Archive for February, 2014

We are generating our own haze, says Met Dept

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR: The causes of the current haze in Malaysia have been identified to be domestic sources such as forest burning, smoke from factories, vehicle emissions and open burning.

Malaysian Meteorological Department (JMM) director-general Datuk Che Gayah Ismail said the haze had no connection with the recent eruption of Mount Sinabung in North Sumatera, Indonesia or other outside factors.

She said the hot and dry weather without any rainfall for several days experienced in the country only made the situation worse.

“This time, the haze is caused by domestic sources and the lack of rainfall has caused such things as gas, dust, ash and particles to float in the atmosphere and not fall down to the earth,” she told Bernama.

The Department’s records showed that the haze was now concentrated in large urban areas with economic and industrial activities as well as a large number of vehicles such as Kuala Lumpur, Selangor (Subang) and Penang (Seberang Perai).

Che Gayah said the temperature this year was high compared to the same period last year, due to the hot and dry weather, and this was expected to continue until the middle of March.


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Malaysia’s population to number 30 million on Thursday

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

PETALING JAYA: When dawn breaks on Malaysia Thursday morning, the country’s population will have broken the 30 million number.

According to the population clock published on the Malaysia Statistics Department website, the country has 29,999,530 citizens at 6.43pm Wednesday.

Based on The Star Online’s monitoring of the population clock, approximately one birth rate occurs every minute, which means the 30 million figure will be reached at approximately 2am on Thursday.

According to the Department’s population projections, the figure will reach 38.5 million people by the year 2040, comprising 19.6 million males and 19 million females.

by D. Kanyakumari.

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QEH Tower Block opens June

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Kota Kinabalu: The Queen Elizabeth I (QEH I) Tower Block is 98 per cent completed and is finally scheduled to open in June, Health Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam announced during a working visit, Tuesday.

He said workers are busy placing all the equipment and when completed it would have about 1,500 beds, making it the third general hospital for the city after QEH II and the Sabah Women and Children’s Hospital in Likas.

“The cost of building this complex is RM365 million, while the Ministry has spent about RM120 million for equipment.

So in total it costs RM485 million,” he said.

The completion of the tower block had been delayed several times due to, among other things, labour and cement shortage. It stands where the State’s first hospital was built but had to be demolished due to structural problems related to the use of sea sand during its construction.

Dr S. Subramaniam also proposed the development of seven health zones as the Ministry’s next move to improve healthcare services in Sabah.

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Sabah needs another 600 doctors

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Subramaniam surveying the medical facilities at QEH I.

KOTA KINABALU: The government is mulling a proposal to provide special incentive for doctors to serve in Sabah, said Health Minister Datuk Seri S Subramaniam.

He said the ministry was discussing with the Public Services Department (JPA) to have the agency conduct a study on how the existing incentive structure for doctors can be reviewed to provide better perks to those serving in the state.

He said the move was needed to help address the shortage of doctors in Sabah, which has remained critical.

“The ministry is trying to get more doctors who can serve in Sabah as well Sarawak,” he said, noting that there were some 700 physicians currently serving in Sabah and the state needed another 600 to cope with its increasing population.

Speaking to reporters after visiting Queen Elizabeth Hospital I here yesterday, Subramaniam said the ministry also suggested for universities in Sabah to provide programmes for specialist doctors.

He said this would effectively help increase the number of doctors in the state as these medical students could serve at the hospitals while undergoing their training.

He noted there were presently only three universities in the country offering such programmes, namely Universiti Malaya (UM), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM).

“The government is always trying through various means to ensure that demand for medical experts in Sabah were met, in addition to continuously improving the healthcare facilities and infrastructure in the state,” he said.

Time we made ourselves worthy of the task at hand

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

WHEN you are a resident of the most populous, modern and industrialised state in the country, the last thing you expect is for your basic needs to be compromised.

And we are not talking only about the estimated 5.5 million residents of Selangor, but also the people in the adjoining Federal territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.

The combined population of more than seven million are linked together more closely than can be imagined, even if the jurisdictions are different.

Which is why the current water situa­tion in Selangor has wider ramifications than just the inconvenience and disruption to the daily life of the people.

When word went out that a water rationing exercise would have to be implemented, the people were definitely caught by surprise. And they have the right to be angry.

While only certain less populated districts are affected at this point in time – Hulu Langat, Kuala Langat and Sepang districts involving 60,000 households from Feb 27 till March 31 – there is no guarantee that the crisis will not spill over into the densely populated areas where the economic heartbeat of the state beats the strongest.

When the taps run dry, the effect on business – from small-time hawkers to major manufacturers – will have a cascading effect that will impact the lives of many.

In day-to-day affairs, the images we see of residents fighting for every precious drop of water are only a small microcosm of the difficulties in the days to come.

We know that there has been a prolonged dry spell not only in Selangor but throughout the country. We know that dam levels are dropping. We know that pollutants are accumulating in the rivers that feed raw water into the dams.

We know that there are not enough water tankers to go around. And we certainly know that politics has played havoc on the possibility of a long-term solution in managing water resources in this key state.

