June 25, 2017

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by Bertha Henson

LUXURIATING in his favourite place, Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump decides to make a long-distance phone call. He knows it will be a historic moment, hence the gawkers in his playground watching the President do his thing.

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Trump: Hiyah Kim, old buddy, how’s the famine coming along? I mean, family.

Kim: Bzzzccckrracccc

Trump: I can’t hear you. The Chinese… they’re wiretapping you huh? Well, the Russians are listening in to mine. Plus the CIA, NSA, FBI and a whole lot of fellas.

Kim: Brzzzcckkk… hell…. oh… brrccsssk

Trump: I’m just calling to tell you that Carl Vinson is going to your part of town. The boat, not the congressman. Michigan as well. The boat, not the state. Just me trying to tell you not to play with your nukes…Okay, buddy?

Kim: Brrrzzzccckk… reta… ccckkk… ate… brrrcsssk live… brrcsk miss…

Trump: You ate what? Missed me? Aw shucks. I’ll come over if you like, but you seriously have got to calm down. You’re making Seoul so nervous. The Japs are jumpy too. We’re all coming to get you.

Kim: Brrzzzccck….Beijing…bbrrzzz military..brrrzzzccckkkkk

Trump: Your buddy Beijing? Hey, they’re just making noises. They don’t even want your coal. And they’ve already said they don’t mind a surgical strike. So I’m thinking of doing a Syria on you.

Kim: Brrzzccchhh…doing sixth missile test. You don’t frighten me, Mr Trump. Pyongyang will not succumb to threats by the hegemonic United States.

Trump: You must be using an iPhone… I can hear you perfectly well. Made-in-America? Anyway, I don’t mean to frighten you. I’m not a frightening person. I just sack people, evict them, defame them, insult them and put up walls to keep them outside. I don’t kill people. You, on the other hand…

Kim: It is the prerogative of a sovereign nation to protect itself against outside threats. Our nuclear missiles are not offensive weapons even though they have weird names. They are also meant for decorative purposes at military parades, of which I have many.

Trump: Hmm… I hear you’re even aiming them at Darwin in Australia. What have you got against kangaroos and sheep?

Kim: Who is a sheep? I am Kim Jong Un, all-powerful leader of the hermit kingdom. I am prepared for all-out war. My people are hungry but my military is strong. We have good missiles which sizzle even when they fizzle. We are now putting up a live-firing display to welcome your boats.

Trump: If you’ve got missiles…why are you detaining US citizens? That’s not playing fair. You’re not going to poison them like you did with your half-brother at the KL airport right?

Kim: They are alive. I need hostages who can act as my shield. Also, I would like some US currency and an iPhone or two.

Trump: You wanna do a deal? I can throw in a free trip to Disneyland for you and you can stay at one of my hotels. Okay?


Trump: Kim? Is that one of my guys hitting a bullseye?

Kim: No. One of my guys. Misfired.


Featured image by Sean Chong.

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by Lee Chin Wee

HE SHIVERED. Night duties were the worst.

You’d think the scariest part of working in a morgue would be having to see dead bodies; but no, seeing dead bodies was fine. Corpses don’t hurt anyone – they just lie there limply in the storage area, waiting for their last rites and send-off.

No, the scariest part is when you don’t see a dead body when it’s supposed to be there. Because then, you have to figure out where it went – which means walking through deserted hospital corridors illuminated by fluorescent light, accompanied only by the gentle whirring of the air-conditioning.

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At that exact moment, the lights decided to flicker – briefly, but enough to make his hair stand on end. Stop scaring yourself, he thought. Already hard having to do extra duties after the break-in, now you still want to scared this scared that.

The North Koreans had to be mad. First, they used a chemical weapon to kill one of their people in broad daylight. Then, they claim that he died of a heart attack when everyone knows that’s rubbish. Then, they drive their embassy cars straight into the morgue and refuse to leave! What did they expect, that the Malaysian government would invite them in for teh and give them the body? Ridiculous.

That was a terrible day to be on guard duty, though.

He thinks that the North Koreans behaved like children. When they realised that standing outside the entrance and complaining to the duty officer wasn’t going to get them anywhere, they tried to distract the guards. He remembered how two North Koreans tried to distract the front desk guards by throwing a fit, then sending a third member round the back to find another entrance. Luckily, he just so happened to be taking a smoke break at that spot – the intruder had barely taken three steps towards the back door before he was ushered back to the carpark.

