Friday, August 23, 2013

Egypt's bruised Brotherhood fails to show street power

A supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi shouts slogans against the military and the interior ministry during a protest in front of Al Istikama mosque in Cairo August 23, 2013. REUTERS/Louafi Larbi
A supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi shouts slogans against the military and the interior ministry during a protest in front of Al Istikama mosque in Cairo August 23, 2013. REUTERS/Louafi Larbi
CAIRO (Reuters) - Mass protests called by Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood mostly failed to materialise on Friday as the movement reeled from a bloody army crackdown on followers of ousted President Mohamed Mursi.
Troops and police had taken relatively low-key security measures before the "Friday of Martyrs" processions that were to have begun from 28 mosques in the capital after weekly prayers.
But midday prayers were cancelled at some mosques and there were few signs of major demonstrations unfolding in Cairo.
"We are not afraid; it's victory or death," said Mohamed Abdel Azim, a retired oil engineer who was among about 100 people marching slowly from a mosque near Cairo University.
"They intend to strike at Muslims," the grey-bearded Azim said. "We'd rather die in dignity than live in oppression. We'll keep coming out until there's no one left."
Some marchers carried posters of Mursi, who was toppled by army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on July 3 after huge demonstrations against his rule. "No to the coup," they chanted.
Egypt has endured the bloodiest civil unrest in its modern history since August 14 when police destroyed protest camps set up by Mursi's supporters in Cairo to demand his reinstatement.
The violence has alarmed Egypt's Western allies, but U.S. President Barack Obama acknowledged that even a decision to cut off U.S. aid to Cairo might not influence its military rulers.
Some U.S. lawmakers have called for a halt to the $1.5 billion a year in mostly military assistance to Egypt.
"The aid itself may not reverse what the interim government does," Obama said in an interview with CNN. "But I think what most Americans would say is that we have to be very careful about being seen as aiding and abetting actions that we think run contrary to our values and our ideals."
He said the United States was re-evaluating its ties with Egypt. "There's no doubt that we can't return to business as usual, given what's happened," he said.
The United States has nurtured an alliance with Egypt since it signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979. Military cooperation includes privileged U.S. access to the Suez Canal.
The Brotherhood, hounded by Egypt's new army-backed rulers, had called for demonstrations across the country against the crackdown, testing the resilience of its battered support base.
A few dozen Islamists, many of them women, marched in an old Cairo district. Some carried Egyptian flags or rolled-up Mursi posters. Others held umbrellas to ward off the afternoon sun.
Asked if she was afraid, a fully veiled nursery teacher with four children, who gave her name only as Nasra, said: "God will make us victorious even if many of us are hurt and even if it takes a long time. God willing, God will bring down Sisi."
Security forces kept a watchful eye, but did not flood the streets, even near Cairo's central Fateh mosque where gun battles killed scores of people last Friday and Saturday.
The mosque's metal gates and big front door were locked and chained. Prayers were cancelled. Two armoured vehicles were parked down the street, where people shopped at a busy market.
Only one riot police truck stood by near Rabaa al-Adawiya square in northeastern Cairo, home to the Brotherhood's biggest protest vigil until police and troops stormed in, killing hundreds of people, bulldozing barricades and burning tents.
The mosque there was closed for repairs. Workmen in blue overalls stood on scaffolding as they covered its charred walls with white paint. Children scavenged through piles of garbage.
Troops used barbed wire to block a main road to Nahda Square, the site of the smaller of the two Brotherhood sit-ins.
The authorities declared a month-long state of emergency last week and they enforce a nightly curfew. The state news agency said the armed forces had strengthened their presence around the presidential palace and the defence ministry.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which won five successive votes held in Egypt after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, has been jolted by a week of bloodshed and the arrest of many of its leaders in what the authorities call a battle with terrorism.
In a symbolic victory for the army-dominated old order, Hosni Mubarak, the ex-military former president who ruled Egypt with an iron fist for 30 years before an uprising toppled him in 2011, was freed from jail on Thursday. His successor Mursi, Egypt's first freely elected president, remains behind bars.
The Brotherhood's "General Guide" Mohamed Badie, who was arrested on Tuesday, is due to go on trial on Sunday along with two other senior figures, Khairat al-Shater and Saad al-Katatni, on charges that include incitement to violence.
At least 900 people, including about 100 soldiers and police, have been killed in violence across Egypt since August 14, officials say. Brotherhood supporters say the toll is higher.
The Brotherhood, founded in 1928, could once mobilise vast crowds, drawing on the same organisational strength it wielded at the ballot box, but its protests have dwindled this week in the face of the security crackdown.
Graffiti on a mosque wall in a run-down Cairo neighbourhood illustrated the deep divisions that have emerged since Sisi ousted Mursi. The spray-painted message "Yes to Sisi" had been crossed out and painted over with the word "traitor."
Slogans elsewhere read "Mursi is a spy" and "Mursi out". Someone had also written "Freedom, Justice, Brotherhood".
The Brotherhood survived for generations as an underground movement before emerging as Egypt's best-drilled political force after Mubarak fell. But its popularity waned during Mursi's year in office when critics accused it of accumulating power, pushing a partisan Islamist agenda and mismanaging the economy.
The Brotherhood, which Egypt's new army-backed rulers have threatened to dissolve, says Mursi's government was deliberately undermined by unreconstructed Mubarak-era institutions.
Mubarak, 85, still faces retrial on charges of complicity in the killings of protesters, but he left jail on Thursday for the first time since April 2011 and was flown by helicopter to a plush military hospital in the southern Cairo suburb of Maadi.
The authorities have used the state of emergency to keep him under house arrest, apparently to minimise the risk of popular anger if he had been given unfettered freedom. Local newspapers on Friday focused on the latest arrest of Brotherhood leaders, giving scant coverage to the former strongman's exit from jail.
(Additional reporting by Cairo bureau; Writing by Alistair Lyon; Editing by Will Waterman and Alastair Macdonald) - theStarOnline

