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Australian climber describes harrowing escape from Mount Kinabalu quake

Australian climber describes harrowing escape from Mount Kinabalu quake | Odds and Ends | Scoop.it
Australian climber Vee Jin Dumlao describes the harrowing journey down Malaysia's Mount Kinabalu, after an earthquake left her stranded.


Arriving at Laban Rata, Ms Dumlao saw uniformed rescuers milling around the "chaotic scene".

"They were looking rather lost really, and it was the mountain guides who did most of the work attending to the injured, strapping people into stretchers, getting ready to take them down the mountain," she said.

"The whole government emergency response was a farce."

"They congregated in groups occupying resting spaces, sharing smokes and food that were meant for survivors," she said.

"A convenient helipad remain unused when they could have transported rescuers to the foot of the peaks. Instead "rescuers" arrived at 4:00pm, nine hours after the earthquake struck, on foot, much too tired to be of help."

"If the helicopters had delivered some help earlier and landed in the helipad at Laban Rata, they may certainly have been able to attend to any injured people quite sooner," she said.

After seven hours trekking in the freezing dark, through treacherous rain and mountain-rattling tremors, the climbers reached the trek's starting point Timpohon. Upon their arrival at 12.30am, the site was strewn with medics, military and media.

All members of Ms Dumlao's group made it to the mountain's base safely.

"I cannot find evidence for me to respect the government who have all the conspicuous demonstration of responsibility but none of the true act of it," she said.

"It was quite appalling when the rescue services got credit for something they did not do at all."

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The Dollar Joins the Currency Wars

The Dollar Joins the Currency Wars | Odds and Ends | Scoop.it

The world would be better off if most governments pursued policies that boosted growth through domestic demand, rather than beggar-thy-neighbor export measures. But that would require them to rely less on monetary policy and more on appropriate fiscal policies (such as higher spending on productive infrastructure). Even income policies that lift wages, and hence labor income and consumption, are a better source of domestic growth than currency depreciations (which depress real wages).

The sum of all trade balances in the world is equal to zero, which means that not all countries can be net exporters – and that currency wars end up being zero-sum games. That is why America’s entry into the fray was only a matter of time.


Read more at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/dollar-joins-currency-wars-by-nouriel-roubini-2015-05#HAvU0T8i7ZOhcJEH.99
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 Fourteen Defining Characteristics Of Fascism

Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each: 

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What do doctors say to 'alternative therapists' when a patient dies? Nothing.

What do doctors say to 'alternative therapists' when a patient dies? Nothing. | Odds and Ends | Scoop.it
Jessica Ainscough’s tragic death is all too familiar for oncologists. We’ve all lost patients to the ‘secret powers’ of alternative therapy


Oncologists and alternative health practitioners move in different spheres though plenty of evidence suggests we end up looking after the same patients. When I discover (usually belatedly) that my patient endured the broken promise of an unproven cure, I feel dejected. The more expensive, extreme or exotic the treatment the messier seems the ending.

I have little expectation that someone who would sell false hope to a vulnerable patient would talk me through their reasons why. I once ran into a licensed doctor who oversaw $500 vitamin infusions for cancer patients. The moment when we discovered what the other did was awkward to say the least. My expression asked, “Why?” I saw him struggle with the answer before he said, “Because patients want it.” There was no common ground for a conversation ...

Does the natural therapist, coffee enema prescriber or wave therapy expert ever discuss patient care with an oncologist? Not in my experience... I occasionally receive requests for tests that the alternative provider can’t sign for. The last one was: “I need a scan to show which natural therapy will best penetrate the tumour.”

I politely declined.

But the point of many alternative therapies seems to be in their secret powers of healing. I know it’s often said but I honestly don’t consider arrogance a good explanation for why oncologists and alternative practitioners don’t talk. I would, however, say that dismay and distrust feature heavily. As does the troubling realisation that a doctor can face reprimand for inadvertent error but an alternative practitioner can get away with intentional harm.

It is conceivable that some worthwhile measures are tainted by the same brush as a lot of fraudulent ones.

Health literacy moves at a very slow pace. The alternative health industry, worth many billions of dollars, marches briskly. It will always attract unguarded patients who will cling to the faintest promise of recovery without associated harm. Whenever money changes hands and the premise sounds too good to be true, the motto remains: Caveat Emptor.

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Should cyclists follow all the traffic rules?

