Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Is paper qualification important in today's society?


We are taught that with good qualification in master or degree, we can land into better job positions and better salary than our parents' generation. However, this trend doesn't reflect in the current economy. More and more fresh college and university students are graduating each year. Thus, they are facing a very competitive market with limited and low job prospects offered in the market. What's more, some of them have to take up the jobs which have nothing to do with their qualification in order to support themselves and settle their college debts (student loans). 

In the past few months, we saw a lot of protests and riots occurred in Turkey, Egypt, Spain and London, UK due to the problem of high unemployment rate in their countries. According to the recent report, the unemployment rate in Turkey was 9.4%, Egypt (11.9%), Spain (20.9%) and UK (7.9%) as well as imposing higher tuition fees in the universities in the UK. Apart from that, the locals also protest and demand their government to tackle the problems of higher cost of living and food pricing in their countries. In the United States, the current unemployment rate was reported at 9.1%.

Is college and university a good personal investment for your future? Can the paper qualification guarantee you the job security once you graduate from college and university? Here are some of the video clips which reflect on the fresh graduates in the United States, UK, China, Australia and Jordan who are facing dilemma without jobs or being underpaid because there are too many white collar graduates when there is a limited / less jobs opportunity in the market during the recession. I believe, there are many other countries facing similar problems. When there are too many white collar graduates in the market, the employers become more demanding when they are looking for candidates.

Questions:
1) With the paper qualification, can you be able to find better salary and good job position when you graduate?
2) Can you able to pay back the college/university investment (either on your tuition debts or parents' sponsorship) after working for 10 years?
3) Is the paper qualification really valuable these days compared to our parents' generation?





In the United States, nearly every fresh graduate student carries his/her college debt (student loans) from US$70,000 and above before landing into workforce. With a solid college education, some may end up with jobless for a longer period and some of them decide to take up any jobs such as janitor, sales consultant at retail outlets, sales & marketing or parking attendant without concerning about their qualifications.

(Updated from MSNBC dated Sept 16th 2011): Is College worth it? Grads face brutal job market, huge debts in the United States:















(updated) Graduate from Information Technology (IT) struggle to find employment despite leaving university with the skills necessary but without the experience employers in this area require in the UK. Currently, it is reported 1 out of 5 graduate students are able to find job.











In China, having a university degree doesn't pay off as it used to be. China produced 6.3 million graduates in 2010. Figures from 2009 indicate 13% of last years 6.1 million graduates were unable to find a job. That's 793,000 graduates without a job. With more and more college students graduating each year, white collar salaries are being driven down, and graduates have to compete for limited job offers in China's big cities. The starting salary for fresh graduate is between 2000 yuan to 3000 yuan (between US$313 to US$468) per month. With this kind of starting salary, the graduates are barely survived in a high living standard in China. (I even felt the pinch and overpriced when I was in China compared to the living standard in the United States. Everything is extremely expensive in China except for the public transportation.)













In Jordan, unemployment is thought to be as high as 30%, although the official data puts it at 13.4% in 2010







(updated) On the other hand, the graduate teachers are also facing unemployment in Australia due to economic crisis, as reported early 2011. It's the similar scenario in California when the state government had to retrench many teachers, police officers, firemen and government staff in order to cut down budget spending in 2010.




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Friday, August 26, 2011

$30mil cash return to tsunami victims in Japan

Japanese find millions in lost tsunami cash - and return it

Photo by: Vincent Yu / AP
Japan Self-Defense Force personnel stand near some safes they retrieved from houses destroyed by the tsunami in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan in a photo taken on April 7, 2011.


By Arata Yamamoto, NBC News Producer

TOKYO – If disaster struck, and millions of dollars in cash turned up, do you think it would be returned to its rightful owners?

In Japan, it was.

During the four months since the giant tsunami struck Japan's northern coast, more than 5,700 safes containing approximately $30 million has been recovered from the three hardest hit prefectures, Japan’s National Police
Agency recently announced.

Remarkably – since residents of the tsunami zone have scattered across the country and even the world – 96 percent, or nearly $29.6 million in cash, has already been returned to its rightful owners, or if authorities feared the owner had died in the disaster, their closest relative.
 
Detective job to find rightful owners 
The majority of the safes recovered in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima were collected by Japan’s Self Defense Force, police, and volunteers while combing through destroyed homes and buildings and clearing debris left behind by the devastating wave; some individuals also came forward with lost valuables. Masao Sasaki, with the Iwate prefectural police, said that determining who the money belonged to and then actually finding them proved to be a great challenge and often involved excruciating detective work.

"You can just imagine the difficult work involved in tracking down the owners,” Sasaki said. "In some cases where the owner was thought to have perished, we had to find the closest kin who could have been anywhere inside or outside Iwate.

Thankfully, many of the safes also held bank books, certificates of land rights, name chops (traditional stamps used in lieu of signatures on personal documents) or some other form of identification. But because they were drenched in mud and water, each item often had to be carefully cleaned and dried, at times using a shirt iron in order to extract useful clues.

"It was important to be able to return these items properly cleaned, but our first and utmost priority was to find the owners and return their belongings as quickly as possible," said Sasaki.Asked how they were able to return 91 percent of the lost valuables, Sasaki said it was simply the laborious work and perseverance of the prefecture’s officers.

According to Sato, even though it took four months, the police have pretty much completed their task: they have already returned 96 percent of the $7.2 million found in some 900 safe boxes.And in the Miyagi prefecture they had an even greater rate of return. More than 2,400 safes were collected that contained approximately $13.5 million –amazingly 99 percent of that has been returned to its owners or closest kin.


