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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Asylum seekers: Britain has let us down

Police: Suspicious bag found in Namibian airport was a 'test device'

(CNN) -- A suspicious piece of luggage that was about to be loaded onto a flight in Namibia was a "test device" from a U.S. company that sells products designed to test security, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said in a news conference Friday in Hamburg, Germany.

Namibian Police on Friday warned that whoever is responsible for planting the device among the luggage of an Air Berlin flight Wednesday would be severely dealt with, warning that Namibia was not to be used as an unauthorized testing ground for aviation security.

"The preliminary investigations have revealed that the suspicious parcel does not contain any explosive substances; however, it is an explosive simulation training device, manufactured by an American-based company, 'Larry Copello Incorporated,' " Lt. Gen. Sebastian Ndeitunga, Namibia's top policeman, told reporters Friday at a news conference in Windhoek, the capital.

The device is a training aid to help screeners identify explosive devices, Larry Copello, founder and CEO of Larry Copello, Inc., told CNN Friday. Copello described the device as "non-hazardous ...not a threat to anyone."

Copello said his company sells such devices to law enforcement agencies, governments and corporate clients, but did not know to whom this particular device was sold. He learned of the Namibia incident on Thursday when the FBI called him. He said he is cooperating with the investigation.

An official with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration said Friday that they are working with German and Namibian authorities to determine the origin of the device and the reason it was to be transported on the plane.

"We applaud the vigilance of the aviation security authorities who discovered the device and took quick action to ensure that it did not pose a threat to the aircraft and passengers," the TSA official told CNN.

The discovery of the bag at Windhoek Hosea Kutako International Airport in Namibia delayed flight 7377 to Munich, Germany, on Wednesday and raised security concerns, a spokeswoman for the airline, Air Berlin, said Thursday.

De Maiziere said he believed the device was from a U.S.-based company, but did not know which company. He said no one was warned in advance about the test device. The bag contained a functioning electronic clock with wiring attached, but no explosives.

"Air Berlin has confirmed that there was no explosive material in the laptop bag found in Namibia," Sabina Teller, a spokeswoman for Air Berlin, told CNN. "The luggage was found in the airport, at no point was on the plane. It had no luggage label, so it was impossible to know where it was going, which company it was supposed to fly with or who it belonged to," she said

De Maiziere said authorities are investigating the bag's origin and its intended destination.

After the bag was discovered, the flight's 296 passengers and all bags were given additional security checks. The plane later landed safely in Munich after a six- or seven-hour delay, Air Berlin spokeswoman Silke Manitz said.

Germany raised its threat level Wednesday, saying concrete evidence had emerged of a possible attack planned in Germany later this month. It said there was evidence of persistent efforts by Islamists to launch an attack. A senior German counterterrorism source told CNN on Thursday that the German Interior Ministry warning was linked to recent threats to the country from al Qaeda in Pakistan.

Interior Minister de Maiziere addressed the threat level Friday by reiterating that people should go about their lives as usual.

Indian Actor Kamal Haasan Disagrees Tamil Movies Spark Violent Acts

kamalhasan
By Santhiran Munisamy

PORT KLANG, Nov 19 (Bernama) -- Leading Kollywood actor Kamal Haasan and film director K. S. Ravikumar have debunked a belief that excessive violent scenes in Tamil movies had a bearing on violent acts committed by Indian youths in Malaysia.

They vehemently disagreed with some Indian-based political parties and non-governmental organisations in the country that such a link existed, dismissing it as a wrong perception.

According to Kamal, what was featured in Tamil movies was a general reflection of what happened in society.

"Violent conduct is widely reported on the daily life of the people in Tamal Nadu, particularly in rural areas, and we, via the movies, attempt to highlight the social problems," he said in an exclusive interview with Bernama here.

Kamal, 56, and the crew of his latest movie, 'Manmadhan Ambu', made a one-day stopover in Malaysia and boarded cruise ship Virgo at Glenn Cruise Terminal, Pulau Indah here, heading to Singapore to attend the grand audio launch of the movie which is expected to be released late next month.

"It's our obligation and responsibility as key players of the industry in highlighting the matter, and we will continue to do it," said Kamal, who has won several Indian film awards.

After making his debut in 1960 as a child artist in 'Kalathoor Kannammaa', he went on to star in more than 150 movies, in almost all the major Indian languages such as Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam.

Kamal further defended Kollywood movie producers by saying that Tamil movies were "mirrors" which reflected incidents, occurences and behavioural patterns of people going about their daily life.

"It's like a mirror which reflects on the plus and minus points of each one of us. It's up to them to correct themselves by adjusting themselves while looking at the mirror...it's as simple as that," he said casually.

On a serious note, Kamal said violent conduct was an international phenomenon and not confined to a particular community or country, adding that actors like him and directors were not portraying non-existent violence.

His advice to youths? Kamal said he was not in favour of giving advice to anyone for, as a youth before, he did not appreciate such advice.

"Rather than advising them, they should be encouraged to adopt the lifestyles of successful people, such as Mahatma Ghandhi, who himself had said his life itself was a message to the people.

Asked on the possibility of talented Malaysians being given opportunities to appear in his movies, Kamal said: "Definitely".

He said the matter was even discussed during Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's visit to Tamil Nadu early this year.

"We had discussion over the matter but so far, no significant progress has been made. But I can give my word that talented Malaysians will definitely be featured in my movies," he stressed.

In April, Kamal had a discussion with the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia here to explore ways for both countries to cooperate in producing films in the near future.

Meanwhile, Ravikumar, who is directing Kamal's latest movie, said those blaming Tamil movies for violent conduct of some youths in Malaysia, were ignorant.