Should cyclists follow all the traffic rules? | Odds and Ends | Scoop.it

“Cyclists do have their own interpretation of traffic rules. But we are not pushing hard for obeying the rules, but for better and more bike paths and as far as helmets go for cyclist, we focus on the voluntary usage and not bringing in laws for that.” - German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Do what is safe. Follow the traffic rules as much as possible. But, do not follow the rules blindly and put yourself in a dangerous position. Here a few typical, but exceptional examples that bicycle users may “break the rules” for safety concern:

1) Riding on footpath – if the road is full of fast moving cars, it is potentially deadly for slow riders such as the uncles and aunties going to markets. In this case, I would be using the footpath instead. Anyone insist that cyclists must always be on the road I will challenge them to ride slowly along Lornie Road.

2) Not staying at the extreme left of the left most lane, but shifting to the centre of the lane – Before riding across a road junction, or approaching a slip road, it is often safer for the cyclist to shift his/her position from left of the lane towards the centre of the lane. This is for two purpose: a) signal to the driver behind that you want to go straight, not turning left. 2) prevent driver from last moment overtaking and cutting in front to turn left.

3) Move from left most lane to second or third lanes – before some junction with one or more left turning lanes, you need to position yourself out of the left turning lanes if you need to go straight.

4) Riding on the bus lane – it is actually legal to riding on Bus lane, but many drivers and cyclists are not aware of this and become confused. It should be possible to put a bicycle sign on Bus lane, and it will be more clear for every body that bicycle are supposed to be on the Bus Lanes.

5) Riding across zebra crossing or pedestrian crossing – again, there is no explicit law states that it is not allowed to cycle across a pedestrian crossing. But you need to do so in a safe manner, for your own safety and other pedestrian’s safety. Never rush across a crossing regardless you are cycling or running.

Angela Merkel clearly understand that it is not useful to force the traffic rules, which are primarily created to control motorists for the safety of others, onto the group of cyclists, which does not imposed the same level of risk to other users. Instead she put focus to improve the infrastructure such as bike paths so that everyone will be more safe regardless of the rules.

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Can Corruption Be Eradicated? - The New Yorker

Can Corruption Be Eradicated? - The New Yorker | Odds and Ends | Scoop.it

In October, 1951, a band of thieves hijacked a large shipment of opium in the port town of Punggol, in northeast Singapore. The Singapore of that era bore little resemblance to the one we know today: as a key entrepôt in the drug trade between India and China, the island was beset by crime and corruption. When British colonial authorities investigated the theft, they discovered that the culprits included several high-ranking members of Singapore’s police. In the aftermath of the scandal, the colonial administration created the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau.

New leaders often condemn the venality of their predecessors, only to exceed it when they assume office. From Duvalier, in Haiti, to Fujimori, in Peru, to Erdoğan, in Turkey, it’s a predictable twist in the drama of political transition.

Definitions of corruption tend to focus on the conflict of interest that arises when private imperatives intrude upon the public sphere. Robert Klitgaard, an economist who has done field work on corruption in dozens of countries, once posited a formula: Corruption = Monopoly Power + Discretion – Accountability. In Klitgaard’s reckoning, corruption is a crime of calculation. If that’s the case, shouldn’t the problem be susceptible to rational solutions?

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Ivy League’s meritocracy lie: How Harvard and Yale cook the books for the 1 percent

Ivy League’s meritocracy lie: How Harvard and Yale cook the books for the 1 percent | Odds and Ends | Scoop.it
"We are credentializing a new elite by legitimizing people with an inflated sense of their own merit"

 

Conant openly embraced the Jeffersonian ideal of a “natural aristocracy of talents and virtue” —a forerunner of the twentieth-century idea of the meritocracy. In 1934, Conant assigned two of his assistant freshman deans, Henry Chauncey and Wilbur J. Bender, the task of identifying high-performing middle-class and ethnic-immigrant students for the possible receipt of need-blind scholarships to the university. The two men offered up Brigham’s SAT as the optimal screen through which eligible candidates could be filtered. Conant accepted their recommendation, mandating that applicants take the test in order to be considered for scholarships.

A battle that had begun with idealistic rhetoric succumbed to a Trojan horse: the SAT and a budding testocracy confirmed the existing order as inevitable, because the tests demonstrated that the elite possessed unassailable merit. Harvard’s adoption of the SAT subsequently set a new gold standard in the world of education. Test-preparation companies, such as Kaplan and the Princeton Review, thrived as a result of the SAT’s rise, and “much of the curriculum in American elementary and secondary education [was] reverse-engineered to raise SAT scores” to ensure admission to top universities.

This leaves us in a particular quandary today, best described by Lucy Calkins, founding director of the Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University’s Teachers College. Referring to the most recently appointed president of the College Board, she asks, “The issue is: Are we in a place to let Dave Coleman control the entire K–12 curriculum?”