And don’t even start with the attempted break-in. He wasn’t on duty that night, but he’d heard from a friend that it was a complete farce. Three people dressed in all-black (possibly the three North Koreans who’d parked their cars outside the morgue) were caught on CCTV prying open the front gate and forcing their way into the morgue.

And here’s the kicker: After going through so much trouble to retrieve the body (and creating so much more work for hospital security), the North Koreans still dared to claim that the dead person isn’t Kim Jong Nam! He smirked. How can, when the hospital has done so many DNA and forensic tests?

There even were rumours that Kim’s son would be arriving in KL to identify and claim the corpse. The rumours were first spread a few weeks ago, but no one at the hospital has heard anything since. Perhaps it’s for the better – another assassination at the airport and yet another high-value North Korean dead body ending up in the mortuary would be a very bad idea.

Particularly now, with the media speculating that the Malaysian government was negotiating with the North Koreans to send the body back to their country. That would be a massive relief – hell, he’d pay for the transport fees himself if it meant not having to work overtime almost every day.

But will Malaysia agree to hand the corpse over? He recalled the Health Minister recently saying that the government would allow only Kim’s family members to claim his body. But the Minister also said, “the next of kin have not come forward to provide assistance on how the body is to be treated”.

But then, two days ago, Hassan was asked to drive Kim’s body from the hospital to the nearby funeral parlour. How come? No one said anything, but the staff suspected that preparation was being made to send it back to the North Koreans. But then Hassan received orders to transport the body back to the morgue.

Typical lah, our government. Left hand don’t know what the right hand is doing. If he had to do another month of additional night duty, he’d kill someone – just not a North Korean.

He smirked. Sometimes humour helped make time pass faster. Suddenly, his phone beeped – a short, sharp sound that cut straight through the uneasy silence in the morgue. He turned the screen on. The WhatsApp message was from Hassan: Bro, I kena driver duty again. Dis time they wan me to bring body bk to funeral parlour, den the news say that we returning the body to NK so they give us bk our people trapped there.

One dead body in exchange for nine Malaysians that the North Koreans were detaining illegally in their country? Seems very unfair, but it wasn’t his business to interfere in this kind of thing. If luck would have it, this might even be his last week doing extra night duty. Dreams do come true after all.

At that precise moment, the lights flickered again, then turned off. It seemed that power trips had a dark sense of humour.


Featured image from TMG file.

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by Bertha Henson and Lee Chin Wee

HIS left eye was twitching. He didn’t like it; something bad was going to happen. Maybe the two women in Macau were at each other’s throats. It was tough keeping a second wife and a mistress, not to mention wife Number 1 in Beijing. Throats… why was he thinking about throats? He touched his jowly chin. His left eye twitched again. Maybe it was the Malaysian dust. Or the haze.

Finally, he reached KLIA Terminal 2. He swung his legs out of the cab, careful to make sure that nothing had dropped out of his shoulder bag. He had been in KL since Feb 6, which made it a week-long trip. He was really slumming it, compared to his growing up days as a scion of the Kim dynasty. He wasn’t even boarding a premier airline for home; he was flying AirAsia.


Little General.

Nice schools in Switzerland.

Generous allowance.

It was great being a grandson of a strongman, donning a military uniform bearing the rank of a marshall at the age of seven. If only he wasn’t a bastard. Not that Ma didn’t try to convince Pa to make her a decent woman. She just gave up after six years of trying. Pa, after all, was worried that Grandpa wouldn’t make him his heir. He needn’t have worried at all…

He pulled his cap close to his face. He was worried about being recognised at the airport by the Japanese media which have been extremely good at tracking down his movements. He supposed it was because he spoke Japanese. He walked into the airport and looked around. So far so good. No one’s accosted him. So why was his eye still twitching? He rubbed it vigorously. When his vision cleared, he caught sight of someone familiar standing near the departure hall doors.

Could he be…? No, he can’t be. He was, as usual, being paranoid. He wasn’t in North Korea or some dangerous place. This was KL. It wasn’t as safe as Singapore, but safe enough.

