Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hadiah tahun baru, harga gula naik 20sen & harga roti naik

Harakahdaily PUTRAJAYA, 31 Dis 09: 

Rakyat mendapat hadiah tahun baru dari kerajaan apabila harga runcit gula dinaikkan sebanyak 20 sen sekilogram kepada RM1.65 di Semenanjung dan RM1.75 di Sabah dan Sarawak mulai 12 tengah malam ini.

Menurut kenyataan, kenaikan ini berikutan kenaikan harga gula mentah dunia.

Perkara tersebut diumumkan oleh Ketua Setiausaha Kementerian Perdagangan Dalam Negeri, Koperasi dan Kepenggunaan Datuk Mohd Zain Mohd Dom di sini hari ini.

2010: Of things unseen yet

DEC 31 — Happy New Year! malaysianinsider

The year is getting into its final sprint and 2010 is on everyone’s mind. So here’s a list of things likely to find space in our political pages with some prognoses.

Paying more for less, the GST comes along

The Bill will pass, and Malaysians will pay more with the Goods and Services Tax (GST). The Inland Revenue Department is still uncertain if income tax rates will drop with the introduction of the new system.

Even if there will be adjustments — though the quantum would be minimal — to our income tax rates to accommodate the GST levy, you can’t hide the fact that people still don’t like taxes. It is about the only thing that gets universal attention in a society when it comes to full effect.

It is a lose-lose for many. Those earning under RM2,500 who are now tax-exempt will find themselves taxed through their purchases. However, expect the interest levels to increase towards the end of 2010 as it becomes a reality for early 2011 — unless the opposition stirs up this hornet’s nest early and constantly.

Which is why BN looks at this issue quite gravely as it knows this is a “vote” landmine. You can blow up whole constituencies by placing burdens directly on the lower-income homes.

Many competent governments in the developing and developed world have lost power when they raised taxes, and competent is what the BN government is every other day.

The older deputy prime minister, not entourage material

Two quick things about Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin. He has great clout inside Umno and does not aspire to be Tun Ghafar Baba — the docile number two of the 80s and 90s who just followed Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Being 62 — seven years older than Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak — creates the urgency for him to set an agenda for his own political future. Equally, him being the de facto leader of Johor — the Number One Umno state — does ruffle Najib.

Muhyiddin’s justified to think the Education portfolio is a speed-bump for him, as such he’s unlikely to be faulted if he were to set some challenges for his party president.

Already in the BTN issue, it is clear Najib and Muhyiddin have different ideas about Malay leadership of the BN.

The dissent in the party might grow after a relatively quiet period since Najib’s takeover, but economic and power distribution issues are always present inside Umno and they will raise questions of leadership mantle in 2010

Anwar: Goes past Pall Mall, does not go to jail

A guilty verdict is improbable. Sending the leader of the opposition to jail will hurt Pakatan Rakyat substantially, but so will Malaysia get hurt in that scenario. There is too much international support for the Permatang Pauh MP and the nature of the charge makes First World and Islamic nations queasy.

2010 is not the year for the Najib administration to grapple with major foreign consternation.

The prevailing perception in and out of the country? Any adverse verdict for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is a conscious choice by the BN government even if the courts may claim independence.

Plus there is a sneaky suspicion the objective of the prosecution was to deflate the opposition’s confidence and its demands for more power following Election 2008. The sodomy allegations and ensuing drama did distract the nation and the Pakatan Rakyat parties.

Objective achieved, next year BN will have to move on.

PKFZ blown to bits here and there

The PKFZ has seen its first arrests, and more will follow in 2010. Billions of missing ringgit must show many fingerprints.

The real question is will the state sift through evidence to nab the bigger fish?
More information will emerge as those caught first will not be philosophical about the others who do get away. More will be implicated, but will the political will commensurate with the discoveries?

The likelier outcome would be the prosecution of those prominent enough but without present political capital.

One lawmaker, however, believes that a former transport minister will be brought in by the police, at least for questioning in 2010.

Nik Aziz — louder as he plans his departure?

Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat has never been more critical of his party men as he has been in 2009. More to come in 2010.

Suspicions are the spiritual leader of the party is setting an exit strategy for himself after a long distinguished service to the party and wants to set things right before he becomes only spiritual leader without a political role.

Nik Aziz demanded an EGM to remove the “trouble-makers” not too long after party polls. He has continuously rejected any compromise with Umno. But the Kelantan mentri besar has made up his mind and he will grow louder once the matter with his son-in-law Ariffahmi Abdul Rahman dissipates.

However, Nik Aziz won’t find it easy. The perpetual schism in the party — since intellectual honesty is lacking inside the leadership circle — of whether PAS is for Muslim rule or Malay nationalism is to be waffled through by the players.

