Malaysia Bagus News
WASHINGTON - A top US health expert warned Congress on Tuesday (June 30) that new coronavirus cases could more than double to 100,000 per day if authorities and the public fail to take steps to suppress the pandemic.
Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, a leading member of President Donald Trump's coronavirus task force, said the United States was headed in the "wrong direction" on the pandemic and demanded that Americans wear masks and avoid crowds after lax behaviour propelled new outbreaks.
"I'm very concerned and I'm not satisfied with what's going on, because we're going in the wrong direction," he testified to a Senate panel.
Alarming spikes in new cases in southern hotspots Texas and Florida are driving the daily national total of new cases to over 40,000 per day, and they need to be tamped down quickly to avoid dangerous surges elsewhere in the country, Fauci stressed.
"Clearly we are not in total control right now," he said adding: "I would not be surprised if it goes up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around."
The dire messaging reinforced concerns about the US ability to rein in a pandemic that has claimed some 126,000 American lives.
The testimony comes as the United States, the world's hardest-hit nation, with more than 2.6 million infections, was left off the list of 15 countries to which the European Union will open its borders from July 1, and as it grapples with how to assure a safe reopening of schools in the coming months.
Fauci said he believed some states are "skipping over some of the checkpoints" that assure safe reopenings of business and public spaces.
And he also offered a blunt message to the nation's young adults who have engaged in "dangerous" behaviour including congregating in bars, not wearing masks, and not following social distancing guidelines.
"I think we need to emphasise the responsibility that we have, both as individuals and as part of a societal effort to end the epidemic, that we all have to play a part in that," Fauci said.
TRUMP TOLD 'WEAR A MASK'
The head of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield, sounded the alarm about rising trajectories in several jurisdictions, including Covid-19 hospitalisations rising in 12 states, and said it was "critical" that every American takes personal responsibility and "embraces the use of face coverings."
But the chairman of the panel, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, also pointed the finger at Trump, saying the president had the power to end politicisation of mask-wearing that suggests "if you're for Trump, you don't wear a mask. If you're against Trump, you do."
"That's why I've suggested that the president occasionally wear a mask," Alexander said.
"The president has plenty of admirers, they would follow his lead," he added.
"It would help end this political debate."
Trump, who refuses to wear a mask at public events and in the past has mocked his rivals for wearing them, has signalled he wants to move on from the coronavirus crisis and focus on his re-election campaign.
Democrats including his November election rival Joe Biden have savaged the president for lack of leadership on pandemic mitigation.
Tuesday's hearing focused in part on whether the United States can adequately prepare for tens of millions of children returning to school in the coming months despite the resilient pandemic raging in some states.
The American Academy of Paediatrics has advocated that the coming school year begin with students physically present in schools, arguing that children are less likely to become symptomatic or severely ill with coronavirus than adults.
Fauci himself said he feels "very strongly we need to do whatever we can to get our children back to school."
He also said he was "cautiously optimistic" that a vaccine could be ready by the end of the year or early 2021.
BRUSSELS/TOKYO - China's passage of a national security law for Hong Kong drew international condemnation on Tuesday (June 30), with the United States and its Asian and Western allies criticising a move that heralds a more authoritarian era for the former British colony.
The law punishes crimes of secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison in Hong Kong, which was guaranteed freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland under a "one country, two systems" formula at its 1997 handover.
"As Beijing now treats Hong Kong as 'One Country, One System,' so must the United States," White House National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot said in a statement.
"We urge Beijing to immediately reverse course.
"The United States will continue to take strong actions against those who smothered Hong Kong's freedom and autonomy."
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for sanctions and other steps against China, saying the "brutal" law would"frighten, intimidate and suppress" those peacefully seeking freedom.
China says the law is necessary to tackle secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces following anti-government protests that escalated in June last year and plunged the city into its biggest crisis in decades.
But British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called the legislation a "grave step", saying China had chosen to break its promises to the people of Hong Kong.
Britain will not turn its back on its commitments to Hong Kong, he tweeted.
