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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

NAJIB REMOVES 30% BUMIPUTERA QUOTA ON NEW SHAREHOLDING

By Wong Choon Mei, Suara Keadilan

In a bid to shore up flagging confidence in his leadership, Prime Minister Najib Razak removed a key pillar of the New Economic Policy with an announcement that firms seeking listing will no longer need to allocate 30 percent of their shares tobumiputera groups.

But while analysts cheered the move, they also said it would have muted impact given that it applied only to new listings and not existing companies.

“Overall, the message is good but the impact may be muted. It will take more than this to revive investor confidence in Malaysia,” said Azrul Azwa, economist at Bank Islam.

“It is not just about lowering protectionist barriers but also about raising the integrity of our judiciary and the independence of our institutions. How good our system is will be every bit as important. Even if foreigners return, they will insist their contracts are signed in Singapore or another country and this is a shameful indictment on our federal government.”

A highly abused NEP

Under the NEP launched in 1971 to eradicate poverty, a raft of rules were put in place to protect Malay and indigenous groups and ensure that they were not left out in the nation’s economic growth. But since then, high-level corruption by top government leaders themselves have resulted in widespread abuse of the policy’s implementation.

Meanwhile, the scandal-hit and under-performing Najib may have found himself with little choice but to further liberalise the market.

Due to receive a bad report card from all round after a hectic three months in office that has yielded little constructive result, the 55-year old PM has been resorting to big announcements with limited impact to reduce the growing public dissatisfaction with his administration.

“This is a good move for the long term. But note that it extends only to new listings, so don’t expect sell-downs in Tenaga or Telekom or other government-linked companies to non-bumi groups,” said Azrul.

“I don’t think there will be much backlash from the ordinary Malays although some of the bigger beneficiaries may instigate some protest. But to the ordinary bumi folk, the feeling is that they don’t enjoy anything anyway under the NEP. It only helps the big boys. Might as well dismantle it.”

Meanwhile, in place of the 30 percent requirement, Najib announced that at least 50 percent of the public spread in a new listing must be given to the Malays and other indigenous groups.

Under current market rules, 25 percent of a company’s shareholding – called the free float or public spread – must be offered and held by ordinary investors.

“The world is changing quickly and we must be ready to change with it or risk being left behind,” Najib said in a speech to an investment conference on Tuesday.

“It is not a time for sentiment or half measures but to renew our courage and pragmatism to take the necessary bold measures to advance the national interests for the long term benefit of all Malaysians.”

Do we really need a new investment firm Ekuinas

The PM also announced other measures aimed at making the country a more attractive investment destination.

They include raising foreign ownership of stock brokers and unit trust management firms to 70 percent from the existing 49 percent. Foreigners will also be allowed to own 100 percent of fund management companies.

At the same time, Najib also cut the powers of the Foreign Investments Committee, announcing that FIC approval will no longer be required for purchasing property in Malaysia – whether residential or commercial.

“We can only achieve high income by creating more opportunities for growth rather than protecting our narrow turf.We can only achieve our social equity goals by expanding the pie,” Najib said.

The PM also raised eyebrows by announcing the establishment of Ekuiti Nasional Berhad or Ekuinas, a new investment institution to promote the participation of bumiputera groups,

“We already have PNB. Then, there are the state-run investment arms, at national level, there is also Khazanah, Valuecap,” said a head of reasearch at a bank-backed brokerage.

“Why another one? It will only split up resources. If there is dissatisfaction about the performance of the existing ones, the solution is to change the management and not set up a brand new institution. This can lead to even more losses requiring fresh government allocations. It is something Malaysians need to scrutinize. Who benefits and how we can be sure they are accountable to the public for their investments.”

Adapted from m2day

Related Reading on this isue.

POINT OF VIEW: THE FORMATION OF MALAYSIA?

