- HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:
Heart to Heart with Hillary
Learn to Live to Learn
Let’s go to the movies
Graham Macdonald MBMG International Ltd.
The Ugly, The Bad and The Good
Part 2 - The Bad
Daily Mail city editor, Alex Brummer, recently felt compelled
to leave his normal area of comfort and understanding (the FTSE 100) and write
about the bigger global economic picture in an article entitled, “UK and world
facing the biggest financial shock since the Great Depression, says IMF”.
By now, just about everyone is aware of the IMF’s report last week whose 3
headline conclusions were:
1) The world is facing the biggest financial shock since the Great Depression
2) Great Britain could be the country hit hardest by the global credit crunch as
it has bigger debts than anywhere else
3) The credit meltdown “has inflicted heavy damage on markets and the financial
institutions at the core of the financial system... The financial markets crisis
that erupted in August 2007 has developed into the largest financial shock since
the Great Depression.
According to IMF analysis, British banks will lose more than GBP20bn, equivalent
to three percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and as a result the UK will
fall short of Chancellor Alistair Darling’s growth forecast of two percent this
year. We still believe that the banking losses will be higher and therefore that
economic performance will be even worse.
Better late than never, the IMF has finally admitted that the American economy
is heading for recession (not really much alternative now as it is, in reality,
probably already) and it forecasts negative growth of 0.7% this year, sufficient
to cause global repercussions. However, this is based on the assumption that
American banks’ losses will be less than USD150 billion (1.4% of US GDP). We
believe that the losses will again be significantly worse and that the economic
impact far more serious.
Interestingly, despite healthy growth in the Far East, the IMF now believes
there is a 25 percent chance that the whole world could follow the Americans
into recession, acknowledging for the first time our long held fears that the
fallout can’t simply be constrained within developed economies.
The IMF now acknowledges that the losses from American mortgages will reach $945
billion (£500 billion) - more than twice their previous estimates - but still
less than half of what we (and the most reliable analysts) ultimately fear. The
IMF also acknowledges that the U.S. housing collapse is far from over, expecting
a further 10% decline in 2008. Similarly in the UK, the rot has much further to
go and that the housing correction will continue to:
1) Impact on consumers
2) Be a drag on the economy
Finally the IMF has come around to our way of thinking that there is no
precedent or blueprint for what might happen from here.
Brummer comments that, “The apocalyptic language used by the fund is highly
unusual and reflects an unprecedented concern about the impact of the credit
crunch which has prevented banks from borrowing in the wholesale money markets,
making it all but impossible to fund new mortgage lending on both sides of the
In response, Chancellor Darling stood by his budget forecasts, claiming “grounds
for optimism”. We’ll explore these alongside our more realistic grounds for
pessimism in some future articles, but Britain remains hostage to the U.S. and
Europe (where the German economy is rapidly slowing).
The IMF is somewhere in between - “In the UK there are a number of factors both
domestically and externally holding back the economy. We do see house prices
softening and we see potential for that to continue, with an impact on
consumption. We also see the UK affected by the tightening in financial
constraints related to the turmoil in the financial market. It will also be
affected by the slowdown in the U.S. and the Euro area.”
The IMF did highlight:
1) The UK’s soaring budget deficit which is expected to hit £38 billion this
2) Britain’s national debt which is perilously close to 40 percent of national
output - the self-imposed limit under one of Gordon Brown’s fiscal ‘golden
Finally, the IMF have also realized that this problem is protracted as well as
deep and will persist into 2009 (under whichever new president in the White
House) admitting that, “Downside risks especially for 2009 remain a concern,”
and that house price falls of the order that we expect, well in excess of the
IMF’s forecasts, could have serious repercussions.
The IMF fears that, other than America & Great Britain, the economies most
affected would be France, Germany and Switzerland, all of which have significant
exposure to the debts originating in the U.S. This may well affect the Swiss
franc and people may also wake up to the fact the euro is not the old German
mark. So, what are we left with if people actually want to make money? Well with
falling interest rates that rules out cash.
