Discover more from The Coffee Break
☕️ Tourism Minister airport drama exposes alleged corruption
KLCI H1 2023 performance - not good, 2nd worst in region. 55:45 state seats split between PH and BN. Australia first-ever country to approve magic mushrooms, ecstasy as medicines nationwide.
1. MARKET SUMMARY 📈
Apple becomes the first ever company to close above the USD3 tril mark. Apple has been there once before, on 3 Jan 2022 but failed to close above the threshold. Now, watch Apple CEO Tim Cook dancing to Pharell Williams’ Happy.
2. NUMBERS AT A GLANCE 🔢
In 1877, Kuala Kangsar received nine out of the 22 rubber seedlings that were brought into Malaysia from Kew Gardens, England. The town has the oldest rubber tree in Malaysia, believed to be more than 140 years old, and is valued at RM194,183. It requires regular care and maintenance, with annual costs ranging from RM3,000 to RM5,000. The tree has gained recognition and is listed as a heritage tree by Kuala Kangsar Municipal Council (MPKK).
Despite the ongoing war, US companies annually send USD1 bil to Russia’s state-owned nuclear agency, Rosatom, for the purchase of enriched uranium, making it one of the largest sources of cash flow from the US to Russia. In contrast to the wide-ranging sanctions imposed on Russia, the US has not banned the purchase of nuclear fuel from Russia, making it one of the few energy sources that remain unaffected by the sanctions.
The Japanese government has pledged to fund 50% of the construction cost for a new supercomputer in Hokkaido, which is expected to triple the nation's processing capabilities for generative artificial intelligence development. Assembled by Sakura Internet in Ishikari City, the supercomputer will specialise in large language model training and is set to commence operations next year. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) will provide a subsidy of 6.8 bil yen (USD48.2 mil) out of the total 13.5 bil yen cost for the project. The goal is to spur the Japanese development of generative AI and reduce the dependence on overseas offerings.
It’s how you stay informed. Get the daily newsletter of many Malaysians for free.
3. IN MALAYSIA 🇲🇾
Minister Exposes Alleged Corruption at KLIA
Tiong King Sing, the Tourism, Arts, and Culture minister, revealed that his visit to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) unveiled alleged corrupt activities taking place at the airport. He further acknowledged being involved in a recent incident that caused a disturbance at the airport.
Tiong revealed that immigration officers were demanding up to RM3,000 to release a detained traveller from China, and an additional RM3,000 for an expedited return to her home country, while RM12,000 was charged for visa processing. Tiong added that he would be providing the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission with details.
Tiong’s “turun padang” action was commended by the tourism and retail
However, Tiong may also be in hot water after reports surfaced that he allegedly intruded into the arrival hall of the airport. Transporter Minister Anthony Loke said every minister has a VIP pass to enter prohibited areas at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). He clarified that no security protocols were breached. Nevertheless, the Immigration Department said an investigation is being carried out on the matter.
In another news, Tiong also chided PAS for “fashion policing” after the Kota Bharu municipal council, which falls under the rule of the party, fined a female shop owner for wearing shorts on her own business premise. Tiong urged PAS to learn from Islamic countries that are expanding their tourism industry by respecting the rights of others.
All about state elections
PM Anwar Ibrahim is on his high horse. He said the upcoming state elections are primarily focused on safeguarding the country from religious bigotry rather than solely pursuing victory. He said the views shared by some PAS leaders are dangerous to the country and cited an example of a “nonsensical issue” brought up by a PAS leader that Prophet Adam landed in Gunung Jerai in Kedah.
DAP uses scare tactics — as usual. Lim Guan Eng, chairman of the Democratic Action Party (DAP), stated that voting for the opposition Perikatan Nasional (PN) in the upcoming Penang state elections would be seen as supporting the transfer of Penang to Kedah, against the desires of Penangites. Lim used the alleged remarks made by Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor, referring to wanting Penang to “return” to Kedah, as a warning during his statement.
Barisan Nasional (BN) chairman Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said BN will contest 45% of the 245 state seats in the state elections, whereas Pakatan Harapan will contest the remaining 55%. Zahid said the decision was made based on the seats won by BN and PH in the last general election.
Business owners — especially F&B operators, please beware
There is a new scam tactic in town where bags are “left” on the premises by scammers. Like any honest person, a business owner would safely keep the bag if the person returns. Here comes the scam part — the person who “lost” the bag would return, claiming more monies were inside than found and threatening to call the police. Ma, a restaurant operator in Kuchai Lama, said two men walked into his premise and insisted on settling the issue privately or they would lodge a police report.
Pelikan International Corp Bhd (PICB) has entered into an agreement to sell its stake in Pelikan Group GMBH (PGG) to Holdham SAS for EUR136 mil or RM695.44 mil in cash. PGG’s subsidiaries are involved in producing and distributing stationery and office products across various regions, including Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia. From the disposal, RM182.71 mil will be used for working capital, settlement of liabilities and expenses from the proposed exercise. The remaining RM512.7 will be distributed via a special dividend and/or capital repayment.
The new kid on the block has big dreams. MYAirline Sdn Bhd plans to have a total of 20 Airbus A320 aircraft from eight currently and launch international destinations to three more countries by the end of 2023. MYAirline chief executive officer, Rayner Teo, announced the plans during the launch of its inaugural international flight from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok, Thailand.
