Malaysia reports 659 new COVID-19 cases, 1,000 recoveries


PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia recorded 659 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday (Oct 31), lower than the 799 infections a day earlier.

No deaths and no new clusters were reported.

“Of the 659 new cases today, one was an imported case involving a foreigner returning from Bangladesh. For local transmissions, Sabah had 529 cases while states in the Klang Valley recorded 70 cases,” said health director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah at a press conference.

The cases in Sabah and the Klang Valley made up about 91 per cent of the total number of daily infections, he added.

The country’s tally of cases stands at 31,548, with 10,051 active cases.

READ: Johor Bahru district now a COVID-19 red zone

READ: Malaysia extends movement curbs amid record 1,240 new COVID-19 cases

Dr Noor Hisham also said 1,000 more patients were discharged, the highest number since the pandemic began. 

Malaysia has seen a resurgence in infections, with the number of cases more than doubling in the past month.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said earlier on Saturday that the upcoming elections in Sabah and Sarawak must go ahead unless a state of emergency is declared. 

He also urged all Members of Parliament to set aside their political differences to ensure that budget 2021 is passed to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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Survivors of quake which rocked Turkey and Greece hold on to hope that loved ones will be found | World News


The death toll for Friday’s earthquake that struck Turkey and Greece has reached 27 – including two children.

Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis tweeted today to announce the deaths of the two children following the disaster. Turkey has reported that at least 804 people were injured on top of the 25 fatalities there.

Here is an eyewitness account of the aftermath of the earthquake in Izmir, Turkey, from Sky’s Moscow correspondent Diana Magnay.

Dust wafts over the rubble. Every now and then rescue teams spray water on what’s left of this crumpled apartment block so their colleagues can see what they’re doing.

Bulldozers tear away at the sides, dumping debris into huge pick up trucks. Draped strangely across the twisted wire and concrete are blankets and curtains, sheets and towels – the fabric of people’s private lives strewn across the sorry remains of their homes.

Someone yells a command. “Quiet!” Everything stops.

Rescue workers are listening for signs of life. The crowd waits too. Only the sound of mobile phones cuts through. Then everything starts again. And still the anxious relatives don’t know what – if anything – the rescue teams heard.

63-year-old Ragip Öztürk was one of the first to be rescued, twenty minutes after the quake hit. He hid beside his fridge, which he thinks protected him when the ceiling caved in.

He tapped against metal with a pen and shouted to get attention. He was found.

His wife though is still somewhere underneath that monstrous pile of rubble. He thinks she was in the lift, heading out for a walk to the park with their niece and nephew.

They’ve been married for 40 years. “Love your spouse, enjoy life”, he says, choking on the words. “And in an earthquake, don’t panic”.

We’re told there are still 40 people trapped inside this one building. Among them are Koray Demirhan’s four nieces.

They’re only little, aged between two and eleven. His sister, their mother, weeps nearby.

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Buildings were destroyed after the magnitude 7 earthquake in Izmir, Turkey

Other relatives with tear-streaked faces sit wrapped in blankets in a neighbouring cafe which is handing out food and drinks for free. Aid workers bring round soup, water, coffee and pastries.

Izmir’s mayor says 20,000 of the local boyoz speciality were baked overnight for the relief efforts. They’re even offered to journalists and they’re delicious. The community is in this together, everyone mingling, watching, helping and hoping.

Turkey has long experience of earthquakes. Esref Bati has lived through a few but he says this one was the biggest he remembers.

He is in a wheelchair and only has one leg. It must be scary to be that immobile during an earthquake. He was in hospital having dialysis at the time and screamed to be taken out.

The nurses hoisted him out of bed and to the street. “There’s no way it was just a 6 magnitude quake”, he says. “It was far bigger”.

His generation remember well the earthquake in 1999 in Izmit which killed at least 17,000 people. Turkey lies on major fault lines and geologists warn that a major quake in Istanbul is only a matter of time.

But the Turks must live with it, hoping that the walls around them are earthquake-proof. The rubble I’m looking at suggests that plenty are not.