He checked his North Korean passport which had his name as Kim Chol. Fake passports had always helped him except that one time in 2001 when he was caught trying to enter Japan so that he could be in Disneyland. He shook his head at the memory.

He was then 30. Now, he’s a pudgy 46-year-old with two wives, a mistress and six children, keeping a low profile and, hopefully, off the radar of the rest of his family.

What time was his flight? He looked up at the airport departure board.  Oh. Two more hours to kill.

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It seemed like time had stood still since Pa died. From managing accounts for Pa and the family and enjoying a huge allowance, he suddenly became a poor black sheep intended for the slaughterhouse.  It was good thinking on his part not to return for Pa’s funeral in December 2011. He had an inkling that his family wouldn’t want him around when Jong Un took over the torch. He was an embarrassment, and technically, as the eldest son, he could be seen as a contender for the throne.

It would have helped Jong Un, who had been anointed Crown Prince the year before, if he was out of the way – for good. He wished he hadn’t told Japan’s TV Asahi that he opposed having his family hold power for another generation. He had also said he had no objections to Jong Un taking over, but people only remembered one phrase and not the other. They didn’t even remember him saying that he didn’t have the aptitude to run the country because he was a “capitalist kid”.

With a shudder, he recalled the death of his cousin in February 1997.

Ri Il Nam was shot dead in front of his apartment lift in Seoul. It was that damned memoir he wrote the year before.

His eye twitched again when he recalled how he himself had been friendly with journalists in the past. A Japanese journalist had published a book of their correspondence even though he had pleaded with him to wait at least three years after Pa’s death. Instead, the book surfaced while Pa’s mourning period of 100 days wasn’t even over!

It wasn’t just Il Nam who had been gunned down. There was what happened to Uncle Jang Sang Thaek as well. You would have thought Jong Un would appreciate having such an experienced loyalist by his side. But no, he had him executed in late 2013 for treason!

Sigh. He had liked Uncle Jang and Aunty Kim Kyung Hee. He also liked their son, Yong Chol, who was the country’s ambassador to Malaysia. Until 2013. His half-brother really knew how to conduct a purge…

The time was 8 am. He made sure his cap was tilted down to shield his face, before starting toward the check-in counter. He glanced briefly over his shoulder – nothing. One could never be too careful. He remembered how, back in 2010, a North Korean agent had tried to kill him by staging a “hit-and-run accident” in China.

Thankfully, his time in Malaysia had gone by without incident. He was in front of an automated check-in terminal, only a few steps from the relative safety of Macau. All he needed to do now was to scan his passport, retrieve his plane tickets and board his flight.

He reached into his jacket pocket.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a young woman- she looked Malaysian, or Indonesian – reach toward him.

Probably someone who doesn’t know how to use the automated check-in terminals. He turned to help.

Her hands did not stop moving. Suddenly, he felt her fingers clamp firmly around his neck, forcing his face upwards. He gasped for breath.

The click-clack of heels slapping against the tiled floor could be heard. Must be someone running over to help me, he thought, as he struggled with his assailant. The sound of running grew louder.

Another woman dressed in a white shirt with some words on it and slim-fitting blue skirt, appeared by his side. A blur of white filled his vision, as he felt her hands grope his face. This time, the hands were oily – slick fingers worked their way over his eyes, nose, mouth. And just as fast as the attackers had struck, they melted back into the crowd without a trace.

This time, both eyes started twitching uncontrollably.

Something had been smeared on his face. And whatever it was, it wasn’t good. He could feel his heart palpitating; slamming against his rib cage.

He stumbled. His eyes stung, almost as if they were blistering. Information counter, he thought. I must get help.

He struggled towards the information counter, gesticulating at the counter staff. He felt himself being led somewhere. The airport clinic maybe? Gasping for air, he could barely make out anything that was going on around him. There was noise; lots of it. A siren.

“Hospital! Membawanya ke hospital!”

He felt himself being lifted up, then placed on an armchair. He felt his heart hammering, erratic but violent. He felt his chest crush down on itself.

His eyes stopped twitching.


Featured image by Pixabay user ronymichaud. (CC0 1.0)

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Brown leather strap watch showing 8.30.

BUT first, today is Budget Day. Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat will announce the national budget and measures to tackle the current economic slowdown and its attendant problems. Stay tuned to The Middle Ground as we report on and react to the announcement in the late afternoon.