2010 may end up being a frustrating time for Nik Aziz.

Teoh Beng Hock: Justice will be delayed

The inquest will end, and the public will be more convinced of foul play.

But where to next? This one is tricky, and the answer might be in prolonging the issue in terms of process until there is less interest in the case. That we get tired of the various twists and turns without an outcome.

This is probably the game plan for 2010 unless Najib decides to get a fresh electoral mandate in 2011. You don’t want proximity between the conclusion of the Teoh case to occur less than a year before polls. They made a mistake by asking voters their sentiments less than six months after the Bersih and Hindraf rallies, they would loathe a repeat.

An outcome in 2010 might mean a very interesting 2011.

MCA: My party my party, my party for an EGM

It won’t stop with an EGM happening or not. If anything the “political plays” employed by the various factions — trust me there are more than three — underlines only one certainty, that there will be more in 2010.

There will be departures from the party. When a fracture of the magnitudes we are witnessing occurs and the sides dug in with conviction, then there will be a winner and the losers must leave. It cannot be a case of reconciling.

That will lead to talks about BN-friendly options for the defeated or even a crossover, the latter being far less likely.

The proximity of the party to the PKFZ “situation” will add to the drama and cross-causalities bring in further casualties.

Makkal Sakti, still power to the people?

MIC, PKR, DAP, Gerakan, PSM and even IPF have a stake in the hearts and minds of the Indian labour class. Makkal Sakti party and Parti Reformasi Insan Malaysia are just extensions of the angst of a people for being displaced comprehensively in the only country they know as home.

No party drives the collective frustrations of almost a tenth of Malaysia, they merely ride it. Even the five who went to prison for the Hindraf rally — who must be honoured — did not shape the feelings of the people, they just led a feeling long seething, and still seethes.

2010 will not see a collapse of Indian support for the Pakatan Rakyat parties despite the emergence of a party named after the movement’s catchphrase. But it will see some of the contenders falling behind. The parties are unlikely to move closer based on shared aspirations, but the voters will move to one or the other. Look out for one of the new players and MIC slipping further.

Perak: Tired and bruised, but more to come

The BN government of Perak will not call for state elections in 2010 — no matter what the fellows before them endeavour.

But what will the Zambry administration do to get some breathing space finally? Both the BN and Pakatan blokes in the silver state are both pressed, however the strain would show more on the BN guys since they are trying to run a government while seeking legitimacy, with those they replaced screaming murder in the background.

2010 will not decide the political battle, but many watching will tire.

And at the end…

2010 might end up being the middle episode for a trilogy — just like 2009, for a possible climax of events in 2011-2012.

But if you like chess games then do your own adding up of what transpires in the coming year. Happy New Year, once again!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

SKorean-led group wins 20.4-billion-dollar UAE nuclear deal

By W.G. Dunlop  |  Abu Dhabi (AFP) Dec 27, 2009

The United Arab Emirates has awarded a 20.4-billion-dollar contract to build four nuclear power plants to a South Korean-led consortium, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation said Sunday (picture).

The UAE "has determined that the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) team is best equipped to fulfill the government's partnership requirements in this ambitious programme," ENEC chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak said in a statement.

The deal is expected to lead to additional contracts worth 20 billion dollars to operate and maintain the reactors over the next 60 years, South Korea's
knowledge and economy ministry said in a statement in Seoul.

However, an Emirati official told AFP that "a contract covering the operation of the facilities has not yet been awarded."

ENEC communications director Padraic Riley told a news conference there could be more contracts in connection with the construction of further reactors, but did not say if there would be a contract for the operation of the first four.

"If, in the future, the UAE moves forward with (building) a fleet of nuclear reactors... there may be more contracts," he said.

ENEC CEO Mohamed al-Hammadi told the news conference his country "will definitely be building more than four (plants)."

ENEC, which was established last week by presidential decree and tasked with implementing the UAE's nuclear energy programme, said that the KEPCO-led consortium has been selected to "help operate" the power plants.

But it did not give further details, saying only that Sunday's deal covers "construction, commissioning and fuel loads" for the four 1,400 megawatt reactors, the first of which is to begin producing electricity in 2017.

The consortium tasked with building the plants comprises Korean firms KEPCO, Samsung, Hyundai and Doosan Heavy Industries, along with US firm Westinghouse, Toshiba of Japan, and KEPCO subsidiaries, ENEC said.

It won the deal against competition from two rival bidding groups that included a consortium of French companies and another composed of the US firm General Electric and Japan's Hitachi.

In Paris, the French consortium said it took note of the decision and that it remained ready to cooperate with the UAE in future.

