s The Straits Times on Feb 18.

In the video posted on Facebook page Fabrications About Singapore on Feb 15, a student can be heard egging his friends on to “teach” one of their classmates a lesson.

Two students were captured throwing chairs at a boy seated at his table in a classroom while on his mobile phone. The boy is stunned when a chair hits his head.

A student then slaps the boy, before throwing a series of punches and kicks at him.

Then, the student overturns the boy’s chair, shoves him to the floor and continues to pummel him.

Then, there was the fake sex video, which purportedly featured national badminton hero Datuk Lee Chong Wei as a “movie star”.

I meet my fellow Penangite regularly, and I can safely say that I have observed him up close and personal.

I can tell that Lee is much more muscular than that skinny, presumably, porno actor in the video, and the hairstyle doesn’t even match our sports idol’s.

Lee has done right by making a police report, and let’s hope the police, with the help of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, swiftly track down the culprits of this vicious smear campaign.

It’s obvious that some people not only want to discredit the three-time Olympic silver medallist but are looking for maximum mayhem by aligning their dubious act to coincide with the release of his feature length biopic Lee Chong Wei: Rise of the Legend next month.

And that’s far from the end of the tall tales. There’s also this pathetic fake news about rejected Musang King durians from China – timed to perfection to be “reported” right before the International Durian festival in Bentong.

The Internet burned with a doctored picture depicting a mountain of the “rejected” fruits, which were said to have been exposed to extremely high levels of insecticide.

Those who shared that piece of poor journalism – either because they were sincerely concerned, genuinely ignorant or politically motivated – didn’t know, or cared to find out that Malaysia doesn’t export durians in its original fruit form but rather, as frozen pulp in packages.

And for sure, the Chinese wouldn’t have wanted to bear the freight charge to return these bad durians to Malaysia. The life span of our durian is only a day or two. How could it have been stacked up like that in the picture?

Durian lovers who inspected the picture could tell they were not Musang King, but instead, something of Thai origin.

With the general election looming, the recycled rumours of Bangladeshi phantom voters arriving by the planeloads at KLIA2 have resurfaced. Even an opposition state assemblyman, in her Chinese New Year video criticising the #UndiRosak activists, cheekily added that “even the Bangladeshis want to vote.” Can you picture 40,000 of them milling at our airport?

Although not a shred of evidence has come to light to back up the incredulous claim, the myth continues to be perpetuated, and it’s a given it will be rinsed and repeated. Perhaps it’ll be the Nepalese or Rohingya this time?

While the ordinary Malaysian can be forgiven for being easily swayed, it’s an entirely different story when journalists find themselves duped, or God forbid, spreading the “news”.

In the 2013 general election, a prominent TV presenter posted on his Facebook page claiming a blackout occurred at the Bentong counting centre, which led to the Barisan Nasional winning the parliamentary seat, slyly implying the coalition cheated during the result tabulation.

He got his network into hot water when he returned to his FB profile to say, “when my child is born, I will ask him to write an essay with the title ‘The Blackout Night’. The beginning of the essay would be on May 5, 2013, there was a stiff fight in the Bentong seat. Someone had said that he would cut his ears if it is lost, and then the counting process started, blackout …”

To credit MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai’s opponent, DAP challenger Wong Tack denied the rumours. But let’s hope this presenter has since matured, and perhaps, become more cynical as a journalist or presenter, at least.

The most frequent fake news that sparks to life every few weeks would be the dates of the Parliament’s dissolution and polling.

Interestingly, in the case of the polling date “report”, it involved the Prime Minister having an audience with the King, accompanied by the Deputy Prime Minister and Speaker.

It’s all very simple, really – the PM doesn’t need anyone tagging along, and after meeting the King, he surely can’t be fixing a date since that job belongs to the Election Commission.

A news portal reported that fake news is a big problem here because many of us are too impressionable when it comes to news on the Internet.

The Asian Correspondent reported: “Without questioning the veracity of certain claims and announcements, it seems that oftentimes, anything resembling a news story – whether shared on social media or via mobile messaging apps – is swallowed wholesale.

“Let’s look at how WhatsApp has become a popular platform to spread news. How many of you have received forwarded messages that clearly resemble fake news and could have easily been dismissed as such? I’m sure so many have, and speaking from experience, it definitely gets frustrating.

“The worst part is that when you question the person who unwittingly forwarded the news, he or she would say, ‘I don’t know if it’s true or not. I received it from someone else, so, I’m just forwarding.’”

This has happened continually because no one is punished for their unscrupulous and reckless deeds, even if their actions lead to undesirable consequences amounting to racial tension, riots and even death.

And the campaigning hasn’t even begun! So, let’s put on our thinking caps and brace for the inevitable soon – a deluge of fake news.

On the beat Wong Chun Wai

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now the group’s managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.
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Penang Paya Terubong Residents living under shadow of fear!


Put on hold: A view of the site for the development of four apartment buildings in Paya Terubong, Air Itam.

