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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Source: Hunt for bin Laden missed 'real opportunity'

Hamburg, Germany (CNN) -- When Osama bin Laden was being bombed at Tora Bora, Dr. August Hanning was Germany's foreign intelligence chief charged with hunting him down.
"He was watching the bombing," Hanning told CNN in an exclusive interview. "I know this," Hanning told CNN without elaborating on his source of information.
After bin Laden escaped from the mountain in December 2001 Hanning said he had agents feeding him information about the al Qaeda's chief's movements.
Frustratingly however, their information never led to actionable intelligence that would have allowed Western agencies to move against al Qaeda's leader.
"We have got information always on where he was. And that's the problem -- days, week later. But he was present there. He hadn't left the region," Hanning told CNN.
Hanning says that after bin Laden escaped from Tora Bora the search for al Qaeda's leader became much harder.
It was an opportunity the international community and the United States in particular have good reason to regret. His assessment of bin Laden's ability to inspire and lead today might make him more dangerous today than back then.
"He's not operational but I think he knows the basics. He makes strategic decisions, and of course he's a symbolic figure and figures are important. "
Hanning, who was appointed State Secretary in the German Federal Interior Ministry at the end of 2005 -- one of the country's most senior counter-terrorism positions -- retired late last year.
He says he agrees with recent comments by an unnamed senior NATO official to CNN last month that bin Laden is alive and well in Pakistan.
"I think there are still a lot of hints that he is in Pakistan, and according to my estimates he is in the tribal areas in the region near Peshawar: the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan," Hanning told CNN.
Pakistani officials consistently deny bin Laden's presence on their soil. Hanning believes rogue elements in their intelligence service, the ISI, are hiding him.
"It's hard for me to believe that they know nothing," he said, and in some ways the al Qaeda leader is useful to Pakistan. "So long [as] bin Laden is in Pakistan so Pakistan will get support from the Americans' fight against terrorism."
And Pakistan would be in a bind if bin Laden were caught, because to some Pakistanis he is a hero. "If he were caught the Pakistani government would be in a very difficult situation, because the Americans would ask the Pakistanis to extradite him."
Hanning believes bin Laden's presence in Pakistan is one of the United States' most delicate diplomatic problems and one that needs to be solved before U.S. troops can safely withdraw from Afghanistan -- because given the chance al Qaeda would return to Afghanistan.
"If they would have the opportunity to operate in Afghanistan they would use this opportunity as well," Hanning said -- because al Qaeda's assumption is that once Western troops were withdrawn it would be difficult for them to return.
It is a problem that would become more pressing if serious negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban developed. Hanning and other intelligence officials believe it would be difficult for the Taliban to abandon Osama bin Laden because of his stature as a leader of global jihad.

From Vietnamese refugee to U.S. representative

It was April 1975 when I was packed into a military transport plane with two of my siblings as the Vietnam War ended. We left Vietnam to escape communist rule and eventually, take on an additional identity.
I was 8 years old, and being separated from both parents for the first time in my life was confusing and scary. My mother decided to stay behind with my five remaining siblings to wait for my father to return. An officer in the South Vietnam Army fighting alongside the Americans during the Vietnam War, my father spent the next seven years in the communist prisons, which were euphemistically called "re-education camps." It was many years later when our family was reunited.
The challenges I faced growing up were probably not that different from the struggles all other immigrants face when they first arrive in the United States. I suppose most immigrants, regardless of origin, would have to deal with obstacles such as the language barrier and unfamiliar customs. I vividly remember small things like missing rice as the staple in my diet and bigger challenges, including loneliness and the sense of being displaced.
I never imagined that one day I would think nothing of ordering gumbo or eating burritos, much less have a career in politics as the U.S. congressman representing the 2nd District of Louisiana.
Name: Rep. Ahn Cao, R-Louisiana
Age: 43
Birthplace: Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)
Home: New Orleans, Louisiana
Occupation: Member of Congress
Like most immigrants, my siblings and I learned to assimilate into this big melting pot called the United States of America. We worked hard on our studies and in our businesses. Along with other Vietnamese immigrants and refugees of the time, stories of successes and heartbreaks quickly spread around the community.
Although the academic achievements of Vietnamese students in schools were touted in the media, we also agonized over the horrific news about the plights of the Vietnamese boat people.
Facing persecution and hardship in the old country, Vietnamese refugees braved the perilous seas aboard small fishing boats to seek freedom. Many lost their lives to piracy, storm and starvation. The lucky ones who were able to land somewhere would face cold rejections by a world grown tired of having to deal with refugee problems. The boat people saga continued well into the 1990s. I volunteered with Boat People SOS, a national organization that advocates for the refugees. My experience with them shaped my path in the years to come.
Vietnamese refugees braved the perilous seas aboard small fishing boats ... Many lost their lives to piracy, storm and starvation.
--Rep. Ahn Cao