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Free To Choose Media - Free To Choose

...the idea of equality came to have a much more definite and specific meaning than the abstract concept of equality before God. It came more and more to mean that everyone should have the same opportunity to make what he could of his capacities; that all careers should be open to people on the basis of their talents, independently of the race, or religion, or belief, or social class that characterize them. This concept of equality of opportunity offers no conflict at all with the concept of freedom. On the contrary, they reinforce one another, and it is no doubt the concept that, even today, is the most widely held.

But in the 20th century, beginning especially abroad and, at a later date in this country, a very different concept, a very different ideal has begun to emerge. That is the ideal that everyone should be equal in income, in level of living, in what he has; the idea that the economic race should be so arranged that everybody ends at the finish line at the same time, rather than that everyone starts at the beginning line at the same time. This concept raises a very serious problem for freedom. It is clearly in conflict with it, since it requires that the freedom of some be restricted in order to provide greater benefits to others.

The society that puts equality before freedom will end up with neither. The society that puts freedom before equality will end up with a great measure of both...

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Value investing in Singapore stocks

Value investing in Singapore stocks | Odds and Ends | Scoop.it
Usually the buying price is at 12-18 earnings multiple ie it would take 12 to 18 years to earn back your cost. As you can imagine, it would not be easy to spot the great comics selling at a discount. You would have to be at the store every day, reading through all these comics and finding the real good ones which are undiscovered (think: reading a lot of annual reports and analysing a lot of stocks). And/or to wait patiently for some bargain sale some day and amazingly nobody is around.

Once in a while, the buyers disappear as they somehow collectively decided that nobody will read comics no more and you get the bargains. At other times, one or two comic become so superhot as to fetch prices that will take 100 years to earn back the cost (think Facebook, Alibaba). It's better to avoid the temptation to buy these hoping that you can flip and sell to a Greater Fool. Often, people find that they themselves are the Greatest Fools.

Most of the time though, the market is bloody efficient and very few outsized returns could be made. The Efficient Market Hypothesis works. While that is true, it doesn't mean that aspiring investors should just sit back and do nothing. For some, well, scouring for stocks year in year out really isn't their calling, then perhaps it would be better to buy the market (ie buy ETFs). And do other worthwhile things with our lives before we become food for worms.
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Fluoride in Water Linked to Autism, ADHD and Dyslexia - Flourish Compounding Pharmacy & Natural Wellness Center

Fluoride in Water Linked to Autism, ADHD and Dyslexia - Flourish Compounding Pharmacy & Natural Wellness Center | Odds and Ends | Scoop.it
Fluoride and other toxins are linked to Autism, ASD, ADHD, dyslexia and other brain impairments


In 2006 medical researchers from the University of Southern Denmark, Harvard School of Public Health, and the School of Medicine at Mount Sinai found five chemicals damaged the brain: lead, methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls, arsenic and toluene.

The researchers state since 2006, medical studies have documented six additional brain damaging toxins: manganese, fluoride, chlorpyrifos, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, tetrachloroethylene, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers.

They expect more brain damaging toxins to be discovered...

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I have failed as Malays know no shame, says Dr M

I have failed as Malays know no shame, says Dr M | Odds and Ends | Scoop.it

Another failing among the Malays, he said, was the lack of honesty and integrity, and their failure to handle money properly.

"Unfortunately, time and time again, honesty and integrity appear to be lacking as there have been staff who keep stealing.

"They do not seem to understand that it is wrong to take what is not theirs, they do not think of the big picture or the long term."

He said he had hoped to change the Malay mindset by introducing the Look East Policy in 1982 because he had high regard for the attitude and determination of the Japanese, to whom failure was “unacceptable”.

"Despite the massive setbacks they had suffered, the Japanese refused to yield. They were determined to rebuild their country (after World War II).

Dr Mahathir also reminded Malays to repay their debts so that they would not be looked upon poorly.

"Unpaid debts not only affects us as individuals, but as a race as well. We do not want other people to look at us and assume we are bad paymasters.

"If we fail, we should not blame anyone but ourselves. We have failed because we did not do what was right."

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Newstead Technologies Opens Largest Digital Style At Suntec City Mall

Newstead Technologies Opens Largest Digital Style At Suntec City Mall | Odds and Ends | Scoop.it

Newstead Technologies recently opened the largest Digital Style at the newly renovated Suntec City Mall. The 9044 square feet Digital Style Suntec City is fully decked out with the latest trending gadgets technology can offer. It is designed for customers to get hands-on with gadgets by allowing them to plug-and-play, mix-and-match products.

Digital Style Suntec City boasts Newstead Technologies’ first ever Store-in-Store concept in the market...in dedicated spaces of approximately 353 square feet each. The six brands are ASUS, Samsung, Lenovo, Acer, Dell and HP.

