The skeletons are still tumbling out. It has become clear that Facebook is now one of the biggest threats to the western liberal democracy. This is the message from the latest scandal that the company, along with data analysis firm Cambridge Analytica, finds itself embroiled in. The story is still linked to Russia meddling in the US presidential election that saw Donald Trump racing ahead of Hillary Clinton. But around two years after the talk of this meddling started, the contours of the whole operation are coming into sharper focus. And it is in this big picture we meet Cambridge Analytica.

A lot has been said about how Cambridge Analytica worked with the Trump camp to target US voters and how it got data to build psychological profiles of voters from Facebook, so I am going to keep it short. But here is the takeaway: the data that Facebook has on people, and the way this data can be used to build very detailed profiles of people — including their socio-economic conditions, their orientation, their fears, their desires and their political leanings — give companies like Facebook or whoever uses this data an unprecedented leeway. It gives people, companies and organisations that have this data the ability to impact elections in very direct and nefarious ways.

The scandal involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica angered regulators and lawmakers in the US and Europe. In the US, senators are leading fresh inquiries into just how much Facebook, which probably knows its users better than the users themselves, is responsible for the US presidential debacle.

fb-690_032018060558.jpg It gives people, companies and organisations that have this data the ability to impact elections in very direct and nefarious ways. Photo: AP

The regulators in the UK are probing Cambridge Analytica and its role in BREXIT vote, in which against all expectations “leave” triumphed over “remain”. The European regulators are taking a fresh look at whether Facebook violated the EU privacy laws or not by allowing its data to be used by Cambridge Analytica.

There are calls to regulate Facebook and streamline its privacy policies. There are calls to force Mark Zuckerberg, one of the most powerful persons in the world right now given how much private data his company has on nearly two billion people, to testify in senate hearings.

But even as the rest of the democratic world takes a look at the threat Facebook is posing to the functional democracy, in Malaysia there is no talk on this matter. The Election Commission is either turning a blind eye to it or is probably woefully ignorant about the ways in which foreign countries can use Facebook to influence elections in Malaysia. It’s not unthinkable. Russians allegedly used Facebook to influence the US elections. There are signs that BREXIT too was a vote that was influenced with social media campaigns.

In fact, Cambridge Analytica has said on record that it has worked with political parties for elections in Malaysia. CA Political Global managing director Mark Turnbull had revealed to an undercover Channel 4 reporter that the firm did work in Malaysia. On its website, CA says it “supported BN in Kedah state with a targeted messaging campaign highlighting their school improvements since 2008”. BN took back Kedah from the opposition in GE13, winning 21 out of 36 state seats, and 10 out of 15 parliamentary seats.

It reportedly worked with the Barisan National, with help of its Malaysian partner in Kedah in the 2013 GE13 and got a success rate of 90 per cent on the seats for which it provided inputs.

Yet, in Malaysia, the Election Commission is not looking at how Facebook, or for that matter social media and tools like WhatsApp, can be used by outsiders or by people with dubious aims to influence elections. May be it is already happening. If the presidential election in the US has been influenced by outsiders, what guarantee do we have that some country hasn’t tried to shape elections in Malaysia using Facebook or WhatsApp?

The process with which voters can be targeted to influence an election unfairly has been made very easy due to all the data collected by Facebook. And the company, so far, has been fairly cavalier about sharing this data. If you are an advertiser, Facebook is mostly more than happy to share even the most private details of its users with you. If you wave money, it will even let you micro-target the voters so that you can influence their franchise.

The Election Commission in Malaysia is supposed to guard elections from exactly the kind of threat that Facebook poses. There is a reason why exit polls in Malaysia have to be made public only after voting has ended. There is a reason why during the campaigning there exists a model code of conduct. There is a reason why politicians can’t say some things in their speeches, or political parties can’t induce people by giving them money on voting day.

But using Facebook and WhatsApp, chances are that political parties, or for that matter even actors outside Malaysia, can bypass the model code of conduct and break the whole democracy. Facebook data, in a way, can let political parties and organisations play on the fears of the voters, instead of their hopes. It can help politicians reach deep within the minds of voters, using algorithms and big data. In tech parlance, you can say that it can let parties and organisations hack into the minds of voters, and the Cambridge Analytica scandal shows that this can be done by just collecting and analysing the likes and videos that people post on Facebook.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal is a wake-up call. The lessons from the last US election were alarming, but the latest scandal involving Facebook shows just how badly social media is damaging democracy. It’s time for Malaysia to have a conversation about big data, how it influences elections, the micro-targeting of voters and just how much control Facebook should be allowed to have over people’s lives.

