Archive for October 2010
With numerous unstable countries and uncertain political situations, corruption is bound to exist, even if not wide spread or public knowledge. Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index is considered the world’s most credible measure of domestic, public sector corruption. It ranks countries from 0 to 10, 0 represents high levels of corruption, 10 relatively low levels. The rankings are based on data from country experts and business leaders from 10 independent institutions such as the World Bank, Economist Intelligence Unit and World Economic Forum.
Topping the table is Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore all on 9.3. FInland, Sweden come in on joint 4th and Canada ranks 6th. Somalia, Burma and Afghanistan bring up the bottom with 1.1, 1.4 and 1.4 respectively. This is unsurprising given that unstable governments with a legacy of conflict are those that have least political stability.
Hong Kong is ranked quite high with a 8.4 score in 13th position. This is an improvement from its 8.2 score in 2009 and 8.1 in 2008. HK ranks higher than the UK (20) and the US (22). China comes in a lowly 78th with 3.5 down from 3.6 in 2009 and 2008.
China, Kuwait and Qatar have all improved their scores in 2010 from 2009. On the other hand, the Czech Republic, Greece, Italy and the US have all gotten lower scores.
For the full list of results visit http://www.transparency.org/policy_research/surveys_indices/cpi/2010/results
That was the question that went racing through my brain as I read the China Daily’s feature article titled “Reaching for the sky” on Wang Lei. Despite having been well versed in general, I had never in my life heard of Mt. Qomolangma. Despite China Daily being Chinese, the English version had always been relatively international both in the topics of coverage as well as in the language of the article. Despite having read a large chunk of the article, a still didn’t get an inkling of what the mountain was.
I was thoroughly surprised when mid-way through the article, I read the following
Mt. Qomolangma, also known as Mt. Everest in the west
Now, I didn’t expect a self proclaimed internationally minded English newspaper read by hundreds of international readers would refuse to use the phrase ‘Mt. Everest’. Universally understood and accepted, there seems little need or reason not to use it.
While I understand if the editorial board decided that Mt. Qomolangma is better understood than Mt. Everest within the Chinese community, the use of the phrase ‘also know as Mt. Everest in the west’ really scares me. That even a universal name could be associated and labeled as ‘western’ is a scary proposition.
What might this mean for the standard of journalism in China? I certainly hope this was a one-off occurrence.
In our dorm at night, we were visited not by night-porters staff, but rather a whole host of flies. I myself had no problem with the visitors, however, my dearest second shared a deepest dislike for the flies. And so began a 30 minute discussion, about how best to rid our room of flies.
As typical Hong Kong people, our first thoughts came to what we refer to as the ‘tennis racket with electricity’! In addition to ridding us of our fly problem, we justified this purchase as a possible addition to our national evening show. Sadly, neither of my co-years Adrian or Sara were going to get back in time to tackle our immediate problems so we returned to our ancient roots. Glue on paper, sticker tape on ceilings, all the nomadic ways of dealing with such pests were considered. Finally, in desperation, we turned to the internet for escape, considering the purchase of a night-fly killer. All in all though, we ended up buying and implementing nothing.
Giving up on modern technology and equipments all together, we resorted to using rolled up bits of paper and tissue paper once they had fallen to the ground. I have to say, it was a highly effective method. Sadly, as soon as one fly was removed from the scene, another one appeared in its place, as if they were spawning at increasingly quicker rates. The endless stream of fly continued well into our sleep. At the time of writing, a little before I went to bed, we had two new fly to replace their three brothers.
In the end, we just gave up and lived with the flies. That’s the power of AC, turning someone from an animal killing modern man, to someone who lives with insects and creepy crawlies of all kind without so much as caring. To be honest, having bees buzz around still puts me on my nerves ends. But then again, things have to be taken slowly.
While I was packing for my long journey to the UK, I stumbled upon a trove of old debating notes with some interesting artifacts. One of them, featured below the list of speakers for the Grand Final for the Standard Charter English Public Speaking Contest 2007.