(Source: Extracted from MSNBC News dated 24th August 2011)

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Plastic Surgery Beauty Culture in South Korea and Asia


I used to perceive that Korean people are fortunate to have big eyes. This is because I find all the Korean pop stars and celebrities have beautiful features including their eyes. However, I begin to see the reality as I get to know and understand from my Korean friend. The Korean people have the typical facial features of Chinese people, including the small eyes but as they grow up, they become more obsess to be thin, sexy and have beautiful or charming looks. It becomes everyone's culture in Korea to undergo plastic surgery while in college or before landing into career life. The common procedure that they normally do for the plastic surgeries are to make their eyes bigger with double eye lids, to sharpen their chin, to make their noses thinner and sharper as well as to restructure their face shape into more feminine.

In the Korean culture, it is mandatory to have beautiful looks because the society believe that they can become more confidence and land into better positions in their career life. The plastic surgery industry is so popular and booming among the locals and tourists where, you can find many of the plastic surgery clinics are located at Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea.


p.s.: Don't be surprised that many Korean pop stars and celebrities have undergo plastic surgeries in order to become more fame. There are even normal Asian females from Taiwan, Japan, China and Singapore are also undergo plastic surgeries these days in order to be prettier and sexier. I remembered, reading a news in Singapore where the office female workers can have their breasts enhancement by using breast filler within an hour during their lunch break.




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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Orang Utan (the Ape) Cools itself with Towel in Japan

I found this amusing video clip from Yahoo! News dated 22nd August 2011. An orangutan who is famous for being the most intelligent primate ape and natively found in rainforests such as Indonesia and Malaysia, has become a popular web sensation after this video clip was uploaded a week ago. This clever orangutan was washing its towel in the water and then, freshen up its body and hands with the wet towel during the heat summer at 30°C (86°F) at Tokyo's Tama Zoo.





According to Yahoo! News, humans share 96.4% of their DNA with orangutans. Orangutans split from the human family tree since 15 million years ago.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Staple Food Prices Soar Higher in the USA and the world

I found this interesting video which reflects on the rising costs of food inflation in the United States. Food pricing continues to rise, which is not only affecting to the United States but also influence the food industries across the world. How does this happen? Global food prices is not only affected by the higher fuel (gas) prices but there are many factors involved.





Overpopulation is the main issue when there is an increasing demand for the staples food (ie. rice, vegetable, wheat, meat, corn, soya, sugar etc). According to United Nation (UN), the planet Earth will be occupied by the total of 7 billion of living humans by late 2011. Asia accounts for over 60% and followed by Europe's 11% and Northern America's 5% of the world population. China and India have the highest of humans population of 37% for the Asia region.

To understand how the manufacturers produce food these days in order to accommodate higher demand of food supply by the huge world population then, you should watch the documentary called, Food Inc. The farmers breed hens within 3 months which is faster than the traditional method. They also use modified seeds to grow vegetables in order to reduce losses in crops. Watch the trailer here:

However, we begin to experience a decline of food supply since 2010, due to many cases of unpredictable climate change such as natural disaster (like earthquake), heat wave causes drought and heavy rain causes flooding across many countries with major tonnes of losses in crops which will drive food pricing to keep rising. Globally, the UN also sees food prices rising over the next 10 years as higher energy and fertiliser costs affect farmers. In a recent report, the UN said it expected cereal prices to be 20% higher on average, compared with the previous decade, while meat prices would be up to 30% higher. Food is like a cycle of chain. When there is a decline in food supply such as corn, other chains which depend on corn will be affected as well. When the corn price increases, other food chain and fuel (petrol) prices will be increased too.

** Updated: Referring to Global Times dated 21st June 2011, the average pork price nationwide in China reached 23.3 yuan ($3.6) per kilogram Monday, according to data posted on www.agri.gov.cn, a market information provider under China's Ministry of Agriculture. It's a historic high seen in mid-2008. Rising costs have narrowed down the profits because there's a decline on pigs raising leads to a cut in supply. Since corn is the main food supply to feed the pigs, the farmers also suffer with lower profits earning as the price of corn has increased to 2.2 yuan per kg, (about 83% higher than in 2008).

When the food pricing keeps rising, this will have "devastating" impact towards higher cost of living standard which will lead to higher inflation rate across the world. Higher inflation rate will cause more damage such as starvation and higher death tolls occur due to shortage and over pricey of food supply in the world. When the humans begin to suffer below the poverty level (the basic needs such as food, clothing, housing and money), this will likely lead to political unrest such as mass protests, riots and looting to occur.


    Here are some information about the commodity food prices which affects the world from 2010-2011

    WHEAT + 98%

    A searingly hot summer in 2010 devastated wheat and cereal crops across 2m square kilometres of Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan last year, sending world prices to twice what they were in 2008. This year, France and Germany, Europe's biggest cereal exporters, expect yields to be 15-20% down after the driest spring in nearly 100 years, adding to inflationary pressures.
    But because the wheat in a loaf of bread represents only around 10% of its cost in rich countries – the rest being energy, packaging, transport and shop costs – even the doubling of the commodity price in a year should only justify a small rise in the shop price of bread. Instead, supermarkets and the food industry have raised prices by as much as 25%.
    For most of the world, though, a series of major droughts in Australia, the US and Europe has led to increased hardship and shortages. In Lusaka, Zambia, where the commodity rise is reflected in the price that consumers pay, the cost of a loaf increased 75% from September 2010 to April this year.
    The Food and Agriculture Organisation in Rome suggests upward pressure on cereal prices will continue, if only because not much more will be planted. This is partly because the US and Europe are switching hundreds of thousands of acres of land from food production to biofuels. According to the US department of agriculture, nearly 44% of US corn is now processed for fuel.
    The key factor in many cereal prices is oil. Turmoil in oil-producing countries has pushed crude above $120 a barrel, which is expected to drive wheat and maize prices even higher. Higher crude prices make biofuels produced from crops more competitive while raising the cost of tractor fuel and fertiliser.