  • Saigon
  • Vietnam
  • Louisiana
  • U.S. Congress
After graduating from Baylor University with a bachelor's degree in physics, I joined the Jesuits for the priesthood. After working with some of the poorest communities in Third World countries, I decided that politics would bring about quicker changes for the less fortunate among us. I studied to be a lawyer, and while working as an immigration lawyer in New Orleans, Louisiana, Hurricane Katrina changed my life. The storm destroyed my home and office.
Like many in my Vietnamese-American community in New Orleans, I came back to pick up the pieces after the storm. Facing one obstacle after another, we fought as a community to rebuild our homes and lives. During our efforts to close a landfill the city and state had opened right next to our community, Rep. Mike Honda came to hear our complaint and did not find anyone from within the community in public office to advocate for ourselves. He asked: "Who among you wants to run?" I raised my hand and began a new course as a public servant.
It has been 35 years since the first wave of Vietnamese refugees landed on American soil. Now things like Pho and spring rolls have joined the Americana mainstream. I no longer see myself as a displaced stranger; I am a Vietnamese-American.

Malaysian medical student killed in road mishap

Malaysian student Muhammad Akmal Shahiran Marzukhi's dream to become a doctor was cut short after he was killed in a road accident in South India on Thursday.
Akmal, a first year student at the JJM Medical College in Davangere in the state of Karnataka, was riding pillion on a motorcycle ridden by another student when the accident happened.
His friend had tried to avoid an auto rickshaw (three-wheeler) but lost control of the motorcycle, which skidded off the road and fell into a ditch.
Akmal suffered multiple skull fractures and died on the same day in a local hospital. His friend survived.
The 19-year-old Mara-sponsored student arrived in India to pursue his medical course last September.
Davangere is located about 260 km from Bangalore.
Malaysia's Consul-General Anuar Kasman said the body was flown out of Bangalore to KL International Airport early Saturday morning.
His funeral would be held in Kuala Kedah.

Cabinet to attract non-Malays to armed forces

The cabinet has decided to take concrete measures to attract non-Malays to the armed forces, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon. The Cabinet decided at Friday's meeting to take steps to increase the participation of Chinese and Indians in the armed forces which is currently at an all-time low, he told reporters here.
"This is a positive move," Koh said, but did not elaborate what the measures were.
According to recent reports, 8,151 or 90% of those who joined the armed forces last year are Malays. Only 82 Indians and 26 Chinese enlisted in the armed forces last year, while the remaining 795 were from Sabah and Sarawak.
Koh said that efforts to bring more non-Malays into the armed forces should be carried out, but stressed that the limited participation of the other races should not be a subject of polemics.
"As the Prime Minister (Datuk Seri Najib Razak) said, we should stop with the polemics. If we continue, nothing can be achieved," Koh added.
He was commenting on a statement by Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi at the Dewan Rakyat last Saturday which some had interpreted to mean that not many non-Malays are in the armed forces due to non-patriotism.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Media ban

The Pas-led Kedah government became the second state under Pakatan
Rakyat to penalise the media for what it deemed as a manipulation of news.

A letter, signed by the press secretary to the menteri besar, said that certain
media organisations would be banned from covering the budget session of the
state assembly beginning tomorrow.

The Kedah move followed the banning of the New Straits Times from covering the
DAP-led Penang government functions and events, effective March last year.

The Penang ban on NST has not been lifted despite appeals from some of the
biggest names in Pakatan Rakyat, including DAP chairman Karpal Singh.

Kedah Gerakan Youth chief Tan Ken Liang described the Kedah action as censorship
and contrary to Pakatan Rakyat’s pledge to promote press freedom.

“The state assembly sitting is of public interest and every media house should
be allowed to attend and cover the meeting,” he said.

Yesterday, National Union of Journalists president Hata Wahari asked the Kedah
government to rescind the ban, announced in a letter dated Thursday and signed
by the press secretary, Muhamad Helmi Mohamad Khalid.

The letter said the state government would only allow Harakah, The Star, Sinar
Harian, Sin Chew Daily and Makkal Osai to cover the budget session which ends
on Tuesday.

This follows what the state government defined as manipulation of news and coverage directed against it.

