Johor To Begin Testing “Smartbus” Automated Rapid Transit System (ART)

The first automated rapid transit (ART) system has arrived in Johor and soon to be set for a bus pilot testing program in Iskandar Malaysia.

According to the 51-49 joint-venture group, Mobilus Sdn Bhd (Ireka Corp Bhd and CRRC Urban Traffic Co Ltd, member of the CRRC Group), this testing comes after its original 2020 schedule was delayed due to the pandemic and is to cover a network of more than 2,000km in Phase 1.

“The arrival of the ART is a great step forward for our urban transportation business in the year ahead.” said Ireka group managing director Lai Voon Hon.

“The planning for the ART Bus Pilot Testing Programme in Iskandar Malaysia, which will showcase seven other bus manufacturers, is well underway after some delays due to the pandemic in 2020, and now we hope to have the project up and running by early 2021”.

ART is medium-capacity transit system for urban usage, and the vehicle are manufactured by the China Railway Construction Corporation (CRRC), which had previously worked on the KTM intercity vehicles.

Penang had considered the system back in 2018 but eventually kept it in consideration and continued their search for a better train system instead 

First presented by CRRC in 2017, the ART system was described as a “crossover between a train, a bus and a tram”. The trains are rail-less and measures up to 30 metres, features three carriages and runs on rubber tyres than rails.

A 10-minute charge on each of the vehicle’s batteries can last up to 24km for 300 passengers in three vehicles which is also expandable to 500 in 5 vehicles.

Other than the pilot testing program, the Malaysia Institute of Transport (MITRANS) and Universiti Tecknologi MARA will be conducting a technical feasibility study. At the end of the study and testing period, a feasible report will be available to the adoption of ART as a new urban transport system.

ART is currently being adopted cities across China such as Yibin, Sichuan. The T1 line which is the first of seven in the city was launched in December 2019 and runs 17.7km through central Yibin and connects to the high-speed railway terminus in the city.

Reports say that the system is used by more than 25,000 daily commuters and has reduced traffic congestion by 20% in the city.

PM’s Religious Affairs Department: Current LGBT Laws Not Effective, Harsher Laws Considered

The government recently announced that it does not rule out the possibility of amending the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 or Act 355 in order to prosecute members of the LGBT community more harshly.

According to Ahmad Marzuk, the deputy minister in the prime minister’s department of religious affairs, the current sentence which provides three years of prison time, RM5,000 fine and six cane strokes is considered to be not effective on people identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transexual (LGBT).

According to reports by Free Malaysia Today (FMT), he told reporters that this amendment should be deemed necessary and stern action has been taken upon those who do not dress according to their gender.

“All state religious agencies and enforcers have been instructed to take action against those (LGBT) who do not behave accordingly,” he said.

He added that it’s important that “their wrongdoings” are addressed as well.

Here’s how Malaysians reacted to the news.

Although distressed by the move, some were more worried of the government’s priorities as of during a global health pandemic.

Some also highlighted the issue of child marriage, minimum wage, and the government’s lacking towards fixing these issues instead.

Others also input their opinions to “support and respect” or “don’t support but respect nonetheless”.

Debate About Restaurant Business Hours Births a #SiBodohKauDengarSini on Twitter

We get it, we’re all frustrated about the re-implementation of MCO all over again, but nobody was more frustrated than Twitter user, @yarafaee_, the author behind a cultural masterpiece.

A hungry Malaysian can get pretty sketchy, but one who is working In the food industry can themselves get sketchier when more than half of the whole country are coming in with their orders.

It started when a local @farhanazahan was complaining about how there were problems with his food delivery order. He had placed his order at 5pm as other options weren’t going to make his order in time. After that, he went on inputting about how ministers had not worry like him as they had servants to prepare food for them once they’re home.

This triggered a response from @puterirajawan who entered the conversation with her saying she don’t understand how people can make an issue out of the slightest mishap. She then said that @farhanazahan should instead order earlier as certain food delivery companies stop receiving orders at 7pm.