We need to have this conversation now because in the next 100 days or so we will be voting in the general election – GE14


President Trump’s lawyer secretly obtained a temporary restraining order last week to prevent a pornographic film star from speaking out about her alleged affair with Mr. Trump, according to legal documents and interviews.

The details of the order emerged on Wednesday after the White House’s spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said that Mr. Trump’s lawyer had won an arbitration proceeding against Ms. Clifford, who goes by the name of Stormy Daniels.

Ms. Sanders’s statement put the White House in the middle of a story that Mr. Trump and his lawyer had been trying to keep quiet for well over a year. The turn of events created the spectacle of a sitting president using legal maneuvers to avoid further scrutiny of salacious accusations of an affair and a payoff involving the porn star.


The actress, known as Stormy Daniels, had prepared to speak publicly about her alleged affair with Mr. Trump.

My daughter, Vilashini Somiah, who has several new age fads about food swears by Quinoa. She calls it super food. She has tried to get me to have it for dinner once. I kind of like the stuff and now I take a tablespoon of quinoa every morning with my oats and other grains. I still prefer my wheat and occasionally some rice.  Now quinoa is the cause of a raging fight in Malaysia. I can understand the intensity.

“To millions of Malaysians, rice is at the center of most meals. Many start and end their day with it. Rice is the basis of the national dish, nasi lemak.

So when Prime Minister Najib Razak said this past week that he preferred quinoa because it was “better than rice,” he stirred up a tempest in a lunch bowl.

Opponents pounced and other Malaysians took to social media to fret and fume when Najib was caught saying: “I don’t eat rice. I eat quinoa. My son introduced me to it.”

Dr Mahathir Mohamad, a former prime minister who is leading the Pakatan Harapan (PH) opposition coalition in elections expected by August, took to Twitter to jeer the prime minister and to express his support for Malaysia’s traditional grain.

“I only eat local rice,” Dr Mahathir tweeted.

Another opposition leader, Lim Kit Siang, said he had never even heard of quinoa.”

*Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa; (/ˈkiːnwɑː/ or /kɪˈnoʊ.ə/, from Quechua kinwa or kinuwa) is a flowering plant in the amaranth family. It is a herbaceous annual plant grown as a grain crop primarily for its edible seeds. Quinoa is not a grass, but rather a pseudocereal botanically related to spinach and amaranth.

After harvest, the seeds are processed to remove the bitter-tasting outer seed coat. Versatile for many dishes, cooked quinoa supplies nutrient content similar to wheat and rice, such as moderate amounts of protein, dietary fiber, and minerals. Quinoa is gluten-free.

Quinoa originated in the Andean region of northwestern South America, and was domesticated 3,000 to 4,000 years ago for human consumption in the Lake Titicaca basin of Peru and Bolivia, though archaeological evidence shows livestock uses 5,200 to 7,000 years ago. Amazingly, researchers have also found that quinoa could have origins in Taiwan as well.


Malaysians were not happy when Prime Minister Najib Razak said he preferred quinoa because it was “better than rice,” the national staple.

After the last party congress in Beijing in October 2017, i predicted that President Xi Jinping will soon become an emperor. Well its happening now.

“China’s Communist Party cleared the way for President Xi Jinping to stay in power, perhaps indefinitely, by proposing that the nation’s Constitution be changed to abolish a two-term limit on the presidency.

The Communist Party Central Committee, a council of senior officials from the ruling party, “proposed to remove the expression that the President and Vice-President of the People’s Republic of China ‘shall serve no more than two consecutive terms’ from the country’s Constitution,” the Xinhua News Agency said on its English-language website.

Since each term is five years in length, the Constitution had limited Mr. Xi, who became president in 2013, to 10 years in office.”

China’s Communist Party has proposed revising the nation’s Constitution to end a two-term limit, which would allow Xi Jinping to remain president, perhaps indefinitely, by proposing that the nation’s Constitution be changed to abolish a two-term limit on the presidency.