    BEEF + 32%

    The price of beef, and most meat such as chicken, lamb, pork and duck, depends on the price of the food that is fed to the animals. Nearly half the UK harvest is fed to livestock and 60% of the price of most beef is now in the feed.
    This makes meat prices extremely sensitive to weather extremes and speculation in grain future markets. In the past year, global grain harvests have been devastated by drought, heatwave, abnormal rains and flash floods producing record feed prices.
    But beef is especially expensive. Far fewer cattle are being reared after years of drought in Australia, the US and Europe. In Britain, where feed prices rose 25% in a few months last year, and beef and lamb are now at almost record prices, a weak pound has made it more profitable for farmers to export, and more expensive to import.
    According to the US department of agriculture, global beef production is declining because cattle farmers have been reducing the size of their herds to compensate for a major US drought, record feed prices and squeezed profits.

    SUGAR + 48%

    Eighteen months ago sugar was the "new oil" as commodity dealers in New York speculated on the possibility of an international shortage. The price, which for years never rose much above 12 cents per pound, more than doubled in less than 12 months and last year hit a 30-year high, from which it is not expected to fall much. A growing sweet tooth in China and other developing countries, plus a succession of bad harvests and extreme weather in places including Australia and Brazil, suggest the international price will indeed remain high.
    But the price of sugar is determined by more than just weather and speculators. Because ethanol can be derived from it, to make vehicle fuel, the sugar price more or less tracks energy prices. When oil spiralled in 2008, so did sugar. In addition, many governments subsidise the price and encourage producers to "dump" cheap sugar on the world market.

    COCOA + 80%

    Cocoa, the main ingredient of chocolate, is the most political of all food commodities, growing best in tropical countries which are prone to hurricanes, El NiƱo and coups.
    In 2006 it was being traded at around £896 a tonne; this year it peaked at well above £2,000. Part of the reason was Armajaro, a London-based hedge fund specialising in commodity trading, which last July bought around 240,000 tonnes of cocoa. This single transaction – worth around £650m – amounted to around 7% of annual global production and sent the price spiralling. It doesn't help that 40% of the world's cocoa comes from Ivory Coast in west Africa. Earlier this year cocoa shipments were disrupted during fighting between supporters of current president Alassane Ouattara and former leader Laurent Gbagbo following a disputed election last November. US commodity trading firm Cargill, which handles nearly 15% of the country's cocoa beans, stopped exporting cocoa when Gbagbo refused to step down – and prices jumped to nearly their highest in 30 years. Last month, with Ouattara installed, Cargill resumed exports and prices have dropped.
    Meanwhile, the recession in Europe and the US has dented demand and there are concerns about whether supply can keep pace with growing demand as India and China develop a taste for chocolate.

    COOKING OILS + 53%

    Palm, soy, sunflower, rapeseed, maize (corn) and other vegetable oils have never been in such demand. Palm oil is now the most traded vegetable oil in the international market and its price hit an all-time high in 2008 when the oil price peaked. Because most vegetable oils can be used as biofuel for cars as well as cooking oils, their prices are determined partly by the price of crude oil and partly by fluctuating demand and supply. Most oils have risen more than 20% on global markets in the year following bad weather last year in Indonesia and Malaysia, the world's two biggest producing countries, and soaring demand in economically burgeoning China and India.

    RICE + 33%

    In 2008, the price of rice tripled to nearly $1,015 per tonne as oil prices soared and speculators moved in to bet on shortages of what is the staple food for nearly half the world. Rice prices vary according to where and when it is grown and the crop variety, but the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation has recorded up to 70% increases in the last year, while the Manila-based International Rice Research Institute says the figure is closer to 20%. More recent price falls have been mainly due to increased exports from Thailand, Vietnam and the US. This year, Cambodia, India and Bangladesh are expecting bumper crops.
    All price rises are May 2010 to May 2011. Figures from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations    
    (The source of food pricing 2010-2011 is extracted from Food Prices Rise Commodities at www.guardian.co.uk dated 17th July 2011)

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ancient Chinese Time Traveler with iPhone begs in China

Even though China shows a tremendous growth in their economy but the living standard doesn't look as luxurious as we thought. The wealthy gap between the rich and the poor is extremely huge thus, leaving the income earners from the average and below barely to survive with their families in the cities. The recent reported high inflation rate in China has reached to 6.5 percent in July 2011 hence, many food prices has increased further from 14.4 percent (in June 2011) to 14.8 percent just within a month only.

According to the recent Yahoo! Finance news dated 9th August 2011, the price of pork, China's staple meat, rose 56.7 percent in July over a year earlier, the National Bureau of Statistics reported. Eggs rose 19.7 percent and fresh vegetables were up 7.6 percent. Although the Chinese government tried to implement five interest rate hikes since October 2010 in order to reduce the inflation rate but still, the inflation rate keeps climbing steadily until now.

The property market keeps rising in China and it has become the wealthy people's game and possession. An average of home property cost has increased to US$6,000 per sq. m. in Beijing while the average of home property cost has increased to US$4,000 per sq. m in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. As a result, these locals can't afford to buy but to rent the properties. There are even locals/families opt to migrate to smaller cities than staying in big cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou due to the over rising costs of rental properties each year.

When the living standard is getting too expensive to survive in China, they find ways to earn fast money such as selling fake products, begging on the streets etc. In the recent news, there is a time traveling young lady who pretended to be from the ancient years, begged for money at Shanghai Metro subway station so that she could return to her past. Unfortunately, she was caught, to have an iPhone mobile.


Ancient Time Traveler Begging for Money in Shanghai Metro





Ancient Woman Begging for Money in Shanghai Metro

Translation of the hand-written (mostly) traditional Chinese sign on the ground:

I am from the Qingyuan village and have unwittingly time traveled here. I have nothing upon me and am begging for traveling expenses to return home, a debt I will repay in the days ahead [future].




