Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Let a hundred flowers bloom: China, Korea, Japan in cherry trifle

BEIJING: A perennial debate over the birthplace of the cherry blossom has taken a fresh turn as a Chinese industry group claims the Asian giant is the tree’s true home, rather than Japan or claimant South Korea.
Cherry blossoms have long been associated with Japan, where viewing the short-lived blooms is an enduringly popular pastime to herald the arrival of spring.
In recent years, some South Korean media have claimed that the country is actually the flower’s origin – sometimes provoking prickly reactions in Japan.
But according to He Zongru, executive chairman of the China Cherry Industry Association, both are wrong, and the Middle Kingdom is the blossom’s true birthplace.
He cited a Japanese monograph on cherry blossoms which stated that the flower originated in the Himalayan mountains of China and did not arrive in Japan until the Tang dynasty more than 1,100 years ago.
“We don’t want to get into a war of words with Japan and South Korea, but we want to assert a fact: Many historical documents confirm that the cherry blossom’s place of origin is in China,” He said, according to the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily on Monday.
“As Chinese people, we have a responsibility to let more people know this history,” he added.
For decades, Tokyo has given the prized plant to countries including the US as a gesture of goodwill, and every spring people across Japan gather under cherry blossom trees to eat, drink and admire.
Thousands of visitors line the banks of Washington’s Tidal Basin every spring to catch a sight of the city’s pink and white flowers, which were a gift from Japan in 1912.
In Beijing, the most popular place to view them is Yuyuantan Park, home to more than 2,000 cherry trees – roughly 200 of which were given to China by Japan in the early 1970s, when the two countries re-established diplomatic ties.
Nonetheless the row reflects tense relations among the three Asian rivals, which are frequently at odds with each other on issues including Japan’s 20th-century history – when it colonised Korea and parts of China, culminating in World War II – and competing territorial claims in regional waters.
Often, such battles see Beijing and Seoul team up against Tokyo, as when China unveiled a memorial last year to a Korean national hero condemned by Japan as a “terrorist” for killing a Japanese official a century ago.
Even so He’s message to Seoul in the latest debate was uncompromising.
“Simply put, the cherry blossom originated in China and flourished in Japan,” the paper quoted him as saying. “South Korea has nothing to do with it.” 

Monday, March 30, 2015

4U9525 CRASH: Victims DNA found as rescuers battle terrain

BERLIN: Investigators picking through the wreckage of a passenger jet that crashed on a remote Alpine mountain said they had found DNA from more than half of the victims, as more details emerged concerning the doomed flight’s last minutes.
Forensic teams announced they had isolated almost 80 distinct DNA strands from body parts at the Germanwings crash site in the French Alps, as recovery personnel continued their grim task following last week’s tragedy.
French officials say the plane’s black box voice recorder indicates that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, 27, locked the captain out of the cockpit of the Airbus jet and deliberately crashed Flight 4U 9525, bound for Duesseldorf from Barcelona.
Investigators have described the difficulty searching for bodies and a second black box as “unprecedented” due to a combination of mountainous terrain and the violence of the impact.
The plane is said to have crashed at a speed of 700 kilometres per hour, killing all 150 on board instantly.
Prosecutor Brice Robin, one of the lead investigators, said an access road was being built to the site to allow all-terrain vehicles to remove some of the larger parts of the plane and help transport bodies.
He said forensic experts had identified 78 different DNA strands.
“We haven’t found a single body intact,” said Patrick Touron, deputy director of the police’s criminal research institute.
“We have slopes of 40 to 60 degrees, falling rocks, and ground that tends to crumble.
“Some things have to be done by abseiling. Since safety is key, the recovery process is a bit slow, which is a great regret,” he added.
Most body parts were being winched up to helicopters and transported to a lab in the nearby town of Seynes, where a 50-strong team of forensic doctors, dentists and police identification specialists is working.
Between 400 and 600 body parts were being examined, Touron said.
“In catastrophes, normally around 90 percent of identifications are done through dental records,” he added, but in the case of flight 9525, DNA was likely to play a greater role than normal.
Once DNA samples have been taken, they are sent to another lab outside Paris where they are compared with samples taken from family members this week.
Captain Yves Naffrechoux, a mountain ranger, said finding the second black box – the flight data recorder which logs all technical data – was a priority.
Germany’s Bild newspaper on Sunday reported more details of the flight’s final moments.
It said the captain, which it identified as Patrick S., shouted at the co-pilot to “open the damn door” as he desperately tried to get back into the locked cockpit after leaving to use the toilet.
“For God’s sake, open the door” he yelled as passengers’ screams could be heard in the background, it said, citing information from the cockpit voice recorder.
Bild said “loud metallic blows” against the cockpit door could then be heard, before another warning alarm went off.
As investigators seek to build a picture of Lubitz and any possible motives, media reports have emerged that he suffered from eye problems, adding to earlier reports he was severely depressed.
German prosecutors believe Lubitz hid an illness from his airline but have not specified what it was, and said he had apparently been written off sick on the day the Airbus crashed.
The Bild tabloid and the New York Times have reported that Lubitz had sought treatment for problems with his sight.
Police have found a number “of medicines for the treatment of psychological illness” during a search at his Duesseldorf home, Welt am Sonntag newspaper said.
It added that the Germanwings co-pilot was suffering from stress and severe depression, according to personal notes found.
German prosecutors revealed Friday that searches of Lubitz’s homes netted “medical documents that suggest an existing illness and appropriate medical treatment“, including “torn-up and current sick leave notes, among them one covering the day of the crash.”
A flight attendant told Bild she had a relationship with Lubitz last year and recalled him saying: “One day I’m going to do something that will change the whole system, and everyone will know my name and remember.”
Bild also reported that Lubitz’s girlfriend with whom he lived was believed to be pregnant.
French police investigator Jean-Pierre Michel told AFP Saturday that Lubitz’s personality was a “serious lead” in the inquiry but not the only one.
Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr has said that Lubitz had suspended his pilot training, which began in 2008, “for a certain period” before restarting and qualifying for the Airbus A320 in 2013.
The second-in-command had passed all psychological tests required for training, Spohr said.
Half of the victims were German, with Spain accounting for at least 50. The remainder were a mix of more than a dozen other nationalities.--AFP

