Scandal swells

LONDON — Two more big clubs have been implicated in the escalating child sex abuse scandal that has rocked English football.

According to Gordon Taylor, chief executive officer of the Professional Footballers’ Association, the clubs are former Premier League regulars Leeds and Blackpool. This follows earlier revelations of abuse at Crewe, Manchester City, Stoke and Newcastle, with more than 20 former players alleging they were victims.

Blackpool say they have not received information from the authorities but will “provide every assistance” if necessary. Sources at Leeds told Sky Sports they only found out about the allegations after Taylor’s interview, but take it “extremely seriously”.

The Football Association have launched an independent investigation and vowed to determine how a suspected paedophile ring was allowed to prey on youth players. It acknowledged it could lead to a full-scale inquiry.

The FA have already appointed senior lawyer Kate Gallafent to assist with the review into allegations starting in 1970s. The internal review will look into what information the FA and clubs were aware of at the relevant times, and what action was or should have been taken.

Crewe are investigating how the club dealt with the allegations. The Metropolitan, Hampshire and Cheshire police are investigating complaints within the football world.

Northumbria police are investigating an allegation from a former Newcastle player he was abused in the youth system.

Damian Collins, Folkestone and Hythe MP, told Daily Mail the clubs and the FA could face compensation payouts in the millions if found negligent.

Clubs have a duty of care to the players — if they’ve failed, there should be compensation, absolutely. If a player had reported to the FA and they did not investigate, they too must be culpable. — Agencies

Who is Barry Bennell?

LONDON — Utterly sickening Barry Bennell was sentenced to nine years in prison in 1998 after admitting sexual offences against six boys.

Youth coach at Crewe in the 1980s and 1990s. Also had a close association with Stoke and Man City.

• Jailed three times for child sex abuse — including once in America.

• Put behind bars most recently last year for two years for a historical sexual offence against a 12-year-old boy on a football pitch in Macclesfield.

• Described by Florida police as having an “insatiable appetite” for young boys.

He described himself as a “MONSTER” while giving evidence in court last year.

Former England midfielder Danny Murphy says the football environment is “a perfect breeding ground for anybody who wants to do things to children”.

Former Chelsea and Scotland winger Pat Nevin says he would not be surprised young footballers are still being sexually abused.

Nevin says he is “surprised” but not “shocked” by the recent allegations because he believes youth football provides a “ripe” environment for paedophiles to operate.
— Various

* These articles first appeared in the
Malay Mail
Afternoon E-Paper yesterday

Auntie Anne’s ‘pretzel dog’ now ‘pretzel sausage’

KUALA LUMPUR ― The local chapter of United States pretzel chain Auntie Anne’s confirmed yesterday that it has changed the name of its “pretzel dog” to “pretzel sausage”, after it was reported that they would be denied halal certification if they refused to do so.

The company’s executive Farhatul Kamilah Mohamed Sazali said the name was changed to meet the requirements set by the country’s halal authorities.

“We have changed the name to ‘pretzel sausage’ to comply to Malaysia’s halal certification requirements,” she told Malay Mail Online.

On Oct 31, the company had posted a statement on its Facebook page, saying that it would fulfil all the requirements towards obtaining halal certification in the country.

“With the recent news circulating on our halal status, we would like to assure our loyal customers and friends that all our ingredients are purchased from Jakim certified halal suppliers,” the brand said, referring to the Malaysian Islamic Development Department.

Jakim previously denied that it had rejected Auntie Anne’s application for halal status due to the presence of the word “dog” in its menu, and had blamed media for the public furore.

Its halal division director Dr Sirajuddin Suhaimee said the chain’s application for halal certification had failed due to reasons such as incomplete paperwork.

Previously, Sirajuddin had told the media that “In Islam, dogs are considered unclean and the name cannot be related to halal certification”, but later insisted his remark was in general and not specific to the Auntie Anne’s chain.

Media outlets reported Sirajuddin’s remarks about the unsuitability of the term “dogs” this week, along with the department’s guidelines against halal food items being similar in name to haram products such as beer, bacon and ham, among others.

The issue surfaced after an executive with Auntie Anne’s revealed that their application for halal certification had failed due to, among others, concerns over the “pretzel dogs” in their menu.

Muslim lawmakers from both sides of the political divide have also expressed their disagreement with Jakim’s decision.

On the heels of the Auntie Anne’s controversy, non-halal pork burger chain, Ninja Joe, was probed by state religious authorities for allegedly confusing Muslims with its “P. Ramly” homage burger.


Malaysians RM116 billion poorer this year

KUALA LUMPUR — Households in the country jointly lost US$26 billion (RM116 billion) or approximately five per cent of their total wealth this year, according to the Credit Suisse Research Institute (CSRI).