Malaysia is looking for four North Korean men in connection with the assassination of Mr Kim Jong Nam. Rhi Ji Hyon, 33; Hong Song Hac; 34, O Jong Gil, 55; and Ri Jae Nam, 57 left for Jakarta after the attack last Monday (Feb 13) and Malaysian paper The Star reports that they are back in North Korea via the UAE and Russia.

Four others remain in custody – two women (Vietnamese and Indonesian), a Malaysian man, and a North Korean man. The whereabouts of three other men, one North Korean and two other unidentified men, are unknown.

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A larger proportion of each local university cohort can now be admitted through the discretionary admissions scheme. The shift away from a grades-only approach means that 15 per cent of each cohort, up from 10 per cent, can rely on interviews, essays, aptitude tests and portfolios to secure a place instead.

The G has also targeted that by 2020, 40 per cent of all students each year will attend local university.

Hiker Steward Lee, 27, is still missing in spite of a 70-man search of forested and nature reserve areas yesterday. The search team, comprising police, park rangers and volunteers who had responded to Mr Lee’s elder sister Lee Yunqin’s appeal on Facebook, spent four hours on the search.

Mr Lee was last seen at 2pm on Friday at Block 407 Fajar Road. He was wearing a plain black short-sleeved T-shirt and blue jeans with slippers and glasses.

If you have information on the missing hiker, please call the Police hotline (1800-255-0000) or make a report at www.police.gov.sg/iwitness.


Featured image from TMG file.

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Photo of clock face with hands pointed to half past eight.

MEDIAN household income grew by 2.6 per cent to $8,846 in 2016, lower than 2015’s 4.9 per cent. The slower growth most affected the ends of the spectrum, with the bottom 10 per cent of earners seeing growth of only 1.4 per cent, compared to 10.7 per cent in 2015, and the top 10 per cent of earners saw their growth slow to 0.2 per cent from 7.2 per cent in 2015.

At the same time, the Gini Coefficient, which measures income inequality, also fell to 0.458 in 2016, lower than 0.463 in 2015. After transfers from the G in the form of subsidies and taxes are taken into account, the Gini stands at 0.402.

It’s a sign of the times, as an embattled economy drags down overall growth in spite of bright spots in tourism and manufacturing. Oil and gas remain in a critical state, which has had a knock-on effect on banking, finance and insurance companies, from which a larger proportion of high earners derive their income.

DBS reported a 9 per cent drop in Q4 profits, and on Tuesday (Feb 14) OCBC said its fourth quarter earnings had fallen by 18 per cent.

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A second woman and a man, said to be her boyfriend, have been arrested in connection with the killing of Mr Kim Jong-Nam in Malaysia. Malaysian police confirmed that the first woman arrested, a 28-year-old with a Vietnamese passport, was the suspect pictured wearing a white shirt with “LOL” printed on it.

The second woman, identified as Siti Aishah in her Indonesian passport, worked with her partner. Siti Aishah distracted Mr Kim by standing in front of him while the other woman grabbed Mr Kim from behind in a chokehold and administered the fatal poison.

Their escape was short-lived thanks to the many cameras deployed at the airport. Authorities are still seeking other suspects as “there are definitely other individuals involved” according to Malaysian Police Special Branch director Mohamad Fuzi Harun.

Word is emerging from sources close to China that North Korea had nothing to do with the assassination, even as Malaysian authorities continue to track the work of “foreign agents”. Malaysia has now said that they could release Mr Kim’s body to North Korea once all due process had been followed in Malaysia.



Featured image from TMG file.

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North Korea missile test, Kim Jong Un

by Aishah Tamiri

WHAT’S getting North Korea spooked? It spells T-H-A-A-D.

Terminal High Altitude Area Defence, or THAAD, is a high power missile-defence system created by the United States military. It has a precision that is reportedly unmatched and can defend against short and medium ranged ballistic missiles.

The US and South Korea have been in talks about deploying THAAD in the region and the final decision was made in July to deploy the missile-defence system in South Korea by end-2017. This has resulted in North Korea threatening a “physical response” against the THAAD decision. Already this year, North Korea has completed five nuclear tests, with preparations for a sixth one underway.