GEORGE TOWN: Since the deadly landslide in Tanjung Bungah, people in Paya Terubong are looking over their shoulder – and up at a nearby hill.

They have been trying for years to stop a project comprising four towers, each over 40 storeys tall, approved on a hillside across the road from their homes.

Because the project has already been approved, the residents are down to one last resort – the state Planning Appeals Board.

“We must try. The only thing between our homes and those four towers will be a new two-way street that the developer will build if this project goes on,” said Taman Sri Rambai and Taman Lau Geok Swee Residents’ Association chairman Dr Ti Lian Geh.

The plan, he said, was supposed to be six-storey townhouses but the developer put in a request to change it to high-density apartments.

He said the residents have been living in fear after learning that the development plan was changed to three blocks of 47-storey luxury apartments and a 41-storey block of affordable housing.

He said a hearing is ongoing with the Planning Appeals Board to stop the development.

“Building skyscrapers on a steep hillslope is dangerous. If the towers come down, the whole neighbourhood will be gone,” he said, adding that the high-density project will also worsen traffic congestion there.

He told a press conference yesterday that the earthworks two years ago caused frequent flash floods, mudslides and torrential mudflows in the neighbourhood.

Penang MCA and Gerakan, which organised the press conference, urged the state government to revoke the approval.

Bukit Gelugor MCA division deputy secretary Choong Jun Jie said that every time there is a downpour, the residents worry.

“We do not want another tragedy,” he said.

Penang Gerakan vice-chairman Oh Tong Keong said people’s lives are in jeopardy when highrise projects are given priority.

The staggered hillslope is now covered with geotextile sheets after the Penang Island City Council issued a stop-work order about two years ago.

Penang Island City Council Engineering Department director Addnan Mohd Razali said all construction work there except for mitigation measures have been stopped pending the outcome of the residents’ appeal.

Source: The Star by Logeiswary Thevadass and Rena Lim

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Penang landslide, whose faults?


GEORGE TOWN: The Penang Island City Council has lodged a police report against the consultant of the affordable housing project that was hit by a landslide in Tanjung Bungah on Saturday, claiming the lives of 11 workers.

This is because the state government wants the matter investigated and the responsible parties to be charged, state Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said.

He stressed that the incident was a construction site accident.

“We hope the council and other related agencies will give their fullest cooperation to the police,” he told a press conference at Komtar yesterday.

At the same conference, Mayor Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif acknowledged that the project was rejected by the Department of Environment (DOE) but said it was approved by the state because it complied with Penang’s Safety Guidelines for Hill Site Development 2012.

Besides, she said, the DOE had approved a residential project and a private education institution that were even closer to the quarry.

“It is located more than 500m from the quarry’s blasting point while federal guidelines only require a minimum distance of 350m.

“The project’s site is zoned as ‘general residential’ and the slope gradient is less than 20°.

What a mess: Some groups believe that if the
DOE’s advice had been heeded, the landslide tragedy could have been
avoided. — Bernama

“The land is also less than 76m above sea level with the site located on a contour between 18m and 40m,” she said.

Maimunah said that based on all the requirements, the council’s One-Stop Centre (OSC) – which comprises members from more than 20 technical agencies at state and federal level – agreed to approve the project.

The OSC is in charge of approving property development plans on the island.

“The earthworks planning permission was presented to the OSC on May 14, 2015, and it was approved with conditions on June 6, 2015, while the commencement of work approval was given on Jan 18 last year,” she said.

However, the Tanjung Bungah Residents Association was not happy with the reasons given by the council for allowing the project.

“How could the council ignore the advice when the DOE is the authority responsible for protecting the environment?” association chairman Meenakshi Raman asked.

Penang Island City Council mayor Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif telling a press conference that the project met state guidelines.

“If they had heeded the DOE’s advice, this tragedy could have been avoided and lives would not have been lost.”

“We feel betrayed … the state government failed to listen to us,” she said yesterday, commenting on Maimunah’s statements at the press conference.

Penang Federal Action Council chairman Datuk Seri Zainal Abidin Osman urged the state government to immediately set up an independent body to audit all approvals of hillslope development projects made by the various state authorities.

“The Penang government has to take responsibility and be accountable for the tragedy involving the loss of 11 lives.

“We ask it to stop blaming others for any accident which occurred since it became the state government.

“We are surprised that a project which was not supported by a technical department was still given approval by the state authority,” he said in a statement.

An undertaker (in white) and a priest performing prayers at the scene of
the landslide for site supervisor Yuan Kuok Wern, 27, who was killed in
the tragedy.

The Institution of Engineers Malaysia (IEM) also came forward to offer technical assistance and opinions in the investigation.

Its president Dr Tan Yean Chin said in a statement that IEM is recognised locally and internationally as a professional body representing a wide cross-section of the engineering practice.

“As a learned society with over 40,000 members and affiliated to several international engineering organisations, IEM is able to offer expert opinions on this tragic event,” he said.

Source: The Starby lo tern chern, logeiswary thevadass, cavina lim, crystal chiam shiying, r. sekaran, rahmah ghazali, danial albakri

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