Friday, March 6, 2015

New system to help students choose right varsity courses

KUALA LUMPUR: In a bid to reduce the number of disgruntled school leavers who cannot get courses of their choice in local universities, the Education Ministry’s centralised university unit (UPU) has come up with a new system.
Students can now key in their details and the system will show them the courses for which they are eligible and likely to be accepted.
Deputy Education Minister P. Kamalanathan said this was to reduce the number of disgruntled applicants who could not get their chosen courses when they only met the minimum requirements.
“Applicants must provide their full names, IC numbers and Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA), and the system will suggest a list of public universities and the courses (that they qualify for),” he told reporters after launching a special secretariat to provide guidance to SPM and STPM school leavers on their future study options.
He stressed that school leavers had to go through this step before they could enter their choice of courses in UPU.
The requirement known as Semak Syarat could be found on http://upu.moe.gov.my.
Although applicants meet a course’s minimum requirements, he said there was no guarantee they would get it as there might be other applicants with higher CGPAs. Citing an example from last year, Kamalanathan said there was an applicant with a CGPA of 2.1 who obtained a place in a public university as he had done research and found out the right courses and public universities that he qualified for.
“There was another applicant who had a CGPA of 3.0 but did not get an offer because he only chose popular courses.
“This is why this system will help applicants to know which are suitable courses,” said Kamalanathan.
He urged SPM and STPM school leavers to carefully research all their study options to avoid disappointment.
On those who did not do well in the examinations, Kamalanathan said they could still enrol in other institutes such as community colleges and polytechnics.
On another matter, Kamalanathan said he had discussed the issue of parents in Selangor being unable to register their children for Year One in 2017. They can only do so online a year before their children start school.
“I hope the issue can be resolved in one or two days,” he said.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

SPM 2014

 11,289 students score straight As

PUTRAJAYA: A total of 11,289 students scored straight As in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM).
Education Ministry director-general Datuk Seri Dr Khair Mohamad Yusof said there was a slight dip in the number of students who scored all As.
"For 2013, a total of 13,970 students scored straight As. Even though there is a slight decrease, the gap is still small," he told reporters during the announcement of the SPM results this morning.
Khair said one of the factors of the decrease in straight As scorers could be attributed to the new examination format.
He also said the national average grade (GPN) for 2014 was 5.08 and there was a decrease of 0.15 points as compared to 2013 (4.93).
The GPN measures a student's overall performance in the examination, and a lower score indicates a better student achievement.
A total of 455,839 students had sat for the examination which took place at 3,655 examinations last year.
The SPM examination took place from Nov 3 to Dec 3, 2014.