"The companies behind the French bid remained convinced of the quality of this offer and the advanced features of the EPR in terms of safety," said the firms, referring to its European Pressurised Reactor model.

top energy firms, EDF, GDF-Suez and Total along with engineering giants Areva, Vinci and Alstom had come together to present the bid for the 20.4 billion-dollar contract.

Hammadi said meanwhile that more than 2,000 workers would be employed at the plants and that a "minimum of 60 percent" of the workforce would eventually be made up of UAE citizens. But he did not say who would run the plants in the interim.

Thirty-nine Emiratis are currently on scholarships to universities in France, the United States and Britain in studies related to work at nuclear power plants, Hammadi told the news conference.

Hee Yong Lee, who will lead KEPCO's project in the UAE, said his country had much to offer regarding training for nuclear power plant employees.

"Korea has developed a very systematic training system, from the high school level to the university and vocational training. So we will share all the systems and contents" with the UAE, Lee said.

The four light water nuclear reactors should all be operational by 2020, and will boost the UAE's goal of meeting 23 to 25 percent of its power demand with nuclear energy, Hammadi said.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Croatian Presidential Vote Heads to January Run-Off

By Boris Cerni  |  Dec. 28  09  | Bloomberg 

Croatian opposition Social Democrat candidate Ivo Josipovic (picture) will face Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic in a Jan. 10 presidential run-off election that will determine who leads the Balkan nation into the European Union.

None of 12 candidates in yesterday’s first round won the majority needed for an outright victory, according to the electoral commission in Zagreb. Josipovic, a 52-year-old law professor, took 32.4 percent, while Bandic, an independent, garnered 14.8 percent, the commission said on its Web site.

The new head of state will succeed President Stipe Mesic, who is completing his second five-year term in the largely ceremonial office and is barred from running again. The former Yugoslav nation of 4.4 million aims to become the 28th member of the European Union in 2012 and is set to complete negotiations with the bloc next year.

“I call upon all voters to cast their ballots in two weeks and choose justice as we need a better and more just Croatia,” Josipovic, said in an interview with the national broadcaster Hrvatska Radiotelevizija. Results were announced after midnight.

Corruption and the effect of a recession, which marked the election campaign, are likely to dominate the debate for the second round. The Balkan country is struggling with its worst economic slump since independence in 1991 as consumption, investments and exports tumbled.

GDP Forecast

The government forecast gross domestic product to expand an annual 0.5 percent in 2010 as demand in the EU rebounds. The pace of economic decline slowed in the third quarter when the economy contracted an annual 5.7 percent compared with 6.3 percent in the previous three months, the Statistics office said today. GDP is set to shrink about 6 percent this year, according to the central bank.

“The influence of the president over the economy is minimal, but the most important thing is that none of the relevant candidates were opposing EU membership,” said Zdeslav Santic, the chief economist at Societe Generale SA’s unit in Zagreb, in an e-mailed comment today.

Crobex, the Croatian benchmark index of 24 most-traded stocks, gained 0.5 percent to close at 1997.13 points in Zagreb. The country’s currency kuna dropped 0.12 percent to trade at 7.3171 versus the euro at 4:10 p.m. in Zagreb.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Cigarette prices go up on Jan 1 - 10


The cheapest cigarettes in the market will cost RM6.40 per pack of 20s by Jan 1, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.

He said this was under the Tobacco Products Control Regulations gazetted by the ministry that will also see price promotions for cigarettes being prohibited.
Liow said the new regulations would set the minimum retail price for a stick of cigarettes at 32sen.

Currently, a pack of 20s costs RM9.30 but cheaper cigarettes that cost as low as RM4.80 per pack are available in the market.

He said the regulation prohibiting price promotions was aimed at putting a stop to promotional activities through discount offers for cigarettes.

“The two regulations are vital in making cigarettes less affordable to children, youths and those from the lower income group,” he said in a press statement issued Sunday.

Liow said the move was in line with the government’s commitment to protect children and teenagers from taking up the smoking habit and exposing themselves to chronic diseases or taking drugs.

Even the World Bank, he said, agreed that taxes on tobacco products and price controls were the best ways to reduce the number of smokers while Malaysia’s own studies had shown that a 10% increase in price reduced the number of smokers by 3.8%.

Liow said the regulations would require cigarette companies to declare to the ministry the retail price of their cigarettes before Jan 15 next year.

Those introducing new tobacco products will have 14 days before their products hit the market to make the declaration, he added.

“A notice listing the minimum price of cigarettes will also have to be clearly displayed at the counter or place where the cigarettes are sold but the notice cannot contain logos, brands, trademarks or descriptions related to the cigarettes,” he said.

Under the regulations, producers or importers can adjust the retail prices of their cigarettes as long as they follow the minimum price regulation and notify the ministry 14 days before the adjustments took effect.

Adjustments, however, will be limited to only three times a year and the period between adjustments must not be less than 30 days while the adjustments must be less than 5% of the earlier retail price.

