Saturday, March 9, 2013

WSJ: Malaysia's U.S. Propaganda

Malaysia's U.S. Propaganda

Kuala Lumpur paid American conservative journalists to smear an opposition leader.

The Wall Street Journal - March 9, 2013
A general election is expected next month in the Southeast Asian nation of Malaysia, and that usually means political shenanigans—abuse of national security laws, media manipulation and character assassination. After the last election in 2008, when the ruling coalition barely held on to power, public anger at such practices prompted Prime Minister Najib Razak to redraft laws and reform the electoral system. However, new revelations that his government paid American journalists to attack opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim raise questions whether those changes went far enough.
In January, conservative American blogger Joshua Treviño belatedly registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, revealing that from 2008-2011 he was paid $389,724.70, as well as a free trip to Malaysia, to provide "public relations and media consultancy" services to the Malaysian government.
These consisted of writing for a website called Malaysia Matters, now defunct, as well as channeling $130,950 to other conservative writers who wrote pro-government pieces for other newspapers and websites. When questioned in 2011 by the Politico website about whether Malaysian interests funded his activities, Mr. Treviño flatly denied it: "I was never on any 'Malaysian entity's payroll,' and I resent your assumption that I was."
Associated Press
Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim
The campaign was more targeted than the Malaysian ruling coalition's domestic attacks on Mr. Anwar. Mr. Treviño's site mainly went after the opposition leader for anti-Semitic remarks and his alliance with the Islamist party PAS, and even accused him of links to terrorists through the International Institute of Islamic Thought. Mr. Anwar has made anti-Semitic comments—though that's in part to fend off domestic accusations that he's too cozy with Zionists. He also has ties to organizations that have taken Saudi money, but the suggestion that he somehow has "ties to terrorism" is preposterous.
The site also defended an outrageous charge of sodomy brought against Mr. Anwar from 2008-2012, and it criticized the U.S. State Department and The Wall Street Journal for taking Mr. Anwar's side. These postings were clearly aimed at sowing doubt among other would-be Anwar defenders in the U.S., especially on the right of the U.S. political spectrum.
Mr. Treviño paid other writers who know almost nothing about Malaysia but mimicked his propaganda. The New Ledger, edited by Ben Domenech, was even more vociferous, calling Mr. Anwar a "vile anti-Semite and cowardly woman-abuser." One posting was entitled, "Muslim Brotherhood's terrorist money flowing to Anwar Ibrahim." According to Mr. Treviño's filing, he paid Mr. Domenech $36,000 for "opinion writing." Three contributors of anti-Anwar items to the New Ledger—Rachel Motte, Christopher Badeaux and Brad Jackson—were paid $9,500, $11,000 and $24,700 respectively.
Mr. Treviño was initially paid by public relations multinational APCO Worldwide, which had a longstanding contract with the Malaysian government. APCO's Kuala Lumpur representative through 2010, Paul Stadlen, now works in Prime Minister Najib's office. David All, who at the time ran his own PR firm and collaborated on Malaysia Matters, also provided cash.
But from 2009-11, the Malaysian money came through Fact-Based Communications, which under the leadership of journalist John Defterios produced programs on client countries for CNN, CNBC and the BBC. After this was revealed in 2011, the three networks dropped all FBC programs, and Atlantic Media Company President Justin Smith resigned from its board.
Influence-peddling has a long and sordid history in Washington, and governments that use repressive methods at home yet want to remain on friendly terms with the U.S. typically have the biggest bankrolls. It's not unheard of for PR operators to pay less reputable journalists and think-tankers to write favorable coverage, as the Jack Abramoff case in the mid-2000s showed.
The Malaysian scheme, however, is notable because it drew in respected writers such as Rachel Ehrenfeld, who has contributed to the Journal in the past and took $30,000, Claire Berlinski, who got $6,750, and Seth Mandel, an editor at Commentary magazine, who was paid $5,500. Some of the articles appeared in well-known publications such as National Review and the Washington Times.
Mr. Najib's falling popularity at home suggests his days as Prime Minister could be numbered. The irony is that he was more democratic and played a more responsible role in the region than his predecessors. Even opposition figures have quietly admitted to us that he has steered Malaysia in the right direction. That should have been more than enough for a legitimate public relations operation to work with.Resorting to underhanded tactics to undermine the opposition has only backfired for Mr. Najib, at home and abroad.
A version of this article appeared March 9, 2013, on page A12 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Malaysia's U.S. Propaganda.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

