UNHEALTHY AIR: (Feb 25) The Department of Environment (DOE) is on high alert as the air quality in eight locations – mainly in the Klang Valley – plunged to unhealthy levels, worsened by the current drought. The air quality in Port Klang, Petaling Jaya, Shah Alam, Kuala Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Nilai and Bukit Rambai was at an unhealthy level. The deteriorating air quality is caused by the forest fires as well as other local pollutants including vehicle smoke emission.
HUNDREDS OF HOTSPOTS: (Feb 24) Hundreds of fires – technically termed as hotspots – have broken out in six states, namely, Selangor, Perak, Pahang, Johor, Kelantan and Kedah. The hotspots, most of which were peat fires, have resulted in the deterioration of air quality.
WATER SEARCH: (Feb 25) Farmers should start preparing to draw water from underground sources, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said. It would be difficult to depend on waterways for irrigation, as water is scarce during the drought season.
DEATH SENTENCE: (Feb 23) The High Court imposed the death sentence on Ahmad Najib Aris for the murder of Canny Ong, a crime that had gripped the nation. The former aircraft cabin cleaner was also given the maximum jail term of 20 years and 10 strokes of the rotan for raping Canny, a Malaysian who worked as an information technology analyst in the United States.
PAY BACK: (Feb 21) Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has directed the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) to trace the high number of student loan defaulters to recover their loans. It was reported that PTPTN had RM7bil in arrears, which had accumulated over the years, forcing it to borrow RM2bil from the EPF in 2003.
STOP WORK: (Feb 20) Housing developers around the Bukit Cahaya Seri Alam agriculture park in Shah Alam, also known as Section U10, have been ordered to stop work to protect the environment. It has been reported that the 800ha park – the world's biggest agro-forest park – was becoming an “island” as its surrounding areas were being developed for housing.
LOW PASSES: (Feb 21) One of the main reasons for the shortage of nurses in Government service is the high failure rate among trainees. Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said weaknesses in basic science subjects and English were among the reasons for the high failure rate – especially so among bumiputra students. Only 44% of trainee nurses at public institutions passed their courses.
SHARKS BANISHED: (Feb 19) The Internal Security Ministry has obtained warrants of arrest on 15 loan sharks, and will also place them under the Restricted Residence Ordinance for up to three years. Under the ordinance, they would be banished to a remote district where they would be under close police supervision.
COURTESY COURSE: (Feb 20) Frontliners in the civil service began attending week-long courtesy courses organised by public service training institutes around the country.
POPE ILL: (Feb 24) Pope John Paul II has been hospitalised at Rome's Gemelli Hospital after suffering from “a relapse” due to influenza, the Vatican said. The elderly pontiff was taken to hospital for “the opportune specialist assistance and further checkups”.
MASSIVE QUAKE: (Feb 22) A powerful earthquake hit a mountainous region of south-east Iran, killing almost 400 people, injuring hundreds and destroying villages. The tremor, with a magnitude of 6.4, was centred on this town, about 700km south-east of Teheran and just 250km from Bam, devastated by an earthquake that killed 31,000 people just over a year ago.
FLU PANDEMIC: (Feb 23) The world is overdue for an influenza pandemic and must act swiftly if it is to prevent one being triggered by the bird flu now endemic in parts of Asia where it has killed 46 people, UN officials said. The world usually had a pandemic every 20 or 30 years, but it has been 40 since the last one.
FATAL AVALANCHE: (Feb 22) India's army warned of fresh avalanches in Indian Kashmir, where the death toll from massive snow slides hit 175, and urged people living in the most mountainous areas to flee their homes.
NO SNUB: (Feb 23) Buckingham Palace has rejected accusations that Britain's Queen Elizabeth snubbed her eldest son Prince Charles by deciding not to attend his wedding in April.