(wait for 5 seconds after press the play button)


Translated transcript of dialogue:

MAN: Um, miss, what are you doing?
WOMAN BEGGAR: Begging for money to go home.
MAN: Your home is Qingyuan village?
WOMAN BEGGAR: That’s right.
MAN: Qingyuan village… where is that?
WOMAN BEGGAR: It’s from five hundred years ago.
MAN: From five hundred years ago? In that case, if I donate some money to your cause, how will you be able to give it back to me?
WOMAN BEGGAR: With noble sir’s kindness, I should [repay you] by being betrothed to you, but I am so homesick! But when the day comes in the future, this humble girl will definitely repay your noble sir’s kindness.
MAN:Noble sir’s kindness…heh, no need [to repay]. But if at that time you were to run away [disappear, renege on her promise], how would I find you?
WOMAN BEGGAR: This is a token/pledge. [she hands him a "Certificate of Life-long Full Financial Support", a fake document identifying a kept mistress, a woman who is financially supported by a man.]
MAN: So with this…this…this lousy card? But even with this lousy card I still can’t get a hold of you.
WOMAN BEGGAR: That’s not a problem, wait a second…oh, here it is. [Pulls out a mobile smartphone] What’s your phone number?
MAN:  Al….right.


(Extracted the translated transcripts from Stomp dated 29th July 2011)

Have you ever travel to Shanghai? Here are some of the wonder nightlife along the Bund in Shanghai.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Transformation of Chinese Eye Makeup

Diamond Night Club Show is a very popular Taiwanese variety show where the host invites the typical young street girls to the shows in order to reveal themselves before and after their makeup. They also share their secrets and makeup techniques. Most of Chinese girls are born with small eyes thus, they go to the extension of applying heavy eyes makeup, applying circle lens and applying 2-3 layers of fake eye lashes in order to enlarge their eyes.

Like people said, our eyes represent our windows of our beauty because our eyes is the first feature that other people look into yourself.


Before and After makeup (picture: ChinaSMACK)





Watch this video (with English subtitle) in order to believe the miracle of makeup.






This video (without English subtitles) but I guess, you are able to understand the transformation of makeup.


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Sunday, August 14, 2011

China Fake New Apple iPhone 5 (HiPhone 5 Release)

When many Apple fans are still anxious while waiting for the iPhone 5 listing, users in China has taken the lead in to enjoy this powerful Smartphone. China's leading online retail company called HiPhone 5 Taobao has appeared on a phone, on sale at RMB 210 (USD 33). This HiPhone shape design is quite similar to iPhone 4. It includes white, black, red and Pink for buyers to choose.

HiPhone 5 in pink and light blue
HiPhone 5 in pink and light blue

HiPhone5 Different Color
HiPhone 5 in various color

HiPhone4
Various Color of HiPhone 4

HiPhone5 in Pink and Red
HiPhone 5 in red and pink color


Product Demo of HiPhone 5


United Kingdom, Reuters quoted an article on the Chinese city express: some shops on Taobao selling so-called "genuine" HiPhone 5. The 'hiPhone 5' is based on leaked images of the yet-to-be-launched iPhone 5 and is thinner and with less rounded edges than the existing iPhone 4, according to the newspaper. However, it is extremely light, almost like a plastic toy, like most pirated mobile phones, it said. This minimum price RMB 210 (USD 33) HiPhone on Taobao, some shops up to RMB 850 (USD 133).

One of the notable features is dual sim card support.

Last month, an American blogger set off a media storm after she posted pictures of an elaborate fake Apple Store in Kunming, selling genuine if unauthorized iPhones, Macbooks and other widely popular Apple products.


Hiphone 5 Main Features:

  1. Quad Band: GSM850/900/1800/1900MHZ
  2. Dual sim cards dual standby
  3. Wireless internet
  4. Support Java
  5. Handshaking function
  6. Four Pages of menu
  7. Ultrathin Body
  8. Dual cameras with flash light
  9. Support TF card extend to 8GB max
  10. FM/MP3/MP4/Bluetooth function supported
Hiphone 5 Specification:
  • Quad Band: GSM850/900/1800/1900MHZ
  • Dual sim cards dual standby
  • Four Pages of menu
  • Screen: 3.5 inch high definition touch screen, QVGA, 320x240
  • Dual Cameras: 0.3 Mega pixel camera with flash light, put out the biggest size is 1280x1024
  • MP3 background play, equalizer
  • Video: 3GP, MP4, full screen, forward and pause
  • WIFI: 802.11b/g wireless internet
  • Support Java, can install applications
  • Support FM radio, can play with earphone
  • Bluetooth A2DP
  • Sound recorder
  • Video player and recorder, Audio player supported
  • Support MSN, QQ, Google, UCWEB, Baidu
  • Support E-mail sending and receiving
  • Memory: built-in 87.7M, extend TF card to 8GB max
  • GPRS & WAP connectivity, MMS Transceive
  • U disk support function to keep the information storage
  • Telephone directories: 150 groups of contacts, support caller groups
  • Support SMS Text Messaging, MMS Picture Messaging
  • Schedule power on/off: support to start/close under set time
  • Alarm clock: 5 groups, support alarm clock when machine's closed, can set from Monday to Sunday
  • Games: 3 common games
  • More information: MP3/MP4/WLAN/WAP/Bluetooth/SMS group sending/GPRS download/MMS/Calendar/Calculator/
  • Tasks/Alarm clock/World clock/Currency converter/Stopwatch/Handshaking/Handwriting/E-book/Memory extended......
  • Size: 116x62x8mm
Color and Language:
  • Color:Black, White, Pink and Light Blue
  • Language:English,Indonesian,Burgarian,Arabic,Persian,Simplifiled Chinese,Traditional Chinesee (Note:if you need any specific language other than English,you must leave us a message when you checkout)
What's in the Box :
  • One Hiphone 5 cell phone
  • Two batteries
  • One power Adapter
  • One earphone
  • One manual
  • One USB cable

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival Celebration (Chinese Halloween) in Asia

After staying in the United States for 2 years, I begin to miss the nightlife where I could meet my friends and have late supper at mamat stalls (also known as hawker stalls which operate 24 hours or open until wee hours in the morning) or coming home late after late night shopping in Malaysia. However, this month in August 2011, it's a particular month which it's a huge celebration by the Chinese communities in Asia region. It's called, the Ghost Day (Chinese Halloween) which falls on the seventh month of the  Chinese lunar calendar each year. The big celebration of the Hungry Ghost festival falls on the 15th night of the seventh month of Chinese lunar calendar. The Chinese communities in Malaysia and Singapore still adopt the traditional and customs practice during the Ghost Month.


