FAMILIES HOME (Feb 10): Malaysia has flown home family members of its diplomatic staff in Baghdad and has briefed Malaysian students in Iraq on the eventuality of war. Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said only the Malaysian ambassador and seven diplomatic staff remained in the embassy in Baghdad to monitor the situation as the spectre of war loomed.
LEGAL MEETING (Feb 11): The organiser of an Islamic congress in Makassar, South Sulawesi, two years ago has confirmed the participation of PAS acting president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang but said it was a legal and open meeting.
Aswar Hasan, the secretary-general of the group that organised the three-day meeting, said they wanted to hear the Terengganu Mentri Besar’s views on the implementation of Islamic laws. He said the meeting was also attended by Islamic radicals such as head of the Jemaah Islamiah Abubakar Ba’asyir and head of the militant Laskar Jundullah, Agus Dwikarna.
PROPOSAL REJECTED (Feb 11): The Education Ministry has shot down the Perlis government’s plans to implement longer school hours, saying “education is a Federal matter” and the move would have serious implications for many parties.
However, the state’s decision could be implemented when the ministry’s plans to have only single session schools with extended hours take off by 2008, if budget and infrastructure permit
TEACHERS COUNCIL (Feb 9): A Teachers Council aimed at enhancing professionalism and ethics among teachers has been proposed by the Education Ministry. The move, said minister Tan Sri Musa Mohamad, was to put the profession at par with doctors, lawyers and engineers who have their respective councils to oversee quality and ethics among members.
TWO CHARGED (Feb 15): Two former senior general managers of Tabung Haji were charged in the Sessions Court with three counts each of cheating and misappropriating funds totalling some RM400mil from the board three years ago.
Datuk Mohd Amin Sidek, the former senior GM of the investment department and Datuk Mohamad Shafie, former senior GM of the finance department, were charged with committing criminal breach of trust involving RM150mil and RM50mil respectively.
LANTERNS BANNED (Feb 13): The Government has banned Kong Ming lanterns because of the danger they pose to the public. Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the country did not need the hot-air lanterns, which are lit and then allowed to drift with the wind.
DAREDEVIL BANNED (Feb 14): The much-awaited film adaptation of the Marvel Comics character Daredevil, played by Hollywood heart-throb Ben Affleck, will not be hitting the big screens this month. The Film Censorship Board has banned the film for its “unhealthy elements” and violent content.
SHARED TOWERS (Feb 11): Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad has told telecommunication companies to form a “pact” to rid the nation’s skyline of unsightly telecommunication towers. The Prime Minister said they should create a single company to build and manage the towers.
PUDU LOCK-UP (Feb 10): Pudu Prison, now the Jalan Hang Tuah police station's lock-up, received its first detainees of 179 suspected drug addicts, including three women, after being vacant for six years. The RM3.7mil newly-renovated lock-up, involving part of the former prison, comprises 172 cells for men and 10 for women.
ONE MILLION MARK (Feb 9): The Malaysians for Peace campaign surpassed its target of one million signatures a week ahead of its deadline. Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam, president of the national 4B Youth Movement (the campaign’s main lobby group), said feedback from the movement’s branches showed that the target had been met.
CRITICAL PHASE (Feb 14): The Iraq weapons crisis enters a critical phase with the crucial meeting of the UN Security Council followed by what is being billed as the biggest display of anti-war feeling the world has ever seen over the weekend.
When the Security Council meets, it is expected to hear evidence from chief weapons inspector Hans Blix that Saddam Hussein is not fully complying on disarmament obligations. That would pave the way for the United States to press for a new resolution authorising an attack on Baghdad to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction.
MIXED PICTURE (Feb 15): In a crucial report to the Security Council, Chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix told Iraq to “squarely tackle” serious questions on its stocks of anthrax, the nerve agent VX and long-range missiles, some of which he declared illegal.
But Blix, unlike in his previous harsh report, gave a mixed picture of Iraq's efforts to disarm, giving fodder to Security Council members, such as France, which want inspections to continue and the United States and Britain, which say war may be the only recourse to force Iraq to disarm.
48 HOURS (Feb 10): Britain and America are drawing up plans to give Saddam Hussein as little as 48 hours to flee Baghdad or face war, if UN weapons inspectors report that the Iraqi dictator is still refusing to disarm fully.
The proposals will form the framework of a long-awaited second resolution, which could be put before the Security Council by next weekend. The deadline would be just long enough for Arab neighbours to make a last effort to persuade Saddam to leave the country, according to US officials, or for a coup to take place.
GROUP SUES BUSH (Feb 15): US soldiers, members of Congress and others sued President George W. Bush to prevent the United States from invading Iraq without obtaining a Congressional declaration of war.
Lawyer John Bonifaz, who is seeking an injunction against Bush on constitutional grounds, brought the suit on behalf of three members of the military, six parents of US troops and six members of Congress, including Democratic Representatives John Conyers of Michigan and James McDermott of Washington.
CEASEFIRE OFFER (Feb 10): Israel has offered the Palestinians a phased ceasefire to end two years of fighting, a senior government official said, while predicting that international pressure to remove Yasser Arafat from leadership will increase after the Iraq issue is resolved.
BEIJING BRUSH-OFF (Feb 12): China brushed off an American request to increase its involvement in settling the standoff over North Korea's nuclear programme, saying that the issue should be handled directly between Washington and Pyongyang. It was the latest reflection of Beijing's caution in wading into the months-long dispute between its communist neighbour and the US.
N. KOREA TO FACE UN (Feb 13): The UN's nuclear watchdog declared North Korea in violation of non-proliferation accords and referred the crisis to the UN Security Council, a step that could lead to sanctions, diplomats said. North Korea, eyeing US plans to reinforce its military presence in the region, has said it would regard any UN sanctions as tantamount to a declaration of war.
VIAGRA’S RIVAL (Feb 13): Viagra, which revived the love life of many an impotent man, will soon have serious competition in Singapore.
Cialis, also a drug used to treat male impotence, has been approved for use and is expected to be available here before the middle of the year. It has been nicknamed the “weekend pill” because its effects last 36 hours. Viagra is good for four hours.