By: TAN SRI SIMON SIPAUN
INTRODUCTION:
I thank the organizers of this Muzakarah Pakar “Adil Dan Beramanah Dalam Tadbir-Urus” for having invited me to share my thoughts on the topic “Pembentukan Malaysia dan Pembangunan di Sabah” or “The Formation of Malaysia and Development in Sabah”.
I have requested earlier for permission to speak in English which was granted. However I will be quite happy to respond in Bahasa Malaysia during the question and answer session. I wish to make it very clear at the outset that what I say is purely my own opinion and does not necessarily reflect the stand of SUHAKAM or agreed to by my fellow-commissioners. My presentation is based on my personal recollection, observation, perception and experience.
The Formation of Malaysia The nation called Malaysia was born on 16 September, 1963. This is a historical fact. It cannot be disputed. I remember it very well. I was already 25 years old at the time. I also remember the day when Malaya gained independence on 31 August 1957. 1957 was the year I left school. It was the year I sat for my Cambridge Oversea School Certificate – only a handful of us.
In school my teacher used to discuss with students the possible merger of North Borneo (as Sabah was then known) Sarawak and Brunei, all British Colonies. Malaya was never mentioned. We were also asked to write essays on the subject. It was then that I became aware that when separate independent states federate big fish in a small pond becomes small fish in a big pond.
2. When Malaya became independent on 31 August 1957 there was great jubilation in Malaya. You could feel the atmosphere of jubilation through “radio tanah Melayu Kuala Lumpur” and Tunku Abdul Rahman’s famous exclamation of “merdeka!”.
However it occurred to me at the time why Malaya chose the love song “terang bulan” as the national anthem. “Terang bulan” was a very popular song in North Borneo at the time. You could hear it being played in houses with the famous “His Master’s Voice” grammaphones. I would have thought that a completely new tune for the Malayan national anthem based on a nation-wide competition would have been more appropriate and preferable. 3. It has been said that history is subject to different interpretations. For example, during the colonial era in North Borneo Mat Salleh, we were told, was no more than a robber terrorising people. Now he is glorified and labeled as a hero and a freedom fighter.
Personally I do not know what to believe. It happened such a long time ago. There are times when history is also the distortion of facts by people in power. Lately I notice slogans like ‘celebrating 51 years of nationhood’. The question that comes to mind is which nation is being referred to?
If it refers to Malaysia then obviously it is not factual because in 2008 Malaysia is only 45 years old. If you refer to Malaya then it will be correct. However I believe Malaya ceased to be an independent separate nation when it joined with Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah to form a new federation known as Malaysia on 16 September 1963. 51 cannot be equal to 45 unless we have forgotten how to count. I wonder why we cannot be honest about something which is impossible to deny. 4. Personally I feel the formation of Malaysia came at least 10 years too early in the context of Sabah. I vividly remember a conversation I had in 1962 with one of our community leaders who was very close to Donald Stephens regarding Sabah’s participation in the formation of Malaysia. I expressed the following views, amongst others, to him:- i) Sabah would lose the only opportunity to experience being a truly independent sovereign state. ii) It would simply be a transfer of power from the British to Malaya. iii) Sabah did not have the people qualified and experienced enough to negotiate with Malaya and Singapore. iv) Sabah should demand for self-rule initially followed by full independence from the British. v) Sabah should then go to the negotiating table without the British if the people, via referendum, wished to federate with Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and Brunei. vi) Sabah should examine carefully the pros and cons of joining the proposed federation both in the short and long term before deciding. vii) Sabah should insist on an escape clause in the event it found itself short-changed. viii) At best it should only be a lose federation. And finally, ix) The political union between Malaya and North Borneo would be artificial because the two territories had very little, if any, in common and separated by almost 2000 km of sea. North Borneo’s case could not be compared with Singapore. Singapore was geographically part of the Malayan peninsula. Political union with Malaya made a lot of sense especially in terms of economic survival for Singapore. It had no natural resources, not even enough water for Singaporeans. At the time an independent Singapore was not a viable option. The word “Malaysia” itself is a combination of Malaya and Singapura. The recruitment of North Borneo, Sarawak and Brunei was an attempt to counterbalance Singapore’s Chinese population in the proposed federation. It was an after thought. 5. The literacy rate of Sabahans at the time was very low at best. They had no idea what was happening. In 1962 only 2 political parties were just formed. They were the United National Kadazan Organization (UNKO) headed by Donald Stephens and the United Sabah National Oganization (USNO) headed by Datu Mustapha Bin Datu Harun. 6. As it turned out Brunei opted out at the last minute and remained a big fish in a small pond. The intention of the founding fathers was a federation of 4 independent states namely Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah. I have been unable to obtain a copy of the first Federal Constitution following the formation of Malaysia to see if such intention was ever reflected in the Constitution which could have been subsequently amended. Sabah according to the present Constitution is just one of the 13 states, a very small fish in a very big pond. The opening statement of the 1963 Malaysia Agreement reads as follows:- “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Federation of Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore, desiring to conclude an agreement relating to Malaysia agree as follow:- ……………………..” Malaya is referred to as the Federation of Malaya and the individual states were not identified and specified. 