She ended the reply with saying that if you know that you are going home late, you’re better off ordering one day ahead and to leave your meal in the refrigerator.

Now this is where @yarafaee_ comes in with the infamous #sibodohkaudengarsini.

She started with the phrase before moving on to explaining that with most business hours go from 11am to 8pm and the whole of Malaysia is placing their orders between this time. She then said that the number of orders sometimes even make the order-taking machines and equipment go haywire. 

Instead of blaming it on the people to find a way, she suggested then @puterirajaawan took her comments to the government instead on how operating hours should be extended as the current ones are more likely to make the staff and cooks more stressed.

For two whole days, #SiBodohKauDengarSini was trending on Twitter and as of Tuesday night, has been tweeted 62,000 times.

Soon after, Malaysians everywhere were taking the hashtag out of context to use in their own and various ongoing situations.

Noor Hisham: Time to Take This MCO Seriously, Worst is Yet To Come

As the country records 4,029 daily news cases yesterday, health director general Noor Hisham has once again reached out to remind people on how “the worst is yet to come”.

“If we do not get this MCO right, the worst is yet to come. A daily reminder to all “please stay at home”. Stay home and stay safe” he said in a tweet yesterday upon news of the record breaking daily new cases.

He also mentioned of how red zones will be a common sight if this MCO is not taken seriously.

In an earlier Facebook post, he also mentioned of the challenges faced by healthcare workers who are barely managing the burial rites for victims who had from Covid-19.

“It is not an easy task for the health frontliners to manage the remains of patients who died from Covid-19.

“Under the hot sun, they (health and medical staff) would be drenched in sweat since they are required to don complete personal protective equipment (PPE) until the remains of Covid-19 patients are laid to rest and the burial rites concluded.

“I hope all of us understand the odds and challenges faced by all frontliners. Let us all help (to control the spread of Covid-19 in) the country by continuing to embrace the ‘Kita Jaga Kita’, ‘Kita Jaga Keluarga’ spirits.

“May all of us be protected from the fury of Covid-19,” he said.

Malaysia and the U.S.: The Tale of Two Emergencies

FMT

Fresh off the announcement of the second round of MCO, Malaysians were waking up to another surprise on Tuesday morning as the national palace released a statement on how we may be facing a dreaded national emergency until August 1st.

Among the many SOPs set in place includes the usual banning of interstate travel, inter-district travel, social gatherings and large gatherings such as weddings, wedding receptions, conferences, religious processions (including Thaipusam), meetings, seminars, courses, and group sport activities.

Other than that, we’ll see the usual roadblocks in place, only two people per household allowed to be in a vehicle and to purchases groceries all in a 10km radius. 

Coming to us as something that isn’t new, the second round of SOPs doesn’t even come as a surprise to us anymore as we’ve seen the same situation for almost six months now. An emergency though, does in fact comes as a surprise and Najib Razak has even went as far as saying that a push for a national emergency could mean one thing – politics.

“What else was not enough to fight Covid-19 then? As proven in the first MCO last year, the Prevention of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 is more than enough to contain Covid-19 without the need to declare an emergency or suspend Parliament.” he said in a Facebook post.

He added that such a move by the government would instead lay seeds to the thought that the government only wants to hold on to power.

A move declared by Sultan Abdullah to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, the emergency is effective from January 11th to August 1st but can be lifted earlier when the pandemic is under control. 

Much of civilian life will remain the same in accordance with MCO 2.0, while there will be no military rule or any curfew imposed.

In terms of governing bodies, no parliamentary and state assembly sittings or any elections will be taking place; but, much of the cabinet, state executives and public service is to continue functioning. 

Lastly, the King can also order the taking over of private healthcare facilities by the government, if deemed needed to lessen the burden on public hospitals.

At the other side of the globe, America’s version of a national emergency differs wildly as the nation continues to get hold of the law while working on a presidential transition from Donald Trump to Joe Biden.

On Monday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) warned of possible armed protests in all 50 U.S. states in the days building up to Biden’s inauguration day on January 20th.

Muriel Bowser, the mayor of Washington D.C. also wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security seeking tigher security ahead of d-day amid the “chaos, injury, and death” caused by the Capitol riots.