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The Chinese emperor who burned books

The Chinese emperor who burned books | Odds and Ends | Scoop.it

"We wouldn't have a China without Qin Shi Huang," says Harvard University's Peter Bol. "I think it's that simple."

The Qin was really the first state to really go into total mobilisation for war”

China at the time was a land of many states.

Before Qin, China's multiple states were diverging, rather than converging, says Bol.

"They have different calendars, their writing was starting to vary… the road widths were different, so the axle width is different in different places."

He was king of the small state of Qin by the age of 13, and started as he meant to go on - removing one possible threat to his throne by having his mother's lover executed, along with his entire clan.

A hundred years later the famous historian Sima Qian said of the young king:

"With his puffed-out chest like a hawk and voice of a jackal, Qin is a man of scant mercy who has the heart of a wolf. When he is in difficulty he readily humbles himself before others, but when he has got his way, then he thinks nothing of eating others alive.

"If the Qin should ever get his way with the world, then the whole world will end up his prisoner."

Qin Shi Huang built a formidable fighting machine. His army is easy to imagine because he left us the famous terracotta warriors in Xian.

"The Qin was really the first state to really go into total mobilisation for war," says Peter Bol.

"It really saw the work of its population being fighting and soldiering to win wars and expand."

One by one, Qin Shi Huang defeated neighbouring states, swallowed their territory into his growing empire and enslaved and castrated their citizens.

"Every time he captured people from another country, he castrated them in order to mark them and made them into slaves," says Hong Kong University's Xun Zhou.

"From Mongolia down to Hong Kong, and from the sea right the way across to Sichuan - it's an enormous territory," says Frances Wood, curator of the Chinese collection at the British Library.

"It's the equivalent of the whole Roman Empire added together, if you like. And you've got one man ruling all of it."

Peter Bol credits Qin Shi Huang not only with creating China, but with establishing the world's first truly centralised bureaucratic empire.

"He set out to unify the procedures and customs and policies of all the states," says Bol.

"Writing is reunified. And the fact that Chinese writing remains unified after this point has everything to do with Qin Shi Huang. The axle widths are now all the same, so all the roads may now be passable.

"He also goes around to famous mountains, where they erect steles, stone monuments, which say that the Emperor's realm is now totally unified.

"His idea was that every area should have an able administrator, who was armed with rule books and who would look after the people. The people all knew what the rules were," says Wood.

"He collected taxes, he administered justice and he had trained bureaucrats all over China. I think that's an extraordinary achievement."

Despite this, it is the stories of his bloodletting that historian Xun Zhou grew up with.

"He got rid of anybody who showed opposition or didn't agree with him. He was paranoid. He was constantly in fear of how he could control this vast new territory with so many cultures and so many different groups of people," she says.

And he feared the inkbrush as much as the sword.

"The scholars were talking behind his back," says Xun Zhou. "And of course being a paranoid person, he didn't like that. So he ordered the arrest of over 400 scholars and buried them."

"The past is irrelevant. History is irrelevant. And so you have the burning of books, you have the burying of scholars, of scholarly critics."

Bol sees parallels with today's China. Like Qin Shi Huang, the Communist Party tolerates debate about tactics - but not about the general direction of travel, he says.

"They argue that it is the only possible approach to governing China."

Historian Xun Zhou agrees. "In Communist China, we adopted the imperial model. The emperor is absolute. And the only way to rule such a vast empire is ruthlessness," she says.

In fact in 1958, Mao himself made the connection between himself and Qin Shi Huang.

"He buried 460 scholars alive - we have buried 46,000 scholars alive," he said in a speech to party cadres. "You [intellectuals] revile us for being Qin Shi Huangs. You are wrong. We have surpassed Qin Shi Huang a hundredfold."

Both Qin Shi Huang and Mao live on powerfully in China's imagination, but China is bigger than its emperors.

When Qin Shi Huang died, his dynasty lasted only months. It was the idea of China which survived. And when Mao died, his successors said the radiance of his thought would live forever.

But the Mao suits are gone and despite the crowds at his mausoleum, Maoism is barely mentioned today.

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Complex societies evolved without belief in all-powerful deity

Complex societies evolved without belief in all-powerful deity | Odds and Ends | Scoop.it
Emergence of politically sophisticated societies may be assisted by faith in supernatural spirits, but does not need "big God" religion.


All human societies have been shaped by religion... According to one recent view, for example, belief in a "big God" — an all-powerful, punitive deity who sits in moral judgement on our actions — has been instrumental in bringing about social and political complexity in human cultures.

