Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak says he has embarked on a series of radical economic reforms. In reality it feels as if he has unleashed a barrage of incomprehensible acronyms on the unsuspecting public of this Southeast Asian nation.
The charge for economic reform is being led by the snappily named PEMANDU. As well as being the Malay word for “driver” it stands for the government’s Performance Management and Delivery Unit.
PEMANDU is in charge of formulating and implementing NKRAs (National Key Result Areas), MKRAs (Ministerial Key Result Areas) and getting “Big Results Fast”, according to its website, although it singularly failed to win political backing for a radical revamp of Malaysia’s costly subsidy regime.
It is also helping to formulate the 10th Malaysia Plan, 10MP for those in the know, a communist-era sounding 5-year plan that aims to help lift this middle income country to developed nation status by 2020.
(Thai firefighters douse the Central World shopping mall building that was set on fire by anti-government “red shirt” protesters in Bangkok May 19, 2010. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis)
We were walking down Sukhumvit road in downtown Bangkok just after the 9 p.m. curfew – down the MIDDLE of a road that on any other Friday night would have been filled with honking vehicles, hawkers, tourists and touts. We were escorting a colleague home from the temporary newsroom in that Reuters had set up at the Westin Hotel after we were chased out of our office near the red shirt encampment in central Bangkok. Not a creature was stirring. But what was that sound we kept hearing? Squeak, squeak, squeak.Then we saw them. Rats. Thousands of them. Scurrying along in packs on the sidewalks, the streets, the closed-down Skytrain overhead, at the entrances to shuttered shops, around piles of garbage that had mounted in the Thai capital since the May 19th riots. It was like a movie about an urban apocalyptic event where humans are wiped out and the vermin are triumphant.
from Raw Japan:
Some elections count more than others, and never more than when a longstanding dominant party is sent packing. I've been lucky enough to witness turning points in four countries on two continents.
France, India, Italy, now Japan -- all have rejected one-party dominance for the rough and tumble of alternating majorities. In each case, I was fortunate to behold history.
Gay Austrian fashionista Bruno will not be making an appearance on Malaysia’s screens this summer for fear of corrupting this mostly-Muslim nation’s youth.
But Malaysia’s parents will still not have it easy as the country’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is again on trial for sodomy in a re-run of a 14-month case that in 1998 generated endless sexually explicit headlines and questions from curious children.
Hiking through rubble-strewn streets, taking in a quake exhibit or bedding down in a concrete police compound — leaders at this week’s G8 summit in the Italian town of L’Aquila are in for a change of pace from the routine luxury spa and resort experience of past summits.****** Devastated by an April earthquake that killed nearly 300 people and ringed by tent camps with portable toilets, L’Aquila is a far cry from previous G8 host cities like the Baltic seaside town of Heiligendamm, French lakeside resort Evian and Scottish golf resort Gleneagles.************ ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** U.S. President Barack Obama and other leaders are being housed in a grey police school building on the outskirts of the mountain town, where they are to stay in spartan rooms with granite floors and cream-coloured walls and furnished with little more than simlpe wooden beds with white sheets.****** “There won’t be the luxuries of hotels on (Sardinia’s) Emerald Coast or (Rome’s) Via Veneto, but there will be dignified accommodation worthy of welcoming such important people,” said Italy’s emergency services chief, Guido Bertolaso.****** Room service menus will be absent, but each room will be supplied with instructions on what to do in the event of another earthquake. Aftershocks have been persistent and plentiful in the run-up to the summit.****** In their free time, leaders can browse through an exhibit on “100 years of earthquakes” in Italy or take up Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s offer of a guided tour of areas laid to waste by the tremor, like Germany’s Angela Merkel did on Wednesday.******Earthquake victims have even welcomed leaders with a giant sign on a hill near the summit site declaring “Yes we camp” to protest the slow pace of reconstruction in the area.****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ******For all the lack of luxury, L’Aquila does guarantee voters back home will see images of their leaders rolling up their sleeves under the hot Abruzzo sun at a time of recession and financial turmoil.****** “I think it’s better to have (the summit) in a damaged zone than in an ultra-touristy region where people are spending millions of dollars on their vacations, while the leaders are there to discuss solutions to the global economic crisis,” said Dimitri Soudas, spokesman for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, ahead of the summit.****** Italy was initially set to host the annual summit of leaders from the world’s richest nations on the picturesque island of Sardinia, but hastily moved it to L’Aquila citing solidarity with victims when faced with complicated logistics and spiralling costs.****** One thing that won’t be lacking at the summit is fine Italian cuisine, since good food is not a luxury given up easily in Italy. Among the local delicacies on offer are goat on skewers, baby lamb, rabbit from the small town of Goriano Valli, artichokes from Prezza and red garlic from nearby Sulmona.