On Tuesday, Trump approve the state of emergency declaration in the U.S. Capital, after increasing amount of threats kept coming in. The order authorises federal assistance in D.C. up until the day of Biden’s inauguration and allows identification, mobilisation and provide for the impacts of the emergency.

Last Monday, mobs of pro-Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building, looting as they stormed through and leaving five people dead.

KL-Singapore HSR: “We Had Done Our Best for The Interest of The Country”

While Malaysians and Singaporeans alike were excited to hear about the billion ringgit Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) in the beginning, they may not have to look forward to a direct route to and from anytime soon as the project has been ultimately scrapped a few days back.

Citing that both nations being unable to reach an agreement on several changes proposed by the Malaysian government, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong broke the news in a joint statement on December 31st last year.

“In light of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Malaysian economy, the government of Malaysia had proposed several changes to the HSR project. Both governments had conducted several discussions with regard to these changes and had not been able to reach an agreement. Therefore, the HSR agreement lapsed on Dec 31, 2020.

“Both countries will abide by their respective obligations, and will now proceed with the necessary actions resulting from the termination of the HSR agreement,” said the statement, released in the morning of January 1st.

The termination was also confirmed by The Edge who called it in their article as “Malaysia to go it alone with HSR project, pay RM300m compensation to Singapore — source”.

Due to contract regulations, it is also understood that Malaysia is to compensate 300 million ringgit in result of the termination. Proposed back in 2010, the change of government in 2018 and COVID-19 pandemic had also put the project on halt at one time and went pretty stale after that.

Changes proposed by the Malaysian government was to change the alignment to link HSR to KLIA and it didn’t sit well with our counterparts; ultimately, minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Economy) Mustapa Mohamed took to Facebook to further explain the cause of termination and reasoning behind it.

“Other changes proposed by Malaysia include that the HSR be connected and integrated with the available transportation network in the country,” he said in a lengthily post.

“The proposed new structure could also help the country avoid committing RM60 billion for 30 years, apart from providing the government with flexibility in terms of funding for the HSR project.

“In addition, the government also proposed several other changes, including to the design of the rail stations, which would help reduce almost 30 per cent in expenses for the project,” he added.

“Our Prime Minister (Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin) also had a video conference with his Singaporean counterpart (Lee Hsien Loong) on Dec 2 last year. However, we failed to reach an agreement (over the proposed changes to the HSR project).

“As an individual who was directly involved in the discussions for the project over the past six months, (I can tell you that) we had done our best for the interest of the country,”.

Sources say that Malaysia is to switch their focus towards undertaking the project with a new alignment stretching from Kuala Lumpur to Johor Baru instead of joining both the Southeast Asian capitals and offering another alternative to one of the busiest flight roads in the world.

New Year’s Resolution? Here Are 5 Ways to Make Sure You Stick To It

How does one welcome new year? One of the ways is too create a simple New Year’s resolution to begin with, sticking to that resolution however would be the challenge as finding motivation became as hard as any especially since the downfall of 2020.

Fear that you might end the year forgetting what you had in store for the your schedule? Fear not though as here are a five simple ways you can create and stick to a New Year’s resolution.

1) Aim high but stay specific

Instead of wanting to “exercise more” or “eat more healthy”, consider options such as “taking a 30 minute walk before dinner on every weekday”, “avoid eating when it’s past 11pm” or “eating fruits before bed”. It’s important that these resolutions aren’t too vague as a little flaw in it could see you breaking that resolution even before the first month’s end.

2) Small steps are significant

Instead of jumping right to the finish line, take time to have those small steps. Sleeping early for an example isn’t a one step process as you have to organize your daily schedule for that first and also to consider cellphone usage at utmost. Break down your resolution and start small each day, this would help making your end goal that more reachable and reduce the chances of it being too overwhelming.

3) Follow a timeline and monitor progress

Very much like a school timetable, a timeline of your resolution would help keep you in place and also stop you from straying from it. Monitor it as you go while making sure that you hit your daily, weekly or monthly goals.

