Kuala Lumpur, Dec 31 (UNB) -Dr Mahathir Mohamad has been picked as Muslim Man of the Year by The Muslim 500, a ranking of the world’s 500 most influential Muslims, reports New Straits Times.
In the 2019 edition of the publication, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, Dr Mahathir is lauded for leading Pakatan Harapan to win the 14th general election, before being appointed as Prime Minister for the second time.
Dr Mahathir is described as a “one in a million” who pushed Malaysia towards becoming an East Asian economic leader during the era of his previous rule.
Despite being named Muslim Man of the Year, Dr Mahathir ranked 44 among 500 Muslim luminaries in his first ever appearance in the publication.
"This quite extraordinary man has had a dynamic political career spanning 70 years and yet at the same time been the author of 17 published books. Aside from two memoirs, all of them are direct narratives responding to the immediate problems confronting Malaysian governance and economy, a concern often extended to Asia as a whole and the global economy and his plans for rectifying those problems.
"Not bad for a 93 year old politician with a history of two heart attacks and one bypass surgery," said Prof S Abdallah Schleifer in his writeup in the online publication.
Also on the list are King Abdullah II of Jordan, Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Meanwhile, for the most influential Muslim women, the Woman of the Year Muslim title was given to Ahed Tamimi, 17, a Palestinian teenager known for her courage in slapping Israeli troops in December 2017.
The 500 Most Influential Muslims is an annual publication published in 2009, which recognizes the most influential Muslim individuals in the world.
Nominations are evaluated on the basis of the influence that particular Muslims have had within the Muslim community and the manner in which their influence has benefited the Muslim community, both within the Islamic world and in terms of representing Islam to non-Muslims.
"Influential" for the purposes of the book is defined as "any person who has the power (be it cultural, ideological, financial, political or otherwise) to make a change that will have a significant impact on the Muslim World".
It is compiled by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre based in Amman, Jordan.
Washington, Dec 31 (AP/UNB) — The former top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said Sunday that withdrawing up to half the 14,000 American troops serving there would reduce the incentive for the Taliban to negotiate a peace deal after more than 17 years of war.
Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal said the U.S. has "basically traded away the biggest leverage point we have." McChrystal's comments were in response to reports that President Donald Trump had ordered the Pentagon to develop plans to withdraw thousands of American troops by next summer. Outgoing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis mentioned the order in his resignation letter. Mattis' last day in the administration is Monday.
The U.S. and NATO formally concluded their combat mission in 2014, but American and allied troops remain, conducting strikes on the Islamic State group and the Taliban and working to train and build the Afghan military.
"If you tell the Taliban that we are absolutely leaving on date certain, cutting down, weakening ourselves, their incentives to try to cut a deal drop dramatically," McChrystal said on ABC's "This Week."
McChrystal also said he's worried that the Afghan people will lose confidence in the U.S. as an ally that can be counted on.
"I think we probably rocked them," said McChrystal, who commanded U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan for about a year.
He also was critical of President Donald Trump personally, saying he doesn't believe Trump tells the truth. The comment came when asked what he would say if he were asked to join the Trump administration.
"I think it's important for me to work for people who I think are basically honest, who tell the truth as best they know it," he said.
When asked if Trump is immoral, McChrystal responded: "I think he is."
It's not the first time he's criticized a sitting president. President Barack Obama accepted McChrystal's resignation in June 2010 after he made scathing remarks in a magazine article about administration officials, including about Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
Manila, Dec 31 (Xinhua/UNB) -- The death toll from landslides and flooding triggered by heavy rains in the Philippines has risen to 61, the government said on Monday.
The deaths were mostly due to landslides and drowning in the Bicol region and Eastern Visayas in the northern and central Philippines, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) in its latest report.
Fifty of the deaths were reported from the Bicol region while 11 from the Eastern Visayas region.
The agency's report also indicated there are still 18 people missing in both regions.
The NDRRMC said its offices in the affected regions "are still on alert and are continuously monitoring the on-going response in the affected areas."
Moreover, the agency said that rescuers from the military, the police and other government agencies are now conducting search, rescue and retrieval operations in areas in the northern and central Philippines.
More than 79,000 people from 150 areas in the Philippines have been affected by landslides and widespread flooding, according to the disaster agency.
Aside from strong winds and heavy rains, areas ravaged by the tropical depression experienced power outages. Several houses are buried in landslides and roads sections were impassable due to severe flooding.
The agency floated the possibility that the death toll could increase as retrieval operations continue.
The Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development has provided the evacuees with family food packs and other relief goods. The agency also has standby emergency-relief funds worth around 212 million pesos (nearly 4 million U.S. dollars).
The country's national weather bureau earlier warned heavy rains may pour over the northern and central Philippines brought on by the tropical depression, which has already weakened into a low-pressure area after making landfall in Eastern Samar in the central Philippines on Saturday.