In the Global Wealth Report that annually charts wealth generation worldwide, the regression meant each of the country’s 19 million adults were now an average of US$1,894 poorer than they had been last year, with the current share of wealth per adult dropping to US$24,429 (RM106,000).

At the same time, the debt of each Malaysian adult also rose from US$7,054 (RM31,000) last year to US$7,462 (RM33,000) this year.

The regression is especially marked considering Malaysia had consistently been in the top 10 countries with the fastest growing wealth between 2000 and 2015, with an aggregated expansion of 4.8 per cent.

Also of concern is that the decline comes amid the country’s push to break out of the middle-income trap and into developed nation status. This was noted in the report that categorised Malaysia as dipping under the minimum to qualify as a country of “intermediate wealth”.

“In recent years, Malaysia and Poland have hovered near the US$25,000 (RM111,000) lower limit, but both have now fallen below this threshold according to our calculations,” the report stated.

Malaysia’s income level now puts it among countries with “frontier wealth” such as neighbours Thailand and Vietnam.

Not all Malaysians lost wealth, however, as the report found that the country gained around 4,000 new millionaires since last year despite the overall decline, possibly suggesting that most of the bleeding was towards the lower end of the income scale.

Regionally, Malaysia’s regression also takes place against the backdrop of growing wealth in the Asia-Pacific region, which the CSRI reported as 8.3 per cent higher on average. Average wealth per adult in the Asia-Pacific is US$46,325 (RM204,000).

Singaporeans contributed to the gain with their average rise of US$4,000 (RM7,000) in wealth per adult, bringing their individual share of wealth to US$277,000 (RM1.2 million), or the seventh highest in the world.

Overall, Japan was the country that grew its wealth the most this year, with a 19 per cent increase that the CSRI noted was the same amount of appreciation registered by the Japanese yen.

The biggest loser was Argentina that saw 27 per cent of its wealth, or US$175 billion (RM779 billion), wiped out due to adverse exchange rate movements.

The CSRI has prepared the Global Wealth Report annually since 2009.
— The Malay Mail Online



Members of the Civil Defence Force capture a 3.8m-long cobra weighing 10kg at a construction site in Bukit Gambir, near George Town, Penang, yesterday. — Picture by Bernama


Best foot forward

Administration and Diplomatic Service cadets enjoy a warm-up session as part of their 10-day Innovation Ambassador Development Programme at the Genovasi Malaysia centre in Petaling Jaya yesterday. One of the track managers, Firdaus Zulkifli, explained that the goal is to empower the 192 participants so they can become catalysts of innovation and make positive changes to the country. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim


Landslide havoc

A man tries to salvage his belongings after his house was damaged in an landslide in Taman Bersatu, Rawang, Selangor, on Friday. The landslide, covering an area 60m long and 15m wide near Sungai Rawang, forced the occupants of five houses to evacuate. — Picture by Hari Anggara


Groups: Ferries must sail on

GEORGE TOWN — Plans being considered to replace the island’s iconic and aging ferry service with catamaran vessels could undermine Penang’s tourism industry.

The plans have not gone down well with industry players and non-governmental organisations, which say the ferry service, a hallmark of the island since the 1920s, should be retained.

They see the ferry service as an identity of an historical era gone by and a tourist attraction.

Consumers Association of Penang education officer N.V. Subbarow said the ferry service should be maintained and upgraded.

“The number of trips between the island and mainland should also be increased to attract more motorists and passengers to use them,” he said.

“The location of the ferry terminal at Weld Quay, which is within the Unesco Heritage Site, is not only strategic but also easily accessible to motorists as well as pedestrains.

“We can understand PPSB (Penang Port Sdn Bhd) is looking at profitability of the service but it must also look into how to make the ferry service more efficient, exciting and attractive.”

Echoing his sentiments, Malaysian Nature Society (Penang Chapter) senior adviser
D. Kanda Kumar said the ferry service should be maintained for coming generations.

“It is one of the legacies from the British era and it serves as a reminder to all generations of the rich history of the island and country,” he said.

“The authorities should look for ways to make the service more attractive for those who want to ride in the ferries.”

Kanda Kumar urged the public to make greater use of the service as it would ease the traffic on the Penang bridges, especially the first bridge.

Penang Tourism Malaysia director Mazlan Araju said the ferry service was unique in Malaysia.

“It should be maintained and improved as it is an identity of Penang,” he said.

“Many tourism brochures and postcards feature the ferry as a symbol for the state.

“Catamaran vessels should be welcomed as they will offer an additional mode of transport between the island and the mainland, but not to replace the ferries.”

Malaysian Association of Hotels (Penang Chapter) chairman Khoo Boo Lim supported the effort to maintain the
ferry service.