Posted: February 21, 2018 in China, Malaysia, USA
Tags: ,

Despite all the scaremongering going on within America’s security community, I dont believe China will be able to credibly challenge the USA, militarily, economically and politically for the rest of this century at least. I also dont believe that China will ever have the soft power or become aspirational like the USA. I don’t believe that the world’s many nations will hoard their foreign reserves in Yuan as opposed to US dollars (68%). I don’t believe that countries can ever become rich by posting trade surpluses with China as they have (including China) with the USA. I believe all this American scare mongering is driven by the lure of funding from the US military industrial complex. The US MI complex needs an arms race to keep going and to persuade the nation to cough up 7-8% of GDP for defense. The Chinese are too smart to engage the USA in any direct conflict because they know they will get whipped. Even Russia will be too formidable for them till at least 2050. China will reserve its aggressiveness for countries like India, Japan, or Vietnam. Remember the old Chinese saying about “skinning the cat to scare the monkey!” If  Malaysia is smart it will resist becoming the cat, till it gets really sharp talons.

Regardless of how America responds to the Chinese challenge, its policy must be rooted in reality.

The Sabah government is committed to ensuring continuous political stability, economic development and social progress in the state, Chief Minister Musa Aman said.

Musa said efforts would also be made to ensure the people continuously benefit from programmes to improve their living standard, as well as maintain harmony and stability in the state.

“Therefore, any action that can have a negative effect on unity and stability should be avoided to enable us to achieve our aspiration, improve the socio-economic standard and focus on efforts to bring more progress to the state,” he said.

Musa said this in his speech at an Ang Pow Festival dinner organised by the Federation of Chinese Associations Sabah (FCAS) in conjunction with the Chinese New Year celebration in Kota Kinabalu last night.

At the event, Musa also announced an allocation of RM50,000 to FCAS.

Musa said the state government had never neglected any faction of the society in its implementation of development programmes, but strived for the benefit of all quarters, regardless of religion or ethnic, as evident with the huge allocation provided for non-Islamic schools and houses of worship.

He said the state government had allocated about RM300 million for non-Islamic schools and houses of worship in Sabah since 10 years ago.

“When I was appointed chief minister, the allocation for non-Islamic schools and houses of worship was only RM1.5 million then. I felt the amount was not enough and I increased the allocation to RM30 million a year,” he said.

As such, he urged the Chinese community in Sabah to continue to support and help the government in efforts to further develop the state.

– Bernama

The social network, more than any other technology tool, was singled out on Friday by the Justice Department when prosecutors charged 13 Russians and three companies for executing a scheme to subvert the 2016 election and support Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign. In a 37-page indictment, officials detailed how the Russians repeatedly turned to Facebook and Instagram, often using stolen identities to pose as Americans, to sow discord among the electorate by creating Facebook groups, distributing divisive ads and posting inflammatory images.

The special counsel’s indictment detailed how crucial Facebook and Instagram were to the Russian campaign to disrupt the presidential election.

Reporters and spooks have an unlikely professional kinship. Both spend their days trying to gather information, by talking to the people who have it or getting hold of documents that reveal it. Spies have their agents to safeguard; we have our sources to protect. In recent years even the technology has begun to merge, as reporters shift to encrypted email and secure apps like Signal to leave a less obvious trail for leak investigators.

But the differences between us are far more profound. The spies hoard information for the power it confers. We publish what we find out — and what we find out is often about the spies’ dubious operations, ethical lapses or covered-up failures. That’s the nature of news.

Why do people love spy stories? Scott Shane, our national security reporter, talks tonight with Jennifer Lawrence, star of the new spy thriller “Red Sparrow.”

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 As a consequence of the May 1879 Treaty of Gandamak after the Second Afghan War, Britain had taken control of Afghanistan’s foreign affairs. This treaty also gave Britain control over traditional Pashtun territory west of the Indus including Peshawar and the Khyber Pass.

After the Panjdeh incident a joint Anglo-Russian boundary commission, without any Afghan participation, fixed the Afghan border with Turkestan, which was the whole of Russian Central Asia, now Kirghizstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

Thus, as a consequence of the competition between Britain and Russia, a new country, the Afghanistan we know today, was created to serve as the buffer.

Historically Pashtuns/Pakhtuns/Pathans and Afghans refer to the same people. The Pashtuns, who live east of the Durand line live in the mountainous areas and are made up of tribes such as the Afridi, Orakzai, Shinwari, Bangash and Turis. West of the Khyber, in today’s Afghanistan, live the Pashtuns consisting mainly of two great tribes – the Durranis also known as Abdalis and the Ghilzais.

In 1901 the British created the NWFP de-linking Pathan lands from Afghanistan and Punjab. They further divided NWFP into the settled districts that were directly administered by the British and five autonomous Tribal Agency areas ruled by local chieftains but with British Agents keeping an eye on them, as in the Indian princely states.

