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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Israel: Hamas mortars prompted attack near U.N. school

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Three artillery shells believed to have been fired by Israeli forces struck near the perimeter of a U.N. school in northern Gaza on Tuesday, killing at least 30 people and wounding 55, a U.N. official said.

In a handout photo from Israel Defense Forces, troops deploy Tuesday in northern Gaza.

In a handout photo from Israel Defense Forces, troops deploy Tuesday in northern Gaza.

The Israeli military said Hamas militants had fired mortar shells at Israeli forces, prompting return fire, according to its initial investigation.

U.N. Relief and Works Agency Director John Ging said most of the casualties were outside the school in the Jabalya refugee camp.

"It's a very built-up area, so of course it was entirely inevitable that if artillery shells landed in that area there would be a high number of casualties," he said at a U.N. briefing from Gaza City.

Palestinian sources said 44 were killed in the attack.

The Israeli military said it is checking the report. The Israeli government has barred CNN and other news from entering Gaza.

A short time later, another artillery shell struck inside a second U.N. school in Jabalya, but Ging said the boys' prep school was empty at the time.

It was the third Israeli strike affecting a U.N. school in Gaza. Three Palestinian men, all members of the same family, were killed Monday night in Gaza City by a direct hit on an elementary school, the U.N. agency said.

The schools were in use as shelters for civilians fleeing the military operation. The buildings were "clearly marked" with U.N. flags, and the agency said it had given the global-positioning coordinates of all its schools to Israeli authorities.

The U.N. agency said 400 Palestinians were staying in the Asma Elementary School at the time of Monday night's airstrike.

The latest incidents came as Israeli ground forces surrounded densely populated Gaza City after at least 50 airstrikes pounded the region overnight.

Other airstrikes hit the homes of people linked to Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza, including the Wadi family in Jabalya, Hamas security sources said. Eight people were killed in that strike. An overnight airstrike hit the Jabalya home of Imad Siam, one of the leaders of Hamas' military wing.

Israel claimed Tuesday to have killed 130 Hamas fighters since beginning a ground offensive at dusk Saturday. An Israeli soldier was killed Tuesday morning in northern Gaza City, the Israeli military said, bringing to six the number of Israeli forces who have died in Gaza since Israel launched its ground incursion.

As Israeli forces encircled Gaza City -- which has a population of about 400,000 -- diplomats turned up the heat for a cease-fire.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice briefed President-elect Barack Obama on Monday about American diplomatic efforts in the conflict, her spokesman said Tuesday.

Rice will confer Tuesday at the United Nations with officials including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the State Department said.

Abbas plans to present a resolution drafted by the Arab League to the U.N. Security Council. The resolution will call for Israel to stop its offensive in Gaza and for Hamas to cease firing rockets at the Jewish state.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday told French President Nicolas Sarkozy that Israel wanted a "full solution" to the conflict, not just a cease-fire that allowed Hamas to fortify itself, Olmert spokesman Mark Regev said.

"Before the last cease-fire with Hamas began, Hamas had missiles with a range of 20 kilometers," Regev said Tuesday. "By the end of the cease-fire, the range of the missiles grew to 40 kilometers. Israel does not want the next cease-fire to allow them to get missiles with a range of 60 kilometers."

A Hamas rocket penetrated farther than ever before into Israel on Tuesday, landing in the town of Gadera, about 23 miles (36 kilometers) north of the Gaza border, the Israeli military said. On Monday, a rocket hit a kindergarten in Ashdod, about 16 miles (26 kilometers) north of Gaza.

Hamas had fired 30 rockets at Israel by Tuesday afternoon, the Israeli military said. Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida has warned Israel that the militants will continue rocket attacks "for many months" and vowed to strike deeper into Israeli territory.

The humanitarian situation in Gaza has deteriorated. Hundreds of wounded people swarmed into Gaza's largest hospital.

The Israeli military said 80 trucks with humanitarian aid would be allowed to pass into Gaza on Tuesday at the Kerem Shalom crossing.

Before the second school attack, Palestinian medical sources said 23 people were killed Tuesday in Gaza, bringing the Palestinian death toll to 555 since Israel commenced airstrikes December 27.

No peace for mother and daughter

Almost scarred for life!

Anwar says Umno is like Israel

By Debra Chong

KUALA TERENGGANU, Jan 7 - Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim drew parallels tonight between the conflict in Gaza and what he called the sufferings of Malaysians as he hit the campaign trail at a mammoth rally attended by thousands here.