THAAD was created by the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA). It makes use of a “hit-to-kill” technology that uses kinetic energy to destroy incoming warheads. By intercepting incoming enemy missiles at high-altitudes, THAAD missiles mitigate the effect of the weapon before it reaches ground.

Here’s how a “hit-to-kill” missile works:

Firstly, the ground-based defence system detects the threat through a giant radar (the size of a bus) that is able to scan areas the size of entire countries. The missile launcher then estimates an intercept point, and launches the interceptor missile. Once near the threat, the onboard radar-seeker on the interceptor missile will search and lock on to the threat.

The radar-seeker provides a highly accurate location of the threat through searching, scanning and processing the location data enroute to the threat. To achieve body-to-body impact, the radar-seeker measures critical target information that is then used by the missile guidance system to pinpoint the exact location to hit the target. For example, if THAAD is deployed in South Korea, depending on the location, nearly all incoming missiles from the North could be eliminated due to the accuracy of the missile.


Objections from China

Naturally, China, an ally of North Korea, is not pleased with the decision to place THAAD in South Korea. While China is committed to de-nuclearising the Korean peninsula, Chinese President Xi Jinping said: “China opposes the deployment of the missile-defence system. The deployment will not help to in achieving the objective of denuclearisation, maintaining stability and peace in the region.”

Is there another reason? Well, China could be unhappy with what it assumes are THAAD’s tracking and surveillance capabilities. It is concerned that THAAD’s radar might be able to offer tracking data for the US.


Health risks

Well, THAAD does not come without risks. Concerns such as health issues, death and damages to property were the main concerns of the deployment of THAAD in South Korea. Citing the operational manual of the THAAD radar system, Defense Minister Han Min-koo claimed that the radar “will be absolutely harmless” if people stay at least 100m away from it. This is to reduce the effects of electromagnetic radiation (EMR). The health effects due to prolonged exposure to EMR are unknown and may not manifest until months or years later.

Citing a 2015 US environmental assessment report on a THAAD battery permanently stationed in Guam to emphasise the safety of THAAD, Defence Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-gyun said, “The report shows there will be no problem if people live outside the 100m radius of [the] THAAD radar, presuming that it is raised five degrees upward from the ground.”

However, the THAAD battery stationed in Guam is considered safe only because the battery is located in an isolated area. Areas under consideration to host the THHAD battery in South Korea includes Daegu, Pyeongtaek in Gyeonggi Province, Wonju in Gangwon Province and Gunsan in the North Jeolla Province. Most of these areas are highly populated and not army bases. For example, Pyeongtaek is a major port city for South Korea and Daegu is home to 460,000 people.

Many countries are interested in buying THAAD. However, the United Arab Emirates is the sole foreign buyer after signing a deal with the US Department of Defense. The missile-defence system was delivered in late 2015. With increasing threats and uncertainty around the world, THAAD could be a norm in many countries.


Featured image by Sean Chong.

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If you’re not worried that North Korea is playing with bombs, you should. It’s ready for yet another nuclear launch, its sixth, said neighbouring South Korea. But it seems China wants to sit on its hands, saying that the matter was between the country and the United States. Yes, it condemned the fifth launch on Friday but it doesn’t seem inclined to impose fresh sanctions.

In the meantime, the Washington Post said Pyongyang is getting around embargoes on its exports of goods by exporting its people to earn hard currency which are then sent home. Some countries have started expelling their North Korean guest workers. A jittery Seoul is asking for the US nuclear umbrella, Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) system, to be brought forward from its deployment date next year.

But while Seoul is casting about for foreign support, the Philippines wants the American Special Forces out of Mindanao, saying their presence was stirring resentment among Muslims who had been fighting a decades-long secessionist war. Nope, President Duterte didn’t call anyone any names this time. In fact, he wanted to raise it at last week’s Asean summit in Laos but he didn’t do so “out of respect”.

Here in Singapore, Minister of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim and the Mufti Mohamed Fatris Bakaram used the occasion of Hari Raya Haji to call on Muslims to reject extremist and exclusivist ideas that paint some Muslims as “deviant” for not adhering to certain strands of Islam.

The mufti was concerned that some Muslims were judging other Muslims over matters that were still being debated by Islamic scholars and those who “selectively choose and search for opinions which are more antagonistic towards non-Muslims”, even though such schools of thought came about during times of conflict and tension for Muslims, TODAY reported him as saying.