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‘Just scratching the surface’, QR codes set to explode



QR CODES have become a staple of the coronavirus pandemic and the dining out experience but experts say it is on the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what the technology can do.

QR codes enable phones to connect to online information by scanning the black and white code via phone or another mobile device.

Doctor Vinh Bui, IT lecturer, Southern Cross University said QR codes bridged the gap between humans and computers.

“We need to use these encoding mechanisms because computers have not been able to ‘see’ and process human-readable information very well.”

UTS Business School Senior Lecturer in marketing, Ofer Mintz said that QR code usage in Asia and Africa showed how the technology could be used in Australia going forward.

“In Far Eastern countries such as China and Korea, QR codes are used on everyday basis for all sorts of different issues, you can buy products from a grocery store while waiting on a train in Korea, one of the biggest brands Tesco has a virtual supermarket, you can scan a QR code and they’ll ship it to your house.

“A lot of companies are using it as a trigger to move to the next step, it allows companies to do a little more virtual reality … based on the starting point of scanning a QR code.”

Even with this advanced usage in Asia, both experts agreed that the technology could do much more in the future.

“It is purely up to our imagination,” Dr Vinh Bui said.

“We’ve really only scratched the surface, I think it’s basically an enabler of future technology, it’s an way for medical to get you to scan something and fill out information … or we see it in third world countries in agriculture where people scan them to check authenticity.”

Mr Mintz predicted that Australia will see an uptake in QR code usage going forward but still at a lower level compared to other developed nations.

“I don’t see the adoption rate being as much as it is in the Far East, so yes there’ll be opportunities, yes we’ll see more customers using it but there is still initial gut feel of customer disliking it in a way … so that will stop it from proliferating as much.”





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Covid in Scotland: ‘Don’t travel to England’ warns first minister


Scotland’s new

five tier system of Covid restrictions takes effect from 06:00 on Monday.



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Will Pucovski and Marcus Harris, Victoria vs South Australia, Sheffield Shield results


Test cricket and Will Pucovski are ready for each other after a definitive ton and record-breaking stand with Victorian opening partner Marcus Harris against South Australia in Adelaide.

Unbeaten Harris (207 off 359 balls) posted a second career double-ton while Pucovski will resume on 199 (308 balls) with Victoria a staggering 0-418 and 218 ahead at stumps on the second day.

Harris and Pucovski smashed Victoria’s all wicket, Sheffield Shield partnership record of 390* between Julian Wiener and Jeff Moss at the Junction Oval against Western Australia in 1981. The pair also beat a 94-year, 375-run record between Test legends Bill Woodfull and Bill Ponsford for Victoria’s highest Shield opening partnership as the Redbacks were rendered spectators at Glenelg Oval.

“That was awesome, so great to watch. They had chemistry from the start,” said Victorian skipper Peter Handscomb.

“Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer used to love each other as openers and I think these two will as well.

“It was a pretty special day. We asked Puc if he was happy to open, he was and we can see why.”

Mike Valetta and Geoff Marsh’s record 431 Shield opening stand against South Australia in Perth during 1989-90 is tantalisingly close for the Victorians. Mark and Steve Waugh hold the record, all wicket Shield stand of 464 set against WA for New South Wales at the WACA in 1990-91.

Pucovski, 22, delivered an innings of absolute dominance to show national selectors he’s good to go in a baggy green. Pucovski may well be closer to a Test debut than Harris is a recall but both ensured their names will be firmly in contention for an expanded Test squad against India. Class batsmen are never rushed and Pucovski appeared to have an eternity to unravel the Redbacks.

Selectors had pencilled Pucovski for a Test debut last year against Sri Lanka but appears to have inner peace and confidence against the short-pitched ball after recovering from concussions and mental health battles.

“They batted really well the Victorians. We need to improve, it is not good enough,” said SA coach Jason Gillespie.

Pucovski was the eighth Australian to post a double century before turning 21 with 243 in 2018 and will bank a second against the Redbacks.