7. Article 1 of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 provides that “The Colonies of North Borneo and Sarawak and the State of Singapore shall be federated with the existing States of the Federation of Malaya as the States of Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore in accordance with the constitutional instruments annexed to this Agreement and the Federation shall thereafter be called ‘Malaysia’.” The signatories to the Agreement were the UK, the Federation of Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore. Article 1 of the Federal Constitution provides that the Federation shall be known as Malaysia. However in Article 160 of the Federal Constitution the term “The Federation” means the Federation established under the Federation of Malaya Agreement, 1957. Under the circumstances where do Sabah and Sarawak fit in? Are they really part of the Federation of Malaysia? 8. I am not sure whether Singapore left the Federation on its own accord or expelled from it in 1965. In my opinion when one of the original signatories ceased to be a party to the original Agreement then that Agreement should have been abrogated. After all it was very conceivable that Sabah and Sarawak became part of the federation because of Singapore. Brunei opted out of the federation in July 1963 and became independent only in 1984. I remember Donald Stephens did suggest that the Malaysia Agreement and Sabah’s, position in the Federation should be reviewed. Very shortly he ended up being sidelined and neutralised. 9. The principle of a federal system of government is based on the sharing of powers between the Central and State governments. In the case of Malaysia they are listed under 3 main categories namely the Federal List, State List and Concurrent List. It can be seen that most powers are in the hands of the Federal government. The States are left with land and local government matters. Even these, there are such Federal agencies as the National Land Council and National Council for Local Government. The system is one in which it is federal in form but unitary in substance.
10. “Malaysia Day” is referred to no less than 6 times in the Malaysia Agreement which has only 11 Articles. The birth of Malaysia falls on 16 September 1963 which is Malaysia Day and passes by like any other ordinary day in this country. The national emphasis is 31 August which is the independence day of Malaya. This date receives all the attention. To Sabah and Sarawak 31 August has hardly any significance. 11. Finally on the formation of Malaysia let me share with you some of my recollection of North Borneo before it became part of Malaysia. First and foremost the race/ethnic relations were excellent. There were a lot of inter-marriages. When Peninsula Malaysia was experiencing riots on 13 May 1969 there was no sign of them anywhere in Sabah. If Sabahans are now conscious of racial and religious divides they learned it from Semenanjung. Life was peaceful. Admittedly there was no development of the kind found today. However Sabah was not alone. What was more significant was that there was no illegal immigrants. There were no cases of local natives losing citizenship status whilst foreigners gain it without difficulty. There was no repressive and draconian laws such as the Official Secret Act, the dreaded Internal Security Act, the Printing Presses and Publication Act, the Sedition Act, the Police Act and the 4 Proclamations of Emergency. There was no quarrelling over dead bodies. The Civil Service was multi-racial and meritocracy was recognized and practised. Corruption was unheard of. No community claimed superiority over the others. So much for my version on the formation of Malaysia. Let me now briefly turn to:-
Development in Sabah 12. I understand that Sabah is the poorest state in the country. This speaks volumes in terms of development in Sabah. What is surprising is that it happens in a state with rich natural resources such as timber, oil, gas and possibly other minerals. It has fertile soils, geographical features including mountains, beaches, islands, flora and fauna which could be developed as tourist attractions. 13. Compared to Semenanjung infrastructure development such as roads, water and electricity supply is way behind. The same can be said for health care and educational facilities. For example, before the formation of Malaysia 45 years ago the districts of Tongod and Banggi had no doctor. Today 45 years later they still have no doctor. The district of Paitan does not even have one secondary school building. If you visit remote areas abject poverty can be seen and felt everywhere. Yet I have heard Federal and State political leaders saying abject poverty can be eliminated by 2010! Government has been unable to do it for the last 45 years and it can now do it within less than 1 ½ years? To me only miracle can make it possible.
