TOWARDS CLEANER FUEL: (June 21) Guidelines to lower the high sulphur content in fuel will be introduced this year to reduce air pollution, the Department of Environment's air division director Che Asmah Ibrahim said. She said the Government would adopt certain components of the Euro 2 quality standard used by European countries. Most fuel quality and motor vehicle emission standards are based on European standards in which Euro 1 is the first stage. Many European countries already comply with Euro 4 standards in which the permissible sulphur level is 50 parts per million.
TASK FORCE: (June 21) City police have set up a permanent task force to conduct operations against snatch thefts and wayside robberies. City police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Mustafa Abdullah said the task force, comprising 48 personnel from various departments, was formed last week and placed under the serious crimes division. It will study the modus operandi of the criminals and plan their strategies accordingly. He said the plainclothes team would focus on “hot spots'', especially the Golden Triangle where there were loads of tourists.
MUST PAY: (June 21) Public Service Department (PSD) scholars who choose not to return home after completing their education overseas must repay the cost of their education. PSD public relations officer Hasniah Rashid said this was because the students were bound by the contract to return. Hasniah also said the payment must be made to the department in one lump sum.
PATENTING PROCESS: (June 21) The slow process in registering intellectual property has led to local inventions being patented by other people by the time the registration is completed. Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Mohd Shafie Apdal said registration with the Malaysian Intellectual Property Corp, which took at least six or seven years to complete, should be shortened. Shafie said the ministry would be looking into ways to speed up the registration process such as placing experts at the corporation to study whether the local inventions were eligible for patenting and training personnel to prepare reports on the inventions prior to registration.
AIR QUALITY WORSENS: (June 23) The air quality over the whole of the west coast of peninsular Malaysia is showing signs of deterioration in the wake of the current hot and dry weather coupled with increased cross-border pollution. Department of Environment director-general Rosnani Ibrahim said in a statement that the greater pollution load was borne by south-west monsoon winds from Sumatra, where she said the number of hot spots had increased to 254 from 84 on Sunday. The air quality in five areas of the peninsula is unhealthy, while it is moderate in 43 areas and good in two places, according to Rosnani, with four spots in the Klang Valley-Gombak, Klang, Shah Alam and Petaling Jaya-showing deterioration.
HAZE DRIFTS: (June 23) The haze, which has shrouded the Klang Valley in the past week, has drifted to other parts of the peninsula and is getting worse in the east coast states. The smog has also started to thicken in the southern states, with Malacca health authorities claiming to be treating an increasing number of patients with breathing difficulties. The KL International Airport saw no disruptions to flight schedules despite reduced visibility, but marine police warned ships plying the Straits of Malacca to navigate with the utmost care over the waterway, especially at night.
SUPPORT FOR COPS: (June 23) The Cabinet has agreed to provide the police with the financial and human support, which the force requires to fight crime. The decision was made after a three-hour briefing by Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Bakri Omar to the ministers at the Prime Minister's Office here. According to Deputy Internal Security Minister Datuk Noh Omar, who attended the meeting, the briefing on the overall crime situation in the country was held at the request of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Sources said that Bakri brought up the manpower problems faced by the force and also the need for allocation to beef up police presence and set up more police stations.
RM10BIL FOR DEVELOPMENT: (June 24) The Government will spend another RM10bil over the next 18 months on development projects and motorists are likely to pay higher prices for petrol to meet part of the increase. The National Economic Action Council said the Government had revised the 8th Malaysia Plan development expenditure from RM160bil to RM170bil.
LAST CHANCE: (June 25) National service (NS) dodgers, you have one last chance. If you fail to report for training on July 25, you will face the full extent of the law. This means you will be charged in court and face a maximum jail term of six months or a fine of RM3,000 or both. This is the warning given by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. The deadline to sign up for the special training session-for those who failed to turn up for the three stints held earlier this year-ended on Thursday and yet more than 6,000 NS dodgers did not bother to register. Najib said dodgers could avoid prosecution by contacting or reporting to the NS Training Department headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.
WATER ALERT: (June 25) The water level at dams nationwide is dipping and the weatherman predicts a drought that will drag until September. Several state water authorities are already on alert, with many of them advising consumers to use water sparingly. The south-westerly winds the country is now experiencing is not going to bring any heavy rain, said the Malaysian Meteorological Services Department. Its director, Kang Thean Shong, said rain was not expected in most parts of the peninsular with the current winds. He said the department was planning to carry out cloud seeding in various parts of the country, but this would depend on cloud formations.
LAW REVAMP: (June 24) The Home Affairs Ministry is revamping the system and laws on the hiring of foreign workers, including imposing heavier penalties on those who exploit the workers. In admitting that the present system was open to “a lot of exploitation” minister Datuk Azmi Khalid said the recent trend of runners submitting application forms for thousands of foreign workers had prompted the ministry to implement the move.
MAKING IT EASIER: (June 24) The Government has relaxed conditions for foreign citizens wishing to join the “Malaysia-My Second Home” programme following the increasing number of applicants. Home Affairs Minister Datuk Azmi Khalid said the compulsory RM150,000 fixed deposit can now be with any financial institution, including foreign ones with local branches.
ARROYO WINNER: (June 24) The Philippine parliament named incumbent Gloria Arroyo as the winner of last month's presidential election, giving her a six-year- mandate to tackle the nation's many problems. The announcement by Congress ended six weeks of damaging uncertainty since the bitterly fought May 10 polls which opposition candidate Fernando Poe alleged was tainted by widespread fraud and irregularities. Arroyo, 57, is scheduled to take the oath of office on June 30.
SHAPING CANADA: (June 22) Chinese and South Asian communities in Canada are expected to greatly influence the results of the June 28 federal elections, for the first time changing dramatically the face of the nation's politicians and politics. Their numbers have increased steadily in the past three decades to nearly one million each, representing half of Canada's four million visible minorities, and they are asserting their collective political clout like never before.
TYPHOON DIANMU: (June 21) Powerful Typhoon Dianmu hit land in western Japan, lashing a wide area with strong winds and heavy rains after leaving three people dead at the weekend. Transport was snarled, tens of thousands of households lost power and several oil refineries halted shipments. Two university students were found dead on Sunday after being swept of a beach by high waves and another man died while windsurfing on Sunday.
ROCKET PLANE: (June 21) The privately funded rocket plane SpaceShipOne flew to outer space and into history books as the world's first commercial manned space flight. The distinctive white rocket plane was released from a larger plane called the White Knight and ignited its rocket engine to enter space 100km above the earth. Against the backdrop of a clear blue sky, it landed safely back at a runway in the Mojave Desert in California, about 160km north of Los Angeles.
MONOGAMY KEY: (June 22) Romance is not dead, it is locked within a “love gene'' in the brain, according to findings by American scientists. Researchers played cupid by shooting the gene into normally promiscuous meadow voles. The love-struck animals immediately gave up their nest hopping and turned sappily monogamous, becoming doting and inseparable partners. Scientists think the same gene exists in humans, and as well as being involved in romantic relationships could hold the key to drug addiction and possibly autism.
KOREAN HOSTAGE BEHEADED: (June 22) Militants beheaded a South Korean hostage in Iraq after Seoul refused their demand to withdraw its troops from the country and cancel plans to send more, the Arabic satellite channel Al Jazeera said. South Korea confirmed the death of hostage Kim Sun-il and said his body had been found.