During the Ghost Month, it's believed that the gates of hell are opened and the spirits/ghosts are free to roam around the earth to seek for food and entertainment. In order to satisfy their needs and desire, the family members and the other Chinese communities offer prayers, burn the hell currency notes and other offering in the form of papers such as houses, cars, mobile phones, clothing, servants, televisions, DVDs etc. in order to please the ghosts, ancestors and deceased relatives. In return, the Chinese communities and family members hope that the spirits/ghosts will return to the hell path and won't follow the humans back home after the offering service.

 I really miss this festival since I'm moving here. When I was young, I followed my parents to the Chinese temple around our neighbourhood. During the month of Ghost day, most of the Chinese temples offer the praying service and organise some night activities such as opera / live concert singing on the stage as well as setting up the projector screen on the street for free movies viewing until late at nights. To us, it's like a gathering with our neighbours and friends at nights.


Watch these videos in order to understand the meaning of this unique festival:


Hungry Ghost Festival Celebration in Malaysia:










Hungry Ghost Festival Celebration in Singapore:





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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The US debt crisis impacts the world

For the past few months, I notice the drastic change in the consumers behaviour on their spending/shopping habits in Silicon Valley of California. When I came to the USA late 2009, the US economy wasn't much affected yet. At that time, Americans still could spent their money to get their latest gadgets, go for vacations with families within the country or outside the USA. During that time, it wasn't much options to find the rented apartments apartments and houses within the Silicon Valley area, because most of them were fully occupied. Gas prices was cheap at US$1.99 per gallon for unleaded plus and people could travel within the states affordability. Now, when many Americans are out of jobs/layoff by companies in Silicon Valley, it' becomes difficult for them to find jobs because there aren't many opportunities available. Companies prefer to outsource the jobs to outside the USA for cheaper costs and paying less taxes and medical benefits which are mandatory in the States. As such, many of them who are still unemployed, begin to depend on unemployment benefits (which is extended to end 2011) and spend less in everything from groceries shopping, dining outside and summer vacations. On top of that, more problems arise when they can't afford to pay for their mortgage loans, they have to sell off their properties. These days, I can find many houses for sale on weekends within my neighbourhood. When more people opt to move to rented apartments, the rental becomes more expensive. The current rental price for 2 bedroom apartment in Cupertino (which is popular for good schools and neighbourhood) has shot up to US$2,800 per month. Can you imagine how many families can afford to rent at good neighbourhood in order to send their children to good schools? On top of everything, more shooting crimes, break-in and robbery cases occur frequently, no matter where you are in the Silicon Valley. 


In this video, it explains why the US economy facing its recession and how the US market will impact the world. Also, it highlights on how the US government accumulates its current national (federal) debts to US$14 trillion:




How does the US downgraded credit rating affect you?
When the announcement of the US budget cuts of $2 trillion for the next 10 years and the US credit rating has been downgraded from triple A to double A+, many factors will be affected:
  1. Bad news will not be Good news: Whenever there is bad news on economic issue or political issue, the share market will eventually not performing well. It depends on how big is the big factor on the issue which will impact on the share market within the region or the worldwide.
  2. Listed Companies: Many companies are listed in the share markets. Their shares performance affect badly due to poor market performance. As such, this will halt the companies’ effort to create more jobs during this period. However, the current jobs market aren’t secured at all. Generally, all the white and blue workers are worried that they might be retrenched/layoff anytime if the companies need to maintain their profits.
  3. Higher debts: More debts incurred due to the possibility of higher interest rates on your mortgage loans, car loans, personal loans, study loans, credit card debts etc. According to MSN Money, economists forecast an estimate of 4% increased on mortgage interest while 1% increased on credit card interest rate. Although FED maintains the interest rate by 2013, it depends on how the US government to increase the economy in order to restore the investors’ confidence towards the US market.
  4. Higher Spending and inflation rate: You may think it doesn’t affect on you as long as you don’t have shares. However, it’s not true. It does trigger everybody to spend less when there’s a decline on share and growth markets. Consumers will tend to be thrifty and save more during weak economy which will affect on companies’ performance. As such, companies will begin to cut jobs and reduce manufacturing operations. As a result, where there is a limited supply, cost will be increased due to higher demand on the product.
How does the US market affect the world?
This is like ripple effect. All the nations depend their business industries on each other. When the US market is weak, the European and Asia markets will be affected as well. Now, the European Union is worry about Italy and Spain who are unable to pay their debts and need to be bailed out soon. If the US government doesn’t take immediate action to improve its economy, we will be heading to world’s double dip recession soon.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Porsche Taxi in Bangkok, Thailand

People love Thailand for its food which ranges from combination of spicy curries of hot, sour and sweet to fresh fruits. It's like a heaven to me when I traveled in Thailand because I could easily find any cheap food, along the streets. On top of that, Thailand is also famous for its beautiful beaches which some of them are rated as the best beaches in the world.

For me, the most memorable trip would be taking ride on Toyota Camry taxi/cab around Bangkok, Thailand. The taxi fare is quite reasonable and you can enjoy on a new and comfortable Toyota Camry which you hardly find this kind of taxi/cab in Asia region :) Believe me, all the taxis/cabs in Thailand are Toyota Camry. It's not a joke. Also, don't forget to try riding on tuk tuk which is the most popular and fastest public transportation among the locals because Bangkok is popular for its traffic jam all the time.

If there is a Porsche Taxi in Thailand, will you willing to try out?
 