Here’s something to think about: US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was taken ill at a Sept 11 memorial in New York. She was suffering from pneumonia. She is 68 while her rival, Mr Donald Trump is 70. The episode led to calls for them to disclose their state of health to assure voters of their physical fitness for the highest office in the land.

Question: Shouldn’t a clean bill of health also be a necessary qualification for those aspiring for presidential office here? Or an age limit?


Featured image from TMG file. 

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Citizen timepiece with clock hands pointing at 8:30
Citizen timepiece shows 8:30

GOOD Saturday morning! We’re turning the news into a classroom lesson so that some things will stick in your heads. Why? Because they’re important, that’s why!

What are the dimensions of a hairline crack? 

Very thin right? About 1 – 2 mm wide. That’s the width of hairline cracks found in the undercarriage of 11 LRT trains run by SBSTransit. Of course, there are also short and long hairline cracks. In this case the cracks are 15 to 90 mm long, or at most 9cm. We presume they will be considered “short” then. In any case, the term “safety-critical” is back in the public transport vocabulary. We presume that it means “dangerous” and in this case, the trains are not safety-critical or not dangerous.  Six have been repaired and restored to service, while another five will be back on track next month. Transport operators started checking their fleets after the kerfuffle over MRT trains being shipped abroad for repairs in July. It looks like someone, somewhere decided to make a public announcement midway between repairs of the LRT trains – before word got out.

What is a 10-kilotonne nuclear bomb?

That’s what North Korea exploded yesterday. It’s the fifth nuclear bomb. What about its impact? Think of the Little Boy atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. That exploded with an energy of about 15 kilotonnes. The world is angry, and even China, North Korea’s main ally, is making noises. China finally  agreed in April to a ban on imports of coal, iron ore and other commodities from the country, which accounts for more than 40 per cent of North Korea’s total exports to China in US dollar terms. But it doesn’t seem to have tamped down North Korea’s recklessness

What is Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings?

It is one of the world’s largest pulp and paper companies based in Singapore. It’s operating arm, Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (Rapp), had to suspend work in part of the Riau province because it seemed to have been digging canals on peat land so that it can grow acacia trees for pulp. This isn’t allowed. Doing so would make the peat lands even dry and when there’s a fire, it could rage on interminably. It’s no small area; it’s one and a half times the size of Singapore.

What is Bigo Live?

It’s an app that was big in Singapore until Pokemon Go took over. You can “live-stream” yourself doing whatever and it allows viewers to view you and comment on what you do. They can even ask you to take off your clothes, as TNP reported. Sexual grooming in progress? Voyeurism at plat? It’s actually a game where the popular ones can get rewards they can cash out. But it seems this isn’t easy to do.

What is “sabi ko, isa ka pang tarantado” in Tagalog?

It means “you are another fool”. From President Duterte of the Philippines referring to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon. This is the second time he’s made unsavoury comments about world leaders. You can read about the earlier episode here.



Featured image from TMG file. 

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North Korea missile test, Kim Jong Un

by Andrea Wang and Sean Chong

HE’S at it again.

North Korea has had a long history of threatening the region with its pursuit of its nuclear and missile capabilities. When leader Kim Jong Un took power in 2011, he accelerated its missile and nuclear bomb testing, launching over 30 ballistic missiles. It is likely that in this show of prowess, North Korea is aiming to show the world that it is a force to be reckoned with.

Earlier this month (Aug 3), North Korea launched its most successful ballistic missile of this year, which came within 240km of Japan’s Akita prefecture, travelling 1,000km. Japanese PM Mr Shinzo Abe called it a “grave threat” to his country.

But North Korea wasn’t done flexing its military might. Last Wednesday (Aug 24), it fired a ballistic missile from a submarine, which flew about 500km and landed in the Sea of Japan.

Here’s a look at what North Korea has been up to, and what other countries have had to say about its exploits:

North Korea Nuclear Test, missile test
Diagram 01: Significant North Korea nuclear tests and what countries have said over the years.


North korea missile tests 2016
Diagram 02: North Korea flexes its military and technological muscle and conducts intensive missile tests in 2016.


Featured image and illustration by Sean Chong. 