Journalists said the letter was faxed to the bureau chiefs of all print and electronic media organisations based here.

Earlier in the week, journalists attending a press conference after the state executive councillors’ meeting on Wednesday were subjected to a reprimand by Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak.

The ban means all publications and networks under Media Prima Bhd, Utusan
Malaysia and Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) cannot cover the assembly sitting.

Hata said the NUJ was disappointed with the state government’s decision.

“It is irrational and unfair of the state government to pick on selected media

“It should not overreact to reports that are not favourable towards it.”
Hata said he would discuss the issue with Helmi.

“If the state government refuses to retract the letter, all media organisations must boycott the sitting as a sign of protest.”

Kedah Barisan Nasional Youth chief Badrul Hisham Hashim said Azizan should
not overreact.

Read more: Media ban

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Trial run of sex education module yields positive results

More holistic approach to sexual health lessons for Forms 1, 2 and 4 ready to be implemented, but not compulsory.
The module for a more holistic approach to sex education is ready to be implemented in Forms one, two and four, the National Population and Family Development Board revealed.

Its director-general, Datuk Aminah Abdul Rahman, told the New Straits Times the module, co-developed with several non-governmental organisations, would also be geared towards helping curb sexual abuse among children and promoting responsibility in taking care of reproductive health.

Aminah, one of the key figures involved in developing the module, said it was meant to address a range of issues including baby dumping, teenage pregnancies and lack of parenting skills.
While the module has yet to receive any formal acknowledgement from the government, part of it is currently being taught in five schools in Kelantan, Pahang, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Penang.

“This is just a trial run. Holistic sex education is important as it addresses critical informational needs not merely of the young, but of parents and the community in general.

“Comprehensive sex education must, therefore, empower individuals to ask the right questions and get the right answers without fear, shame or stigma,” said Aminah, adding that the board had also consulted the Education Ministry when it was developing the module less than a year ago.

The board, she said, had proposed that the module be taught to students in Forms one, two and four as Forms three and five were examination years.

Aminah also said that they were ready to train facilitators either from the board or school teachers for this subject.

However, Aminah said implementation of the module would depend on which ministry
or government agency would like to take part.

She was commenting on the announcement by Deputy Education Minister Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong that sex education would begin in secondary schools next year.

Wee had told Parliament it would not be known as “sex education” but as “social
and reproductive health education”.

Students would be taught health, psychology, sexual relations, and family and
social values.

The director of the National Population and Family Development Board’s human
reproductive division, Dr Norliza Ahmad, said the module would be a co-curricular subject and not part of the main syllabus.

Parents can opt to have their children attend class or not.

She said the trial run conducted last year yielded positive results and was well-received by both teachers and students.

“We saw a significant improvement in terms of knowledge and a more positive
attitude when we compared pre-trial and post-trial,” she said, adding that the module used in the trial run focused on cultural values, religious aspects and how to handle peer pressure, as well as assessing risk.

Dr Norliza said the board had proposed that the module be introduced simultaneously in Forms One, Two and Four and not in stages, but the decision lay with the Education Ministry.

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul
Jalil said ignorance and prejudice could only be overcome through education,
adding that people must recognise that sex education was a shared community responsibility.

“We must ensure there exists a common holistic and comprehensive standard for
education on sex and reproductive health.

“This way, all Malaysians, regardless of age, gender or background, will possess
the same knowledge, skill sets and the confidence to approach the issues at hand.”

She said her ministry, through the board, had been advocating the need for comprehensive social and reproductive health education since 1995.

Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (Page) chairman Datin Noor Azimah
Abdul Rahim welcomed the announcement, saying it was long overdue.

Congratulating NGOs for pushing for such a module, she said the country faced
problems such as baby dumping because sex education was not introduced earlier.

“If it had been done a long time ago, we wouldn’t need a baby hatch,” she said, referring to the facility launched earlier this year for couples who could not take care of their newborns.

National Parent-Teacher Association Collaborative Council president Associate
Professor Dr Mohamad Ali Hassan said students needed to be empowered to take
care of their mental, physical, psychological and emotional makeup.

This way, they could make wise decisions, ensuring that the future generation
was healthy in “mind, body and soul”.

“Please don’t politicise this issue as we are talking about the future of our society. I recommend that this issue be viewed with an open mind from both religious and cultural perspectives.”

Father-of-two Muhammad Shah Abdullah, 55, said he hoped students were taught
in stages so they could understand the lessons more comprehensively, adding that
sex education should cover every aspect.