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A greater impact to Asia from the US and European economic crisis

S&P: Asia would be hit harder by a second global crisis

reuters
On Monday 8 August 2011, 11:32 SGT
 
SYDNEY (Reuters) - A new global financial crisis would hit Asia harder than the last one, especially nations heavily exposed to offshore markets or still repairing budgets from the 2008-2009 crisis, credit ratings agency Standard and Poor's said on Monday.

The agency, which incurred Washington's wrath at the weekend by cutting its AAA rating by a notch to AA+, said it was not predicting a rerun of the credit crisis that crippled markets and tipped the world economy into recession three years ago.

But it warned of more sovereign downgrades in Asia next time around, if its assumptions turned out to be wrong.

"If a renewed slowdown comes, it would likely create a deeper and more prolonged impact than the last one," S&P said in a statement.

"The implications for sovereign creditworthiness in Asia-Pacific would likely be more negative than previously experienced, and a larger number of negative rating actions would follow. We wait to see."
S&P said it assumed Europe's debt crisis and Washington's debt problems were unlikely to lead to "abrupt dislocations" in the financial systems and economies of major developed nations.

On that basis, it added, its historic downgrade of the U.S. credit rating would have no immediate knock-on impact on sovereign borrowers in the Asia-Pacific.

It cited the Asia Pacific region's sound domestic demand, relatively healthy corporate and household sectors, plentiful external liquidity and high savings rates -- though it listed New Zealand, Japan and Vietnam as exceptions to this.

The S&P statement took on a much darker tone when considering the possibility that its assumptions were too rosy, noting that Asia still relied heavily on exports to the West.

"Given the interconnectivity of the global markets, an unexpectedly sharp disruption in developed-world financial markets could change the picture," it said, noting that the U.S. and European economies could again contract or stagnate.

"In this scenario, the experience of the global financial crisis of 2008-2009 shows that export-dependent economies with large exposures to the U.S. and/or Europe would feel the most pronounced economic impacts," S&P said.

"It's not likely things would be very different this time."

The agency listed those countries particularly vulnerable to disruptions in offshore capital markets as Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Indonesia.

It also said several nations, again including New Zealand, were also still repairing their government finances and could be more constrained in responding to a fresh global crisis.

"The adverse impact on Asia Pacific in that scenario would likely require governments to use their balance sheets to support their economies and financial sectors once again," S&P said.

"And in our opinion, most governments would promptly oblige. But some of them continue to bear the scars of the recent downturn -- the fiscal capacities of Japan, India, Malaysia, Taiwan and New Zealand have shrunk relative to pre-2008 levels."

(Reporting by Mark Bendeich; Editing by Balazs Koranyi and Ramya Venugopal)

(Extracted from Yahoo! News dated 8th August 2011)

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Renovating Shanghai Bund, China again?

Rip up the Bund and start again?

Global Times | August 05, 2011 08:27
By Andrea Scarlatelli



Here we go again. While officials spent more than three years renovating Shanghai's historic Bund to get it ready in time for the Expo, it looks as though construction will start once again. Plans have recently been announced to "re-renovate a portion of the Bund with five tall and narrow gold buildings, including two 31-story skyscrapers. The buildings will be an estimated three times taller than its historic neighbors," according to a story on shanghaiist.com. While these new high-rises, which will reportedly house (surprise, surprise) more hotels and office buildings, will create more jobs, I believe that these mammoth buildings will ultimately hurt tourism and the many local businesses that already exist on the Bund.

There is no doubt that the Bund is a huge tourist draw. With its old, European-style buildings and sprawling wooden walkway along the river, it is one of the last remaining places in Shanghai that can be called truly unique. This sense of quaintness and charm is what draws people - Shanghai residents and visitors alike - to it.

The Bund provides a sense of history in a city rapidly losing any sense of its own. But the height of these new proposed buildings means that many of Shanghai's favorite restaurants, bars and clubs will now have their view of the water completely blocked - which could mean their business will suffer. Additionally, the rather brazen and, if I may say so, gaudy gold color chosen for the project clashes jarringly with the understated gray and brown brick of the old buildings. It will certainly be a juxtaposition of "old" and "new," that's for sure.

The plan to "re-renovate" the Bund is also, I believe, a gigantic waste of time and money. While China is not exactly known for its efficiency in the work department, it still amazes me that just one year after renovation ended to improve the Bund in time for the Expo, plans have been approved to rip it up once again to build something different. According to local media, the government spent over 5 billion yuan ($776 million) renovating the Bund the first time. Cost estimates have yet to be announced for this "re-renovation," but I expect it to be just as astronomically high.

I can only wonder how long it will be after these new skyscrapers are finished before someone changes their mind and decides to destroy another part of the newly renovated Bund to build something else. With an estimated completion time of 2014, it looks as though Shanghai residents will simply have to put up with years of more construction work, dirty air, and blocked-off roads near the Bund before this new "masterpiece" can be revealed.

Note: For pictures viewing of the nightlife at Shanghai Bund, China, please click here

(Extracted from Global Times dated 5th August 2011)

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Friday, August 5, 2011

Fake Property Documents in China

False Property
Global Times | August 05, 2011 02:14
By Fu Wen

fake
A Female real estate agent shows properties to potential homebuyers
in Wuhan, Hubei Province, on October 15, 2010. Photo: CFP

At least 17 officials from Hunan Province have been implicated in a corruption scandal involving forged property documents, according to the Yiyang government. At a press conference held July 20, officials said a whistleblower exposed the scandal. It was alleged that land use permits and hundreds of property ownership certificates for an apartment complex were faked in exchange for money and other benefits.

Built in 2000, Xiaoyuan Community in the city's Heshan district sold 902 apartments at 500 to 800 yuan ($77 to 124) per square meter on average, much lower than market value. Nearly 800 apartment owners obtained property ownership certificates from the local housing management bureau with authentic seals, Beijing-based Legal Weekly reported Wednesday.

But, when a Xiaoyuan apartment owner tried to mortgage his property in 2010, the bank told him the number of the property ownership certificate did not exist and reported the case to police, the report said.