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NEVER mind terrorists. Mother Nature can pack a hefty punch too. In Asia, she made the earth move and turned parts of India and Myanmar into a pile of rubble. She didn’t spare historic sites such as the centuries-old Buddhist pagodas in Myanmar’s ancient capital Bagan.  She did the same for Italy, unleashing a 6.2 magnitude earthquake.

In the United States, she’s flooded wide stretches of southern Louisiana with more than two feet of water.

Use the map below to track Mother Nature’s work this week. Our selection of quotes shows the destruction that Man can do too.

Frenchman charged with murder of British backpacker at Australia hostel

“There’s no one that can view that CCTV that doesn’t come away feeling sick to the stomach. It’s absolutely horrific.”

— Superintendent Ray Rohweder, regional crime co-ordinator in Australia’s Northern Region

On Thursday (Aug 25), Frenchman Smail Ayad, 29, was charged with two counts of attempted murder, 12 counts of serious assault and one count of serious animal cruelty. He stabbed British backpacker Miss Mia Ayliffe-Chung, 21, to death on Tuesday night (Aug 23) at a hostel in Home Hill in Townsville, Queensland. One other backpacker, Mr Chris Porter, said to The Telegraph that the alleged knifeman, Miss Ayliffe-Chung, and himself had been staying in the same room. Authorities have played down any links to terrorism while they investigate whether Mr Ayad had an obsession or was infatuated with Miss Ayliffe-Chung.

Would-be child suicide bomber in Iraq caught

“They tell them if they do this, they will go to heaven and have a good time and get everything that they ever wanted”

— Najmaldin Karim, the governor of Kirkuk Governorate, on how ISIS brainwashed the child

On Sunday (Aug 21), Iraqi police stopped Hussein, 15, a would-be child suicide bomber for ISIS in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk. The child was on his way to the Shia mosque when he was nabbed by security guards who noticed something off with him and were on the alert for suspicious behaviour after a suicide bomb attack occurred just an hour before. Recently, ISIS has been increasingly deploying child suicide bombers to stage attacks in Iraq and Syria.

16 dead in Kabul raid on a university

“Everyone looked around the room looking for an escape… We have an emergency exit area in the corner of the campus. It’s like a gate that opens when people need to get out of campus. Everyone was running out of there.”

—An anonymous student at the scene, on what happened when they heard the first blast during a lecture

A nearly ten-hour long attack on the American University in Kabul which began Wednesday evening (Aug 24) has left at least 16 dead, including eight students and injuring 53 others. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack where gunmen detonated explosives and fired guns, causing students to flee or find a safe place to hide in the university. The attack comes after the abduction of two university employees – an American and an Australian – at gunpoint near the institution a few weeks ago. Kabul police have since described the attack as “complex”.

Truck driver playing Pokemon Go kills woman in Japan 

“The driver is still in custody. No decision has been made yet on whether to proceed with a prosecution”

— A spokesman for the Tokushima prefectural police

A 39-year-old truck driver hit two elderly female pedestrians in the Japanese city of Tokushima on Wednesday (Aug 24) at around 7.35pm, killing the older one and seriously injuring the other. Farmer Mr Keiji Goo told police he was distracted by Pokemon Go and was not paying attention to the wheel when he hit Ms Sachiko Nakanishi, 72, and Ms Kayoko Ikawa, 60 . This is the first Pokemon Go related death in Japan. Niantic and Nintendo, the companies behind the game, expressed condolences to the victim’s families and said they were working to “create an environment where people can play the game safely.”

North Korea’s successful missile tests

“This poses a grave threat to Japan’s security, and is an unforgivable act that damages regional peace and stability markedly” 

— Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

On Wednesday (Aug 24), at around 5.30am local time, North Korea launched a ballistic missile off a submarine from the coastal city of Sinpo. The missile is believed to have flown around 500 kilometres before landing in the Sea of Japan, marking the first time a North Korean missile has entered Japan’s air defence identification zone. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un considered the missile test to be the “greatest success and victory” according to the state-run news agency. The country’s alarming development in missile technology has shook the foreign ministers of Japan, South Korea, and China, who came together in Tokyo to condemn North Korea’s missile launch earlier in the day.

Featured image planet-earth-space by Flickr user Adamo CorazzaCC BY-ND 2.0. 

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