“PPSB has been running at a loss for many years, so why not look into privatising the service, as it would generate fresh ideas and make the venture financially sustainable,” he said.

At a recent Penang State Assembly sitting, works, utilities and transport committee chairman Lim Hock Seng said PPSB was considering a proposal to replace the ferries with catamaran vessels.

Lim said the company was carrying out feasibility studies and no decision had been made yet to replace the ferries.


Hadi’s Bill a key to polls timing?

CRYSTAL ball gazing as to when the general election (GE14) will be held is in full swing, now that PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang has tabled a motion seeking to make changes to his proposed amendments to the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 or Act 355, as it is commonly referred to.

Hadi tabled the motion on the last day of the Budget session of Parliament which ended on Nov 24. He immediately deferred the motion, saying that he wanted MPs to study the changes to the Act he had proposed.

He had done the same thing on the last day of the May sitting of Parliament, tabling the motion and then calling for deferral of the debate.

Since he had first served notice, as long ago as March 2015, to Parliament that he intended to table a motion to amend Act 355, the second instance of its actual tabling and deferral on Nov 24 stoked speculation it was all part of a charade to score political points in the face of approaching polls.

Datuk Husam Musa, formerly of PAS, latterly of Parti Amanah Negara, theorised from Hadi’s second round of tabling and deferral that the general election would be held in April.

A politician of notable analytical acuity, Husam based his speculation on the fact of March being the month every year when Parliament holds its opening session which usually runs five to six weeks.

Husam figured Hadi would be allowed to table his motion yet again in the closing days of the March 2017 session but no vote would be taken.

Husam predicted Parliament would then be dissolved and GE14 would be called.

In this way PAS would have satisfied the Islamic voting bloc that it had done enough to embellish its credentials as the country’s leading political party in espousing Islam as the way of life for the Muslim majority in Malaysia.

And Umno, by allowing Hadi’s Bill to be tabled though not voted on, would have enticed PAS to stay out of an electoral pact with the rest of the Opposition, composed of PKR, DAP, Amanah and, the latest intended recruit to the fold, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) – all of whom are striving for one-on-one contests with BN in GE14.

The only holdout, among the Opposition, to the principle of one-on-one contests against BN is PAS.

The Islamic party, for as long as this principle was bandied about among the Opposition parties over the course of this year as election fever rose, has set one condition after another for joining the electoral pact to fight BN.

Several pundits have advised the Opposition they were not going to obtain the acquiescence of PAS to the one-on-one principle.

They based their assessment on the cosy relationship the PM seems to enjoy with Hadi and before he passed away earlier this year, with Dr Haron Din, the PAS spiritual leader.

But opposition parties, particularly PKR, and after it was formed, Bersatu, continued to court PAS, naively oblivious of the dynamics of Najib’s ties to Hadi.

Allowing Hadi to table his Bill on Nov 24 and then defer debate on it is seen as a shrewd step in Umno’s strategy of keeping PAS outside the clutches of the Oppositon Pakatan Harapan coalition that will soon include Bersatu.

In this reading of the move, Umno will not allow the Bill to come to a vote because that would cause division within BN, with the non-Muslim component parties already firmly arrayed against Hadi’s motion.

Which is why Husam’s speculation as to when GE14 will be held is compelling.

Non-Muslim MPs from the BN component parties have long maintained they are flatly opposed to Hadi’s Bill, with MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lay saying as recently as a fortnight ago, at the party’s annual general assembly when PM Najib was also present, that Hadi’s Bill would not even come up for debate.

The PM, who is BN chairman, did not say anything in response to Liow’s fulminations against Hadi’s Bill, obviously keeping his cards up his sleeve.

Husam speculates the way Najib would play his Act 355 card is to allow Hadi to again table his motion in the closing stages of the March opening session of Parliament and then allow time to run out on the ensuing debate.

The Bill will not be allowed to come to a vote, thus preserving the facade of unity of the BN coalition in the immediate prelude to GE14.

Politics can be a game of feint-and-manoeuvre that a skilled practitioner has to engage if this can help evade the horns of a painful dilemma.

Najib has to give PAS their irreducible minimum — tabling a motion to empower the Shariah courts to deal out punishment, save the death penalty, for Shariah violations – in order to keep the Islamist party out of the opposition fold.

The BN chair has also to maintain coalition unity in the face of GE14.

Thus he cannot allow Hadi’s motion to come to a vote, more so when some peninsula Umno MPs and their Sabah counterparts, both Muslim and non-Muslim, may vote against Hadi’s Bill.

All 25 of Sarawak BN MPs, Muslim and non-Muslim, have been directed by Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenam Satem to vote down Hadi’s Bill.

It simply does not make any sense for the BN chair to allow Hadi’s Bill to come to a vote, given the Opposiiton to the measure within certain quarters of BN.