Cigarette labels will not be allowed to carry the words discount, special price, special offer, promotion, limited edition or any other words that indicate the offer of a discount or prices cheaper than those listed on the cigarette packs or labels. 

Friday, December 25, 2009

Army chief tells Jakarta military commander to stay alert

The Jakarta Post ,  Jakarta   |  Thu, 12/24/2009 

Army chief of staff Gen. George Tuisutta told the Jakarta Military Command on Thursday to stay alert amid the heightening political tensions in the capital.

Tuisutta said that the freedom of expression had been missused by some parties, which could endanger security.

"Democracy is not implemented in the right way in our lives as a nation," Tuisutta said in his written message to celebrate the Jakarta Military command's 60th anniversary. 

In his written statement read by Jakarta Military commander Maj. Gen. Darpito Pudyastungkoro, Tuisutta noted that certain groups had been misusing democracy for their political interests.

"We don't need to join the practical politics that could endanger ourselves and the army. Therefore, I ask each unit commander to give understanding to their soldiers about the current national situation, so that they could better anticipate if something is to happen," he said.

He made the statement amid the heightening political tension following the current political investigation into the Bank Century scandal.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Yemen: New frontier in US 'war on terror'

By Humphrey Hawksley  |  BBC News  

The increased violence in Yemen is a clear indication that military campaigns to crush al-Qaeda-inspired violence extend far beyond the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It also shows up hostile fault-lines within the Middle East, pitting mainly Shia Iran against Sunni Saudi Arabia, who condemn each other for taking sides in Yemen's long-running civil war. 

Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the Arab world with almost half its 24 million people living below the poverty line and an authoritarian government that has failed to win the trust of a substantive part of its own population. 

This makes fertile ground for al-Qaeda.  

US intelligence agencies have determined that, along with Pakistan, Yemen is a key area on which to concentrate on al-Qaeda. 

More than 90 detainees still in America's Guantanamo Bay detention centre come from Yemen. That is nearly half the total. 

Despite the policy to close Guantanamo, US authorities do not want to send them back for fear that they would boost al-Qaeda's operations and morale there. 

The US has invested some $70m (£40m) in military aid in Yemen in the past year, believed to include training, the use of drones and intelligence to pinpoint al-Qaeda camps and activity. 

Much is classified because neither Yemen nor the US wants American activities there to stir up yet more dissent. 

The instability in Yemen is becoming critical. Al-Qaeda has announced that its networks in Yemen and Saudi Arabia have merged to create al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular. 

The civil war is being waged by the Shia community in the north that borders Saudi Arabia. Saudi forces have actively intervened. 

In one case it was accused of bombing a market killing many civilians.Iran has publicly warned against any foreign intervention. 

And - although the phrase is now frowned upon - US intelligence agencies are keeping a closer and closer watch in this newly-emerging theatre in the "war on terror". 

note online comment :  imperial propaganda is in full effect.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Najib should set up Royal Commission of Inquiry

Najib should set up Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate whether Mahathir had “wasted or burned up” RM100 billion on grandiose projects and corruption in his 22 years as Prime Minister

Why is the government of Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, holding up for more than three weeks the release of 800 copies of a new biography of former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad by former Asian Wall Street Journal managing editor Barry Wain?

There can be no doubt that Mahathir and Najib would have already read the biography, “Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times”.

Is either of them objecting to the release of Wain’s biography of Mahathir and want it banned like Mahathir’s “Malay Dilemma” when it was first published in 1970? This will be the irony of ironies.

Both should know that the year 2009, very soon to become 2010, in this Internet era and age of information and communications technology is very different from four decades ago in 1970 and any ban or censorship of Wain’s new biography will make it even more popular among Malaysians.

What is Mahathir’s stand on whether Wain’s new biography on him should be released to the Malaysian public without any more obstacles from the authorities in Malaysia?

If Mahathir thinks that he has been defamed or maligned by Wain in the new biography, he should avail himself of the legal process to clear his name and reputation and not to support any ban or censorship of the book.

What is of more pressing national interests and importance is the serious allegation by Wain that Mahathir had wasted or burned up as much as RM100 billion in his 22 years as Prime Minister on grandiose projects and corruption – working out to an average of some RM5 billion a year during the Mahathir premiership.  read all

March 1 Hearing For Anwar's Motion To Appeal Over RM100 Million Defamation Suit

PUTRAJAYA, Dec 23  09  |   Bernama

-- The Federal Court here has fixed March 1 next year to hear Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's motion for leave to appeal against the dismissal of his RM100 million defamation suit against former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Deputy Registrar Jumirah Marjuki fixed the date in chambers on Wednesday.

