Malaysian Group on a Mission to Teach Refugee Women to Read and Write

(AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

Seated on the floor in the room are a few students, notably women, who are reciting the alphabet; but these aren’t ordinary students, they are refugee women in Malaysia and they are learning to read and write in both Malay and English for the first time.

Conducted weekly at a rather gloomy room outside Kuala Lumpur, classes are led by the Women for Refugees group. The group was formed in September by two law students who wanted to empower them to be more than the portrayable wife by helping with their literacy and also with their integration into the local community.

“I don’t know even know my ABCs, but now I am learning,” Zaleha Abdul, 54, a Muslim Rohingya refugee, said in an interview with the Associated Press, as she struggled to remember the alphabet during a class last month. She said she wants to be more independent when going shopping or anywhere else.

Many refugee women, Zaleha among them, have picked up the local language but are still only confined to surroundings that they are familiar with as they don’t know how to read or write.

Arissa Jemaima Ikram Ismail, was a volunteer with a relief agency at first in Selayang and aimed to help to uplift women in this community. 

She and fellow law student Davina Devarajaan then met with the women who to their surprise, wanted to learn English and Malay. Arissa also said that education if often viewed as a low priority for refugee women.

Women for Refugees was then formed and they proceeded to recruit teachers via Instagram. Having about 20 volunteers now, the group is offering two-hour literacy classes in both English and Malay in a two-story block that has up to 50 families.

“It was very essential for us to not pitch the refugee women as a charity, where they are constantly requiring external aid,” Arissa said. “We want to equip them with the necessary skills so that they can sustain themselves … and contribute back to the community.”

Although open to all migrant women, majority of the students are from Myanmar and Indonesia. Davina hopes to expand to other neighbourhoods in the future and also to include technical skills that could lead to more opportunities for an income.

She also added that teaching still goes on with pre-recorded lessons due to the country’s coronavirus crisis; they were being viewed on three shared laptops while live classes were still being conducted once a week for older migrant children.

As the pandemic subsides, she would also “love to integrate more volunteers … to actually come and teach them and have this very community-based integration between” the women and the locals, whom many view migrants as a burden on the country’s resources and healthcare system.

Arisssa’s group may not be the first that is offering literacy course, but it is the only few that does this while focusing on women. Almost 178,000 refugees and asylum seekers are registered with the United Nations High Commission of Refugees, and many of them are left out educationally.

Shahidah Salamatulah, 38, was among three women at that time learning how to communicate in English when needing to seek treatment at a medical clinic. 

Shahidah, a Muslim from Myanmar and a mother of two, was preparing for a new life abroad. She was called for interviews three times last year by the UNHCR on possible resettlements, but the coronavirus pandemic has put all that to an unscheduled and timely halt.

“English is important for us … when we go overseas we will need English,” she told the Associated Press.

KL’s Future, The City’s Upcoming Skyscrapers and Developments

Kuala Lumpur, an iconic and an ever growing city in Southeast Asia; although the size, it’s not even among the top 10 biggest cities in the world, but it surely tops the list for most buildings over 100 meters.

Out of the five buildings over 400 meters in the region, Kuala Lumpur is home to at least four of them. All these only adds to the extravagant skyline that attracts not only locals to visit it often but also photographers near and far to capture that perfect portrait of the city.

Safe to say, development for the city is in no way halted as many projects are either in the talks or is going on underway to make it that much more vibrant and livelier, here are a few of them.

1) Merdeka 118

Built to resemble the iconic Tunku Abdul Rahman when he lifted his right hand up to declare Malaysia’s independence in 1957, the rumored to be named Merdeka 118 stands at 118 stories and 644 meters. The project is located at Jalan Hang Jebat, next to the historical Merdeka Stadium, Stadium Negara, and the Merdeka MRT station on the Sungai Buloh-Kajang Line opened in 2017. A drive-by the site today would also allow you see glance at what could possibly be after it’s done.

2) Tradewinds Square

Announced in 2011, the project is located on the site of the former Crowne Plaza Mutiara Hotel and Kompleks Antarabangsa near the Raja Chulan monorail station. It will be 775 meters tall with 150 floors, towering that of the nearby Petronas Twin Towers. Demolitions of old buildings have gone ahead but the site remains much empty as of today and it is possible that the final version being not as high.