In the senior category, many of the individuals have since left Hong Kong for university. However, during their time here, many were significant figures on the debating arena. Justina and Bryce represented Hong Kong at the 2005 World Schools Debating Championships in Washington DC. Along with Lydia, Bryce and Edward, all five were highly active debaters and speakers in the local circuit.
In the junior category, a total of 4 national team members are included. Arthur represented Hong Kong at the World Individuals Debating and Public Speaking Championships of 2008 (Germany) and 2009 (UK), a competition that was well attended in 2010 with Sachin, Benjamin and Heather all making it onto the HK team of 2010. Heather also represented Hong Kong at the 2010 World Schools Debating Championships. Heather and Ben are now integrally involved in the running and organization of competitions on behalf of HKSDC. All 4 along with Sarah have been active on the local circuit with some notable SIng Tao championships, Bar finalists amongst their mist.
Here at AC, we often talk about the fact that we have numerous countries, cultures and ideologies represented, all on campus. The phrase ‘melting pot’ is often used. We personally experience this diversity in views, opinions and culture every day in our lives here at AC.
In much the same way, photographer Danny Goldfield, is trying to capture the essence of this melting pot in the way he best represents them, photos. His NYChildren series attempts to “Photography a child from every country on earth. All in New York City.”
The stunning thing about this project is that it is so democratic and open. Fitting with the modern era of social media, but also making use of the media and word-of-mouth advertising to find subjects to be photographed. “A lot of other socially conscious art projects show atrocity,” Goldfield says, “but this is something that touches people in a profound way, and it’s positive.”
Right now, he is missing another 24 countries. An updated list can be found at http://dannygoldfield.com/list-criteria/
The Criteria for participation are
- Permission from a parent or guardian
- Child is twelve years old or younger. (Youngest so far is thirty-four days old)
- Currently live in one of the five boroughs of New York City: The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens or Staten Island.
- The child was born in a country on the List of remaining countries OR both parents were born in a country on the list
- The first family to meet the criteria is invited to participate
I run. I have been running for a long time. But my diminutive stature compared to most of the people my age has never been a major hinderance to my running. I continue to run despite the perceived disadvantage of having to take more steps. In fact, there are many cases where I am faster than those who are taller than me.
What astonished me however is that this can also be applied to an international setting. At just 5 feet and 5 inches, Leonel Manzano would appear to have a distinct disadvantage to all of his taller counterparts. However, this has not slowed down his running or made his results any worse. In fact, he’s beating many of his opponents. True, he has the benefit of physical conditions (a bigger heart and lower consumption of oxygen), but it goes to show that you can never judge a book by its cover. Just because one is small doesn’t mean one is incapable of brilliant things.
This post is written in support of Blog Action Day 2010, the 4th year where bloggers around the world join together to debate, brainstorm and raise awareness around an international issue. This year’s issue is Clean Water.
I’ve been at AC now for nearly 2 full months. And one of the weirdest things about living in the UK is that its tap water can be drunk. Having come from Hong Kong, I was used to the daily toil of having to boil water, clean out old water bottles and the pour the boiled water into containers to use for the day. Now in the UK, people could just as well have drunk straight from the tap. I am still not exactly used to this. But that’s beside the point. Despite the ease of finding drinkable water here at AC, even in the middle of nowhere, I still see people walking around with plastic water bottles that they’ve brought from our nearby town, Llantwit Major.
Currently 3.6 million people die each year because they don’t have clean water to drink and every day 4,000 children younger than 5 die from preventable, water-borne diseases. At the same time, in the last 10 years, per-capita consumption of bottled water in the U.S. has doubled to an average of 200 bottles per person each year.
In Hong Kong, I know for a fact that the majority of people are still perfectly fine with buying Watsons or Vita water. There’s nothing wrong with that per-say. But as amongst the most financially conscious cities in the world, it would seem to be amongst the most stupid financial decisions we make.