By Barani Krishnan
A decade ago, Malaysia’s former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim was on trial for sodomy and corruption in a trial that exposed the seamy side of Malaysian justice and the anxieties of a young country grappling with a crushing financial crisis and civil unrest.
Anwar is Malaysia’s best known political figure, courted in the U.S. and Europe and probably the only man who can topple the government that has led this Southeast Asian country for the past 51 years.
After his Social Democrats scored their worst-ever result in European elections on Sunday, Frank-Walter Steinmeier might have thought things couldn’t get much worse. But then the man who hopes to beat German Chancellor Angela Merkel in September’s federal election sat down for a late night television talk show. During the one-hour broadcast, a tense-looking Steinmeier tried to answer the growing number of critics who say he lacks the charisma for the top job — but to many, he only ended up confirming that view.
Breaking from his normally polite, soft-spoken manner, Steinmeier frequently interrupted presenter Anne Will. When Will presented him with a video clip of SPD activists questioning his ability to energise the party, Steinmeier tried to sell his ”seriousness” as a vote-winning virtue. Perhaps the oddest moment came at the very end, when an unemployed man from eastern Germany complained about his struggles to find work. After quizzing the gas fitter about his search, Steinmeier announced that he had “two or three ideas” about jobs in the man’s region and promised to personally take charge of finding him a job. To derisive chuckles, his spokesman was asked at a regular government news conference on Monday whether Germany’s other 3.5 million jobless could count on the SPD candidate to personally sort out their work woes. No, the spokesman said, shifting uneasily in his chair: “The situation yesterday was very special.”
Climate health costs: bug-borne ills, killer heat
Tree-munching beetles, malaria-carrying mosquitoes and deer ticks that spread Lyme disease are three living signs that climate change is likely to exact a heavy toll on human health. These pests and others are expanding their ranges in a warming world, which means people who never had to worry about them will have to start.
Moving a 17-metre high monument to Christopher Columbus 100 metres down the road is how the Spanish government is interpreting the advice of John Maynard Keynes. The economist once argued it would be preferable to pay workers to dig holes and fill them in again, rather than allowing them to stand idle and deprive the economy of the multiplier effect of their wages.