But a new analysis of religious systems in Austronesia challenges that theory... In these states, a more general belief in supernatural punishment did tend to precede political complexity, the research finds, but belief in supreme deities emerged after complex cultures have already formed... “I think the ordering of events these authors prefer is what one expects from first principles,” says evolutionary biologist Mark Pagel of the University of Reading, UK. He says that societies became more politically complex as networks of trade and reputation emerged, and that the key to this process was language, not religion. So what are moralizing high gods (MHGs) for? “They are tools of control used by purveyors of religion to cement their grip on power,” says Pagel. “As soon as you have a large society generating lots of goods and services, this wealth can be put to use by someone who can grab the reins of power. The most immediate way to do this is to align yourself with a supreme deity and then make lists of things people can and cannot do, and these become ‘morals’ when applied to our social behaviour.” Anthropologist Hervey Peoples at the University of Cambridge, UK, says that there is good evidence that, even if MHGs do not drive political and social complexity, they can affect and stabilize it. “This study is impressive and innovative, but may be hard to generalize,” she adds."

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Piracy on the Internet is Cloudy

Piracy on the Internet is Cloudy | Odds and Ends | Scoop.it
In light of the current Dallas Buyers Club LLC's action against netizens here and other parts of the world, I thought for a few moments about the possible explanations innocent people could come up...


The case that Samuel Seow Law Corporation has, in representing the owners of Dallas Buyers Club, is that an IP address was (I’m assuming) involved in a BitTorrent sharing of the infringing material, and that this IP address according to ISP records was used by a certain subscriber. You could not reasonably infer that the subscriber was responsible for the infringing activity, unless of course, and this I’m not aware is the case, the laws of Singapore makes it so.

There are so many easy excuses to deflect the accusation.

My dog stepped on the keyboard, he probably started the download.
There was a trojan in my PC, it has been doing all sorts of weird things without my knowledge.
Etc.

In the online world, you are led to believe that clicking on a movie download, like that of Dallas Buyers Club, amounts to copyright infringement. I want to ask, why?

There are so many clickable links on the Internet. There are links to go to webpages, there are links to go to YouTube videos, and there are links to BitTorrent downloads. Is it my duty to ascertain the right to view a link before clicking on the link? But wait a minute, shouldn’t I have to click the link first to view the content, to then figure out if indeed I had the right to view the content?

Can I put up a webpage on the Internet, and then on the webpage, put a message to say it is illegal for you to read the contents? (And on the web server, I log your IP address to start the ball rolling on sending out some threatening legal letters.)

Now, one possible argument is that the owners of Dallas Buyers Club did not give you a link to download the movie. You discovered the link on the 3rd party site which had no right to do so. Then, go after that 3rd party site?

The clicking on web links, in the physical world, is akin to walking down the street and coming across some intellectual property. If you walk past a magazine shop, perhaps you may browse or buy a magazine. You assume that it is legal for you to browse and/or buy the magazine, shady shop notwithstanding. Had it turned out that the shop was really selling illegal magazine copies, it seems the copyright owner should go after the shop, not their customers?

I think, whenever end-users are concerned, it’s usually not the case that they are hunted down because of webpage visits or YouTube video consumption. It often seems to be related to file-sharing protocols, like BitTorrent.

Can BitTorrent be presumed to be used for illegitimate activities? I.e. could a copyright owner say that, hey, since you use BitTorrent, surely you are up to no good? No. BitTorrent can be used for many legitimate purposes. I’ve downloaded my copy of CentOS (the community version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux) via BitTorrent. Saying BitTorrent is bad is like saying guns are bad.

A BitTorrent link is still a link. It’s like any other clickable link from a webpage.

It seems the owners of Dallas Buyers Club has had some success in U.S. courts... and perhaps in those instances, they did have more convincing evidence of the intellectual property theft taking place. I’m eager, as I’m sure many other people will be, to see how this will play out in Singapore.

If you are a victim, check out The Speculative Invoicing Handbook. (More importantly, seek legal advice.)

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Homeowners hit as Sibor rises to highest in seven years

Homeowners hit as Sibor rises to highest in seven years | Odds and Ends | Scoop.it
SINGAPORE — Homeowners servicing mortgages will need to tighten their purse strings further: The three-month Singapore interbank offered rate (Sibor) yesterday charged past 0.9 per cent — a level not seen since 2008 — amid widespread expectations that the United States Federal Reserve will raise benchmark borrowing costs by mid-year.


The local interest rate, widely used to price home loans here, closed at 0.87943 per cent yesterday (March 11)

Sibor’s climb followed the weakening of the Singapore dollar against the greenback in January, but took on added momentum after a very strong February job market in the US raised the likelihood that the Fed will normalise interest rates come June.