Attempting to touch a sensitive chord among the mainly Muslim constituency here, he accused Umno, the main party in the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, of acting like Israel.

"The leadership is busy collecting wealth. While Israel is punishing the Palestinian people for choosing Hamas, it is no different from Umno punishing Malaysians for choosing the Pakatan Rakyat," he told a ceramah here on the first day of campaigning for the Kuala Terengganu by-election.

Thousands of local residents had gathered to listen to a star-studded Pakatan Rakyat (PR) rally here where besides Anwar, the DAP's Lim Kit Siang and Pas president Hadi Awang were also among the top draws.

The flag-waving crowd cheered loudly during Anwar's speech, punctuated with shouts of "Allahu Akbar", which translates as "God is Great," the standard clarion cry of the Pas faithful.

With a majority of Malaysia's Muslims backing the Palestinian cause, Israel's ongoing invasion of Gaza is having a major impact on domestic politics.

Political leaders from either side of the divide have been busy burnishing their Islamic credentials, and Anwar's attack against Umno tonight will likely put BN on the defensive in the days to come.

The Kuala Terengganu by-election sees a three-way fight between BN's Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Salleh, Abdul Wahid Endut of Pas and independent Azharuddin Mamat.

Setting the tone for the campaign, Anwar told the huge flag waving crowd gathered at a beach behind the Astaka shopping centre here that the problem with Umno was that it was corrupt and ignored the suffering of ordinary Malaysians.

Sticking to his Gaza theme, he said: "Umno, like Israel, does not recognise the chosen Hamas leadership."

The Opposition Leader also spoke on the Hudud issue, and blamed "Umno and its controlled media" for fanning religious and racial hatred.

Pas vice-president Husam Musa's recent remarks that his party would want to introduce Hudud, the strict Islamic code which prescribes amputation, stonning and whipping as punishment for criminal offences, had touched off criticisms from non-Muslim groups, including PR partners DAP.

While the Hudud issue has caused uneasiness in other parts of the country, it has little traction in the east coast states, where a huge majority of the population, are conservative Muslims.

Still, with a tight race anticipated, both the BN and PR campaigns are mindful of the need to secure the Chinese vote, which represents around 11 per cent of voters here.

In Chennai, a new party for Indians in Malaysia?

By Baradan Kuppusamy

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 6 - Plans are afoot for a new political party to tap the support of working class Indians for the outlawed Hindraf movement.

Malaysian Indians from across the political divide and who have been at each other's throats recently have taken their differences to Chennai where a three-day Indian Diaspora Conference starts tomorrow.

While the MIC, DAP and PKR teams are expected to stick to their usual “at each other” script, the real new development there is the exploratory talks to be chaired by Hndraf chairman P. Waythamoorty that will take place on the sidelines of the conference, to form a new Indian political party.

Waythamoorty and his brother, Hindraf legal adviser P. Uthayakumar, who is being detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA), had decided during a “discussion” on Dec 30 that the best way to move forward theirs and Hindraf's agenda is to set up a new Indian political party that can consolidate the gains of the Nov 25, 2007 protest and maximize the political awakening of the Tamil working class masses.

They feel that the Hindraf movement has been “hijacked” by the opposition political parties including even PAS through its network of PAS Indian Clubs, and that the awakened Indian voice has become fragmented and submerged by the Malay agenda in PKR and the Islamic agenda of PAS.

They also feel that the DAP is too much of a Chinese party to adequately represent Indian interests and that the party's Indian leaders had also rode the Hindraf wave and benefitted hugely but had not pressed the DAP and by extension the Pakatan Rakyat to alleviate the pressing problems faced by the Indian community.

Hindraf insiders said Waythamoorty's next important task, besides getting a new Indian party moving, is to free the movement's leaders, especially Uthayakumar, from Kamunting.

He is even lobbying Sonia Gandhi, the real power behind Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to help intervene on his behalf to free his brother.

It is no secret that Uthayakumar and Waythamoorty have had a huge falling out with other Hindraf leaders in ISA detention, accusing some of them of being Special Branch agents.

His relationship with DAP's M. Manogaran is also on the rocks, insiders said, adding Uthayakumar wants to “break free from the others and save Hindraf before it is to late.”

While there are no signs as yet from the government over the release of the five, the decision to form a new Indian party would have a significant impact on Indian politics.

A lot however depends on whether Waythamoorty is able to win over PKR Indian leaders like S. Manikavasagam and some DAP Indian leaders to the idea of a new party.