Britain and some two dozen Western countries urged China to reconsider the law, saying Beijing must preserve the right to assembly and free press in the former British colony.
"We wish to raise our deep concerns at the imposition of national security legislation on Hong Kong which undermines 'One Country, Two Systems', and has clear implications for human rights," Julian Braithwaite, Britain's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, told the UN Human Rights Council.
Braithwaite spoke on behalf of 27 countries, many of them European Union members, as well as Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Switzerland.
Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have repeatedly said the law will not affect Hong Kong's rights and freedoms, nor investor interests.
Despite such the assurances, the European Union has warned of serious consequences over the law, which democracy activists, diplomats and some businesses say will jeopardise Hong Kong's semi-autonomous status and its role as a global financial hub.
The EU underlined those concerns on Tuesday.
"We deplore the decision," EU Council President Charles Michel told a news conference.
"This law risks seriously undermining the high degree of autonomy of Hong Kong and having a detrimental effect on the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law."
Last week, the European Parliament urged the bloc to take China to the International Court of Justice in the Hague, the United Nations' highest legal body, if it went ahead.
In Tokyo, top government officials called the legislation "regrettable", saying it undermined credibility in the "one country, two systems" formula.
Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters he shared the "deep concern" of the international community and the people of Hong Kong over the measure.
Taiwan's Cabinet said the new law would "severely impact"freedom, democracy and human rights and Taiwan would continue to offer help to people in Hong Kong.
Last year's protests drew wide sympathy in democratic and Chinese-claimed Taiwan, which has welcomed people from Hong Kong who have moved to the island and expects more.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said she was "very disappointed" by China's move, adding that it showed the "one country, two systems" formula, which Beijing has mooted as a basis for unification with the mainland, "was not feasible".
Defending the law, Hong Kong's Beijing-backed leader, Carrie Lam, urged the international community to respect China's right to safeguard security.
In a video message to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Lam said the city of 7.5 million had been "traumatised by escalating violence fanned by external forces".
"No central government could turn a blind eye to such threats to sovereignty and national security, as well as risks of subversion of state power," she said.
PETALING JAYA - Scores of Singaporeans are in favour of opening the border with Malaysia to facilitate activities between both countries, a survey shows.
A survey by YouGov Omnibus revealed that 63per cent of the 1,123 Malaysians and Singaporeans surveyed were of the opinion that the border should reopen but only 35per cent of the Malaysians supported the idea.
Many who took part in the poll believed that several measures should be implemented when travel restrictions between Singapore and Malaysia are relaxed.
The survey found that 76per cent of those polled wanted temperature checks to be taken before crossing the border.
Another 72per cent felt that declaration of symptoms should be done before passing the border.
It also revealed that 65per cent wanted contact tracing measures in place while 58per cent believed swab tests should be conducted one week prior to making the crossing.
About 55per cent of those polled also said citizens of both countries must observe a 14-day quarantine period and another 52per cent said the same should be done upon returning to their respective nations.
On June 19, Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said Malaysia was having talks with Singapore to reopen the border to citizens of both countries.
He said Singaporeans could enter the country without getting prior approval from the Immigration Department or to undergo Covid-19 screening and home quarantine.
However, the Senior Minister said this was on condition that Malaysians would also be accorded the same privileges by the Singaporean government.
On Friday (June 26), the prime ministers of Malaysia and Singapore agreed that the reopening of the border should be done carefully following the Covid-19 pandemic.
Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said his counterpart agreed that the reopening of the countries' border should be done carefully and in accordance with certain health guidelines and protocols to regenerate the economic and tourism sectors, which would benefit both countries.
GEORGE TOWN - The world’s longest water slide at Escape Theme Park in Teluk Bahang is all ready to welcome thrill seekers again.
Spanning 1,111m and certified by Guinness World Records, the slide takes one down through 20 turns and five loops from the forested land located 70m from the ground, or the height of a 23-storey building, before ending at the park’s swimming pool some 600m away.
The slide will be among 40 attractions in the park to reopen for rides after the government announced that theme parks will be allowed to reopen their doors in July.