While I was packing for my long journey to the UK, I stumbled upon a trove of old debating notes with some interesting artifacts. One of them, featured below, is an opposition case on the motion that ‘THW assassinate dictators’
Read the rest of this entry »
Russia and Iran are two countries that are very similar in many ways. They share similar ideologies and are tied closely both politically and economically. But their Police’s have taken diverging approaches to achieve the same fundamental aim. You can read the full New York Time features on Russia and Iran.
In Russia, the police were more subtle about their inner desires and demands. The squad of plainclothes police officers arrived at the office of Baikal Environmental Wave and instead of arresting the staff, set their sights upon the computers before carting them away. Taken were files that chronicled a generation’s worth of efforts to protect the Siberian wilderness.
Baikal Environmental Wave had been organizing protests against Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin’s decision to reopen a paper factory that had polluted nearby Lake Baikal, a natural wonder that by some estimates holds 20 percent of the world’s fresh water.
But the police made no mention of their intention to protests. Instead, they employed their latest tactic: confiscating computers under the pretext of searching for pirated Microsoft software. It is reported that the police has carried out dozens of such raids in recent years. In their defence, they insist that such raids reflect their concern against the rampant software piracy issue. Yet the fact that they rarely raid groups backing the government is a tell-tale sign. The police don’t even seem bothered to check the computers. They have on numerous instances been successfully discredited by defendants when cases go to court.
Over the years, much debate has raged both in Hong Kong and overseas as to whether Nuclear power should be used or not. Having delved not so deeply into the issue myself, I have come to the conclusion that Nuclear power is something that has its questions, but ultimately is sufficiently efficient and safe to be used as a source of energy.
In fact, the much quoted example of France shows that almost half of the country can legitimately be powered by nuclear energy. And in China, nuclear power plants are being built left, right and center. In the SCMP, Christine Loh, chief executive of think-tank Civic Exchange and former Legco member argues this very thought.
The official vision here and in Beijing is to turn Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta into a “green, quality living area with cleaner air, less pollution and a lower-carbon environment”. But is that sufficiently appealing?
A key part of this transformation, in the government’s proposed climate change plan, has to do with the energy sector. This plan will probably be the key driver of Hong Kong’s environmental upgrade in the coming decade.
The government has accepted that, as the richest and most advance part of China, it has the responsibility to do better than the national target to reduce carbon intensity. Thus, the Hong Kong government proposes a reduction target of 50-60 per cent by 2020 compared to 2005 – against the national target of 40-45 per cent. For Hong Kong, this is of course not the same as an absolute emissions cut, but it’s a start.
The bulk of the reductions will come from switching away from coal. By reducing coal-burning from 54 per cent to 10 per cent and increasing natural gas from 23 per cent to about 40 per cent, the city’s fuel mix will change dramatically. Half of Hong Kong’s electricity will come from nuclear power.
While reducing coal burning has general support, switching to nuclear power is controversial for green groups, who argue instead for renewable power such as wind and solar. Yet the constraint for this region is its modest endowment in renewable resources, according to the most authoritative research done by scientists at the University of Science and Technology. If we are to reduce emissions significantly within 10 years, it seems renewable power won’t be a big help.
China has a dozen nuclear reactors in operation and 24 under construction, and it decided this year to expand its nuclear capacity further by 2020. As a result, Hong Kong has the opportunity to buy more nuclear power from across the border, which is critical to the government’s proposed plan.
The commercial side of changing the energy mix will make electricity more costly in the future. Coal may seem cheap, but its real price includes a human toll. Mining accidents, air pollution, radiation from coal plants and coal ash are seldom taken into account. While natural gas is a cleaner fuel, the added costs of processing, storage and transport make it a relatively expensive energy source. Nuclear power is not cheap, but it is the only energy sector that has to deal with its waste and therefore costs its waste management into the price. The government has to help the public to understand the relative advantages and disadvantages of the new energy mix. The main gripe of green groups is over the treatment of nuclear waste, and this is an issue that needs to be better understood and addressed to allay concerns.