It would be an uphill task, especially with DAP Indian leaders like Dr P. Ramasamy and M.Kulasegaran, who are loyal not only to the party but also to DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang.

They are unlikely to break away.

But the same cannot be said of PKR Indian leaders like Kapar MP Manikavasagam who are more amenable to forming a new Indian party especially when such a move is ego-satisfying, glamorous and gives high status among Tamils.

These leaders are also close to Uthayakumar and see him as their political and ideological guru.

There are already talks that a hidden hand is behind the move to form a new Indian party to wean away Hindraf supporters from Pakatan Rakyat and especially PKR.

There is strong emotional attachment for the Hindraf Five among working class Indians who see them as individuals who took great personal risks to champion their cause.

They also feel that the five sacrificed themselves for them and that it was time to pay back in kind. If Uthayakumar forms a new Indian party it is likely he will win strong support from the Tamil masses.

Such a party, if it takes off, would have a major impact on Indian support for Pakatan Rakyat, the MIC and even the BN.

“We think that the time is right for Hindraf to come together into a political party and negotiate with both the Pakatan and BN governments for better benefits for Indians,” said a Hindraf leader now in Chennai.

“We are awakened and we must forge our own political path and not beg from either the BN or the Pakatan for help,” he said. “We are a significant minority and both sides need us and want us and that gives us bargaining powers.”

“We should use this opportunity to better ourselves,” he said.


It is a three corner contest for the Kuala Terengganu parliamentary by-elections by Barisan Nasional's Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid and PAS' Mohd Abdul Wahid Endut with an independent candidate Azharudin Mamat @ Adam.

Nominations which was held at the Stadium Negeri in Jalan Sultan Mahmud, Kuala Terengganu which closed at 10am and a hour later the candidates were announced by the Election Officer.

Nominations is over, now the election campaign commences.

17 January will be polling day to determine who will be elected to represent the Kuala Terengganu residents and voters from among these 3 candidates.

news n photos courtesy of Malaysiakini

Newscaster, actress face drug rap

By : Meor Shariman and V. Shuman
NST, Jan 06 2009

KUALA LUMPUR: The female newscaster and a part-time actress-cum-scriptwriter who were picked up during an alleged sex party on New Year Eve's are expected to be slapped with drug charges soon.

City police narcotics department chief Assistant Commissioner Kang Chez Chiang said the two women, along with seven revellers, tested positive for ecstasy and ketamine.
Kang said: "We are awaiting further test results."

The newscaster was identified as Farahrizan Abdul Razak (picture), 22, with Astro Awani channel while the identities of the others were not revealed. Farahrizan is said to be a popular face on the 24-hour news channel.

She and the other eight were among 26 revellers between the ages of 18 and 31 who were nabbed when police gate-crashed the New Year Eve's party at a serviced apartment in Jalan P. Ramlee here about 3.30am on Thursday.

The raiding party found liquor and ketamine, ecstasy and syabu in the 11th-floor unit. It also found unused condoms.

Kang said: "All 26 suspects have been remanded until Sunday. We are trying to find out who supplied the drugs."

Police, however, will not pursue sex charges against the 26 as investigations revealed that no sex party had taken place.

City Criminal Investigations Department chief Senior Assistant Commissioner II Ku Chin Wah, while confirming this, said it was a narcotics investigation.

It was reported that those who attended the party knew each other through Friendster, a social networking site on the Internet. Among those who turned up were college students.

It was also reported that the group had met earlier at a nightspot in Mont Kiara before adjourning to the serviced apartment.

Mahathir kata Wan Farid kroni PAK LAH

Mantan Perdana Menteri, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad kecewa dengan tindakan pemimpin UMNO memilih Dato’ Wan Ahmad Farid sebagai calon Barisan Nasional (BN) bagi pilihanraya kecil Parlimen Kuala Terengganu. (Gambar - Wan Farid dan Pak Lah begitu mesra....gambar dirakam dalam pesawat peribadi Perdana Menteri)

Beliau berkata demikian dalam satu sidang akhbar di Putrajaya semalam.

"Setiap orang akan melihatnya sebagai hanya seorang proksi... seseorang yang boleh dipergunakan kemudian jika Najib menjadi perdana menteri," katanya yang dipetik akhbar internet Malaysiakini.