Anwar wants the court to determine three issues, including on whether the Court of Appeal, in view of the present state of law which abhors technicalities, can nevertheless decline to exercise its discretion in favour of ensuring that the procedural technicalities do not defeat substantive rights.

"The decision of the Court of Appeal raises novel and important questions of law decided for the first time, and I state that further argument and a decision by the Federal Court would be an advantage to the public," Anwar said in his sworn affidavit.

On Oct 10, this year, Appeal Court judge Datuk Abdul Malik Ishak, who sat with Justices Datuk Azhar Ma'ah and Datuk Syed Ahmad Helmy Syed Ahmad, dismissed Anwar's suit on the grounds that the memorandum of appeal filed by Anwar in the English language was defective, invalid and an abuse of the process of the court.   read all  

Contractors Fail To Deliver 16 New School Buildings In Kelantan Before January

PASIR PUTEH, Dec 23  |  Bernama    

-- Contractors are unable to complete the construction of 16 new school buildings in Kelantan before the start of the 2010 school session on Jan 3, Deputy Education Minister Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi said Wednesday.

He said the delay in the completion of these 14 secondary school buildings and two national school buildings had various consequences, including having to raise the density of students in each existing classroom.

This high density forced the students to study in discomfort and adversely affected their concentration on the lessons, he told reporters at the presentation of excellence service awards of the Bachok District Education Office, here.

It placed a burden on the teachers because they were unable to deliver their lessons more effectively when the number of students in a classroom exceeded 30, he said.

Dr Mohd Puad also said that the delay in completing the construction of school buildings forced the postponement of the plan to have single-session schools.  more

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

6,600 Pupils To Join Boarding Schools

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 22 | reported by Bernama 

-- Only 6,600 pupils out of 95,286 applicants will join boarding schools in January.

Education director-general Tan Sri Alimuddin Mohd Dom said the names of successful applicants would be announced on Wednesday.

"The details will be posted on the ministry's website, www.moe.gov.my while unsuccessful pupils can file their appeals online via e-rayuan," he said in a statement on Tuesday.

He said the appeal can be filed from tomorrow till Jan 12 but the number of vacant places would only be known after the boarding school registration on Jan 11.

A total of 48,171 of 517,908 Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) candidates scored A in every subject this year.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

UK : Top 10 best-selling cars of 2009

The Car Enthusiast  |  Sat 19 Dec 01:36 SGT

It's as simple as it sounds: here are the ten cars we bought most of in 2009.

Let's start with the bad news then. We've bought far fewer cars this year than we did in 2008, with SMMT registration figures showing a year-to-date drop of 12.3% as of October 2009. However, signs are positive, because October's figure actually showed a 31.6 percent rise in new car sales compared with September - the biggest gain of the whole year. The scrap scheme continues to contribute to bolstering new car sales, but with that due to end at the start of next year, and VAT to go back up to 17.5& , only a fool would predict a business-as-usual 2010 for makers; it's going to be a tough old year.

However, we're still buying new cars - and we're buying the same ones too. As this top ten best sellers 2009 list shows, the old ones are the best.

1.  Ford Fiesta
Ford Fiesta

The car that we feel should have won Car of the Year 2008 (it lost out to the Vauxhall Insignia) sits pretty at the top of the sales chart for 2009. And it sits there by some margin too - it's sold more than the bottom three cars in this list combined. Like the Focus, incremental price increases spread across this year have made the Fiesta look expensive compared to some superminis, yet clearly Ford knows that the great British public are willing to pay a premium for the best product. The Fiesta is that. A worthy champion of 2009.

2.  Ford Focus
Ford Focus

Even though the current Ford Focus was accused of not having the impact of its innovative predecessor when it was launched, the second-generation model has proved a sales winner. It's also been subject to some pretty hefty price increases this year - up to £2,000 on some models - yet still outsells the Vauxhall Astra by tens of thousands. The new Astra's appearance will redress the balance a little, but Ford's hatch is the undisputed sales king. Why? Well, there's not a massive amount between them, but the Ford edges the Vauxhall in every important area. That could change, though, when we pit the Ford against the latest Astra. Look out for that one...

3.  Vauxhall Corsa
Vauxhall Corsa

The supermini is popular because of its good value and massive model range, from the 1.0-litre petrol model, through the 70.6mpg 1.3-litre ecoFlex, to the turbocharged VXR hot hatch. At three years old it's about midway through its lifecycle now, but sales show no signs of abating - almost twice as many Corsas leave Vauxhall showrooms as do Peugeot 207s.

4.  Vauxhall Astra
Vauxall Astra

The new Astra hit showrooms on December 11th, which means that Vauxhall is currently enticing buyers with some seriously good deals to shift the outgoing model. Nonetheless, the hatch's fourth place spot is no artificial spike - it's a mainstay in the top five sellers list, and has been since its launch some five years ago. The newcomer will no doubt fill its forebear's shoes in the top five too - great news for British Vauxhall workers, who'll build the car after winning the contract among stiff competition from GM factories across Europe.