With the risk of sounding like a broken record, people should consider the
multi-asset class approach. Man Investments made 4.5% last month - when most
stock exchanges lost heavily and our old favourties Miton Optimal did well too.
Next week, let’s look at why.
The above data and research was compiled from sources
believed to be reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd nor its
officers can accept any liability for any errors or omissions in the above
article nor bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as a result of any
actions taken or not taken as a consequence of reading the above article. For
more information please contact Graham Macdonald on
Snap Shots: by Harry Flashman
Polarizers assist digital cameras
There seems to be a concept in photographer’s minds that
polarizing filters are good for film cameras, but not for digitals. This
is actually quite wrong. If anything, it is the reverse. Whilst there
are no polarizer advantages unique to digital cameras, digital cameras
with limited dynamic range can benefit greatly from the selective
suppression of excess contrast. Due to the limited UV sensitivity found
in most digital cameras, polarizers also work well for haze control,
especially with the haze we have in Thailand.
Quality polarizing filters are different from most others in the fact
that they are made up of two distinct elements. There is an outer ring
that rotates the outer “glass” relative to the inner element. This
increases or reduces the degree of polarization to allow the
photographer an endless range of polarized effects from one filter.
The principal behind these filters is to remove reflections, and funnily
enough it is reflections that take the color out of color photography.
Look at the surface of a swimming pool, for example - a shiny white,
non-transparent surface. Now look through a polarizing filter and you
can see right down to the tiles on the bottom of the pool. And the
people frolicking in the pool!
What you have to understand now is that these filters remove reflections
from any surface, not just water. The reason you cannot see through some
normally transparent windows is because of reflected images on the
surface of the glass. The reason some tree leaves appear to lose their
color is through reflected light from the sky above.
One of the traps for young photographers is that because you know the
grass is green, you see it as green when you look through the camera
viewfinder - even though it is not truly green. Look again at the scene
in the viewfinder. The green grass is really a mixture of green and
silvery reflections, dark shadows and pale green shoots. Put the
polarizing filter on the lens and slowly rotate the outer ring. Suddenly
the silvery reflections disappear and become a deep, solid green color.
The grass is now made up of green, dark green and pale green. This green
will really leap out at you and smack you fair between the eyes!
Your next beach scene when taken with a polarizer will really amaze you.
Again, slowly rotate the outer ring on the polarizer. Look critically
through the viewfinder and you will see the sky take on a much deeper
color to highlight the white clouds. Keep turning that outer ring and
the sea will change to a deep blue to green luminescent hue. The end
result is at your command. Try taking the same shot this weekend, but
with varying degrees of polarization and see the differences in the
So, if the polarizer is such a wonderful bit of gear, why do we not make
it a standard piece of equipment on all cameras? Well, like everything,
there is a downside as well as the upside. In the case of the polarizer
it does its bit of brilliance at the expense of the amount of light that
gets through to the lens. With most polarizing filters you will lose
about one and a half stops of light. What this means is that the shutter
speed will be at least twice as long to record the same scene, or that
the aperture will have to be twice the size. This means that you are
more likely to get camera shake effects and suffer from lack of depth of
field when using the polarizer. However, with shots in the bright sun, a
polarizer will bring a new dimension to your shots.
By the way, when using any filter on your camera, I suggest you use a
stepping ring to increase the diameter of the filter, so there are no
unwanted vignetting effects, especially with wide angle settings. My new
camera has a 55 mm diameter lens, which I have stepped up to 62 mm and
can therefore take all my old filters. Including the polarizer.
by Dr. Iain Corness, Consultant
The cat’s revenge by Claude Gooleys
I hope you like the title this week. Some days I can’t help
myself. However, almost every household has at least one cat, and often
more. Cats are affectionate, warm pets that will sit on your lap for hours,
purring away, while it licks your hands. During that time, it may even be
giving you more than love. It may be giving you a little present called
Bartonella henselae, or simply, Cat Scratch Disease! Yes, your cat is a
walking, purring receptacle of disease.