The park’s CEO Sim Choo Kheng said visitors could expect more trees and larger plants around the park after the three-month closure and that the workers had given the place a thorough clean-up.
Only 1,000 visitors are allowed into the park at any one time to ensure social distancing.
PETALING JAYA - A senior citizen lost her life savings of almost RM4 million (S$1.3 million) after she was duped into believing she was an accomplice in a money-laundering syndicate.
Petaling Jaya OCPD Asst Comm Nik Ezanee Mohd Faisal said the 90-year-old retiree had deposited RM3.83 million of her life savings into seven bank accounts between April 20 and June 15 after receiving a call telling her that there was a package with her name sent from Perak to Sabah.
He said the victim was told that her MyKad and ATM card details were on the package and the caller then connected her to two others claiming to be police officers from the Perak police headquarters.
He said the two, who identified themselves as "Sgt Ho Mum Foo" and "Insp Herman Lee", said they were attached to the Commercial Crimes Investigations Department in Perak.
They also claimed that a former bank employee, whom they said had been arrested, had used her details in a money-laundering syndicate.
"The callers then told the victim that police would detain her for 45 days if she told anyone about the case," he said.
Frightened by the threats, the retiree then transferred her money to the accounts provided by the scammers.
ACP Nik Ezanee said police are actively tracing the suspects and advised the public not to easily believe such threats.
"The scammers are now targeting senior citizens who may not be wise to their tactics and tricks.
"Please call the police if you receive such calls," he said.
HOUSTON - Armed with blankets and pillows, Texans wait in their cars for hours outside a testing centre in Houston, one of the new Covid-19 epicentres in the US.
"I've been here since three in the morning," said Maria Solis. The 22-year-old came to get tested for a second time, after her first test came back positive, prompting her to quarantine for 14 days.
In two weeks, the situation in Houston, the fourth-largest city in the United States, has sharply declined - as seen outside the United Memorial Medical Centre Tidwell, a hospital in a residential neighbourhood in north Houston.
"When I first got tested, there were no lines whatsoever and that was maybe two weeks ago," Solis said.
"I just went inside and it was maybe three cars, and now it's a big growing number. It's kind of scary."
The spread of the coronavirus in Texas has taken a "swift and very dangerous turn," according to Republican governor Greg Abbott.
Everyone is watching the rate of infection, which is currently at 14 per cent - double what it was at the beginning of June.
Concerns have become so great that Houston is often compared to New York city, which has three times as many residents, at the start of the pandemic.
Huge pick-up trucks and ordinary sedans - all the cars move one by one from the line through the white tents constructed in the hospital parking lot.
Some people came with their families, and more than one person has nodded off during the long wait.
Fernando Galvez, a medical student, joined the long line at 4:00 am.
After seven hours of waiting, he hopes that he can get tested this time, after multiple failed attempts over the past four days, despite his exhibiting symptoms - sore throat and chest tightness.
The first day he tried to get a test, he arrived at 6:30 am. "There was no chance," the 24-year-old said. "So here I am again." He's been volunteering in a medical clinic and thinks he might have caught Covid-19 while working there.
Similarly, Raquel Smith, 48, works in the medical field and hopes to get tested for the first time. Her bosses requested that she get a test.
She arrived before 4:00 am, she told reporters.
"I'm a frontline worker so this is just recommended now, because of the high increase now in cases here," the respiratory therapist said.
More than 125,000 people have died of Covid-19 in the US, by far the hardest-hit country in the world.
Some Houstonians think the spiking case numbers across the southern and western United States should serve as a national wake-up call.
Bent over his cell phone, Pedro Balderas, 39, also spent countless hours waiting in the line of cars. He thinks leaders should make wearing a mask - a source of heated debate across the country - mandatory.
"I think they'd help a whole lot," he said.
WASHINGTON - Twitch, the livestreaming platform, said on Monday (June 29) that it was suspending President Donald Trump's channel for "hateful conduct," in what appeared to be the first deliberate suspension of one of Mr Trump's social media accounts.