14. When I was in the Civil Service I remember at the time Sabah was producing between 110,000 and 120,000 barrels of oil per day. It was reported in the newspaper recently that Sabah has gas reserve amounting to about 12 trillion cubic feet. Yet there is no commercial project and activity related to oil and gas. Terengganu where oil was discovered much later has refinery and related activities. I read in the local newspapers recently a Petronas statement indicating that Sabah has the least amount of gas reserve and located and spread in different places. I get the impression that it is not viable to exploit it. If this is the case then it should be left alone for future generations. Yet a decision had been made to build more than 512KM gas pipeline from Kimanis in Sabah to Bintulu in Sarawak. I believe this is a multi-billion ringgit project. The source of gas is from Sabah why can’t the project be located in Sabah? If there is doubt as to the reliability of gas supply the multi-billion ringgit project should be abandoned and the funds used to finance programmes for the eradication of poverty in Sabah. 15. The mother of all problems in Sabah is associated with the presence of unusually large population of illegal immigrants. It is quickly changing the economic, social, cultural and political landscape of the State. The question that is in the mind of many Sabahans is – why has the government allowed this to happen? Thousands of people have requested for an Independent Royal Commission of Inquiry to be established to determine who are responsible for this state of affairs. I hope a day will not come when the Philippines need not claim Sabah anymore due to a reverse take-over which in my view, has long started. The illegal immigrants issue represents a national problem but shouldered by Malaysians living in Sabah. Sabahans feel threatened and insecure as the number of foreigners keeps increasing. My gut feeling is that there are more foreigners than locals. It has to be admitted that they contribute to the development of the state by providing labour especially in the construction and agricultural sectors. Sabah without them would come to an economic standstill. Personally I have never blamed the illegals for being in Sabah. If I was one of them I would be doing exactly what they are doing--searching for a better life. The blame is on the relevant authorities for allowing them in illegally. Two books entitled “IC Projek” and “Lelaki Malaysia Terakhir” have identified national and state leaders who are alleged to have played important roles associated with the illegal immigrants issue. To the best of my knowledge none of those leaders mentioned in the books has refuted or denied the allegations. 16. I understand that allocation of funds to Sabah is based on the number of Malaysian citizens living in the State. The estimated Sabah population is 3.5 million. Therefore the amount of funds received is only meant for 1.75 million people which has to be shared by 3.5 million people assuming that 50% of the population are foreigners. 17. The bottom line for Sabah is that it is the poorest state in the country. Recommendations I have been requested to suggest some proposals at the end of the presentation. As requested and due to time constraint I briefly list the following recommendations:- i) Genuine unity and national integration are vital for Malaysia. It cannot be denied that this country has plenty of divisive factors. It is a land of “multis”. The process of unifying and integrating should be based on justice, egual rights and respect. Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) provides that all humans are born free and equal in dignity and right. No nation which embraced race-based politics and one community claiming superiority over others survived. Nazi Germany and Aparthied South Africa are cases that come to mind. We are all Malaysians and equal before God. ii) We should focus on our similarities rather than on our differences. For example, school uniforms should be the same for every student. Mykad should be the same for every Malaysian. There should only be one box for all citizens indicated in government forms and not at present – one for Malays, one for Chinese, one for Indians and one for others. These are but a few examples of things which are not conducive to the creation of a genuine united country. Let us concentrate on our commonality and humanity. iii) To reduce, if not, eliminate polarisation, the composition of the Civil Service and government agencies should be more reflective of the multi-racial make-up of the Malaysian Society. Meritocracy should be recognised, appreciated and practised, otherwise Malaysia will lose out in a globalised and competitive world. iv) We should concentrate on enlarging the size of the economic cake rather spending too much effort and time how to share it. v) We should have a sound education system at par with the best in the world and all Malaysians should be subject to the same system. vi) Good governance is described as participatory, transparent, accountable and efficient. It promotes the rule of law and equal justice under the law. Good governance should be promoted and maintained at all cost for the present and future good of the country. vii) No Malaysian or community should feel deprived or marginalised. Everyone should be treated equally and fairly. Selective prosecution or application of the law should stop. viii) All laws which empower the government to arrest without trial should be repealed. Article 10 of the UDHR provides that everyone has the right to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial legal body. Article 11 provides that everyone has the right to be treated as innocent until proven guilty by a court of law. ix) It has been said that politicians think in terms of the next election whereas statesmen of the next generation. Malaysia needs more statesmen and less politicians. x) Corruption is like a cancer to the country. It is costly. It should be minimized, if not, eliminated. xi) The provisions of the Treasury Instructions should be strictly complied with. Negotiated contracts should be stopped. It is preventing the realization of the real value of public funds. One ringgit spent should realize the value of one ringgit not say 50 sen or less. xii) The illegal immigrants in Sabah should be shared equally among all the States in Malaysia. Why should Sabah alone suffer from a national problem allegedly self-created by government? xiii) Sabah deserves better treatment by the Federal Government in terms of more equitable distribution of opportunities and development projects. There are far too many talks and pledges but little, if any, action. ix) September 16 every year should be observed and celebrated as “Malaysia Day”.
Adapted From Sabakini