4) Accountability

When creating a resolution for yourself, you owe nobody a promise other than yourself. If that isn’t enough, consider a subscription that would aid your in your resolution such as a gym membership or audiobook streaming service; this way, the effort you gave to start this journey would help you see the end of it.

5) Acknowledge the process

If you think you’d make it in just days, you’re wrong. Whatever you set out to do, make it known to yourself that it takes time, just like anything else. Be patient and embrace the journey, you make it to the finish line in one piece either way.

TIME Magazine Releases Top 10 Photos of 2020

The power of photographs could be an understatement especially when so much could be told with so little.

When it comes to 2020, most of our mind’s images of it could be pretty blurry as when we look back, it is as if we only saw one thing – the pandemic. On top of that, we couldn’t in fact remember all the places we’ve been and record all that has happened; So, how would you remember what you couldn’t even picture?

TIME’s photo department release their top 10 photographs of the year at every end of it, similar to 2020, they did so once more and made 2020 that much more personal to each and every one of us.

Meridith Kohut

Meridith Kohut for TIME Magazine

Pictured is the staff and patients at the Brooklyn Heights Medical Center. Thousands were killed by Covid-19 in New York City and millions more around the world. Taken on April 22nd, Kohut captures a lone Kyle Edwards gathering lanterns from inside one of the refrigerators that stored these corpses.

Newsha Tavakolian

Iran mourned as the assassination of major general Qasem Soleimani sparked hurt and vengeance in the country.

Hassan Ammar

AP Photo/Hassan Ammar

Hoda Kinno, 11, is carried by her uncle Mustafa after a massive explosion at the port in Beirut on August 4th. “I was taking pictures of everything when I saw men holding two injured girls on the highway opposite the port. I followed one until they reached a military vehicle that was being loaded with injured people to be evacuated to a hospital.”

Al Bello

Al Bello/Getty Images

A drop cloth hung from a clothlines, serving as a simple barrier between two family members who began embracing nonetheless. Bello captured the embraces over 45 minutes, including that of Sileo and granddaughter Olivia Grant, shown here. “They were long hugs,” he says.

Erin Schaff

Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Jacquelyn Booth mourning the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Hector Retamal

HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images

A man lies on the ground, merely a block away from a hospital in Wuhan, China. When they saw us, they shouted at us. They seemed to tell us not to get any closer,” Retamal remembered. After a while, others in protective suits arrived; they approached the man but would not touch him.

Peter van Agtmael

Peter van Agtmael/Magnum Photos for TIME

Trump went head to head with Biden for the U.S. hot seat, it’s hard to know what he knows at times.

Adam Ferguson

Ferguson for TIME

3 billion animals, that’s how much animals were killed or displaced during bushfire season in Australia. When on a photographic mission around Kangaroo Island, he noticed something grey afar. “As I approached, I realized it was a koala,” he recalls. A volunteer from a nearby fire-response team noticed and came over with water. “Under normal circumstances, the koala would have scrambled up a tree,” says Ferguson, “but it was exhausted and dehydrated as the woman approached with her offering and poured it on its head.”

Malike Sidibe

Malike Sidibe for TIME

George Floyd’s murder by police in Minnesota was the final straw for many as protests soon took over the country and lasted throughout the year. Being there, Sidibe says, “changed the way I view the world and how I carry myself in this world.”

Jim Huylebroek

Jim Huylebroek/The New York Times/Redux

Following a U.S. and the Taliban peace agreement, Huylebroek and his colleagues took advantage of this by visiting insurgents in the eastern Laghman province. “They welcomed us in a friendly way, but things felt a bit tense,” he says. As two children walk up to road and past the fire fighters, “For me,” says Huylebroek, “it shows the harsh reality in which children grow up.”

Cellphones and Internet Usage In Prisons?

Getting involved with the outside world is an easier than said task when most of your time is spent behind bars with very limited face-to-face communication; for prisoners, most of them who rely on plain email hard copies are getting more and more out of the outside world, but with technology and the internet advances, things are beginning to be that much simpler for prisoners to reconnect with reality.