The site, which is owned by Amazon, said two recent streams on Mr Trump's channel violated its rules. One stream was of a rebroadcasted 2015 campaign event in which Trump made comments about Mexico sending drugs, crime and rapists over the border. The other was of his recent rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he talked about a "very tough hombre" breaking into a woman's house at 1am.
"Hateful conduct is not allowed on Twitch," a Twitch spokesman said in a statement. "In line with our policies, President Trump's channel has been issued a temporary suspension from Twitch for comments made on stream, and the offending content has been removed."
It was unclear how long the suspension would last.
With its move, Twitch went further than other social media platforms. In recent months, some tech companies have become more proactive in handling speech issues by Mr Trump and his supporters.
Twitter began adding labels to some of the president's tweets; Snap has said it will stop promoting Mr Trump's Snapchat account; and Reddit on Monday said it would ban "The-Donald" community, which had been a highly influential digital gathering place for Mr Trump's acolytes.
But unlike those efforts, Twitch directly clamped down on the president himself, temporarily shutting down his ability to post videos on a channel. The only other time Trump had one of his social media accounts suspended was by accident in 2017, when his Twitter account was unexpectedly disabled by a rogue contractor who was leaving Twitter that day.
One company that has maintained it does not want to police free speech is Facebook. Last week, the social network announced it would expand its hate speech policies and label posts from political figures who violate rules as "newsworthy." But the labels, which do not explain what is inaccurate or hateful about a post, fall short of what Twitter and other companies have done.
Twitch's suspension of Mr Trump comes as the platform, which is popular with gamers, is under fire for other instances of hateful rhetoric. Streamers have accused it of allowing racist and sexist comments to thrive unchecked, and the company said last week it would permanently suspend a handful of users after a torrent of sexual harassment and assault allegations rocked the video game industry.
Ms Cindy Otis, a disinformation expert and senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, said Twitch's suspension of the president might pressure other companies to ratchet up their actions.
"You have to sort of wonder, if smaller platforms start taking more aggressive or harder action on what they consider harmful content or on the disinformation side - will that end up pressuring the larger platforms to do more as well?" Ms Otis asked.
But, she added, "if stuff gets removed from one platform, it simply migrates to another." The actions are likely to revive charges by conservatives that social media platforms are suppressing and censoring their speech. Prof Whitney Phillips, who researches disinformation at Syracuse University, said the moves were "definitely going to be weaponisable by people on the far right who can point to this" and say that online platforms were biased against conservatives.
Some backlash began on Monday after YouTube announced it was barring six channels for violating its hate speech policies, including one by Mr Stefan Molyneux, a podcaster and Internet commentator who has discussed his far-right politics. Far-right YouTubers quickly accused the Google-owned site of bias.
Mr Molyneux, who had nearly 1 million YouTube subscribers and more than 300 million video views on the platform since starting his channel more than a decade ago, said on Twitter that YouTube had "just suspended the largest philosophy conversation the world has ever known."
The Trump campaign did not directly address the actions by Twitch and Reddit on Monday. Mr Tim Murtaugh, director of communications for Trump's reelection campaign, said in a statement that people should download the Trump campaign app or text the campaign's automated number to "hear directly from the president."
Twitch is not one of Trump's top social media channels. His channel began streaming on the service in October, amassing more than 125,000 followers and 113 streams, compared with his more than 83 million followers on Twitter.
The platform did not address whether any of Trump's other past streams had violated its rules. It said it told Trump's campaign last year that it did not "make exceptions for political or newsworthy content" that violated its guidelines.
By Monday afternoon, the URL for Trump's Twitch channel displayed a message: "That content is unavailable."
PETALING JAYA - Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the proposal to place his son, Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir, as Deputy Prime Minister (II) did not come from him.
Instead, the former prime minister said Amanah president Mohamad Sabu and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng in their June 22 statement named Mukhriz to the position.
Dr Mahathir said he knew he would be criticised when Mukhriz was proposed for the position.