Tell me more, you say, while wondering if you should strangle the cat now or
later! But first a little history. A little over 50 years ago, the clinical
signs of Cat Scratch Disease were described, called romantically “La Maladie
des griffes du chat.” However, the symptoms of this ailment are far from
Cat Scratch Disease affects between 2-10 people per 100,000 head of
population in America, so whilst it isn’t an every day diagnosis, most
doctors will come across a few cases in their medical lifetime.
The presenting symptom is a regional swelling of the lymph nodes, generally
in a young person or a child, and the usual scenario involves a panicking
parent who is sure the child has lymphatic cancer.
What actually happens is that the cat is carrying the organism known as
Bartonella henselae, which is found all over the world, and which it
inoculates into the human system. This bug in turn is trapped by the lymph
glands, within which one almighty fight takes place, with the end result
being that the glands swell dramatically and can even burst through the skin
as a suppurating discharge. Other signs and symptoms include a fever, sore
throat and headache.
Now there are many causes for swollen glands, fever, headache and sore
throat, so how do we pick on the family pussy cat? Quite simply, there will
be a history of having been bitten or scratched by the family moggy, and the
inoculation site will drain into the affected lymph glands.
So just how does the cat give you a “shot” of bugs? Well, firstly somewhere
between 20-40 percent of cats are carrying the organism, and it lives in the
cat’s saliva as well as in its blood. While licking its claws, pussy cat
leaves a collection of the organism there, which in turn becomes yours when
the cat scratches you. Deliberately or accidentally.
Cat Scratch Disease, although generally localized can even end up infecting
internal organs such as the liver, spleen heart and brain, though this is
very rare. For most people who contract the illness they quietly recover,
though it can sometimes take some months. However, for people with
compromised immune systems, spontaneous recovery is not the norm. Children
get the disease more than adults, because children tend to spend more time
with pets, and pull more than the occasional tail.
There is treatment, with one of the most appropriate antibiotics being
Doxycycline, while the most usually available penicillins are fairly
ineffective. There are tests which can be done in the laboratory to prove or
disprove infection by Bartonella henselae, so what we call a “Definitive”
diagnosis can be made. Again you can see the dangers in self medication. If
you do indeed have Cat Scratch Disease from the cat bite, the penicillin you
bought is useless!
So should we all go out and take our cats down to the vet and consign them
to the great veterinary hospital in the sky? The simple answer is no, but
the moral to this tale is that we should be on our guard. Cat scratches and
bites should not be taken lightly. Immediately after any injuries you should
wash the wounds with soap and water and after a thorough cleansing only then
apply your favourite antiseptic, and at the first sign of problem, pop into
the hospital and get it checked. But please leave the cat at home!
Heart to Heart with Hillary
How are you today? After reading your column, as I often do, I just don’t
understand why all these negative experiences. Since I’ve been traveling this
big ole rock, I’ve been to over 40 countries. My favorite by far is Thailand.
Since the first time going to Pattaya, I have loved the people, atmosphere,
weather, food, and the cold beer. Right now, I still cannot wait to return and
have another wonderful vacation. It blows my mind that so many people appear to
have had a bad experience. I think they would have a bad time anywhere... why
Can’t wait to get back!
Dear Can’t wait to get back,
I agree with you, Petal. As you say, “I have loved the people, atmosphere,
weather, food, and the cold beer,” so what more could a young man (or an old
man) want? I do believe that most of the people who have a negative experience
have brought it upon themselves, and many of the long-stayers in Thailand say
that for this group of long-stay complainers it is a case of “som nam na”, as
the Thais would say, or as the English speakers would say, “serves you right”.
You are also correct in identifying that this group of people will complain no
matter where they are. I have read very similar complaints and “problems” with
ex-pats and visitors to Spain and South America, for example. But by the same
token, there are many who really enjoy their times in exotic places. Look at
Ronnie Biggs, for example, and what happened to him when he returned to the UK
from Brazil. No, Can’t wait to get back, you stick with your positive mental
attitude and enjoy yourself as always in the Land of Smiles. The cold beer
sellers are looking forward to your return as well.