From the very beginning the Durand Line was not an international border but a line of control. The Simon Commission Report of 1930 stated quite explicitly: “British India stopped at the boundary of the administered area.”

When Pakistan came into being the vast majority of Muslims residing in what is now India stayed back and a Muslim homeland was fashioned out of Punjab, Sind, East Bengal and an unwilling North West Frontier Province (NWFP), which actually voted against the separatist Muslim League in the 1946 elections.

The British administered Tribal Agencies (now FATA) did not vote. Baluchistan at that time consisted of the independent state of Kalat ruled by the Khan, and the Quetta region that was leased by the British in 1876.

Gwadar and most of the Makran district in what is now in the Baluchistan Province of Pakistan, was under the control of the Sultan of Muscat, who relinquished it to Pakistan only in 1958.

The US National Intelligence Council 2008 report on “Global Trends 2025 states: “The future of Pakistan is a wildcard in considering the trajectory of neighboring Afghanistan. Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province and tribal areas probably will continue to be poorly governed and the source or supporter of cross-border instability.

If Pakistan is unable to hold together until 2025, a broader coalescence of Pashtun tribes is likely to emerge and act together to erase the Durand Line, maximizing Pashtun space at the expense of the Punjabis in Pakistan and the Tajiks and others in Afghanistan.”

And this is what Afghanistan’s revered national poet, Khushal Khan Khattak, has to say who the Afghans are:

“Pull out your sword and slay any one,
That says Pashtun and Afghan are not one.
Arabs know this and so do Romans,
Afghans are Pashtuns, Pashtuns are Afghans.”


Sabah Chief Minister Tan Sri Musa Aman said the state government in no uncertain terms reject any claim by the Philippines on the state.

“I have made our stand on this matter before. Let me once again clearly state that we do not recognise or acknowledge any claim by the Philippines or any other country on Sabah,” Musa said.

He was responding to remarks made by a member of the Philippines Consultative Committee, Aquilino Pimentel Jr, which was reported in the media recently.

It was reported that Pimentel, who was appointed to review the 1987 Constitution, said he would propose the inclusion of Sabah in the Philippines as part of the country’s shift to a federal system of government.

He said Sabah is part of Malaysia and has chosen to be and would continue to be a part of the sovereign nation since the state became party to its formation.

”The people in Sabah choose to be in the state because it is in Malaysia. We have been enjoying peace, stability and economic prosperity within Malaysia,” Musa said in a statement today.

Earlier, Malaysia rejected the proposal by a member of a Filipino government committee to amend the Philippine Constitution to include Sabah as the “13th federal state” of the Philippines.

“Malaysia is aware of remarks made by Mr Aquilino Pimentel Jr, a member of the Philippines’ Consultative Committee, which appeared in the media on the claim on Sabah recently,” said Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman in a press statement.

“The Government of Malaysia reiterates its position that Malaysia does not recognise and will not entertain any claims by any party on Sabah. Sabah is recognised by the United Nations and the international community as part of Malaysia since the formation of the Federation on 16 September 1963,” said Anifah.

“Therefore, statements such as these will only expose the ignorance of history and international law of those who make them, as well as potentially harming the excellent bilateral relations which Malaysia and the Philippines currently enjoy,” Anifah added.

Aquilino Pimentel Jr is a member of a 25-member government consultative committee tasked with reviewing and proposing amendments to the Philippines 1987 Constitution. A key proposal is switching to a system of federal government from its current model where power is centralised.

“There should be a way that is acceptable under international laws to assert our claim to Sabah,” Pimentel, a former senator, told local ABS-CBN News network in an interview on Tuesday.

Pimentel’s proposal for the new federal government includes 12 federal states – Northern Luzon, Central Luzon, Southern Luzon, Bicol, Eastern Visayas, Central Visayas, Western Visayas, Minparom, Northern Mindanao, Southern Mindanao, Bangsamoro, Metro Manila.

He reportedly said the government can add Sabah as the 13th federal state later on.

In 2013, some 200 men from the southern Philippines landed in Sabah and battled Malaysian security forces for more than a month in a bid to stake an ancient claim of the territory for the Sultanate of Sulu.

Scores died in the fighting. At least two Malaysian police officers were beheaded by the invaders.

Sabah on Borneo island joined Malaya, Sarawak and Singapore to form Malaysia in 1963.