Pucovski was at ease in the middle and if this equilibrium is maintained off field then national selectors will come knocking. Coach Chris Rogers is one the most astute, innovative minds in the world cricket and his intuition to promote Pucovski paid immediate dividends in Victoria’s 2020-21 maiden Shield clash.

Pucovski and Harris underlined the task ahead of new Redbacks coach Gillespie this season, overtaking the host’s first innings total of 200 then Matthew Elliott and Jason Arnberger’s record 353 opening stand against the Redbacks in 1999. Harris struck one more boundary – with 23 – than Pucovski in the ultimate tag team effort.

Harris and Pucovski batted with the focus and prudent shot selection of two men believing in their talent and Test destinies. SA skipper Travis Head rotated Chadd Sayers, Daniel Worrall, Wes Agar and Lloyd Pope to no avail.

Pucovski will apply enormous pressure on either Test opener Joe Burns or middle order spots of Matt Wade and Travis Head after his fifth first-class ton. It will be left to selectors to take an educated gamble in a showpiece series against India’s Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami.

Pucovski was a man in a hurry in the first session but Harris accelerated after lunch with some immaculate stroke play to pip his partner to a century and double ton.



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Annastacia Palaszczuk ‘confident of Labor majority government’ as Deb Frecklington concedes defeat


Annastacia Palaszczuk has claimed victory for Labor in the Queensland state election, becoming the first woman in the nation’s political history to win three elections.

As vote counting continues, Ms Palaszczuk told supporters in her electorate she was confident of governing in majority.

“For many Queenslanders, I know it has been an incredibly tough year,” she said.

“It has been tough not being able to see your family and friends in other states, or even around the world, as we’ve been in the midst of a global pandemic.

“But here in Queensland we’ve all stood strong and united, and together we are on top of the pandemic, and if we continue to work together, we will stay strong.”

On Saturday night, Labor was on track to hold as many as 49 seats – up one on its previous numbers.

Liberal National Party leader Deb Frecklington conceded defeat at a function in Brisbane’s inner-south.

The LNP looked likely to retain at least 32 seats in the 93-seat parliament.

In the last parliament the opposition had 38 seats.

A big factor going against the LNP is the collapse of the One Nation vote – down more than six per cent – and the holding up of the Greens vote.

The Greens appear on track to gain one seat – South Brisbane held by former deputy premier Jackie Trad – taking its numbers to two in the new parliament.

Deputy Premier Steven Miles said retaining South Brisbane would be “challenging” for Labor.

“But let’s be clear, it is only challenging because the Liberals had chosen to preference against her,” he told the ABC.

“If they had preferenced the Greens last, then Jackie wouldn’t be in trouble.”

Michael Berkman, Greens MP for Maiwar, covering the inner western suburbs of Brisbane, said he believes voters responded well to the Greens party’s grassroots campaign.

“We have run on a really bold platform on vested interests…We have been speaking honestly about a real Green wave through this election,” he told Channel Seven.

93 parliamentary seats in play

Going into the election, of the 93 parliamentary seats, Labor held 48 to the LNP’s 38, with the cross bench comprising three Katter’s Australian Party members, one Greens, one One Nation, one North Queensland First and independent Sandy Bolton.

One Nation appeared likely to hold its seat with KAP also holding three and Ms Bolton returned in Noosa.

While the LNP was holding most of its traditional ground, the seats of Currumbin, Bundaberg, Chatsworth, Pumicestone and Caloundra were at risk of falling to Labor.

The swing was mixed across the state, with the southeast corner going two per cent towards Labor and 1.3 per cent to the LNP in regional parts.

Senior LNP MP David Crisafulli said there were effectively two elections under way.

“The mood in regional Queensland is palpable. They are waiting with baseball bats,” he said.

Some 1.65 million voters – or half of the electorate – already cast their ballots in the state election touted as Australia’s most significant since the COVID-19 outbreak.

Voters responded to border policy

Gold Coast-based federal LNP minister Karen Andrews said the result was “clearly not heading in the direction we would want it to go”.