3) 8 Conlay

The ongoing development features 3 towers on a retail center just under its floors. The 68 story tower will be home to Kempsinky Hotel and Hotel Residences while the two residential towers will be YOO8 serviced by Kempsinki. When it finishes, the project will have the world’s tallest spiraled twin residential towers, similar to a larger version of Dancing House in Prague.

4) Plaza Rakyat

Considered as a sleeping project, much of its work began in the 90s and remains stalled ever since the 1997 Asian financial crisis hit. It remains today as a blighted abandoned site while there have been regular echoes and announcements of an impending revival.

5) Bandar Malaysia

A transit-oriented development at the former Sungai Besi Airport, the site of it will be a terminal for the Singapore – Kuala Lumpur high-speed railway developed by 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). As we know the mayhem 1MDB is facing, the project is rightfully being delayed as investigations go on and on.

6) M101 Skywheel

Part of the Kampong Bharu City Centre Complex, ths 317 metre high building is topped with an observation wheel between two smaller towers. It will include residential apartments, a hotel, retail, and of course that observation wheel; definitely not a design you expect to see up in the skies.

7) IBN Bukit Bintang

At 325 metres, this 68 storey tower will include serviced apartments and a 5-star hotel. Upon completion, it will also be among the five tallest buildings in Kuala Lumpur and be located at the site of the former Hotel Fortuna.

8) KL Metropolis

A city within a city, this commerce, living and transport hub will be over 75.5 acres and be one the region’s largest expo and convention centres that includes residences, hotels, shops and offices.

Working from Home is Hurting Our Backs, Here’s How You Can Prevent Them

*Safe to say, admin has definitely switched his sitting position after writing this article and is amazed*

Who would’ve guessed it that we’ll be working from home for the rest of 2020; or to be exact, working form our bed, sofa and kitchen table for the rest of god knows how many more months.

Our work from home setups differ wildly among individuals, but most of us complaint about the same thing – sore and stiff backs that comes from the long hours spent on in front of the computer. After months of this situation, it is safe to say that some of us already miss our office and couldn’t wait until this mayhem is all over.

Although, there are adjustments we can make to our daily work setting to make working from home that much bearable.

1) Working from your bed

Experts frown upon working on your laptop from your bed as it gives zero support and has no neutral position to work from. 

If you really want to make it work, rest your laptop on a pillow to bring it to a more manageable level so that you don’t have to lean down to it. Support your lower back by placing a rolled-up towel underneath and bend your knees and hips at a 90-degree angle. Place your laptop on your thighs at a comfortable screen-angle.

2) Working at a dining table

Woman Working From Home Using Laptop On Dining Table

This option would likely be for people who don’t have a work desk at home, it does miss some vital elements though as a desk. There’s no really lumbar support and may be too high to work from.

Make sure to have your feet on the ground to create a stable base for your ever-important spine, put a cushion or box on the ground if your feet can’t reach it. Sit on a couple of cushions until your shoulders feel relaxed and put a rolled-up tower behind your back to prevent slouching. You can even consider an external keyboard and put your laptop on a few books.

3) Working on the sofa

With many of us working in the living room, a sofa seems like the most comfortable option as the squishy exterior along with puffy pillows make all so luscious. However, sofas generally don’t allow you to sit with your knees bent and your legs on the ground, so most of us would find ourselves literally tucked in by it.

Sit on the edge so that your feet are on the floor and use pillows as support for your back; place a couple of cushions on your knees to raise your back for support. However, you can also sit on the floor against your sofa as well!

4) Working at the coffee table

The key is to find a position that best replicates the ideal positon: Knees, hips and elbows bent at 90-degrees with the back in a neutral position and our shoulders away from the ears. 

5) Working on the floor

Mid adult woman sitting on floor, leaning on sofa, talking on, using laptop, side view

Yes, it’s considered an option and some of us like the freedom we get from working on the floor as well. 

To do so, use a small table as a makeshift desk and sit on a cushion or yoga bolster. Vary your sitting position every now and then from crossing yourlegs to sitting in a squat or on a cushion; this would ensure that your pelvis, hip and spine would be more free and mobile.

6) Using a kitchen top etc as a standing desk

You might not think of this, but expert to suggest it brings a whole new perspective to working from home.

Find a high surface such as a kitchen worktop that is high enough to be at elbow height; just simply stand while working on your laptop placed on the surface. Make sure that you’re typing at elbow height and that your shoulders feel relaxed. You might also consider putting something soft like a rug under your feet to stand on.

Don’t stick with just one of these positions, mix and match instead to make working from home that less back-aching, literally.