According to the Yiyang government, property developer Cao Jianhui obtained a land use permit illegally for Xiaoyuan and could not provide construction permits issued by the local government.

Cao is currently in police custody charged with tax evasion and forging official documents and seals, Changsha-based Hunan Daily reported.

The Yiyang government said 17 officials are suspected of participating in the case and police are investigating. Four have been dismissed from their positions without criminal charges.

Crime under cover

Despite the 17 suspects, some say it's the local government involved in deception. Retired Yiyang resident, Hu Zaihua, who claims to have close connections to local officials, told the Global Times on Thursday the local government is lying about the statistics regarding illegally used land for the Xiaoyuan development.

"Given that Xiaoyuan built nearly 90,000 square meters of apartments, the community actually takes up 3.3 hectares of land, which is larger than the two hectares released by the local government," Hu said.

Wang Gangqiang, deputy secretary of the Yiyang CPC commission for discipline inspection, said the case is still under investigation.

Yiyang's government also promised to protect the legal rights of the apartment owners and taxation agencies are looking for money from the property developer, the report said.

"I believe my property ownership certificate is authentic, as housing authorities recognize it and we can do nothing about the issuing process manipulated by the government," a Yiyang resident surnamed Li who owns a 142-square-meter apartment in Xiaoyuan community, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Li spent 110,000 yuan ($17,082) on the apartment in 2007, and she plans to sell it at 200,000 yuan ($31,059) due to a money crisis.

But, the local government has halted sales of apartments in the community since the investigation began, so Li could not finish property ownership transfer procedures.

"I am confident my apartment will be sold eventually because government officials promised to fix the problem and protect the rights of home owners," said Li.

Whistleblower Hu said apartment owners in the community have been warned by local government officials to keep silent regarding fake ownership certificates, and not to petition higher levels of government.

"If local government pays the evaded land use fee and taxes, which will probably top 50 million yuan ($7.7 million), it will bring a huge loss for State assets," said Hu.

Hu said abuse of power by local property authorities goes beyond the Xiaoyuan community, as he has evidence one of the arrested suspects has built 100 apartments in a different residential complex. He suspects the property ownership certificates for these apartments are also fake.

Legal responsibilities

Currently, only four officials have been dismissed from their positions.

However, Li Taihua, director of the Yiyang Housing Management Bureau, was not dismissed and will soon be the deputy director of the Yiyang Party Publicity Department, according to the Legal Weekly report.

"It's actually a promotion for Li to take the new position, which is ridiculous considering his dereliction of duty," said Hu.

Xiao An, a Yiyang resident who also wrote a report to the Hunan provincial commission for discipline inspection to expose the problems in the Xiaoyuan community, questioned why nobody in the Heshan district government took responsibility for not discovering the problem.

"City and district government, as well as land and resources bureaus, should be aware of these illegal activities over the past decade, but it's surprising that no officials from these government agencies are blamed for the numerous economic losses," said Xiao.

"Government officials who helped forge apartment ownership certificates are suspected of abusing authority and could be sentenced to as long as seven years in prison," Chen Tao, a criminal law expert with the Beijing Lawyers Association, told the Global Times on Thursday.

"Being fired from one's position is not enough for officials who abuse their power," said Chen.

Mo Ting contributed to this story

(Extracted from Global Times dated 5th August 2011)

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Understand Economic Crisis from Inside Job

Have you ever wondered why the economic crisis takes longer time to recover? Now, we worry that we might be heading to another recession after the US government announces the recent budget cut of $2 trillion for the next 10 years. More people fear of losing jobs and begin to tighten their spending during this weakening economic period. In order to understand how did the economic crisis begin and affect the nation when Lehman Brothers went bankruptcy then, you should watch this documentary, Inside Job, which take you through the adoption of sub prime mortgage by bank institutions.

Synopsis:
From Academy Award® nominated filmmaker, Charles Ferguson ("No End In Sight"), comes INSIDE JOB, the first film to expose the shocking truth behind the economic crisis of 2008. The global financial meltdown, at a cost of over $20 trillion, resulted in millions of people losing their homes and jobs. Through extensive research and interviews with major financial insiders, politicians and journalists, INSIDE JOB traces the rise of a rogue industry and unveils the corrosive relationships which have corrupted politics, regulation and academia. Narrated by Academy Award® winner Matt Damon, INSIDE JOB was made on location in the United States, Iceland, England, France, Singapore, and China. (source: Sony Pictures)

Watch the trailer and clips here:
**(click on the word "here." All the trailer and video clips have been updated)**

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Monday, August 1, 2011

Fake Ikea in China

Chinese retailers hijack the Ikea experience
Knock-off store is emblematic of new wave of piracy sweeping through China
by Melanie Lee / Reuters

Kunming Fake Ikea Store
An employee works at a service station at the 11 Furniture Store in Kunming, southwest China's Yunnan province. The store, which resembles an outlet of Swedish furniture giant Ikea, is one of a number of Chinese businesses replicating the look, feel and service of successful Western retail concepts.


KUNMING, China — Nestled in a sleepy southern district of Kunming city in southwest China, is a 10,000 square meter, four-story building that could make Swedish furniture giant Ikea uneasy.


11 Furniture, as the store is known, copies Ikea's blue and yellow color scheme, mock-up rooms, miniature pencils, signage and even its rocking chair designs. Its cafeteria-style restaurant, complete with minimalist wooden tables, has a familiar look, although the menu features Chinese-style braised minced pork and eggs instead of Ikea's Swedish meatballs and salmon.


This knock-off Ikea store is emblematic of a new wave of piracy sweeping through China. Increasingly sophisticated counterfeiters no longer just pump out fake luxury handbags, DVDs and sports shoes but replicate the look, feel and service of successful Western retail concepts -- in essence, pirating the entire brand experience.


Desirable brands
The presence of the fake stores in Kunming highlights China's seemingly insatiable appetite for western brands in some consumer segments that have not been tapped, particularly in smaller cities far from the affluent eastern seaboard.