Walaupun beliau enggan mengulas lanjut, namun secara jelas beliau merujuk Wan Ahmad Farid adalah seorang yang rapat dengan Perdana Menteri Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Dr Mahathir juga menyifatkan pilihanraya kecil Kuala Terengganu bukanlah agenda yang amat penting bagi Timbalan Perdana Menteri, Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak, yang menjadi Pengarah jentera kempenUMNO dan Barisan Nasional kali ini.

Klik Untuk Lihat Video Klip Sidang Media Tun Mahathir

Sime Darby gives up on IJN

6/1 Sime Darby pulls out, announces it will not pursue plan to acquire stake in National Heart Institute (IJN)/STAR
Thank you, IJN doctors and consultants
Thank you, bloggers
Thank you, Dr M
Thank you, YB Wee Choo Keong, YB Dr Khir Toyo and other politicians who spoke and wrote against the IJN takeover bid
Thank you, Rocky Bru's readers
Thank you to everybody who sat and spat on Sime Darby for trying to take away IJN from the Rakyat.

Sime's Zubir still thinks he was right, though, and is talking about how the takeover would have been a "winning proposition" for all, including you and I. Read Malaysiakini's article here.

A doctor's advice - For the Health of All ... Watch the New Media

How To Change The World

I had heard of Haris Ibrahim even before I met him. Some acquaintances had told me of a lawyer who was seemingly singlehandedly taking on the world in his defence of principle. At the time he was involved in the case of the Besut Four, four individuals who had been convicted by a syariah court and sentenced to three years jail even though they had renounced Islam. His was the titanic struggle that pointing to an unpopular and inconvenient truth always is.

Reading of the case in the newspapers, it had struck me how frustrating it must have been for Haris to have to contend with a system that seemed more concerned with finding excuses than solutions. I wondered what it was that made him do what he did.

I came to see the sense of his choices when I met him for the first time at a Bar Council human rights training session a short while later. I saw a man who embraced the world and whose heart had enough space in it for everyone.

Over the years, we have collaborated on various initiatives, driven by a common belief in Malaysia’s need for an open and inclusive society in which all its children, irrespective of race, religion or culture, can have the freedom to pursue their dreams. It is this common belief that saw us developing a proposal for a commission that would be empowered to enquire into matters of religious harmony. It led us to engaging in a public awareness campaign aimed at creating awareness about worrying constitutional trends. It also prompted us to team up in a number cases that we believed had great bearing on the way things would be and which have ultimately left their marks on this nation.

Haris has become one of the most important civil society voices of this era. His highly influential blog, The People’s Parliament, and the range of civil society initiatives he gave life to over the last two years are breathtaking for their depth of reflection and breadth of reach. He was a prime mover of The Peoples’ Declaration, the Barisan Raykat and a host of other initiatives all of which were aimed at making the rest of us see that we had the power to effect change in our hands.

Before we began to believe in ourselves, Haris already did. March 8th proved his faith not to be misplaced. As much as this was about the soundness of his vision of what could be, it was equally about the correctness of his method. I have had the privilege of seeing some of his ideas come to life and I can say with conviction that nothing happened overnight. They developed one step at a time, from conceptualizing to planning to implementation, everything had its time and place.

The lesson I took from this is that to change the world, you must want it to and then take it one small step at a time.

Any effort aimed at improving our community, no matter how small, is a worthwhile one. Change is the by-product of an accumulation of worthwhile endeavours that may have as individual efforts escaped notice. We might think that one person’s choice not to engage in corrupt practices anymore would not bring endemic corruption to an end. If however there were sufficient numbers of such individuals, a tipping point could be reached and we might see a day when those who bribe stood out as the exception rather than the norm.

Understanding that our every action has a consequence is therefore the key that unlocks the door to change. Revolutions always start small. Consider the signals we send to people around us - family, friends or colleagues - and how those signals will be received. If you are a father and you bribe a police officer in front of your child, what you are in effect saying is that corruption is acceptable no matter how you might try to justify your behaviour. In the same way, if you are racist then those who you influence, even indirectly, will be influenced. It is the less obvious dimensions of what we do on a daily basis that trap us into vicious cycles of destructive conduct.

The change we effected last year was only skin deep. For us to transform ourselves we must confront the question of whether we really want change. We cannot run away from the fact that though the politicians are to blame for a good number of things, the ills that ravage our society stem from a value system that we have allowed to warp over time for our own convenience.

The question for us is what we propose to do about it.

(Malay Mail; 6th January 2009)

Malik Imtiaz Sarwar