“The rise in Sibor has a lot to do with what we saw last Friday in the US, which caused the US dollar to move to a level we have not seen in a while. For a short time it touched S$1.39 ...” said UOB economist Francis Tan.

“I think there is rising expectations for the exchange rate to depreciate, not necessarily against the US dollar but also against the basket of currencies that the Singapore dollar is weighed against… That will put some upward pressure on interest rates,” said Credit Suisse economist Michael Wan.

UOB’s Mr Tan said another easing by the central bank could push the US dollar to S$1.44, which will see the three-month Sibor ending the year at around 1.3 per cent...

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This Billionaire Governor Taxed the Rich and Increased the Minimum Wage -- Now, His State's Economy Is One of the Best in the Country

This Billionaire Governor Taxed the Rich and Increased the Minimum Wage -- Now, His State's Economy Is One of the Best in the Country | Odds and Ends | Scoop.it
The next time your right-wing family member or former high school classmate posts a status update or tweet about how taxing the rich or increasing workers' wages kills jobs and makes businesses leave the state, I want you to send them this article....
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Of Butterfly Lovers and Bad Puns

Of Butterfly Lovers and Bad Puns | Odds and Ends | Scoop.it

In attempting to answer these questions, not only did Minister Khaw crack some bad puns and share folk tales, he also was irresponsible as he did not expressly admit to what is clearly a mistake by the Government.

As Mr Baey Yam Keng pointed out in his pertinent supplementary question, “When the agency assessed the bid and the tender, didn’t information about the parentage of the bidder, and the fact that it was incorporated only recently in Singapore, arouse some suspicion or checks?”

However, what disappoints me even more was how Mr Khaw did not heed the advice of his colleague and “come clean and say so.”

When one takes a step back and watch events unfold in our socio-political sphere, it would be close to impossible not to notice a sense of hypocrisy with regards to the standards the PAP holds to those who oppose it and the standards it holds itself to. They won’t ever admit it any-time soon, but they too are politicking as much as, or even more, than those whom they accuse of politicking. This incident is a small but nonetheless potent manifestation of the hypocrisy of the powers that be.

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Anthony Bourdain Boosts Xi’an Famous Foods

Anthony Bourdain Boosts Xi’an Famous Foods | Odds and Ends | Scoop.it
After an unexpected visit from Anthony Bourdain seven years ago, Jason Wang transformed his father’s mall court eatery in Flushing, Queens, into a citywide food phenomenon.


David Shi, convinced that non-native palates wouldn’t go for his hometown cuisine, first franchised a bubble-tea shop in 2005. “It wasn’t too successful,” says Wang, “so he tried different things to make some extra money, and started selling noodles and burgers on the side.” Soon, visitors from all over the city were forming long lines for his cold-skinned noodles, a dish that takes over two days to make, and Shi stopped selling tea.

“It’s a rare and remarkable thing to recognize what’s great about your personal culture and project that forward,” says Bourdain. “Any great entrepreneur tells you what you want before you know you want it,” he adds, comparing Wang to chefs like David Chang and Mario Batali , who, respectively, brought ramen and ravioli stuffed with brains into the American food consciousness.

Bourdain says “People value the experience and are willing to wait three hours for good noodles; Jason knows this.”

So does Bourdain. Even while shooting two television shows per year—CNN’s Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown and The Taste, on ABC—he has been quietly courting Wang to be a featured vendor at a new dining experience he plans to bring to New York City this year. Named Bourdain Market, it will be based on the popular open-market hawker centers in Singapore, which carry a wide variety of inexpensive food in a communal dining hall. “It will be fast and accessible foods, with hundreds of options. You can have roast goose; I can have beef rendang.” With that, a bowl of spicy lamb noodles emerges. Bourdain rubs his hands together. “Oh, this is going to be good.”

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A House Is Not a Credit Card

A House Is Not a Credit Card | Odds and Ends | Scoop.it
Mortgages should be used to buy homes, not for refinancing.


THIS autumn, federal regulators made a controversial decision to back down from tough new underwriting standards for mortgages. Some affordable-housing advocates, allied with parts of the corporate housing industry, had successfully argued that the proposed standards would make it too hard for people to qualify, thereby reducing home ownership and hurting the housing market. Last summer, that same trump card stopped a bipartisan Bill to reform the mortgage market, more than six years after Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had to be taken over by the government.

All of this ignores a crucial fact: Much, and at times most, of what happens in the mortgage market doesn't have anything to do with home ownership. A sizeable percentage of mortgages - including most of the risky ones that were made in the run-up to the financial crisis - are not used to buy a home. They are used to refinance an existing mortgage. When home prices are rising and mortgage rates are falling, many home owners choose to replace their mortgage with a bigger one, taking the difference in cash. In other words, mortgages are a way to provide credit.