Joe Biden Has Won the 2020 U.S. Elections, Here’s How He Did It

After a long run of campaigning, arguments and the occasional spat at one another, the U.S. elections has reached a long-awaited end where Joe Biden has come out victorious over Donald Trump to be the 46th U.S. president.

Undeniably one of the most out of the ordinary elections in the nation’s history, the upset saw the former vice-president beating the 45th president of the United States, winning by 284 electoral votes to Trump’s 214 votes.

After the news broke out to the public the soon-to-be president had this to say on his Twitter account.

So how did Biden win the presidency? Simple, they just kept on counting; which was controversially something that Trump supporters had mixed feelings about.

The key battles:

Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin

As widely democratic states stood out to be Biden’s strongholds, this election proved to be a surprise in a few notable states that brought the fight right down to the wire.

Even though leads were decreased substantially as the night went on, Biden eventually walked it out in Arizona where his lead was cut from the 1 million votes to 100,000 votes and also while protests went on outside the building where votes were counted.

Trump had sued in an attempt to stop the counting of votes in several states and threatened to fight the outcome of it, but Biden stayed on course with notable wins also in Michigan and Wisconsin.

Georgia, Pennsylvania, Nevada

The holy trinity, these notable flips at battleground states proved to be vital as it was crucial to bring Biden’s electoral votes up to 284, passing the magic number of 270.

Georgia who was relying largely on the votes coming out of Fulton and DeKalb County proved to be worthy as it was the tricky majority that brought the state of Georgia to Biden.

Biden also saw through his lead in Georgia and Nevada with Pennsylvania too who has the 20 electoral votes eventually going to Biden as well late into the race and bringing it to 2 electoral votes for Biden.

Social media frenzies

During the counting of votes, Biden tweeted “After a long night of counting, it’s clear that we’re winning enough states to reach 270 electoral votes need to win the presidency,” Biden said in Wilmington, Delaware. “I’m not here to declare that we’ve won but I am here to report that, when the count is finished, we believe we will be the winners.”

As Trump spent most of his time firing up supporters for a dreaded legal battle against multiple states, Biden called for both sides “to unite, to heal, to come together as a nation”.

Trump, on the other hand, had his own misconceptions and out of the ordinary claims to blame as he declared victory way too early into the counting of votes, which sparked wide criticism from news agencies across the U.S.

Late on Wednesday there were signs of desperation as the president felt his grip on the White House slipping away. 

He tweeted a thread stating that he was establishing a “claim” on Pennsylvania, Georgia and North Carolina, all of which remained too close to call at that time. 

That isn’t how an election works, as Twitter immediately flagged those posts with a warning that “official sources may not have called the race when this was tweeted”.

Inauguration and beyond

Nonetheless, the outcome of this election proved to be a turning point for the U.S. as a change in leadership is now happening; however, it may prove to be tricky as the first thing on Biden’s mind right now would be containing the pandemic, something which Trump had downplayed frequently during his time in office.

The inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th U.S. president will take place on January 21st next year at Washington D.C.

Trump Campaign Sends out E-Mail to Supporters As Pressure Mounts from Biden

As the night unfolded and news came out that Biden took over Trump in Pennsylvania, the Trump administration sent out an e-mail to his supporters to address the situation.

The statement comes from a longtime adviser of vice president Mike Pence, Mattew Morgan, who is a lesser-known lawyer for the Trump campaign, and also the spearhead of threats that Trump has had in plans.

The statement reads “The election is not over. The false projection of Joe Biden as the winner is based on result in four states that are far from final.”

It also says how Georgia is stated for a recount, and how they are confident that there are ballots that are improperly harvested.

The statement continues regarding the “irregularities” in Pennsylvania and how they would prevail in any upcoming legal battles such as the one against Nevada having improperly casted mail ballots.

It ended with saying that the President will be on course to win Arizona despite the “erroneous calling of the state for Biden by Fox News and the Associated Press and how President Trump will be re-elected when the election is final.

Biden currently leads in all four of the remaining battle states and is on course towards winning the presidency.

If Biden wins in the state of Pennsylvania, it would mean the Trump campaign bowing out.

U.S. Elections Saw Almost 100 Million Early Voters

Voters leave the Polk County Government Center after casting their ballots Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, in Lakeland, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

After months of campaigning, insults and the occasional fight for the microphone during debates, it all comes down to this as the United States take their stand with the presidential election on November 3rd.