5.  VW Golf
VW Golf

The launch of the Mk VI Golf has injected fresh life into Volkswagen's bread and butter hatchback, although the car has hovered around mid-table for years now. It's still some way from usurping the Vauxhall Astra - and that's going to get even harder with the launch of the new Griffin - but much like the MINI, the Golf sells well despite being notably more expensive than the competition. Nothing in the segment has the VW's quality or refinement, and that's something buyers are evidently willing to pay a premium for.

6.  Peugeot 207
Peugeot 207

Peugeot's history is punctuated by some of the most exciting small cars ever made, but of late it has focused on cars that cosset rather than excite. The brand can no longer claim to be the dynamic force it once was, and the 207 is seen as something of an also-ran in the supermini segment by picky motoring hacks (like us) - but it's still a good-looking, reasonably roomy and comfy car. Keen pricing and good running costs have ensured that buyers continue to flock to the showroom with the lion on it.  

7.  MINI

It's difficult to pin down the reasons for MINI's resounding success since the brand was re-launched under BMW stewardship in 2001. Despite having polarising looks, being eye-wateringly expensive, quite impractical, not very well equipped and bought up in fleets by estate agents and 'no win no fee' accident solicitors, they still fly out of showrooms like age-reversing cream. It's probably because they drive so well and, despite their popularity, are as cool now as they were at the start of the decade.

8.  BMW 3 Series
BMW 3 Series

The 3 Series just does everything right, which is probably why we've mentioned it twice on this list. Despite being significantly more expensive than the two very good cars following it - and not offering either's practical hatchback option - we just can't resist our favourite premium executive here in the UK. Maybe it's all the quality and prestige it offers? Or its beautifully balanced rear-wheel drive handling? Or possibly that even the least powerful versions make their drivers feel like the fastest thing on the road (or act that way, at least)?

9.  Vauxhall Insignia
Vauxhall Insignia

Vauxhall pinned a lot on the Insignia. It is to the maker what the last-generation 7 Series was to BMW: an era-defining, make-or-break car that set the agenda for the next generation of products. Thankfully it seems to be working, because the Insignia is only just losing out to the BMW 3 Series in terms of outright sales - only 272 cars separate them, in fact (as of end of October 2009). It's no surprise really - the Griffin saloon is in a different league to the Vectra it replaced. But you knew that - we've said it enough times already.

10.  Ford Mondeo
Ford Mondeo

When the phrase 'Mondeo Man' was erroneously attributed to Tony Blair (he didn't actually say that) it instantly hamstrung Ford's saloon; no matter how good the car is, it now has a negative connotation of 'commonness', despite being less common than the BMW 3 Series that has somehow remained 'premium'. Ignore class connotations though, and the Mondeo is an absolute gem of a car: comfortable, dynamic and spacious. It's basically everything Mondeo Man could ever need. 

Iran's Top Dissident Cleric Montazeri Dies

TEHRAN, Dec 20 09  |  Reuters - Iran's senior dissident cleric, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, has died, official media reported on Sunday. He was 87.

Montazeri was an architect of the 1979 Islamic revolution who fell out with the present leadership and was under house arrest for some years.

"Hossein Ali Montazeri passed away in his home last night," the official IRNA news agency said in a report that did not mention his title. He lived in the holy Shi'ite Muslim city of Qom, south of Tehran.

In August, he described the clerical establishment as a "dictatorship", saying the authorities' handling of street unrest following a disputed presidential election in June "could lead to the fall of the regime". 

Saturday, December 19, 2009

2009 : Top 10 worst financial products.

Sarah Modlock |  Sat 19 Dec 

It's bad enough that we have been at the mercy of a global credit crunch and in the depths of recession for most of this year, but we also had to contend with financial products that made life harder instead of easier.

1.  Credit card cheques

If there is one financial product that I would like to see completely banned, it's credit card cheques. They are pure debt traps, designed to make money for card companies. Credit card cheques look almost exactly the same as ordinary bank account cheques and can be used for payment where credit cards are not accepted. They usually charge at the same rate as cash withdrawals - typically 26% or more. You will also pay an immediate handling charge of around 3% per cheque. With most lenders, you will also be charged interest immediately instead of having the 45-59 day interest-free period given for purchases. The good news is that in March card companies were banned from sending out unsolicited cheque books to customers - apart from putting temptation in the way of customers, this exposed them to fraud.