One of the most abjectly false narratives about the financial crisis is that risky mortgages proliferated so that people who couldn't afford homes could nonetheless buy them. Modern subprime lending was not about home ownership. Instead, the 1990s crop of subprime mortgage makers allowed people with bad credit to borrow against the equity in their existing homes.

According to the financial statements of New Century, the huge lender whose bankruptcy in early 2007 helped kick off the financial crisis, cash-out refinancings were 64.2 per cent and 59.5 per cent of its business in 2003 and 2004; home purchase loans made up only 25 per cent to 35 per cent for the two years.

A New Century executive told Congress its customers needed to "tap into their home equity to meet other financial needs, such as paying off higher-interest consumer debt, purchasing a car, paying for educational or medical expenses and a host of other personal reasons". I'll always remember seeing a bank ad blowing in the windy, bleak Chicago winter of 2009. "Let your home take you on vacation," it read.

According to Mr Jason Thomas, now director of research at Carlyle Group, only about a third of subprime mortgages that were turned into mortgage-backed securities between 2000 and 2007 were used to buy homes.

If we want homes to be a vehicle for saving and building wealth, as they used to be, why are we instead encouraging people to increase their indebtedness? Even worse, we now know that too much credit results in people who once owned their homes losing them. It creates homelessness, not home ownership.

The problem, of course, is that the conflation of home ownership and consumer credit is so convenient for the powers that be. It allows members of Congress, many of whom depend on the financial industry for campaign contributions, to pretend that something that's bad for us is actually a good thing for which we should be grateful.

In Washington, there's been scarce public discussion of this. But if we're going to put government resources behind home ownership, and engage in practices that threaten the safety of the financial system in the name of home ownership, shouldn't we at least talk about the fact that we're actually encouraging the opposite?

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Where does Good Customer Service End and Where Does Abuse Begin?

Service providers work on the principle that success is whatever makes the client happy without getting ourselves into legal entanglements. Hence, in every agency, the key operating procedure is to get “client approval.” Every action you perform as a member of a service provider has to be blessed by the client.

Advertising and PR professionals (particularly the independent ones) are one of the worst at balancing the need to keep the client happy and demonstrating their expertise. I’ve been in too many situations where we, as the service provider have been so keen to make the client happy, we’re practically taking dictation from them.

The problem here is that when things go wrong, the client will blame – you.

What does one do? I remember telling someone that at the end of the day, you got to respect the client’s decision because it’s their money and their business that your business services. However, you need to place on record that you “advised” them.

I want people to respect my professional opinion and I have to ensure that I have professional knowledge. In the case of the PR work, I write for the press so that I know what the press will buy. In the restaurant work, I eat at the restaurant so that I know what’s good. Somehow, I get it right for the customer more often than not.

The other flip side to getting people to respect you is having the ability to say “no.” Saying “no” can upset the proverbial paymaster, but sooner or later, people find a way of respecting your opinions... As long as people see you are trying to look out for them.

I think of PN Balji who used to tell me, “We are NOT prostitutes.” A prostitute has do whatever the client wants. All prostitutes will tell you that you are the world’s best lover because this is what you want to hear. Other professions depend on the “respect” that people give it. Respect, is often in doing the right thing or at least not doing everything ....

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Understanding Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution


...it seems to me that the two movements share one thing in common: they both firmly belong to another sub-tradition of Chinese republicanism, the “Roman sub-tradition,” in which the central concept is that being free means to be a citizen in a republic as opposed to being dominated in a non-republic, whose paradigm is a slave. Here I’ll just give two pieces of anecdotal evidence. The first is a line from a poem posted in Beijing University in 1989:

“A slave with a full belly is still a slave.”

The second is a quote from Joshua Wong, the 17-year old high school student, a leader of Hong Kong Umbrella Revolution, in the New York Times article about him:

“When I heard the national anthem starting to play, I certainly did not feel moved so much as angry. When it tells you, ‘Arise! All those who refuse to be slaves!’ — why is our treatment today any different from the slaves?”

I think most of the students do not know much about the history of the terms they are using such as “slave” and “freedom”. Joshua Wong might not have been aware that the national anthem was inspired by a similar republicanist ideal of liberty (emphasizing the idea of a “free people” or a “free nation”). Around the turn of the twentieth century, republicanism took China by storm;

They are slaves when they are subjects in a tyranny or despotic country (zhuan zhi). Similarly, a nation is not free when it is dominated by other nations. This marked the beginning of the Roman tradition of Chinese republican tradition.

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President of Uruguay Fires Back At U.N.