Although the low-pressure area already left the Philippines on Sunday, the national weather bureau warned that more rain is expected in the coming days.
Beijing, Dec 31 (Xinhua/UNB) -- A total of 2,826 people died as a result of infectious diseases in China in November, according to statistics released by the National Health Commission.
There were 636,722 cases of infectious diseases reported last month.
One case of cholera was reported in November and no cases of plague were reported. No fatalities caused by these diseases have been reported, the commission said.
Cholera and plague are classified as Class A infectious diseases, the most serious classification in China's Law on the Prevention and Treatment of Infectious Diseases.
A total of 303,714 infections of diseases classified as Class B infectious diseases were reported, resulting in 2,819 deaths in November. Viral hepatitis, tuberculosis, syphilis, gonorrhea and scarlet fever accounted for 93 percent of these cases.
Class C diseases caused seven deaths in November. Foot and mouth disease, infectious diarrhea and influenza were the most prevalent in this category, accounting for 92 percent of cases.
Pyongyang, Dec 31 (AP/UNB) — The 105-story Ryugyong Hotel has long been a blot on the Pyongyang skyline. The world's tallest unoccupied building has towered over North Korea's capital since 1987, a grand but empty pyramid entirely dark except for the lone aircraft warning light at its top.
Outsiders saw the unfinished building as the epitome of failure, while people inside the country took care to rarely mention it at all.
That is, until light designer Kim Yong Il made the building once again the talk of the town.
In a brilliant flip of the script, the Ryugyong has been reborn as a symbol of pride and North Korean ingenuity.
For several hours each night, the building that doesn't have electricity inside becomes the backdrop of a massive light show in which more than 100,000 LEDs flash images of famous statues and monuments, bursts of fireworks, party symbols and political slogans.
The Ryugyong is still unfinished. There's no public date when, or if, it will host its elusive first guest. Questions remain over whether the glass-and-concrete hotel is structurally sound. And North Korea's electricity supply is limited as-is.
But never mind all that.
"I feel really proud," Kim, the vice department director of the Korean Light Decoration Center, told The Associated Press in a recent interview at the foot of the hotel. "I made this magnificent design for this gigantic building and when people see it, it makes them feel good. It makes me proud to work as a designer."
The display was first lit in April to mark the birthday of the country's "eternal president," Kim Il Sung.
Designer Kim said the preparations took about five months. He was in charge of the designing and programming the light display, which took him two months. Another specialist was responsible for the physical setup and electrical wiring.
Giant LED displays has been used around the world for many years — and on an even bigger building. Japanese designer Yusuke Murakami and a London-based company collaborated in 2016 on an LED animation on Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the world's largest tower.
The 330-meter (1,083-feet) Ryugyong tower has three distinct sides. The main show is displayed on the front, while simpler designs light up the other two. For a conical section at the very top, Kim created the image of the red, white and blue North Korean flag waving in the wind. It is 40 meters tall and visible from any direction.
The four-minute main program begins with an animation showing the history of the nation, followed by homages to ideals like self-reliance and revolutionary spirit and a procession of 17 political slogans such as "single-minded unity," ''harmonious whole" and "100 battles, 100 victories."
The lights are connected to a computerized controlling system about the size of a household DVD player.
"The whole program can be stored on an SD card and put into the controller," Kim said. "We can do the diagnostics on a laptop."
The Ryugyong is a big part of the legacy of second-generation leader Kim Jong Il, current leader Kim Jong Un's late father.
He ordered it built as part Pyongyang's preparations for the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students, which it hosted in 1989 as a kind of counterpoint to the 1988 Seoul Olympics. The Ryugyong was supposed to be the world's tallest hotel, surpassing another in Singapore that was built by a South Korean company, but the building fell by the wayside as North Korea experienced a severe economic crash and famines in the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union.
It languished in limbo until Egypt's Orascom Group, which established the North's cellphone system, helped fund the completion of its glassy exterior in 2011.
Like his father, Kim Jong Un has a penchant for ambitious building projects, including 82- and 70-story residences in the capital's "Ryomyong," or "dawn," district that opened last year and a massive science and technology complex with a main building shaped like a giant atom.
"The goal of setting up this light screen is to give confidence and hope for the future to our people," Kim, the designer, said as he watched people walking by in the light of his massive display. "The response has been great. The national flag at the top of the building is hundreds of meters high and everyone can see it. It fills them with pride and confidence in being a citizen, willing to work very hard."
He declined to guess when the hotel itself might open.
"That's not my field," he laughed.
But he said there's no plan to turn off the Ryugyong light show, though updates could be in the works.
"We could change the content," he said. "The demands and aspirations of the people and the times change, so we can change the program to reflect that."