So President Medevedev would like to create a “Speakers’ Corner” in Central Moscow for Russians to vent their political passions.******”It looks cool,” Medvedev told a group of human rights activists. “I need to speak with the Russian authorities and build our very own Hyde Park.”***Was this just a rhetorical flourish to impress his guests, a signal that he would loosen the reins that his predecessor, Vladimir Putin, has pulled so tight? Free speech, say the rights activists, is not something Russian authorities have prized, whether on the streets or in the media. Would it, could it, work in Moscow? Where ever would you put it in that crowded, bustling city? Who would go there? What would they do there?***Singaporeans, not know for a culture of dissent and protest, have led the way, setting up their own speakers’ corner to protest over economic hardship. Hundreds meet there every Saturday to demand government help. No trouble reported yet.******The London speakers’ corner is held up by some as a symbol of British democracy, a place where anyone can stand on a box and say (more or less) whatever he wants without fear. Yes, in their day, Vladimir Lenin and Karl Marx haunted the place, touting ideas that would have had them dragged away by police in their own countries. Lenin’s wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, wrote in her memoirs that the Bolshevik leaader was most impressed watching speakers “harangue the passing crowds on diverse themes”. All jolly stuff and not something he himself encouraged when he set up the dictatorship of the proletariat back at home.******These days though, for the most part, London’s speakers’ corner is a gathering place for quirky exhibitionists and comedians, political oddballs of left and right and religious eccentrics of all ilks warning sinful tourists of hell and damnation. The occasional thoughtful soul will read through Shakespeare’s sonnets or expound the virtues of a forgotten philosopher. Heckling seems to be a central part of the fun. A policeman may be at hand in case things turn nasty, but they rarely do.******Possibly, the spot in the north-east corner of Hyde Park was chosen for its closeness to Tyburn gallows where once the condemned would make their last declarations. The Moscow equivalent to Tyburn, I suppose, would be Red Square, where villains were put to death by the axe – though, in the Russian tradition, without those last words. Perhaps, then, Moscow’s Speakers’ Corner might fit nicely nearby at Alexandrov Gardens, at the Kremlin Walls. Arguably, though, a bit too close to***Medvedev’s seat of power. My proposal would be a few hundred metres up Tver Avenue, on Pushkin Square where the Soviet Union once maintained its own bizarre and macabre form of speakers’ corner. Perhaps I should call it the hat-takers-offers corner.******Every Human Rights Day, a keen crowd of journalists and plain-clothes KGB officers would gather in the winter cold around the perimeter of the square named after the great liberal poet Alexander Pushkin. As the hour of eleven approached, a tense hush would descend. A single figure would eventually appear, walk to the centre of the square, stand for a moment, and then take his hat (usually a rabbit-skin ‘shapka’) off; a symbolic protest against the suppression of human rights in the communist state.******In an instant, the KGB officers would swoop down upon him, drag him across the square, bundle him into a van and speed him off to the Lubyanka prison. A few minutes would pass and a second dissident would arrive, take off his hat and stand to attention before being likewise borne away by the forces of order. And so it went on.******Pity though the ‘innocent’ citizen who strayed unwittingly onto the square on that December day, carrying perhaps a magazine or a string bag of potatoes, and found himself suddenly the focus of this hawkeyed gathering. He would break his step and look around, of course, in wonder at his sudden and unexplained celebrity. Me?***That was more enough. Hat or no hat, he followed the rest, bundled into the van and away. It happened, sadly.******Finally, I ask myself who would pitch up at Moscow’s speakers’ corner and in what frame of mind? Memories of the breakup of the Soviet Union, the coups, the civil wars, the anger and the hardship, are still fresh. Economic crisis raises fears of another plunge into uncertainty and the eternal search continues. Kto Vinovat? Who is to blame?******What makes London’s Speakers’ Corner possible, amid all the mockery and sometimes quite pernicious views, is that most people just don’t take it seriously. They laugh, make fun. There may be anger but it knows its bounds. People throw up their hands and walk away, triumphant or humiliated before their peers.******How would Speakers’ Corner take root in Russian soil? Would liberal literati feast on Pushkin and Gogol, while the preachers invoke the fires of hell? Would it become a platform for Muscovites nursing private grievances against uncaring state institutions, the police, big business, the President? Could a Chechen malcontent plant his flag alongside angry nationalists and red-banner waving Stalinists?***Are Russians ready yet to laugh at profanity?
For all the shouting and nose-to-nose confrontations, visitors to Havana’s Parque Central might think they had walked into a brawl or counter-revolution … but here in the park’s Hot Corner, the topic almost always under discussion is baseball, Cuba’s national obsession.
At night, Salah Abbas Hisham wakes up screaming. Sometimes, in the dark, he silently attacks the boy next to him in a tiny Baghdad orphanage where 33 boys sleep on cots or on the floor. Salah, who saw both his parents blown apart in a car bomb, can never be left alone at night.