2.  Fake pound coins

As notes became much harder to forge, the crooks turned to pound coins this year. The Royal Mint found that the number of fake coins rose by 27% in the last sampling, affecting an estimated £37.5m - or one £1 coin in every 40 - in circulation. If you live in Northern Ireland, London or South East England, you will be breaking the law if you handle them, even unwittingly. The Royal Mint says that if you find one, you should not attempt to spend it but rather hand it to the police. Unfortunately, you won't get a valid replacement.

3.  Mortgages

The Bank of England's base rate may have dropped to a 315-year low at 0.5% this year, but that didn't mean that all mortgage lenders felt obliged to reduce their interest rates too. Most dropped rates eventually, but usually at a much slower pace than the Bank and often not as low. Then fixed rate deals disappeared, borrowers could not get decent deals when their existing fixed rate loans expired and the dreaded arrangement fees - many of which are non-returnable if you're turned down for the mortgage - have soared.

4.  Store cards

Now and again a store card with an unbelievably high APR hits the headlines. This time last year it was Argos with its 222.7% interest. But throughout the year, store cards remain a complete rip-off. The current high street offerings are around 29.9%. A recent undercover investigation by Which? found that an indebted graduate was handed £2,750 of credit from six stores, despite him having earned less than £1,000 this year.

5.  Dodgy debt advice

We've needed debt help more than ever in 2009 and there are some excellent free sources of help such as CCCS, National Debtline and PayPlan. But people in need were also scammed by companies claiming they could 'buy' debts and make repayments easier. This is not possible to do without the permission of the original creditor, so people found they had signed up debts to a new company but still owed the original lender. Nasty.

6.  Savings accounts

As the base rate of interest dropped, so did the returns offered on savings accounts. Many people were moving money between accounts faster than bank robbers to try and catch the good deals. Sales of safes went up as others decided to forget the banks and keep their cash at home.

7.  Payment Protection Insurance

So unpleasant it had its own big investigation by money watchdog the Financial Services Authority, which found that PPI was being bolted on to credit cards and loans, often without the customer being aware, and at considerable extra cost. To make matters worse, the policy rarely paid out in the way it was supposed to, when the customer needed it most.

8.  Gym membership contracts

They become popular every January as we burn off the festive calories but gym memberships have come under scrutiny this year. It seems that the contracts issued by many gyms are full of binding small print which locks you into paying monthly fees even if you need to leave the gym or become injured or ill. The Office of Fair Trading forced one chain of gyms - Total Fitness - to re-write its contracts this year. Read the details before you sign up.

9.  Payday loans

These are designed to provide workers with a very short term emergency loan until they get paid. But the rates of interest are as much as 2600% and people who cannot repay them promptly end up in a spiral of expensive debt. In addition to the terrible costs, affordability checks are rare and some of these firms are not based in the UK and have no contact information, so who knows what they could be doing with your bank information?

10.  Home information packs

From April this year anyone selling their home had to have a HIP in place before putting their property on the market. But at around £500 a time, there have been nothing but negative noises about HIPs, including claims that they have made the market more sluggish. One estate agent chain claimed that as many as half of its sellers were not bothering to get a HIP and risking the £200 fine. It was also revealed that buying a HIP through your estate agent would cost you as much as 50% more.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Konvensyen Pertama Pakatan Rakyat esok

SHAH ALAM, 18 Dis 09  |  harakahdaily: 

Esok, semua pemimpin kanan PAS, PKR dan DAP akan berhimpun dalam Konvensyen Pertama Pakatan Rakyat di Auditorium Majlis Bandaraya Shah Alam (MBSA).

Turut menyertai mereka adalah 1,500 perwakilan iaitu 500 bagi setiap parti-parti yang bergabung di bawah payung Pakatan Rakyat itu.

Perhimpunan sehari suntuk bermula jam 8.30 pagi hingga 5.30 petang ini dijangka akan turut disertai oleh lebih 100 wakil pelbagai jenis media dari suluruh dunia.

Majlis ini akan dipenuhi dengan ucapan dan pelancaran beberapa perkara penting yang mengikat ketiga-tiga parti dalam Pakatan Rakyat itu.

(Gambar: Logo konvensyen pertama Pakatan Rakyat - klick untuk ke webtvPAS)

Kali ini, PKR menjadi sekretariat konvensyen ini di mana Setiausaha Agung PKR, Datuk Sallehudin menjadi pengarah konvensyen ini.

Sehubungan itu, beliau berikrar mahu menjadikan majlis ini seumpama kenduri Pakatan Rakyat yang akan dibuat dengan cara terbaik dan penuh warna warni.

Dipercayai, satu penyataan bersama Pakatan Rakyat akan dibentangkan dalam konvensyen ini untuk dijadikan panduan dan asas ikatan antara ketiga-tiga parti ini.

Antara kandungannya adalah:

1) Hentikan politik perkauman dan diskriminasi dalam semua dasar kerajaan dan perundangan.