Michael Jackson's mom gets kids, estate control for now

From left: Prince Michael Jackson II, Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson and Michael Joseph Jackson Jr.

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Michael Jackson's three children asked to see their father's body in the UCLA emergency room after they were told he was dead, according to the lawyer for Jackson's personal doctor.

"My understanding is that they did" see the body, attorney Ed Chernoff said.

On Monday, the children, ages 7, 11 and 12, were placed under the temporary guardianship of their paternal grandmother, Katherine Jackson, by a Los Angeles judge.

The biological mother of Jackson's two oldest children, Debbie Rowe, will be invited to a hearing next Monday in which the judge will consider who should have custody of them. She has, so far, not publicly indicated whether she will challenge the Jacksons for custody.

The Jackson family said it has not found a will for the singer, which would leave the division of his estate to the court.

The judge Monday also gave Katherine Jackson temporary control of her son's "tangible personal property."

Moneylending offered but interest rate higher than that of an Ah Long

KUALA LUMPUR: June 30, 2009

This mini-casino is located in a three-star hotel in the centre of the city and the entrance is through an innocuous door in the rear of the hotel.

Except for a sign that says “Open”, the door looks like any other in the hotel. The room is windowless and has quite good sound proofing.

The set-up of the casino is just like a cybercafe with 26 computers located in the main hall - all facing the same direction towards a 52-in LCD TV - that was showing CNN, which seemed strange for a place like this.

None of the gamblers there was paying attention to the CNN programme that was on and the reason became obvious when one looked at the computer screen.

Behind the Manila-based croupier shown on a small screen on the computer screen was also a TV, showing the exact same CNN programme. According to the manager of the establishment, this was to assure the punters that it was real-time gambling.

The smoked-filled room was dark and the only light came from the computer screen. Surprisingly, the room – about 10m by 10m – was relatively quiet except for a voice on the computer calling out the results.

Most of the customers, who were all male that night, were either playing roulette or baccarat.

The moment one enters the casino, a member of the staff greets you and leads the way to a computer.

The staff would then ask the customer how much they would like to deposit for their bets, the minimum being RM100.

The money – cash only – is then taken to the main counter where it is keyed into the computer system. Once it is registered, the amount shows up in one corner of the gambler’s computer screen.

However, the amount in ringgit is displayed on the computer screen as HKD (Hong Kong dollars) instead.

After a gambler has finished playing, he just has to alert a member of the staff that he wants to cash out.

According to some punters, the outlet also provides “moneylending services” if they run out of cash but the interest rate is higher than that of an Ah Long”.

Located at the back of the outlet is a VIP room where high rollers can engage in big-time gambling in private. There are two computers in that room.

The outlet also provides free drinks and food to customers, just like a real casino would. Again, the VIP players get special treatment as the staff are willing to go out to “ta pau” (take away) Hokkien mee from a well-known stall nearby.

