ALL-ENGLAND CHAMP: (Feb 17) Mohd Hafiz Hashim brought home the coveted All-England singles crown, 37 years after Tan Aik Huang last won it. The 20-year-old Kelantan-born shuttler beat Chen Hong from China 17-14, 15-10. He is the first unseeded player in 15 years to lift the crown. Hafiz's next goal is to win the World Championships in April, but his ultimate aim is to win a gold medal at the Athens Olympics next year.
PEACE INITIATIVE: (Feb 20) Malaysia, concerned with an imminent attack on Iraq, is initiating support for a separate statement on the situation in Iraq at the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit here next week.
Foreign minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said NAM countries should spread a message of peace and stability. A separate statement on Palestine will also be issued at the meeting.
PEACE MESSAGES: (Feb 22) The One Million Signature for Peace has collected more than 1.5 million signatures, with more on the way. The People's Alliance for Peace Malaysia (Peace Malaysia) started the signature drive to protest against war in Iraq and to call for Palestine's liberation from Israeli attacks. Peace Malaysia will present the signatures to the Prime Minister at the Peace Rally today.
BANKRUPTCY CEILING: (Feb 19) The Government is proposing to raise the debt level ceiling from RM10,000 to RM30,000 before a person could be subjected to bankruptcy proceedings. The proposal was part of amendments to the Bankruptcy Act 1967 to be tabled in Parliament next month, which is in line with the rapid economic change and purchasing power of the ringgit over the past 20 years.
INCENTIVE PAYMENT: (Feb 20) All teachers teaching English, Mathematics and Science will now qualify to receive incentive payment, irrespective of the number of periods they teach. The latest Public Services Department (PSD) circular on this matter negated an earlier circular which states that primary school teachers had to teach the subjects for at least 20 periods a week, and secondary school teachers at least 15 to qualify for the payment. The quantum of the incentive is at 5% for graduate teachers in secondary schools and 10% for non-graduates in primary schools.
LOSS TO PIRACY: (Feb 21) The music industry has reported a drastic drop in CD and cassette sale over the past three years due to the increasing piracy problem. The estimated sales for last year were RM126mil, from RM 157mil in 2001. The Recording Industry Association of Malaysia (RIM) said this has caused job losses and closure of music retail shops and recording studios. RIM has dubbed 2003 a doomsday year for the music industry. The Government is considering amending the copyright laws to make end-users liable for buying pirated music products.
COMMUNITY WORK: (Feb 21) Those sentenced to less than six month' jail need only do community service under a proposal submitted by the Prisons Department to the Attorney-General's Chambers. The move would help to reduce congestion in prisons as 2,672 of the 34,550 inmates are currently serving jail terms of less than six months.
ORDERS FROM THE TOP: (Feb 18) A co-accused who turned prosecution witness in the murder trial of Hasleza Ishak (the Raja diHilir Perak's second wife) told the High Court that he was told that Raja Mahani (the first wife) wanted Hasleza killed. Padi planter Mat Saad Isa said that co-accused bomoh Rahim Ismail assured him that it was all right to kill Hasleza as orang raja-raja (members of the royal family) would protect him. Justice Mohd Noor Abdullah allowed the statement to be admitted, as it was to show the chain of events and was not proof that Raja Mahani had actually ordered Hasleza's murder. Mat Saad said that he no longer believed in Raja Mahani's involvement in another hearing.
DESTROY MISSILES: (Feb 23) Chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix ordered Iraq to destroy its missiles with ranges that violate UN limits, and gave Baghdad a March 1 deadline to begin the demolition. Deputy Iraqi Prime Minister Tariq Aziz has declared the missile destruction unacceptable. Iraq's response to the order will test its willingness to disarm as negotiations for possible war enter a crucial stage. The United States and Britain are trying to focus the world's attention on illegal Iraqi weapons activities while they prepare a new resolution that could pave the way for military action.
PEACE MARCH: (Feb 16) Millions in more than 600 cities in the world gathered to protest against US President George W. Bush's push towards an invasion on Iraq. President Bush was, however, undeterred, saying: I respectfully disagree with those who doubt that Saddam Hussein is a risk to peace.
TURKISH DEAL: (Feb 18) Turkish and US officials are negotiating the terms for allowing US troops on Turkish soil for a possible war against Iraq. Turkish bases and military facilities could be critical as staging points for a northern front attack on Iraq. Earlier, US officials had fought for Nato to send military hardware to help defend Turkey in case Iraq attacks it for supporting a US-led attack. Negotiations between the United States and Turkey snagged over economic issues and the role of Turkey's military. Once a final agreement is reached, it'll still have to be approved by the Turkish Parliament, where it is likely to face a stiff challenge.
SUBWAY ARSON: (Feb 19) At least 133 commuters died and more than 340 were missing in a subway arson attack in Daegu, South Korea. A 56-year-old man, with a history of mental illness, is suspected of starting the fire, which reduced two subway trains to charred skeletons. Angry relatives are demanding to know why the doors on the burning train were kept shut, trapping commuters. Investigators are considering criminal charges against subway staff whose alleged negligence contributed to the high death toll.
FATAL CRASHES: (Feb 21) Two separate air crashes claimed 319 lives on the same day. In Pakistan, the commander of its air force, his wife and 15 others were killed when their plane crashed. In Iran, a military plane crashed, killing 302 soldiers and air crew.
The Iranian crash, with one of the highest death tolls in world aviation history, appeared to have been caused by bad weather.
BIRD FLU ALERT: (Feb 21) Hong Kong is on the alert for bird flu cases following the death of a man infected with the virus. His is the first known death from the disease since the bird flu virus killed six people in the territory in 1997, and triggered worldwide alarm. His nine-year-old son, who also contracted the bird flu virus while visiting relatives in China, is in stable condition in hospital. Tests are being carried out to determine if the bird flu virus caused the death of the boys sister from pneumonia recently.
9-11 CONVICTION: (Feb 20) Mounir El Motassadeq was jailed 15 years by a German court after being convicted of accessory to murder in the world's first trial over the Sept 11 attacks last year. The 28-year-old Moroccan was also convicted of attempted murder, grievous bodily harm and membership of a terrorist organisation.
Mounir was a friend of three suicide hijackers based in Hamburg who ploughed passenger planes into the New York Twin Towers and Washington.
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