“In my time, sex education was taught only in Form Four. Even then it revolved
around the reproductive organs, but it wasn’t enough. I had to learn more about it outside of school.”

Read more: Trial run of sex education module yields positive results

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

33,000 in shelters: Flood situation ‘very bad’ in Kedah, ‘precarious’ in Perlis

The floods in Kedah claimed the lives of two young sisters yesterday, bringing the total number of fatalities in the state to four since Monday. The situation in Perlis is still precarious with two-thirds of the state inundated by floodwaters, while in Kelantan it is easing up.

To date, however, more than 33,000 victims are being housed in relief centres in the three states.

The two latest victims — Siti Nadia Syukur, 13, and Sharipah, 8 — were believed to have drowned after they fell off a motorcycle, ridden by a neighbour, into an irrigation canal in Kampung Telaga Emas, Langgar in Pokok Sena about noon.
The neighbour, Intan Malik, 14, also fell into the canal but she held on to a tree and was saved by villagers.

The two earlier victims were identified as a 64-year-old German woman, Erna Fischer, who drowned in Kampung Kota Giam near Jitra on Monday night and schoolboy, Mohd Zaki Shaari, 13, who fell into a pond in Kampung Charok Bongor on Tuesday.

Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak said the number of evacuees in Kedah and Perlis was rising.

This was despite clear skies over the past two days and the Meteorolo gical Department lifting the red alert status for the states in both states on Tuesday.

Azizan said residents in Kedah, es pecially in low-lying areas, should brace for the worst.

He said the “very bad” situation in Kedah — in the districts of Kubang Pasu, Padang Terap, Kota Setar and Pokok Sena — was compounded by high sea tides.

But he expressed relief that Federal and state government agencies, as well as non-governmental organisations, had been quick in providing relief to the victims.

“The state government has ap proved a RM300,000 allocation for flood relief efforts.”

Perlis Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Md Isa Sabu said about two-thirds of the state were still remained under water, including several relief centres.

“The floods are worse than in 2005,” he said, adding that five years ago, only 19,000 victims were evacuated in both states.

The floods this time had caused the closure of the North-South Express way in Changlun, Kedah, since Monday.

Power and water supplies to four districts were also disrupted with Kota Setar being the hardest hit.

Offices and eateries, especially food stalls in both states, have yet to resume business since Monday.

Bottled water is also quickly running out of stock at most supermarkets and hypermarkets.

The Sultan Abdul Halim Airport near here had been closed since Tuesday when the runway was inundated.

At press time, Kubang Pasu recorded the highest number of evacuees at 15,275; Padang Terap at 3,993; Kota Setar at 4,543; and Pokok Sena at 823.

Fifty-five schools have been closed in Kedah, Perlis and Kelantan.

Read more: 33,000 in shelters: Flood situation ‘very bad’ in Kedah, ‘precarious’ in Perlis

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Man drowns trying to save wife

A man drowned while attempting to rescue his new bride after both of them were swept away by strong currents during a family picnic at a recreational spot in Kampung Pasir Kubur, Sungai Lembing here on Friday. It is learnt that Mohd Hazrul Abdul Jalil, 26, had taken his wife Norfaridah Mohd Amin, 26, together with his mother and younger brother, Mohd Helmi, 25, to the spot for a picnic at 10.30am.

Relating the incident, Helmi said his brother and his wife had gone for a dip at the deeper end of a river flowing by when they were suddenly swept away by strong currents.

"My brother tried to push his wife up to the surface before they were swept away to a shallow part of the river where passers-by hauled them up to the river's bank," he said.
He added that one of the passers-by performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on his brother, but paramedics who arrived soon pronounced him dead.

The wife escaped unhurt.

Helmi said his brother, who worked at the Farmers' Organisation Authority in Perak, married Norfaridah, last month.

The body was taken to Tengku Ampuan Afzan Hospital for a post-mortem.

Kuantan police chief, Assistant Commissioner Mohd Jasmani Yusof, when contacted, confirmed the incident. -- Bernama

Read more: Man drowns trying to save wife

Help them

The number of flood evacuees in the four affected districts
here remained high yesterday, with Kota Setar being the hardest hit. Its
number increased by more than 2,000 from Friday. In Perlis, the people were
warned to be prepared for a possible second wave of floods.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak called on all agencies to give their all to alleviate the suffering of flood victims in Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan and Terengganu.

Sultan of Kedah Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah expressed sadness at the plight of those affected by the floods, the worst in the state in recent years.

He urged all political parties, whatever their affiliation, to help those affected.

Read more: Help them