2) Kembalikan keutuhan Perlembagaan Persekutuan dan kedaulatan undang-undang.

3) Bangunkan sistem ekonomi yang benar-benar untuk rakyat

4) Kembalikan makna persekutuan dalam mempertahankan hak-hak negeri.

5) Hapuskan ISA dan undang-undang yang menekan rakyat.

6) Hentikan tahun-tahun tanpa pelaburan dan perancangan yang buruk dalam pendidikan, pengangkutan dan kesihatan.

7) Bangunkan agenda keselamatan sosial

8) Perkasakan hak demokratik dalam budaya dan kepelbagaian budaya dan sastera.

Semua pemimpin kanan Pakatan Rakyat dijadualkan berucap. Antaranya Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Datuk Seri Tuan Guru Abdul Hadi Awang, Lim Guan Eng di samping para pemimpin muda Pakatan.

Mursyidul Am PAS, Tuan Guru Datuk Nik Aziz juga dijangka akan berucap menjelang konvensyen ini berakhir pada sebelah petangnya.

Yang menariknya, pada sebelah malamnya, ulama tersohor dunia Sheikh Dr Yusof Qardawy akan memberikan Syarahan Perdana di Masjid Negeri iaitu Masjid Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah di Shah Alam juga.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hijrah New Year ....1431


Doa Akhir Tahun 1430H & Doa Awal Tahun 1431H

Doa Akhir Tahun
(Doa akhir tahun dibaca 3 kali pada akhir waktu Asar atau sebelum masuk waktu Maghrib pada akhir bulan Zulhijjah – KHAMIS , 17 DISEMBER 2009)

Barangsiapa yang membaca doa akhir tahun ini, maka syaitan akan berkata:
"Hampalah kami di sepanjang tahun ini".



   Allah SWT berselawat ke atas penghulu kami Muhammad SAW, ahli keluarga dan sahabat-sahabat baginda dan kesejahteraan ke atas mereka.
Wahai Tuhan, apa yang telah aku lakukan dalam tahun ini daripada perkara-perkara yang Engkau tegah daripada aku melakukannya dan aku belum bertaubat daripadanya. Sedangkan Engkau tidak redha dan tidak melupakannya. Dan aku telah melakukannya di dalam keadaan di mana Engkau berupaya untuk menghukumku, tetapi Engkau mengilhamkanku dengan taubat selepas keberanianku melakukan dosa-dosa itu semuanya. Sesungguhnya aku memohon keampunanMu, maka ampunilah aku. Dan tidaklah aku melakukan yang demikian daripada apa yang Engkau redhainya dan Engkau menjanjikanku dengan pahala atas yang sedemikian itu. Maka aku memohon kepadaMu. 

Wahai Tuhan! Wahai yang Maha Pemurah! Wahai Yang Maha Agung dan wahai Yang Maha Mulia agar Engkau menerima taubat itu dariku dan janganlah Engkau menghampakan harapanku kepadaMu Wahai Yang Maha Pemurah. Dan Allah berselawat ke atas penghulu kami Muhammad, ke atas ahli keluarga dan sahabat-sahabatnya dan mengurniakan kesejahteraan ke atas mereka.

Doa Awal Tahun
(Doa awal tahun dibaca 3 kali selepas Maghrib KHAMIS – 17 DISEMBER 2009)

Barangsiapa yang membaca doa awal tahun ini, Insya Allah dirinya akan terpelihara daripada gangguan dan godaan syaitan di sepanjang tahun tersebut.

   Allah SWT berselawat ke atas penghulu kami Muhammad SAW, ahli keluarga dan sahabat-sahabat baginda dan kesejahteraan ke atas mereka.
Wahai Tuhan, Engkaulah yang kekal abadi, yang qadim. yang awal dan ke atas kelebihanMu yang besar dan kemurahanMu yang melimpah dan ini adalah tahun baru yang telah muncul di hadapan kami. Kami memohon pemeliharaan dariMu di sepanjang tahun ini dari syaitan dan pembantu-pembantunya dan tentera-tenteranya dan juga pertolongan terhadap diri yang diperintahkan melakukan kejahatan dan usaha yang mendekatkanku kepadaMu Wahai Tuhan Yang Maha Agung dan Maha Mulia.
Wahai Tuhan Yang Maha pengasih dari mereka yang mengasihi dan Allah berselawat ke atas penghulu kami Muhammad. Nabi yang ummi dan ke atas ahli keluarga dan sahabat-sahabatnya dan kesejahteraan ke atas mereka.

Dengan du'a-du'a ini moga-moga kita semua sentiasa sedar & 
peka dengan kewujudan & kehadiran illahi dan 
sentiasa di dalam rahmah & keredhaan Illahi.