A record shattering 98 million people have already voted prior to the day itself which means that the fight between Donald Trump and Joe Biden would be the first in history to have more people vote in advance of election day; the number has also already taken up over two-thirds of 2016’s total.

Three of the last five election have gone past midnight in – 2000, 2004 and 2016, it is expected to repeat again in 2020 with the amount early voters and also the amount of postal votes amid the pandemic; on the other hand, things might play out before the night ends if either candidate wins in key states such as Florida and Pennsylvania.

For those wishing to follow the happening, here’s when the polls close on Tuesday ET:

  • Indiana, Kentucky 6pm ET ( Wednesday 7am MYT)
  • Florida, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia 7pm ET ( Wednesday 8am MYT)
  • North Carolina, Ohio 7:30pm ET ( Wednesday 8:30am MYT)
  • Michigan, Texas, Alabama, Maine, Pennsylvania 8pm ET ( Wednesday 9am MYT)
  • Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nebraska, Wisconsin 9pm ET ( Wednesday 10am MYT)
  • Utah, Nevada, Iowa 10pm ET (11am MYT)
  • California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii 11pm ET (12pm MYT)
  • Alaska 1am ET (2pm MYT)

By the time when polls in Alaska close, more news should’ve unfolded about the night. 

Trump has also repeatedly said that no votes should be counted after the 3rd of November and Republicans have took it upon themselves and campaign to block states from counting ballots that arrive after that day. Hence, a number of court fights are likely to wage out that could alter the outcome of the election as well.

As of Monday afternoon, 35.5 million had voted in person and 62.1 million had cast their ballots by mail, according to the U.S. Elections Project by Michael McDonald of the University of Florida.

Voter turnout is expected to be at its highest in over a century as data from the U.S. Elections Project shows that 150 million Americans could cast their vote this year, 12 million more than the election in 2016.

Twitter Deletes Mahathir’s “Muslims Have Right to Kill French” Tweet

Dr Mahathir Mohammad recently tweeted a thread in regard to the deadly attack in Nice that left three people dead, Twitter has now deleted one of the tweets for violating its guidelines.

He said that “Muslims have the right to kill millions of French people” which has now sparked widespread anger and criticism towards his remarks that have been deemed extraordinary by some.

Tweeted out in a series of outburst, all 13 tweets did not mention of the attacks in Nice, but instead began with his disapproval of the murder of a French teacher whose throat was slit by a student after the teacher had showed a caricature of Prophet Muhammad.

After giving his thought on the ways of the West and how Malaysia needs to sustain its own belief and values when compared to the European women’s dress-code when at the beaches, he moved on to the Muslims having said rights after the Nice attacks that “…angry people kill. The French in the course of their history has killed millions of people. Many were Muslims”.

Mahathir also took a dig at French president, Emmanuel Macron; he called on Macron for “not showing that he is civilised” and “is very primitive in blaming the religion of Islam and Muslims for the killing of the insulting school teacher” and “is not in keeping with the teachings of Islam”.

He ended the thread by stating that Muslims have the right to “punish the French” since “you have blamed all Muslims and the Muslims’ religion for what was done by one angry person”.

After speaking with the MD of TwitterFrance, Cédric O, the French Minister of State for Digital and Telecommunication, has since stated that Mahathir’s account should be immediately suspended.

In his tweet, he said “The account of @chedetofficial must be immediately suspended. If not, @twitter would be an accomplice to a formal call for murder.”

Mahathir’s tweet regarding “killing the French” was initially flagged but was eventually deleted entirely after it violated Twitter’s policies regarding glorification of violence.

Apart from Mahathir himself, protests and boycotts have also erupted in other Muslim countries while French Muslims continue to express their anger and sadness after the attacks.

What if Muhyiddin Declares a State of Emergency?

Four times, that’s how many state of emergencies Malaysia has declared before in all its 63 years as a nation when times were sour.

As the current Perikatan Nasional (PN) government seeks to implement a state of emergency and is merely waiting for the royal consent to do so, here’s what a state of emergency is and the reasoning behind the call for it now.

If an emergency is declared in Malaysia,

And that remains a big if; Parliament will be suspended while the federal government would come into place whereas it would be empowered to push through with policies that it wouldn’t be able to do on a normal basis. Any by-election or general election can be postponed if deemed necessary to do so.

Who has the power to declare an emergency?

Based upon the prime minister’s advice on current situations, only the King can announce an emergency if satisfied. This would normally happen if the security, economy or public order in the nation is threatened.