It is not known if the hotel management is aware of the “casino” as most of the hotel staff believe the outlet is a cybercafe. The Star.

Related Story

Syndicate offers 'live' betting through the Internet

KUALA LUMPUR: June 30, 2009. Illegal mini casinos – using computers – have mushroomed all over the Klang Valley recently following the introduction of new software by a local syndicate linked to syndicates in Hong Kong and the Philippines.

Using webcam technology, the syndicate broadcasts croupiers live in action to its customers here who lay bets via specially programmed computers.

According to sources, there are at least 100 outlets which are operating as outright casinos and an unknown number which use the cover of a cybercafe to carry out their illegal gaming business.

These outlets offer all types of live gambling games like baccarat, roulette, poker and blackjack via live videoconferencing with the croupier based in Manila.

To prove to the gamblers that the game they are playing is “live”, each outlet has a TV screen showing CNN and there would be a TV behind the croupier showing the same programme.

To further reinforce that the game is real and live, customers can “chat” with the croupier via chat mode provided by the computer software. All the croupiers are attractive, young women who chat charmingly in English.

The staff at the outlets here convert the punters’ cash into cyberchips and the amount appears on the gamblers’ computers to show how much they have to play with.

The croupiers are shown on a small screen within the computer screen. The other part of the screen consists of electronically drawn graphics of the bets, cards drawn or the layout of a roulette table. The screen also shows the winnings, losses and the gambler’s credit balance.

The computer also allows the player to play multiple games, including one-armed bandit machines.

Sources said the syndicate operates the casino business as a franchisee and by itself only owns a few of the outlets.

Those who want to operate the mini-casinos are asked to come up with certain amount of money while the syndicate would advise them on the outlet design as well as provide the electronic fittings to wire up the computers to a server.

In most cases, the syndicate also supplies the computers and the server.

It is believed that the syndicate’s main server is located in Hong Kong while the croupiers and casino studios are located in Manila.

It remains unknown how the syndicate is able to provide such clear video conferencing as it would require a big bandwidth.

Sources said the syndicate was working with illegal gaming syndicates in the Philippines who recruit croupiers from legal electronic casinos based there.

E-casinos are a major success in the Philippines and operated by a government-owned company called Philweb Corporation which made a profit of almost US$20mil in the first quarter of this year.

The company employs more than 11,000 people – the majority of whom are croupiers – at their e-casinos. The Philippine Government set up Philweb as a means to raise money for social projects as well as to combat illegal gambling.

It is not known whether the croupiers are former employees of this company but under Philippine law, the company can only operate within the country.

Malaysia is not the first country where local syndicates use Filipina croupiers for their illegal activities. Last October, South Korean police busted a similar illegal electronic casino operation in Seoul.

A massive gambling syndicate run by four men – all South Koreans – was reported to have made US$100mil in just 18 months.

The syndicate employed 30 Filipina dealers and also broadcast their games via webcam to outlets in Seoul. It was reported that their operations also had TV sets showing CNN to prove that the game was being played in real time.

Just like in Malaysia, only one legal casino is open to South Koreans.

It is not known if the Malaysian syndicate, which is said to have been in operation for about six months, has any connection with the one in Seoul or if it had learnt or taken over from the latter. The Star