The Malaysian stock market experienced a challenging first half of the year, influenced by factors such as stabilising palm and crude oil prices, global monetary tightening, and a slower-than-expected economic recovery in China. These conditions led to a 7.16% decline in the FBM KLCI, the country's main stock index, during the January 1 to June 28 period. The index stood at 1,388.37 points with a price-earnings ratio of 12.63 times. FBM KLCI performed poorly compared to other local indices and ranked second lowest among its regional peers, with Thailand being the only market to fare worse.
Azalina Othman Said said Malaysia will go on the offence against the claims made by the self-proclaimed Sulu heirs. The government plans to utilise international and local media to provide accurate information about the Sulu case to the public.
Felda has signed an agreement with a government guarantee to restructure its loan, which includes the issuance of sukuk and revolving credit, aiming to restore its financial position. PM Anwar Ibrahim highlighted that the loan restructuring will lead to a reduction in Felda’s financial costs by lowering the interest rates charged. Furthermore, it will enable Felda to eliminate 80% of settlers’ debt, amounting to RM8.3 bil, which was implemented in 2021.
After much controversy last year due to others’ doing, the Bon Odori festival will be back this year on 22 Jul 2023 at the Shah Alam National Sports Complex. With state elections coming up, some parties might seize the opportunity to politicise this cultural event. Let’s see.
4. AROUND THE WORLD 🌎
Australia approves use of magic mushroom, ecstasy in therapy sessions
Australia has become the first country to approve the use of psychedelics in therapy sessions and classify it as medicines on a national level. Psilocybin, found in magic mushrooms, will be used for treatment-resistant depression and MDMA, more popularly known as ecstasy, will be used for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Several patients that micro-dosed on these substances had reported improvement in their conditions.
Other countries have explored psychedelics for compassionate use, like Switzerland and Canada, but not on a national level, in the case of Australia. One psychedelics expert estimated that all-in costs be around AUD30,000 (RM93.3k) after factoring in supervision, psychiatrist sessions etc. Ecstasy was first developed as an appetite suppressant in 1912 and was outlawed in the mid-1970s in the US.
Dutch King apologises for nation’s role in slavery
The King of the Netherlands has formally apologised for the country’s role in the slave trade. The Dutch were a major colonial power in the 17th century (remember the Dutch East India Company in Sejarah?), and Dutch slave traders had trafficked more than 600,000 people, at one point accounting for 5% of the entire transatlantic slave trade.
The apology was made during an event marking the 160th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the Netherlands in 1863. In June, a new study revealed that the Dutch rulers made an equivalent of EUR545 mil (RM2.78 bil) in today’s money between 1675 to 1770 from colonies where slavery was enforced — seems a bit low. Admitting fault and apologising is easy. Talk is cheap. No mention of reparation.
France descended into chaos, near-anarchy state
Last Tuesday, 17-year-old Nahel Merzouk, of North African descent, was pulled over by two police officers for breaking traffic rules in the northwest of Paris. He did not have a driving license. A pursuit ensued and he was shot dead at point-blank range. This incident sparked outrage and led to riots and looting. Things escalated quickly as police violence and systemic racism inside law enforcement agencies have been plaguing the ethnic minorities in France.
The unrest has spread across the country and has been ongoing for five nights. Some 45,000 police were deployed and more than 3,000 people were arrested. The police officer that fired the shot has been charged with voluntary homicide. Watch scenes on the ground here (warning - graphic).
Read: What happened in the Paris shooting?
Using AI to fight telemarketers
Jolly Roger is a telephone service that uses ChatGPT and voice modulation software to create and read scripts to telemarketers, essentially wasting their time. The service was launched seven years ago and only introduced ChatGPT capabilities recently and has kept telemarketers on the phone for as long as 30 minutes, according to its cofounder Roger Anderson. Users pay a subscription to access its cloud-based phone system.
With growing cases of Macau and investment scams in the country, the Madani government might want to consider launching this app and repurposing it to fight scams. The National Scam Hotline is useful for mitigation after the damage is done. How about considering a preventive measure or, at least making it a tad difficult for scammers?
Whilst AI might solve some problems, it’s giving Elon Musk a headache at Twitter. Twitter has implemented a temporary limit to the number of tweets users can read in a day — 10,000 posts for verified users, 1,000 for unverified accounts and 500 for new unverified accounts. Musk blames large-scale data scraping on Twitter by AI companies to train their AI engines.
After all the hoo-ha on the Chinese balloon that flew across the US and accused the Chinese of spying, the Pentagon said that the balloon did not collect any information. In fact, preliminary findings by the FBI found the balloon was built using commercially available, off-the-shelf technology that was US-made. This incident has caused a strain between the US and China and with these findings, the US may realise they overreacted.
5. FOR YOUR EYES 📺
If procrastination was made into a map. Where are you on the map on this Monday morning?
Throwback to when legendary boxer Muhammad Ali came to Malaysia on 1 Jul 1975. He defeated Joe Bugner in a match in KL to retain his world heavyweight boxing title. Check out the thread below for more memories of his visit. Watch him in a match here, dancing and teasing his opponent.