What initiatives will be taking place?

Penned as an “economic emergency”, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin would be seeking to ensure that the government’s spending for the Covid-19 pandemic will not be hindered by any possible political developments; business would be as usual and it is also unlikely that the military be deployed.

Even if one is declared, a state of emergency in this current situation would be considerably different from those we’ve experienced in the past, which includes the deadliest one yet seen – the May 13 racial riots of 1969.

According to what we have now, the most likely scenario would see political processes suspended while laws and expenditures be approved directly by the executive.

Why an emergency now?

Covid-19 numbers are rising without a doubt in the country as we’ve reached the dreaded four figures recorded in a single day – 1,228 new cases on October 24th, which is the highest one recorded yet.

The Perikatan Nasional (PN) government also has an opposition leader in Anwar Ibrahim to ponder on, as he seeks to put his majority Parliament support to good use; although, some Malaysians are not prioritizing the idea of a general election during the Covid-19 crisis.

Ever since Anwar’s call of majority, Muhyiddin had quite literally had his Parliament support thrown into doubt; it is clear that his eyes are set on other things though.

 A general election could be looming behind the walls if he fails to pass next year’s budget on November 6th due to a lack of support in Parliament.

China’s Economy Continues Its Rise Post Covid-19

As Covid-19 spreads its wings to other countries around the world, China’s economy is slowly gaining momentum while countries like the U.S and Europe struggle with containing the virus.

The world’s second largest economy grew to 4.9% between July and September when compared to the same timeframe last year. However, economist expected a figure lower than 5.2%

“I don’t think the headline number is bad,” said Iris Pang, chief China economist for ING in Hong Kong. “Job creation in China is quite stable which creates more consumption.”

Its trade numbers also show exports growing by 9.9% and imports by 13.2% when compared to September last year.

While the pandemic has hurt this year’s growth targets, China remains in a trade war with the US which has hurt the economy.

According to Robin Brant, a BBC China correspondent, lockdown measures in China and its measures to control the virus and some government stimulus have appeared to do its job.

While 4.9% is slightly lower than forecasted, industrial output have come in above expectations.

Cash Injections

For the second quarter of this year, economic growth in China reached 3.2% as it started its rebound.

“China’s economy remains on the recovery path, driven by a rebound in exports,” said Yoshikiyo Shimamine, chief economist at the Dai-Ichi Life Research Institute in Tokyo.

“But we cannot say it has completely shaken off the drag caused by the coronavirus.”

Tourism

The boost should also come from this month’s “Golden Week” – an annual holiday in October that sees millions of Chinese travel.

With majority of international borders shut off at the moment, millions of Chinese have been doing their travelling domestically instead. 

According to its Ministry of Culture and Tourism, 637 million trips in China over the eight-day holiday which generated revenue of 466.6bn RMB ($69.6bn, £53.8bn). The tropical island province of Hainan also saw a double in their duty-free sales , up to nearly 150% according to local customs data.

Fear’s Role in the Covid-19 Pandemic

Now that a worldwide pandemic is happening outside our windows, fear plays a major role in our everyday lives as how it does in our current daily essential activities. 

With that mind, is the virus the only thing we have to fear or is there much more to it? One way to put it with current factors in mind is how U.S. president Franklin D Roosevelt puts it, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.

Information and technology is enhancing lives like never before, hence, the combination of both brings direct access to news of all kinds within seconds. 

When threatened, especially with an unknown and unpredictable virus, it is in us to seek and understand. The pandemic frightens us in ways that other threats don’t, which explains to why the outbreak of the coronavirus have been receiving extensive media attention.

Media coverage is purposed to provide the public with information and relevant information that is, but what information should they be pumping in the coronavirus train?

News isn’t only about news anymore, it’s what we can learn from the reporting and if it triggers much needed discussions. In a bid to know more, it is unfortunate that social media sites are also filled with fake news such as how garlic or bleach is supposed to protect you from the  coronavirus and other similar claims. Such sites have proven to be fuelled off the fear of the public and has put human lives at risk again and again.

Facebook and other media platforms have been firm in their efforts to monitor and limit the spread of misinformation, but they simply cannot keep up with all the fake news that are circling out there in the public.

News is used to generate awareness and not to generate fear, a responsibility that journalist may tend to abuse. When the audiences are fearful for their own well-being, they tend to want and consume more, now more than ever before. 

With this is mind, we must use this power to filter out news that is irrelevant, untruthful and especially if it inputs fear in its audience.