"There are so many factors to this social problem and blaming the movies is something really wrong," he said, noting that movies from the US and South Korea, in particular, depicted far more excessive violent scenes.

"For me, these people are getting their facts wrong... every individual has a perception on these matters. Violent scenes in Tamil movies are still at acceptable level," added Ravikumar.

He advised moviegoers to look at the "beauty" (positive aspects) of the movie in totality, rather than just picking on the negative elements.

"People like me, have a social responsibility in moulding our society, especially our youths, irrespective whether they are in India or other parts of the world.

"Therefore, youths should take the positive aspect of each movie," said the much-acclaimed movie director.

Dr M cautions KLCI rise not an indicator of healthy economy

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 19 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad threw cold water today to the belief that the rising Kuala Lumpur Composite Index (KLCI) indicates a healthy economy, saying it is mainly due to foreign funds buying cheap stocks for short-term gains.

The FTSE Bursa Malaysia Kuala Lumpur Composite Index (FBM KLCI) was at 1,502.73, up 6.08 points, at 3.30pm today. It has been rising steadily in the past few weeks to breach 1,500-point mark.

“Some people believe that the rise of the KLCI is an indicator of the healthy state of the Malaysian economy. This may be true but let me throw some cold water in the belief that the index indicates that the economy is doing very well,” the former prime minister said in a posting in his popular www.chedet.cc blog today.

He admitted the local economy was doing well but doubted it was “enough to push the KLCI to record highs”.

“What is happening is that a lot of foreign money is coming in to buy Malaysian stocks. In itself it is not bad.

“It is also a kind of foreign direct investment (FDI). But this kind of FDI is not about setting up industries to produce goods for export. The latter will not be easily liquidated to take the invested capital out. The plants which are set up cannot be easily sold. The investors will have to manage them through good and bad times to get a return on their investments,” Dr Mahathir (picture) said.

The plain-speaking politician pointed out that FDI in stocks and shares can be sold any time and the proceeds taken out, saying that just “as increases in investments push up share prices and the KLCI, rapid or massive divestments will push down the share prices and index”.

He noted reports the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States was pumping US$600 billion (RM1.86 trillion) into the US economy with part of the money possibly being invested in stock and shares of developing countries, similar to previous episodes of hot money flooding stock markets around the world 12 years ago.

Dr Mahathir recalled that in 1997-1998, foreign investors pulled out their investments and the KLCI dropped from 1,300 to 262.

“Naturally, a lot of local investors lost money. They could not meet margin calls nor raise money to augment collaterals for their bank loans. The banks found themselves burdened with large numbers of non-performing loans and had to face the threat of bankruptcy.

“Should the banks collapse the economy of the country will go into a tailspin. It did in 1997-1998. It will happen again should the foreign investors dump their Malaysian shares to take profits from capital gains,” he added.

He bluntly said that foreign funds, especially from the US coming in to invest in Malaysia’s stock market at this time, must be considered as hot money.

“I would not be surprised when the KLCI peaks the foreign investors will dump their shares and collect capital gains. The share prices will fall rapidly and Malaysians who had chased the shares on their way up will be asked to meet margin calls. If they fail they will lose a lot of money.

“I hope I am wrong. But sometimes my predictions about money and markets have proven to be right,” Dr Mahathir said, declaring that he only owns 200 Malayan Tobacco shares bought before he became the education minister in the 1974.

“I have nothing to gain or to lose, but the country and the stock market investors will lose,” he added.

Current Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is betting on a RM1.4 trillion 10-year programme to lift the country to a higher-income nation under the Vision 2020 plan mooted by Dr Mahathir in 1991. However, vociferous sections of the dominant Malay community want the government to guarantee they still have a mandatory 30 per cent equity in all business ventures, a policy that has kept many investors away.

How SYABAS is stealing billions of our money from under our noses

Here’s a basic simple write-up. If you can afford the time, do swing by a briefing:

Date : Saturday, 20th November 2010
Time : 2.30pm – 5.00pm
Venue : Bilik Gerakan, 1st Floor, MBPJ Headquarters, Jalan Yong Shook Lin

In 1997, the Barisan Nasional state and federal governments began privatising the water industry in Selangor. Then Menteri Besar Muhammad Taib chose the treasurer from his Umno division, Tan Sri Rozali Ismail to be the main beneficiary of this privatisation exercise.

By 2010, the amounts of losses generated by leakage and corruption in the private water companies have now run into the hundreds of millions. Amongst the many questionable financial practices found in the private water companies are:

1. An audit report on Syabas showed more than 72% of contracts, worth RM 600 million in total, was awarded to companies chosen through direct negotiation not by open tender process. Also, RM 325 million was found to be ‘missing’ in discrepancies between Syabas’ public accounts and the records of contracts awarded from 2005 to 2007.

3. In June 2005, Syabas contravened the terms of their concession when they imported RM 375 million worth of pipes from an Indonesian company instead of sourcing them locally. The Indonesian company was owned by Tan Sri Rozali Ismail, the CEO of Syabas.

4. Tan Sri Rozali Ismail’s salary is RM 5.1 million a year or RM 425,000 a month.

5. The four water companies have a combined debt of RM 6.4 billion. The federal government has given Syabas a soft loan of RM 320 million. The total interest on this 20 year loan is RM 250 million, and Syabas will not be required to pay a single sen of this amount. Instead, this cost will be fully borne by Malaysian taxpayers.

In light of this appalling financial mismanagement, the Selangor state government has prevented Syabas from raising water tariffs by 37%, and is now endeavouring to reacquire all water concessions from the private water companies. Their goal is to eliminate the element ofprivatised profit and socialised losses, stop the corruption and leakage, and ensure quality delivery of water at affordable rates. This move requires public and support and pressure to succeed.