Tragic end for student who went to pick up girlfriend

Inconsolable: Sia’s family members crying after learning about the death of Sia and Kwan (below, left).
Inconsolable: Sia’s family members crying after learning about the death of Sia and Kwan (below, left).
KUALA LUMPUR: It was supposed to be happiness for a sweet student couple Sia Chin Shin and his girlfriend Kwan Chin Yii from Universiti Putra Malaysia.
But tragedy struck when both were killed on the bus that plunged down the ravine at Genting Highlands Wednesday.
Sia, 22, had gone up to Genting Highlands to accompany Kwan, also 22, down from the resort after she had just finished her stint as a part-time worker. Sia was from Tampin while Kwan from Segamat. Both were classmates studying computer science.
According to a relative of Sia who did not want to be named, Sia took an overnight bus up to Genting Highlands against his father’s will to pick up his girlfriend.
“He stayed there overnight with Kwan. The following day before they checked out of the hotel, he called his mother saying he was on his way back,” she said.
A childhood friend of Sia, who only wanted to be known as Goh, said Sia’s family suspected something was wrong when they failed to reach him on his cellphone.

According to Kwan’s father Chee Keong, 53, his daughter had been working for two weeks in Genting Highlands to earn some pocket money.
“It was a part-time job selling souvenirs. It was only for two weeks as it was now her semester break,” he said when met at Kuala Lumpur Hospital.
Chee Keong said that the last time his daughter called home was on Tuesday, a day before the accident.
“She called to tell us that she would be staying for another day with her friends after she finished her part-time job,” he added.
Meanwhile, Kampar-born Suki Low, 19, who went to the resort to meet her friend for lunch, also died.
Her aunt Jackie Low said: “She arrived there at around noon and left after lunch. She was a very friendly and helpful girl.” - theStarOnline

Six countries to display their best for Putrajaya's fireworks contest

Visitors will be able to see amazing fireworks display for six days — on Aug 30 and 31, Sept 13, 14, 15 and Oct 2.
THE Putrajaya International Fireworks Competition 2013 is back to entertain visitors with its colourful and stunning displays.
The event, to be held at Putrajaya Maritime Centre in Precinct 5, will offer spectacular views.
A total of six countries will showcase their expertise during the six days of competition.
The countries are China, United Arab Emirates (UAE), the United States, South Korea, France and Malaysia.
An exciting 25-minute show is promised as the fireworks will be synchronised to music.
Visitors will also be entertained by various performances that symbolise the culture and uniqueness of competing countries.
The experts who have participated in several international fireworks competitions have carefully choreographed each performance, promising visitors an unforgettable experience.
To add dimension and drama to the fireworks, the event will feature technologies such as microwave wireless and fully synchronised music.
Putrajaya Corporation (PPj) president Tan Sri Aseh Che Mat said the competition would be an annual event starting this year.
“This will serve as a great platform to attract tourists and visitors to Putrajaya,” he said during a press conference recently.
He expects thousands of people will visit the administrative capital nightly for the show.
More visitors would be able to watch the shows as it will be held at Putrajaya Lake.
For a unique experience, visitors can book a Lake Cruise package to enjoy the fireworks or be at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre for stunning views.
Apart from the fireworks, a mini concert by Korea Beat and China Concert as well as a DJ Competition 2013 will be held along with a bazaar and a carnival selling street food.
For visitors’ comfort, a number of parking lots have been designated near the venue and shuttle bus services will be provided on the day of the show.
Visitors can also take the ERL to Putrajaya Sentral and a shuttle bus to the venue.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is expected to launch the competition on Aug 30.
The event will be held for six days on Aug 30 and 31, Sept 13, 14 and 15 and Oct 2.
The event is jointly organised with Duago Corporation Sdn Bhd.
For details, go to  - theStarOnline