Ms Andrews put the swing to Labor down to older voters who “probably feel safe with the borders closed” endorsing Ms Palaszczuk’s strategy in dealing with the coronavirus.

“What we have been saying is that this is a crisis on two levels, health and economy, but clearly in some cases health was the most significant for people,” she told the ABC.

Labor national president Wayne Swan said Ms Palaszczuk had earned an “enduring respect” for her approach to the pandemic.

“What interests me is the strength so far on the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast,” he said.

Queensland Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington speaks to supporters in Brisbane.

Election day was not without its hurdles, with Ms Palaszczuk heckled by a LNP volunteer and challenged by her rival candidate to reopen Queensland’s borders while voting in Brisbane.

Ms Palaszczuk was speaking to reporters after casting her ballot in her southern Brisbane electorate of Inala, which she holds by 26.1 per cent, on Saturday morning.

“I’ve been overwhelmed everyone’s been coming up saying thank you for keeping us safe and that’s been my number one priority to look after Queenslanders,” she told them, referring to her COVID-19 response.

“Today’s a really important day and it’s about Queenslanders making a choice. It’s about who they want to be the premier to actually lead the state, so that’s the important choice they have to make.”

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, joined by the Member for Oxley Milton Dick, casts her vote in the state election.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, joined by the Member for Oxley Milton Dick, casts her vote in the state election.

AAP

Then, as the TV cameras continued to roll, an LNP volunteer started shouting that she should open the borders.

“Consider the travel industry, 209,000 people out of work premier. Consider the people that I employ, it’s about time to open the borders,” the man named John yelled.

Ms Frecklington voted in Townsville before heading to the state capital.

The pandemic has been good for incumbents, with leaders across Australia enjoying high approvals ratings and Labor governments recently re-elected in the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory.

Queensland recorded no new COVID-19 cases on Saturday and notched 50 days since its last locally-acquired infection.

With AAP.



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As Thailand’s economy shrinks, protesters question the $40 billion value of the King


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On Oct. 14—the day before Thailand’s embattled government declared a state of emergency to prohibit mass gatherings in the capital—a royal motorcade passed through a crowd of protesters thronging around Democracy Monument in central Bangkok. The protesters had gathered to call for the prime minister’s resignation, but as royalty passed through, the crowd turned and jeered, “My taxes! My taxes!”

Thailand’s government has budgeted over $1 billion to finance the monarchy this year, despite the fact that King Maha Vajiralongkorn is one of the world’s wealthiest rulers, with an estimated $40 billion in assets. That wealth used to belong to the Crown—the institution, not the ruler—but Vajiralongkorn took control of the privy purse in 2018.

Although criticizing the monarchy is illegal in Thailand, with violators sentenced to 15 years in prison, Vajiralongkorn’s lavish spending and appropriation of the crown’s $40 billion portfolio has opened the monarch up to criticism. As his kingdom’s economy is set to contract 7.8% this year, protesters are making unprecedented demands to have the king’s taxes investigated.

The German

When Vajiralongkorn was officially coronated in 2019, three years after his father’s death, the new king was given Rama X as his regnal name. But among Thailand’s discontent, the king has another moniker—the German—because for the past ten years Vajiralongkorn has been living in Germany, some 9,000 miles away from his kingdom.

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According to German media, as the pandemic raged this summer, the 68-year-old King Rama ensconced himself in a luxury hotel in the Bavarian Alps that was rented entirely for himself, a retinue of servants and a bevy of women. The hotel was given special permission to host the king and his entourage; other hotels in Germany were forced shut due to the pandemic.

In Thailand, too, business were forced to close as the Thai government enacted a strict lockdown, setting a nightly curfew for residents, banning the sale of alcohol, and limiting public gatherings. News of the absent King’s lavish lifestyle provided an unwelcome contrast to the suffering of his subjects­­—not least of all because Vajiralongkorn’s life of luxury is increasingly seen to come at the taxpayer’s expense.