But to the ordinary person, they are not interested in the whys and the hows. They could not care less about the politics. All they know is that if things are properly taken care of, there will always be proper contingency plans that are proactive rather than reactive.

In these dry days with soaring temperatures, let us not play games that benefit no one.

The Star Says.

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Make Science Fun Learning – Idris Jusoh

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

CYBERJAYA: — Parents and teachers should make learning science interesting in promoting interests in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) among school children.

Second Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh said the fun-flavoured way to learn science would help achieve 60 per cent science students in the country.

At present, he said science students made up only 37 per cent of the total.

“Don’t blame the students for not doing the science subjects but ourselves for not making them interesting. Therefore, we should make science interesting so that the school children take up STEM subjects in school.

“The Kuala Lumpur Engineering and Science Fair 2014 (KLESF 2014) will put science in a fun and interesting manner. The fair can promote interest among students to do science,” he said at a press conference after the launch of KLESF 2014 at the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) here Tuesday.

KLESF 2014 will be held at the National Science Centre from April 25 to 27 to promote school children’s interest in STEM and its related career development among students and community.

The fair is part of the Science to Action (S2A) initiative announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak last year to mainstream the usage and understanding of science to the society and promote innovation and technology as one of the strategic reform initiatives for national development.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the KLESF 2014 Steering Committee, Datuk Ir Hong Lee Pee said the fair would foster networking among schools, public and private sectors to share information and experiences on projects, extra-curriculum and good practices in STEM education.

He said a vital component of the KLESF 2014 was the School Engineering and Science Design Mentorship Programme which is a discovery, hands-on and project based learning scheme for STEM in schools which involves university, industry and professional communities.


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In uniform glory

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Teachers are expected to don standard outfits on special school occasions and they conform because of the need to bond with their peers and yet be different from the rest.

WE WERE comparing old school staff photographs and trying to remember all the names of our former colleagues and wondering where they might be now when Dilla remarked, ‘Notice how much more colourful staff photos of 20 years ago were compared to now.’

We looked at Dilla’s 1988 staff photograph taken in front of her old school hall with the usual “three level” arrangement. The teachers in the front row were all sitting on chairs with the principal right in the middle. Another row of teachers stood behind them, and at the back was the final row of teachers standing on a bench.

“Fast forward 25 years, now look at gambar staf 2012 (staff photos 2012),” said Dilla pointing to a more recent photograph.

The setting and arrangement were the same. Even the squinting of eyes to avoid the glare of the sun’s rays and the poses were similar.

There was however one marked difference. There seemed to be an added degree of cheerfulness in the 1988 photo due to the different colours the teachers were wearing compared to the rather austere looking uniform blue batik which was worn by all the teachers in the more recent photograph.

“We do look smarter, I suppose,” said Dilla frowning at the 2012 photograph. There’s something to be said about uniformity… but somehow it lacks something, don’t you think? Character, that’s it … it lacks character.”

I looked at the two photographs again and sensed what Dilla meant. While there was a greater sense of orderliness in the 2012 staff photograph, there seemed to be a feeling of freedom and diversity in the multi-coloured older photograph.

“We looked happier too,” said Dilla pointing to herself in the 1988 photo. “Look at me, don’t I look happier?”

There was no denying it. There Dilla was, in a canary-yellow knit skirt, feathered hair, huge earrings and a wide smile on her face standing next to another teacher dressed in a light pink and green salwar kameez. Compared to that, the smiles in the more recent photograph looked a little forced.

Conforming colours

I could see where Dilla was coming from basically because I had often thought the same thing myself especially when those in charge went a little overboard in deciding “uniform” dress material or colour themes for every special school occasion.

The standard batik for all teachers in the same school is by now part of almost every school staff and even the most difficult-to-persuade teachers who had chanted “show me where in the directive it says we must have a uniform”day and night, had finally succumbed and grudgingly purchased the batik material, with loud exclamations at how overpriced it was and how someone “up there” was a making a tidy profit from all this.

In the midst of all this, the committee in charge of these “staff-uniform” decisions would often go to great lengths to explain how difficult it was for them to find such high quality yet very reasonably priced material which would flatter all complexions.

We would be additionally informed of how lucky we were now that we had a standard teacher’s uniform. Come special school occasions like speech day or PTA meetings, it would be so easy for us. No more racking our brains thinking about what to wear.

All we had to do was to make sure our uniform was pressed and ready. With so many advantages, it made those who had rallied against the idea seem ungrateful and unjustifiably rebellious.

And so school teachers, some quite happily, purchased the material even if it was twice as much as what they would ordinarily pay, discussed the best tailoring places and got it ready by the time the next school occasion came up.

The problem was that it doesn’t quite end there with everybody being happy or coming to terms with the wearing of the teacher’s uniform.

by Mallika Yasugi.

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Suicide is not the answer

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

I wouldn’t say whether it is right or wrong, but the question is whether the problem can be solved with the help of family and friends.

AS a journalist covering the crime beat, I’ve had my fair share of witnessing deaths and tragedies, and their aftermath. Murders. Accidents. Robberies gone wrong. You name it…

I’ve also covered many stories on suicide and it never fails to shock me.