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Don't re-use plastic containers as there are health hazards, says toxicologist

Plastic containers usually contained BPA which can cause delay in puberty development.
Plastic containers usually contained BPA which can cause delay in puberty development.
PETALING JAYA: Disposable plastic food containers and water bottles should be disposed of after single use, an expert has cautioned.
Universiti Malaya toxicologist Prof Dr Mustafa Ali Mohd said people should not re-use such disposable items as there were health hazards.
“If the plastic containers are re-used many times, harmful chemicals could leach into the food,” he said, adding that plastic bags should also not be used to pack hot soups or drinks.
He said harder plastic containers usually contained bisphenol A (BPA) while the softer containers contain phthalates, both of which could disrupt the endocrine system.
BPA could cause delay in puberty development while phthalates could cause obesity, he said.
In a study dividing the subjects based on their urinary concentrations of BPA, researchers found obesity odds increased with higher levels of the chemical.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups in July last year due to concerns that the chemical could interfere with a child’s development.
Dr Mustafa said plastic feeding bottles should be changed once every three months and earlier if they become scratched or cloudy in colour.
On a study he carried out on 200 babies in the Klang Valley, he said 88% of them had BPA in their blood and this included newborns, suggesting that it was transferred from their mothers who were exposed to it.
Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) research officer Hatijah Hashim said CAP was totally against the use of plastics for storing food.
She said besides affecting human health, such plastics were made from non-renewable resources and were harmful to the environment.
Hatijah said people could use stainless steel tiffin carriers to pack food and stainless steel or glass bottles to store drinking water. - theStarOnline

Genting bus crash: Police call off search, 15 victims identified so far

A team of forensic units and Puspakom officials conducting an on-site investigation on Thursday. - AZMAN GHANI / The Star
A team of forensic units and Puspakom officials conducting an on-site investigation on Thursday. - AZMAN GHANI / The Star
GENTING HIGHLANDS: Police have called off search and rescue efforts to locate more victims of the bus crash that claimed the lives of 37 passengers.
Bentong OCPD Supt Mohd Mansor Mohd Norr said police have ended their search and are now conducting operations to retrieve valuables and documents to identify the dead.
"Our personnel only found two severed legs which will be sent to the Kuala Lumpur Hospital.
"We are confident that there are no more victims in the bus or in the surrounding area," he told pressmen at the scene on Thursday morning.
Supt Mansor said of the 37 dead only 15 have been identified  so far.
"Those with relatives who have gone by bus to Genting Highlands and have gone missing should talk to the police immediately.
"We could use any help, even description of their attire could assist in the identification process," he said adding that the dead were all brought to HKL.
He said 34 post mortems have already been performed while five bodies have been claimed.
Supt Mohd Mansor said the majority of the cause of deaths was multiple injuries and severe internal organ damage.
"The tragedy is by far the worst in this area so far. If the bus had not got snagged on the trees, it could have easily plunged an additional 100ft down the slope," he said adding that the case was being investigated under Section 41(1) of the Road Transport Act 1987 for reckless driving.
Supt Mohd Mansor said police would take statements from the survivors once they have recovered from the ordeal in order to get a clearer picture of the incident.
"Once our personnel have finished retrieving valuables and documents, forensic units and Puspakom officials will be sent down to conduct an on-site investigation.
"When they have finished we will start work on hoisting up the bus to be brought to the Bentong police station," he said.
Names of victims identified, so far
1. Chan Fook Choy, 62, M
2. Chan Lai Huat, M
3. Sub Moy @ Sak Moy, 71, F
4. Sek Sooi Chan, F
5. Lee Fok Wah, 62, M
6. Law Tiaw Meng, 36, M
7. Law See Kee, 19, F
8. Yap Hing, 61, M
9. Muhammad Rasid Jantan, 61, M
10. Ng Ah Heng, F
11. Choo Peng Kwan, 66, M
12. Sukhviv Singh, M (India national)
13. Auther Mash, M (India national)
14. Rafik Ali Buai Habac Chu, M (Bangladeshi)
15. Bhuiyan Rifique Ali, M (Bangladeshi)
- theStarOnline

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