“I was in a conflicted position. When I was prime minister for the first time, I banned my son from politics, especially as a member of the governing party.
“I do not want to be accused of practising nepotism, giving my family privileges,” he said in his blog yesterday.
He said when he was no longer the prime minister, the responsibility of guarding his name no longer had to be shouldered by his children.
“They were free to enter politics. Whether or not they were successful depended on them. When Mukhriz’s name was proposed, I had no right to oppose because of my self-interest,” he said.
On Saturday, Dr Mahathir proposed Parti Warisan Negara chief Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal as the Opposition’s candidate for prime minister, with PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as deputy prime minister along with Mukhriz should Pakatan Plus win the next general election.
Pakatan Plus is the moniker for parties from the Opposition coalition and splinter group of Bersatu members supporting Dr Mahathir, and Parti Warisan Sabah.
The proposal was met with cynicism from politicians of both sides of the political divide.
PETALING JAYA - Independent shuttler Liew Daren revealed that if not for the Covid-19 pandemic he could have ended up in Singapore.
The 32-year-old said he had accepted an offer from the Singapore Badminton Association (SBA) to help the team’s preparations for the Tokyo Olympics, which was initially slated for July 24-Aug 9 before it was rescheduled to next year.
Singapore’s rising stars Loh Kean Yew and Yeo Jia Min are on course to qualify for the Games.
They are currently in the top-38 cut in the Race to Tokyo qualifiers. Kean Yew is 16th while Jia Min is in 17th spot.
“Earlier this year, I received an invitation from them to help spar with their players from May to July. I could not commit for three straight months, so we settled for just May and July instead,” said world No. 41 Daren.
“It wasn’t a hard decision to accept the offer because it’s more like a joint-training session.
“As a professional, I’m free to train anywhere and I believe they provide better facilities too.
“It’s a win-win situation because I have good place to train and get to make some extra income.
“Unfortunately, the plan is on hold because of Covid-19, so I’m not sure if they would need me again for next year.”
Daren said he is open to any future offer from the SBA.
“If the time is right and the dates don’t clash with my tournament schedule, I don’t see why not,” he explained.
“It’s actually kind of an honour too, to be handed an opportunity to work with a national BA and help them prepare for a major competition. It’s surely a good experience.”
Hopes are high on Kean Yew, 22, and Jia Min, 21, to return home with a commendable result from Tokyo as both had enjoyed a remarkable season last year.
Kean Yew made heads turn when he downed two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan to bag his maiden World Tour title at the Thailand Masters in January.
The Penang-born lad would go on to reach three more finals – the Hyderabad Open, Russian Open and at the Philippines SEA Games where he lost to childhood rival Lee Zii Jia.
Jia Min also made waves after etching her name into the history books by becoming the first Singaporean to reach the quarter-finals at the World Championships in Basel, Switzerland.
Singapore’s best achievement in badminton at the Olympics was when Ronald Susilo reached the last eight in Athens 2004.
SEREMBAN - She has never met him in person but a 57-year-old widow was so smitten with the man's words that she readily gave him more than RM1.15 million (S$373,000) over an eight-month period.
The woman, a government servant, got to know the suspect, who is also 57, through a chat and dating app last September and within a short time, fell for his charm.
State commercial crime chief Supt Aibee Ab Ghani explained that the suspect slowly began asking the victim for money.
On Oct 23, the victim banked in RM3,300 into a bank account given by the suspect but which belonged to a woman.
Supt Aibee said the suspect continued to ask the victim for more money and told her to bank it into his friends' accounts claiming he was abroad.
The victim then transferred over RM1 million which belonged to her family into four bank accounts under the name of the same woman via several transactions.
Another RM120,000 was also banked into the account of a second woman and RM5,000 into a man's account.
"She continued banking in the cash till May 31 this year," Supt Aibee said.
"In total, she did 65 transactions involving RM1,156,050."
Supt Aibee said the victim only realised that she had been scammed when she failed to reach him after that.
The victim lodged a police report on June 26.
The case is being investigated under Section 420 of the Penal Code for cheating.