The Crown

Until 2018, the wealth of Thailand’s monarchy was managed by the Crown Property Bureau (CPB)—a quasi-governmental agency managed by a board majority appointed by the king. Revenue generated by the CPB’s investments is exempt from taxation and is supposed to serve the royal institution—the Crown—rather than the king. But since succeeding his father as King in 2016, Vajiralongkorn has moved to consolidate his grasp on the Crown’s coffers.  

In 2017, the King appointed his private secretary as chairman of the CPB’s board, ousting the Minister of Finance from the seat. The same year, the government passed an amendment to the Crown Property Act, giving the King full control of the CPB’s portfolio. In 2018, the CPB issued a statement confirming it had “returned” all its assets to the King so that he may manage the funds “at his discretion.”

The line between the king’s finances and the crown’s was always blurred, says Pavin Chachavalpongpun, an associate professor at Kyoto University’s Centre for Southeast Asian Studies. That ambiguity, Chachavalpongpun says, allowed the previous monarch to spend with impunity, while maintaining an image of frugality. But when Rama X became sole arbiter of the Crown’s wealth, he crossed that line.

“It has become too obvious that the King is doing this for his own self-indulgence,” Chachavalpongpun says, pointing to the King’s lavish lifestyle in the Bavarian Alps as proof. “It’s now easier to question the king’s spending because Vajiralongkorn cannot claim that what he’s spending is for the institution.”

The Taxpayer

The CPB’s assets—now the King’s—are estimated to be worth $40 billion, but due to Thailand’s lèse-majesté laws, critical discussion of the Crown’s portfolio is difficult. Included within the King’s new portfolio is over 16,000 acres of land—much of it prime real estate—and over 40,000 rental contracts with developers.

Bangkok’s popular Siam Paragon, Siam Discovery and Siam Center malls are all built on land leased from the Crown. The King’s portfolio reportedly includes at least $30 billion of property holdings in the capital alone.

The King also owns a 23% stake in one of Thailand’s leading lenders, Siam Commercial Bank, and a 33% stake in Thailand’s largest industrial conglomerate, Siam Cement Group. Taken together, the King’s shares in the two companies are worth roughly $9 billion.

According to the Financial Times, one of the protest’s more prominent figures, Parit Chiwarak, called on Thais to boycott the Siam Commercial Bank during a rally in September. “You are replenishing money for the German,” Chiwarak said, calling the bank a “money pot of feudalism.” The student leader has been arrested at least twice during this year’s protests.

ROI

There could be a silver lining to the King’s seizure of the CPB’s assets. Although revenue earned by the CPB is exempt from taxation, the King’s earnings are not. Any return on investment within the crown’s $40 billion portfolio should now be subject to tax, as the CPB stated in 2018 when transferring the assets.

However, the strict lèse-majesté laws that prohibit criticism of the King make demanding a review of the monarch’s tax payments a risky order. Any perceived criticism of the King is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. But protesters are defiant.

On Monday, a crowd of demonstrators marched to the German embassy in Bangkok and petitioned Berlin to investigate the King’s taxes. In particular, protesters question whether the King’s long-standing residence in Germany would make him liable to pay German inheritance tax on the wealth he received when his father, King Rama IX, died.

“In the past people believed the monarchy can do no wrong. More than that, it’s written in the constitution that the monarchy can do no wrong,” Chachavalpongpun says. “But the students are arguing that the monarchy can do wrong and, when it does, the people need to be able to complain about it.”

More must-read international coverage from Fortune:



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GWS inform Geelong of intention to match Cameron free agency offer


EXCLUSIVE

The Giants have informed Geelong that they will match the free agency offer for star forward Jeremy Cameron.

If Cameron still decides to leave, the Giants will demand compensation reflective of his contract offer from the Cats.

It is believed their starting position will be two first round draft picks and a player.

Fox Footy’s Tom Morris reported on Saturday that Geelong’s five-year offer to Cameron is worth around $900,000 per season.

The deal reportedly also includes a clause for a sixth season if Cameron plays 14 matches in his fifth year at the Cats.









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