Related Story

Pope Benedict sums up Pauline Year as Year for Priests begins

.- On Sunday Pope Benedict XVI addressed thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the recitation of the Angelus prayer. Benedict XVI summed up the Pauline Year, which comes to an end tonight, and told those present to follow St. Paul in their passion for Christ and the Gospel.
The Pope launched the Pauline Year to remember the 2,000 years since the birth of the Apostle of Tarsus. The Pauline Year, the Holy Father explained, was "a true period of grace in which, through pilgrimages, catecheses, publications and various initiatives, the figure of Saint Paul was offered again to the entire Church. His vibrant message among Christian communities revived everywhere the passion for Christ and the Gospel.” The Apostle Paul, Pope Benedict added, represents “a splendid model to follow” in the Year for Priests, which began on June 19, a year which can strengthen priests’ commitment to inner renewal, making them "stronger and more incisive evangelical witnesses in today’s world.” Pope of Tarsus, he continued, exemplifies the priest who identifies totally with his ministry, as did the CurĂ© d’Ars, conscious that he carries a priceless treasure, which is the message of salvation, but in an “earthen vessel.” “For this reason he is at the same time both strong and humble, intimately convinced that everything is due to God, everything is his grace.” “The presbyter must belong wholly to Christ and the Church, to whom he must devote his undivided love, like a faithful husband to his wife,” the Pontiff expounded. Pope Benedict XVI concluded: “Dear friends, together with Sts. Peter and Paul the Apostles, we now invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary that she may obtain from the Lord many blessings for priests during the Year for Priests which just began. May Our Lady, whom Saint Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney loved so much and who persuaded his parishioners to love, help each and every priest to reinvigorate the gift of God which in him is virtue of the holy Ordination, so that he may grow in holiness and be ready to bear witness, if necessary through martyrdom, of the beauty of his total and final consecration to Christ and the Church.” After the recitation of the Angelus, the Pope greeted Maronite Catholic faithful from Latakiyah, Syria and their parish priest.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Defense attorney: Jackson never recovered from trial

Michael Jackson leaves court with defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. on June 13, 2005, following his acquittal on child molestation charges.
LOS ANGELES — Michael Jackson called his trial on child molestation claims, "the hardest thing I've ever done in my life." Acquitted of all charges by a jury but convicted by public opinion, he spent the rest of his life trying to recover from the ordeal.

On many fronts, it was a losing battle. Late night comedians derided him as a pedophile. Prosecutors who lost the case against him never accepted the jury verdict and Jackson felt driven to give up his beloved Neverland Ranch and leave the country.

This month, exactly four years after the verdict, the nation's greatest pop star was on the verge of a dazzling comeback. His "This Is It" concert tour was to be his artistic rebirth, a vivid signal that he had at last recovered from the trial.

But Thomas Mesereau Jr., the lawyer who defended Jackson, said the star never fully recovered from the trial.

"The jury said, 'not guilty,' 14 times," Mesereau recalls. "You couldn't have a verdict that got any closer to full vindication."

READ MORE HERE

Pope says bone fragments found in St Paul's tomb

By Stephen Brown

ROME (Reuters) - Pope Benedict announced on Sunday that fragments of bone from the first or second century had been found in a tomb in the Basilica of St Paul in Rome, which he said confirmed the belief that it housed the apostle's remains.

"This seems to confirm the unanimous and undisputed tradition that these are the mortal remains on the Apostle Paul," the pontiff said at St Paul's-Outside-the-Walls, on the eve of the Feasts of St Peter and St Paul celebrated on Monday.

Peter and Paul are revered by Christians as the greatest early missionaries. Converting on the road to Damascus following a blinding vision of Jesus, Paul took the Gospel to pagan Greeks and Romans and met his martyrdom in Rome in about AD 65.

Christian tradition had it that St Paul was buried together with St Peter in a catacomb on the Via Appia, before being moved to the basilica erected in his honor. For centuries it was believed that his remains were buried beneath the altar.

But it was not until a stone sarcophagus was discovered there in 2006 that Vatican archeologists could apply scientific research to the religious tradition.

The first results come during the "Pauline Year," when the Roman Catholic church has been celebrating the second millennium of the birth of the "Apostle of the Gentiles."

Pope Benedict gave details of the discovery, saying a tiny hole had been drilled in the sarcophaguus to permit inspection of the interior, revealing "traces of a precious linen cloth, purple in color, laminated with pure gold, and a blue colored textile with filaments of linen."

"It also revealed the presence of grains of red incense and traces of protein and limestone. There were also tiny fragments of bone, which, when subjected to Carbon 14 tests by experts, turned out to belong to someone who lived in the first or second century," said the pope.

The discovery of the bone fragments coincided with news that Vatican archaeologists had discovered what they believe is the oldest image in existence of St Paul, dating from the late 4th century, on the walls of catacomb beneath Rome.

Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano, revealing the find on Sunday, published a picture of a frescoed image of the face of a man with a pointed black beard on a red background, inside a bright yellow halo. The high forehead is furrowed.