"What these fake stores indicate is that there is demand for the types of products and concepts that these brands sell," said Hong Kong-based Torsten Stocker, a China retail analyst with Monitor Group.


The problem for companies that have been faked is that even if the fake stores sell genuine products, the brands have no control over how customers experience their brands.


Zhang Yunping, 22, a customer service representative at 11 Furniture, is used to the questions about Ikea.


"If two people are wearing the same clothes, you are bound to say that one copied the other," Zhang said, shrugging her shoulders.


"Customers have told me we look like Ikea. But for me that's not my problem. I just look after customers' welfare. Things like copyrights, that is for the big bosses to manage," she said.


11 Furniture's owner could not be reached for comment.


Ikea said it has teams working at both the country and global level to handle intellectual property protection issues.


"Ikea as one of the biggest home furnishing companies in the world, protecting Ikea's intellectual property rights is crucial," Ikea China said in a statement to Reuters.


At 11 Furniture -- its Chinese name "Shi Yi Jia Ju" sounds very much like Ikea's Chinese name "Yi Jia Jia Ju" -- furniture is made to order, not flat-packed as it is at Ikea.


Customers also notice other differences.


Ikea has nine stores in China, most of them in the wealthier coastal and southern cities. Xiao Lee, a Kunming resident who was shopping at 11 Furniture for a bedroom wardrobe with her husband, had visited Ikea stores in Beijing and Shanghai.


"I thought of shipping their products from the real Ikea store by cargo, but I thought that would be too troublesome so I came here," Lee said.


"At the real Ikea, the layout is much neater and the decorations are laid out properly, you really can't compare them," she said.


Loving Mickey, courting Nike
Sometimes telling the difference between fake and real is not so easy.


"My favorite character is Mickey Mouse," said Ling Xiao, a six year-old girl walking out of a Disney Store along Kunming's popular pedestrian-only shopping street Zhengyi Road.


Ling Xiao and her mother shop at the Disney store about once a month and they have been going there for the past few years to browse for Mickey Mouse handbags and accessories.


"It should be real; it has been here a long time. I prefer coming to this store because it sells a big variety of toys," said Ling Xiao's mother, who declined to be named. Apart from Disney products, the store sells poorly made Angry Bird soft toys of dubious origin.




A Walt Disney spokeswoman said there are over 6,000 points of sale for Disney branded goods in China. Disney confirmed the store is legitimate, declining to elaborate further.


Outside a Nike store on the same retail strip, Han Zhimei, a 17 year-old student, looks longingly at a "Help Wanted" sign posted in the store's window.


"I feel their stores have a spirit of teamwork and I really like the Nike brand," said Han, who sports a trendy asymmetrical haircut. Han stopped by to apply for a job at Nike.


When asked how she knows the store is a legitimate reseller and that the goods are real, she pauses before answering.


"Well, it's a Nike store, so the things in there should be real. I think people will be honest about these things and we should have brand loyalty," Han said.


On Zhengyi Road alone, there are four Nike stores, all claiming to be legitimate. A check with Nike's store locator brought up three stores in that street, meaning at least one is fake.


A Nike spokesman said the issue of unlicensed stores was part of the broader challenge of combating counterfeiting in China.


"We take the protection of our brand very seriously and have a variety of protocols in place," a Nike spokesman said.


The jumble of real and fake stores in lower tier cities across China makes it hard for companies such as Apple, Disney, Nike and more so Ikea, which are closely identified with their outlets, to exert control over their brand image.


Companies such as Starbucks Corp have long battled copycats in China, but the shift to imitations of the likes of Ikea presents a new set of challenges.


"The store is a key element of the brand, so faking it, in particular in a way that consumers don't recognize as a fake, is impacting the brand image and reputation," said Stocker.


Apple, which had its brand valued at more than $150 billion earlier this year, declined to comment.


Who protects your IPR?
For those setting up the fake, unauthorized or pirated goods stores, the attraction is obvious.


"We don't need to advertise, everyone has heard of Disney," said Dong, a 23-year-old store supervisor at a Walt Disney retail store a stone's throw from where Ling Xiao and her mother were shopping.


That brand recognition has far outstripped the ability of companies to expand fast enough to tap demand exploding in inland China.


Sportswear brands such as Nike, Adidas and Li Ning, which have been in China for many years, are the leading fashion choice for those residing in less wealthy cities like Kunming, said a Boston Consulting Group report last month.


As the world's second-largest economy races forward, the number of middle-class affluent households is expected to hit 130 million by 2020 from 50 million in 2010, BCG said.


These factors are fueling the race for brands like Nike and Adidas to open stores in less wealthy Chinese cities. Ikea has said it will open an average of one to two stores a year in China.


"Many foreign brands are already aware of the importance of lower tier cities but they are trying to figure out a way to go to market in these cities," said Xu of Booz&Co.


In some cases, beating them to the punch are the Chinese pirates who, once established, may be hard for foreign companies to get shut.


Chinese law prohibits firms from copying the "look and feel" of other companies' stores, but foreign companies must register their trademarks with China and enforcement is often spotty.


The United States and other Western countries have often complained China is woefully behind in its effort to stamp out intellectual property (IP) theft.


"Foreign companies often expect the Chinese government to handle their enforcement for them and though they sometimes will, they also sometimes will not," said Dan Harris, a lawyer with Harris & Moure and co-author of China Law Blog.


"The problems often arise from the fact that the damages are often quite low and the Chinese courts do not have a lot of power to make sure their own judgments are enforced," Harris said.


Back at 11 Furniture, it is apparent that copying Ikea's ideas may not be enough to win over all consumers.


Examining cushion covers at 11 Furniture, Ms. Zhang, a woman in her fifties, sniffs derisively.


"The designs don't look like typical Chinese designs. It's not what everyday Chinese people would use," Zhang said, pointing to a checkered cushion cover.


"It looks too fancy."

(Extracted from MSNBC Behind The Wall dated 1st August 2011)

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