TMI: Why we invent in Britain, but build in Singapore — by Sir James Dyson

Why we invent in Britain, but build in Singapore — James Dyson
TMI: FEBRUARY 28, 2013
FEB 28 — For the past 15 years, Dyson’s highly-skilled engineers have been developing a tiny revolution in our laboratories. It is a new motor a third the size of a traditional one, but which can spin 100,000 times a minute — five times faster than a Formula One engine. Making 6,000 adjustments a second for optimal performance, the Dyson digital motor can supercharge prosaic machines.
At Dyson we invest heavily in our ideas and develop all of our technology in Britain: All our research takes place in Malmesbury where we employ 850 world-class design engineers and scientists — about a third of them recent graduates.
Our new motor performs like no other — and because we are developing it in our own laboratories, with our own people, no one else can get their hands on it (despite trying!).
This is not only good for Dyson, but also for Britain. The intellectual property is owned here and all the profits will flow back to the United Kingdom where we pay more than 85 per cent of our global tax.
But last week, Dyson opened a new £150 million (RM750 million) motor manufacturing facility in Singapore. Why?
Savvy governments understand the need to support advances like our new motor and to create incentives for companies to develop them. They also value the highly skilled workforce able to develop them — 40 per cent of graduates are engineers, versus 2 per cent in Britain. They realise that the more successful the company, the more they export, bringing more revenue into the country and employing more people.
And the potential for discovery at the moment is enormous, particularly in the sphere of materials. There are significant gains to be made from materials such as carbon 60 and graphene, which was discovered in Manchester. This is 40 times stronger than steel and 1,000 times more conductive than silicon.
Thankfully, Britain is moving in the right direction and there is a renewed desire to develop technology on its shores.
Prime Minister David Cameron has increased the research and development tax credit — which supports companies that take risks and invest in developing ideas for the future — to 225 per cent. As a result, patent applications rose 29 per cent in 2011 and investors have reacted positively.
But Britain still has a shortage of engineers — it has a 60,000 engineering deficit. Who will develop the ideas?
Britain is not the only country that is creating incentives for invention — and companies such as ours are in global competition. Singapore understands this and rewards investment in research and development with a thumping 400 per cent tax credit. The country supports and values inventiveness and backs it up with an education system that encourages ingenuity — they have plenty of world-class engineers.
Bereft of natural resources, Singapore realises that human resources and ideas are its trump cards.
The result is a buoyant economy, with highly inventive companies such as Rolls-Royce knocking at its door.
Building a complex motor such as the one that Dyson is developing, with minute tolerances, requires the precision of a fully automated production line. The highly-skilled workforce, the tax incentives and the nearby supply chain make Singapore appealing for us.
We will make six million motors this year; increasing our production capacity by 100 per cent — a necessary jump to meet rising demand, particularly from Japan and America. We source the motor’s 22 components from across Asia, so it makes little sense to ship them to Britain, only to export the finished motors back again. So Singapore is the obvious place for production.
Britain’s focus should be on generating ideas and patenting them — that is the high-value part of the process and the one that will earn this country a competitive advantage. Britons must focus on being the best problem solvers in the world, developing technology and then exporting it.
And for this Britain needs high quality engineers, backed up by supportive government incentives. The country has the foundations in place — but continuing government support, both through the education system and tax system, is essential. — Today
* Sir James Dyson is the founder of Dyson, the technology company. This commentary first appeared in British daily The Times.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.