It’s a complicated manoeuvre, this allowing of Hadi’s Bill to come up for debate but not for a vote, but nobody would bet against its chances of succeeding.

Succeeding at what? Keeping PAS out of the Opposition’s electoral pact while maintaining the facade of unity within BN.


The low-down on rising medical costs

LAST YEAR, Singapore’s medical inflation rate stood high at 15 per cent, compared with 10 per cent globally. Why do medical costs keep rising? As a private specialist, I will try to offer some perspectives and suggestions. First, let us look at some facts.

Most Singaporeans have private insurance plans for hospitalisation in the form of Integrated Shield Plans, and many buy plans with riders to cover various out-of-pocket expenses. Some feel this encourages the doctors to charge exorbitantly.

In its report last month on managing the cost of health insurance in Singapore, the Health Insurance Task Force (HITF) said that there are “natural” factors for rising costs, such as an ageing population, rising awareness, better access to medical facilities and advancement in research. The task force also noted that cost inflation in private hospitals outpaces that in public hospitals, and that patients with insurance tend to seek treatment in private hospitals.

Rising awareness

In reality, doctors work in a small circle. Information on what doctors charge is easily available.

In my course of work, when I refer my patients to other specialists, I always find out how much my patients are charged, and their outcomes. I will not refer future patients to any doctor who charges prohibitive fees.

Reputation is a doctor’s greatest asset. No reasonable doctor would like to be labelled as exorbitant.

Thanks to better health education, more people are seeking early treatment or diagnosis. Take colon cancer screening, for example.

The Ministry of Health recommends that Singaporeans above 50 years of age undergo colon cancer screening. Although screening via colonoscopy is costly, early detection saves lives. On balance, medical studies showed that colon cancer screening is cost-effective.

In the old days, we merely did a histological examination on a colon cancer specimen to confirm its cancer status, and that cost less than S$200 (RM622).

Nowadays, once we diagnose colon cancer, we would do a series of specific mutation analysis tests to determine which chemotherapy would work best on it. The cost of this mutation analysis can top a thousand dollars.

Decades ago, an endoscopy — inserting a long, tube-like instrument to inspect the inside of an organ or body cavity — was performed without any sedation or anaesthesia. Patients often felt great discomfort during the procedure.

But in the last 20 to 30 years, endoscopies have been performed with patients sedated. Most do not feel any discomfort from the procedure. But the sedative may make them groggy for a few hours after the procedure.

Nowadays, some doctors perform an endoscopy under general anaesthesia. The advantage is that patients can resume their normal duties shortly after the procedure. The downside is, again,
higher costs.

In the old days, patients with unresectable liver cancer — where it was not possible to surgically remove part or all of the affected liver — were given a few months to live. These days, new treatments such as live-donor liver transplantation, and even an oral chemotherapy drug, are available. They can prolong the lifespan of such patients. But both are costly, and treatments can run up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The cost of running a medical practice has gone up tremendously over the past few years.

Increasing overheads

Two major hospitals started operations over the past two years. They are supposed to bring in more capacity and competition, and lower costs.

But an unintended consequence is the acute shortage of skilled medical personnel. Nurses, therapists, dieticians, pharmacists, attendants, radiographers and receptionists are suddenly in short supply.

My nursing colleagues were offered a big pay rise to join the new hospitals. In return, existing hospitals have had to match the pay rise to keep their staff.

The resale prices of private medical clinics have also gone through the roof. The price of a medical suite at established private hospitals is more than twice that of the most-expensive condominium on Orchard Road. All these increases in overheads will eventually lead to higher hospital facility fees.

So what can we do? Insurers can compare the charges among different hospitals to identify the “outliers” who charge more than others. They can also study their clinical outcomes to see if the higher costs among the outliers are justified by better outcomes, and make this data public.

Insurers can also set limits on how much a patient can claim per diagnosis and per admission. The patient can fork out the difference if he or she insists on seeing
the doctor.

Insurers can introduce incentives for its clients to stay healthy, for example, by offering discounts for future premiums for those who have not made a medical claim, much like how motor insurers offer a “no claim bonus”. Can we also reward patients for choosing a cheaper hospital/doctor, or to be discharged early?

Ways to control

Finally, we can bring back the Singapore Medical Association Fee Guidelines as a benchmark. This is one of the recommendations made by the HITF.

As a medical doctor, I do believe most medical staff and hospitals want to deliver cost-effective healthcare to patients. Any doctor or hospital that charges unreasonably high fees will not be able to attract patients in the long run.

It takes all parties — the doctors, hospitals, patients, insurers and the regulatory bodies — to act together to achieve cost-effective health care. — Today

Dr Desmond Wai is a gastroenterologist and hepatologist
in private practice in Singapore.

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