President of Uruguay Fires Back At U.N. | Odds and Ends | Scoop.it
Uruguay is pioneering positive change for their people, and saving future generations from oppression under the war on drugs, by legalizing cannabis.


In a response to the rise in drug trafficking and illegal drug trade over the past several years, Uruguay has become the first country to allow for a decriminalized, government-controlled marijuana market, making it the first to fully legalize both the sale and production of marijuana. The state itself won’t do the actual growing, companies will be able to get a license to cultivate if they meet certain criteria. Aside from physical growing, the government will control the entire chain of the sale of cannabis, and determine the price, quality, and maximum production volume. Right now it seems each household may have up to six plants for their own consumption. Adult residents in Uruguay will be able to buy a monthly maximum of forty grams from the pharmacy.

One of the men behind the drug legislation effort is Julio Calzada...Calzada insists that by having government take control of the market by offering low prices and guaranteed quality, criminal organizations will lose the majority of their income. “Research shows that consumers prefer the legal market to the black market if they have a choice. The quality is better and it’s safer, because they no longer have to deal with criminals.”

It is estimated that the legalization will generate roughly $8-12 million in tax revenue.

Although many are ecstatic over the decriminalization for smoking or growing a natural substance-not everyone is jumping for joy. The nation’s leader has been criticized by the United Nations for not running the idea of decriminalization through with the United Nations [UN] officials beforehand. Which [the Uruguayan president humorously pointed out] is a stipulation which the U.S. never had to follow with their Colorado and Washington decriminalization efforts.

The President of Uruguay earned himself the nickname , “el presidente mas pobre,” which translates to “poorest president.” He donates almost the entire amount of his presidential salary: receiving $12,500 a month but keeping only $1,250. He insists that he leaves himself enough to live on:

“I do fine with that amount; I have to do fine because there are many Uruguayans who live with much less.”

Jin Go's insight:

In Singapore they still hang you if you are caught with enough cannabis. And our President believes he's deserving of his highest pay in the world.

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It's a deep dark secret but I'll tell all

It's a deep dark secret but I'll tell all | Odds and Ends | Scoop.it

I have to say something about our sincerity. Many non-Christians think Christians are insincere when we try to get someone to join our faith. But that's not true. The volunteers who are so eager in converting the boys to the Christian faith are extremely sincere. They don't stand to benefit at all from all this. Their sole motivation is the love they have for the children and the belief that all these boys are heading for destruction if they don't accept Jesus as their Lord. As a very important person in that school told me when I attended the prayer sessions for fathers, he considers it his primary duty to bring the good news of Jesus to everyone in the school. Not just the pupils but also the teachers and staff. During the prayer sessions, special attention was always given to the Mother Tongue Language teachers because, as I was told, this group of teachers was the most resistant when it came to accepting the Christian faith.

If you believe with all your heart that everyone is going to be tortured for all eternity and they can escape the torture by merely accepting Jesus as their Lord, wouldn't you do all you can to try to get everyone to accept Jesus? That's precisely what all these Christians are doing. It's wrong to say they are insincere. They genuinely want to save people from the hellfire they truly believe in. They really mean well.

Martyrdom has earned a bad reputation with the recent cases of Muslim terrorists blowing themselves up together with innocent people. But the idea of martyrdom in the Christian sense is different. Martyrs suffer for their faith by not renouncing Jesus even in the face of adversity and death. Martyrs spread the good news of Jesus to non-believers even when they have to risk bodily harm and death in doing so. In Christianity, martyrdom does not mean the killing or hurting of others. You don't even hurt a fly. The martyr is the only one who gets killed for his faith. He just dies for refusing to renounce Jesus or refusing to worship other gods or insisting on leading others to Jesus even if it's against the law. Yes, even if there is a law that you should not do that and it's punishable with death, a good Christian should be willing to preach his religion against the law and if he's caught and killed, he dies a martyr.

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Up and coming district – Jalan Besar

Up and coming district – Jalan Besar | Odds and Ends | Scoop.it

...more are turning to the city fringe areas such as Marine Parade, Kampong Glam and Novena. Now, the Jalan Besar and King George’s Avenue districts could also be attracting buyers.

Though the private homes market in the area has softened in the past year, its proximity and increasing popularity with the young has renewed interest from investors. One completed condominium apartment block in its vicinity is the City Square Residences, which during its launch drew huge crowds looking to purchase smaller units for rental purposes. Other private residential properties include Parc Somme and Kerrisdale.

Buyers waiting for new options can keep an eye out for private residential properties such as The Citron Residences on Marne road. Property experts are positive about the potential rental yields of smaller apartment units in the area as the district continues to bring in a variety of new businesses. Currently rents for smaller apartments in the area go for as much as 4 per cent more.

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