Experts of the Ponitifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology made the discovery on June 19 in the Catacomb of Santa Tecla in Rome and described it as the "oldest icon in history dedicated to the cult of the Apostle," according to the Vatican newspaper.

Early Christians in Rome buried their dead in catacombs dug into the soft rock under the city and decorated the underground walls with devotional images, often in the Pompeian style.

(Writing by Stephen Brown; editing by Ralph Boulton)

ROME (Reuters) - In a related news, Rome catacomb reveals "oldest" image of St. Paul.

Vatican archaeologists using laser technology have discovered what they believe is the oldest image in existence of St Paul the Apostle, dating from the late 4th century, on the walls of catacomb beneath Rome.

Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano, revealing the find on Sunday, published a picture of a frescoed image of the face of a man with a pointed black beard on a red background, inside a bright yellow halo. The high forehead is furrowed.

The 4,000 year old Fresco was restored using a laser

The fresco, which dates back to the 4th Century AD, was discovered during restoration work at the Catacomb of Saint Thekla but was kept secret for ten days

Experts of the Ponitifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology made the discovery on June 19 in the Catacomb of Santa Tecla in Rome and describe it as the "oldest icon in history dedicated to the cult of the Apostle," according to the Vatican newspaper.

The discovery, which involved removing layers of clay and limestone using lasers, was announced a day before Rome observes a religious holiday for the Feasts of St Peter and St Paul.

Peter and Paul are revered by Christians as the greatest early missionaries. Converting on the road to Damascus following a blinding vision of Jesus, Paul took the Gospel to pagan Greeks and Romans and met his martyrdom in Rome in about 65 AD.

Early Christians in Rome buried their dead in catacombs dug into the soft rock under the city and decorated the underground walls with devotional images, often in the Pompeian style.

(Writing by Stephen Brown; Editing by Sophie Hares)

Related Article

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Jacko’s albums seem set to top UK album chart

London, June 28 (ANI): Britain’s official chart compilers have revealed that late King of Pop Michael Jackson is all set to top the country’s

album chart six years after his last number one hit.

The Official Charts Company says that the greatest hits album, Number Ones, is on its way to the top spot after a

surge in sales in the days since Jackson’s death on Thursday.

The company also expects to see ‘up to half a dozen’ of the singer’s other albums in the Top 75.

It believes that Jackson

may also feature in the singles chart as fans download tracks from his back catalogue.

The Man In The Mirror, Billie Jean, and Thriller are said to be the songs that

are currently climbing fastest up the charts.

A spokesman for the Official Charts Company, however, said that fans appeared to be stocking up

on Jackson’s albums rather than individual songs.

He further said that given that revealed that Jackson’s back catalogue is very extensive, buying trends

are likely to be less pronounced, and thus less of an impact is expected on the singles chart.

‘All the anecdotal evidence and feedback I am getting

from our stores does suggest that there will definitely be some Jackson songs in the top 10,’ the Daily Express quoted Gennaro Castaldo, of retailer HMV, as saying.

‘We always find that when

a great icon dies there is a massive uplift in their music sales as fans want to connect and express their grief through the records,’ he

added. (ANI).

Michael Jackson spent the last years of his life buried in debt (reportedly had $400 million in debts). But the King of Pop's death is likely to yield a financial bonanza more lucrative than any comeback tour ever could, as fans snap up his music and memorabilia and perhaps one day get the chance to tour his Neverland home.

Like Jackson, Presley hadn't had a hit album in years. At the end of his life, he was mostly relying on royalties from his past hits and doing shows in Las Vegas. But in death he became a moneymaking phenomenon.

Presley's estate was valued at just $4.9 million at the time of his death. In 2005, a company run by media entrepreneur Robert F.X. Sillerman paid $100 million for 85 percent of the estate and a 90-year lease on his Memphis mansion, Graceland.

By some estimates, Jackson's estate could be worth more than $1 billion. Besides the master recordings of his own music, Jackson owned half of Sony/ATV Music Publishing, a jewel estimated to be worth $2 billion by itself. The 750,000-song catalog includes music by the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Lady Gaga and the Jonas Brothers. m2day