As weird as it sounds, it’s the way the world works now as pen and paper just don’t seem to be able to cut it anymore. Gone are the days of meeting up in person as virtual meetings, instant messages, and the ability to follow, like, post or comment seems to be the majority of the way we interact now, and there aren’t signs of us slowing down anytime too.

In practice, prisoners aren’t allowed to have cell phones, but in reality, they’re in fact all over social media. Sources told VICE that prisoners are able to post photos to Instagram and to tweet directly from their cell blocks and this is because of them being able to use contraband and illegal cellphones.

In Malaysia, the National Prison Department took an approach which allowed those behind bars to keep in touch with love ones and respective lawyer. This started when prisons nationwide were barred from having any visitors, following the Movement Control Order (MCO).

Since 2008, selected prisoners who have undergone higher education were allowed to use the internet for their studies. Open University Malaysia (OUM) was among the first who had offered higher education to prisoners where inmates would be offered an online and flexible learning system.

The prison had earlier allocated computer and internet usage for said inmates from 8am to 5pm daily with monitoring by management to ensure that it was only used for academic and learning purposes, which comes mainly from the OUM digital library.

For those wanting to try smuggling an authorized handphone though, Jabatan Penjara has an entire unit that is dedicated to preventing items of such. Known as the UKP (Unit Kawalan dan Pecegahan) or the Prevention and Control Unit, spot checks, zone patrol are utilized to ensure nothing gets past their sight. These men are also easily identifiable by their maroon berets and camo uniform.

They were also rumored to have beaten up inmates who tried smuggling handphones in as it is essential for drug businesses in prison. Phones with cameras are also believed to be able to threaten the reputation of a prison.

When successfully smuggled in, prisoners have an ingenious way to charge them though, with the use of fluorescent lights. As there are very limited to no plug points to work with, prisoners connect the charger to electricity wires from fluorescent lights inside the cells. By connecting wires from cell lights or even the CCTV camera to charge phone batteries, touching a live wire could also result in fatal injuries or even death.

Because of this, Sungai Buloh Prison cells disabled their lights because prisoners kept using them to charge their phones!

Saturn and Jupiter Came Closer Then Ever in rare “Great Conjunction”

Sajal Chakravorty

In an astronomical event last night referred to as a conjunction, Saturn and Jupiter appeared closer in the night sky then they ever have since 1623.

Although the distance between the two is 734 million kilometers in reality, the planets appeared only 0.1 degrees apart overhead on Monday from Earth. Jupiter that is more massive than the other two planets was about 885 million kilometers from Earth and Saturn was about 1.6 billion kilometers away.

In a clear sky, the duo could be seen shining brightly in the southwestern sky soon after sunset while glowing in the southern hemisphere’s western sky.

“Jupiter comes around every 20 years or so and catches up with and passes Saturn. That’s when we have one of these conjunctions,” says Jeffrey Cuzzi, a research scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif.

Such conjunctions recur every two decades owing to their orbital periods. Cuzzi says that “even after December 21st, you can watch the planets start to move away, which is kind of fun, because normally you don’t notice the motion of the planets in the sky.”

The last time this event had happened, it wasn’t visible as it happened during daylight hours. Astronomer Galileo Galilei had discovered Jupiter’s satellites 13 years before that time and people today can pay homage to him by observing this phenomenon with a pair of binoculars there are “probably about as good” as the telescope Galileo used to discover Jupiter’s moons, Cuzzi says.

The previous one that was actually visible happened way back in 1226; and to put it into perspective, infamous warlod of the Mongols, Genghis Khan was still leading his army on wars throughout Asia.

It was also believed to have happened around the time of the “Christmas star,” also known as “the star of Bethlehem,” in Christian mythology, leading debates of these phenomenons being the conjunction itself.

“There was a conjunction in 7 BC, kind of like this one, and there was another one with Jupiter and Venus in 2 or 3 BC,” Cuzzi notes. “These things were happening then, and it’s possible that they could have inspired a lot of these stories.”

This event will not occur again until 2080.