Just this past week, it happened to someone I know in a case that has gained national attention.

We were not close friends, but it really was shocking.

It was the first time it happened to someone I met and knew.

When I met this person some years back, I would have never imagined that she would do such a thing. She was daring, outgoing and adventurous.

It was said that she took her own life due to some relationship problems.

Knowing the kind of person she was, it really made me think hard about what she was going through that made her feel she had to take her own life.

I mean, she was young and had her whole life ahead of her. I can’t imagine what her family is now going through. It’s sad, really.

Wasn’t there someone she could go to?

Was there no way to solve it? If only I had the chance to understand what she was going through.

This issue has affected me before, when I covered the attempted family suicide that shocked the nation late last year.

I was covering a police event when news broke about a suicide not too far away.

The news at the time was brief. None of us reporters knew what exactly happened but we knew it was not the usual suicide as it involved a little girl.

Rushing to the scene, I briefed my boss on the incident with whatever information I had.

Once we got to the scene, residents in the area were talking. People gathered around the area said it was a family suicide.

It appeared the parents had attempted to kill their children and then themselves.

It was not long after that, that the district police chief came, to the scene where dozens of reporters had gathered, to give a statement on the incident.

The news was shocking.

The parents had allegedly attempted suicide by inhaling charcoal fumes but instead, only the five-year-old daughter died.

by Jastin Ahmad Tarmizi,

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A matter of life and death

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Of all the issues being negotiated in the TPPA – none are more important than life-saving medicines at affordable prices.

IF you or some family members or friends suffer from cancer, hepatitis, AIDs, asthma or other serious ailments, it’s worth your while to follow the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations, now going on in Singapore.

It’s really a matter of life and death. For the TPPA can cut off the potential supply of cheaper generic life-saving medicines, especially when the branded products are priced so sky-high that very few can afford them.

The fight for cheaper medicines has moved to cancer and other deadly diseases, when once the controversy was over AIDS medicines.

Last week, a cancer specialist in New Zealand (one of the TPPA counties) warned that the TPPA would prolong the high cost of treating breast cancer because of new rules to protect biotechnology-based cancer drugs from competition from generics. And this will affect the lives of cancer patients.

Some cancer medicines can cost a patient over US$100,000 (RM329,600) for a year’s treatment, way above what an ordinary family can afford. But generic versions could be produced for a fraction, making it possible for patients to hope for a reprieve from death.

In India, local companies are leading the fight to make medicines more affordable to thousands suffering from breast, kidney, liver and gastro-intestinal cancer and chronic leukeamia.

For example, an Indian company produced a generic drug for kidney and liver cancer 30 times cheaper than the branded product – US$140 (RM461) versus US$4,580 (RM15,100) for a month’s treatment – after it was given a compulsory license.

India has a patent law that disallows patents for newer forms of drugs or known substances unless it improves the medicine’s efficacy or effectiveness. Under WTO rules, countries are free to set their own standards for novelty, or whether a product is novel enough to be eligible for a patent.

Also, in many countries, including Malaysia, the patent law allows for companies to obtain compulsory licences to import or make generic versions of original medicines.

Governments grant such licences if the branded products are too expensive and the original companies do not offer attractive terms for a voluntary licence to other firms.

Multinational companies have strongly opposed compulsory licences or the Indian-type laws that allow for patents only for genuine innovations.

by Martin Khor.

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Ministry to conduct thorough study on system

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

PETALING JAYA: Teachers will no longer have to implement the school-based assessment system (PBS) in schools until further notice from the Education Ministry.

According to its director-general Datuk Dr Khair Mohamad Yusof, Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had instructed for a thorough study to be carried out on the implementation of PBS.

The ministry, he said in a statement here yesterday, had also taken the following immediate steps in addition to ensuring that studies and research on the PBS were carried out effectively.

This included delaying briefings on the PBS in primary and secondary schools across the country, which started on Feb 17, to avoid confusion over the implementation and organised workshops involving teachers and teacher unions.

“The workshop was conducted in early and mid-Feb 2013 and the results will be presented to the ministry in the near future,” he said.

Other steps are setting up a PBS Task Force at the ministry level, which will meet every week to review and evaluate the progress of each action, and creating a “War Room” to address outstanding issues.

The ministry, said Khair, had also implemented efforts to improve access to the PBS Management System at ministry level to ensure that teachers were able to access the system more easily and effectively.

“Every action taken is to ensure that every element of the implementation of PBS will provide a holistic assessment of students while reducing the workload of teachers,” said Khair.

The ministry, he assured, would announce the results of the reviews and research as well as any further action on the implementation of PBS.

“(This will be done) when the minister is satisfied with the proposed improvements, which will take into account the latest findings of the ministry, complaints from teachers and public opinion, including that of Suara Guru-Masyarakat Malaysia (SGMM),” said Khair.

On Saturday, a group of teachers had showed up at a rally to protest against the PBS with many saying that they were not afraid of the repercussion of joining in.

by Jeannette Goon.

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