What’s your opinion on sexy movies? Are they a good thing or not? Would you ever
star in one, or have you done it already? Real questions, Hillary.
Glued to the Box
Dear Glued to the Box,
What a strange pen name you have chosen for yourself, my Petal. Did you use that
new Supa Glue that sets in a few seconds? Was it accidental, and was it painful?
Real questions. In answer to your rather forward queries, are sexy movies a good
thing? Depends on who you watch them with. I would have invited you over, but
unfortunately you are stuck to your TV set, which would have made it rather
awkward. Hope the glue breaks soon for you. You worry me.
Did you know that your famous consultant is possibly descended from one of a
horrid horde known as The Cor Nessie Boys? These wee scallywags would lure
unsuspecting trippers to the lochside for a small fee on the pretext of spotting
a friendly monster. They would then screech “Cor! Nessie!” in a semen-curdling
falsetto and push the punters in! The wee beasties were eventually rounded up
and exported to Botany Bay, along with sundry haggis benders, sporran tweakers
and an opera singer named Sydney.
If by the “consultant” you mean is the medical consultant on these pages, I
checked with Dr. Iain and he does admit that he has been to the lochside, like
so many people, to look for the Loch Ness monster. It was also some years ago
and he was in a bus, and not surrounded by pimply Scottish brogue-speaking
youths, so he claims all innocence. He also denies ever living in Botany Bay or
any of his relatives having an affair with “an opera singer named Sydney”. Where
do you get these fanciful notions from? After showing your email to Dr. Iain he
too expressed concern over your mental state and suggested you should
immediately double the dose of whatever it is that you are on, and then make an
appointment to see your doctor straight away.
I know you don’t agree with sending money to some of the girls in Thailand, but
I want to, OK? I don’t want to lose the money when I send it over, so have you
foolproof suggestions on how to do it? I wouldn’t be sending big lumps, probably
about 50,000 or 100,000 baht at a time. What do you say, Hillary?
Is that Short Tim(e) or Long Tim(e) that we are looking at? Is the 100,000 baht
per week or per month? (If it’s weekly, don’t worry about the transfer, I’m
coming over to get it myself, sweetheart!) However, seriously speaking, by far
the safest way is to open an account here for her, complete with an ATM card
facility. You can transfer the lovely money from overseas quite easily and she
can withdraw the lovely money as needed, with the circumstances depending upon
the health of the buffalo, the condition of her brother’s motorcycle, the
repairs to the front gate on her mother’s house and medical expenses for her
sister’s second pregnancy, since none of the fathers wished to donate to the
family coffers. However, be assured that whatever way and for whatever reason,
you are going to lose the money in the end. Even more certain than death and
Learn to Live to Learn: with Andrew Watson
Einstein had it right
There are more than a few quotes attributed to Albert Einstein
which apparently he never said. Either somebody else said it, or
his words have been reproduced selectively, as Richard Dawkins
points out in “The God Delusion”. That said, I have no reason to
suppose (as I have found nothing to support the notion) that he
wasn’t responsible for the following words of considerable
wisdom. I have no intention of regurgitating biographical data,
other than to suggest that this statement says more not only
about Einstein the person and his academic brilliance, but also
about the fundamentally interdependent nature of human
existence, than quantum theory ever could. Having said that, it
could be described as a different kind of “theory of
relativity”; a human kind.
“Strange is our situation here on Earth. Each of us comes for a
short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a
purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is
one thing we do know; that we are here for the sake of each
other, above all, for those upon whose smile and well-being our
own happiness depends, and also for the countless unknown souls
with whose fate we connect with a bond of sympathy. Many times a
day I realize how much my own outer and inner life is built upon
the labours of others, both living and dead, and how earnestly I
must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have
received and am receiving.”
Reassuringly for somebody who chooses to adopt a positive mental
attitude (P.M.A.) to international education, there are a
growing number of schools in the world that put the values
embodied in this reflective declaration at the centre (rather
than at the periphery) of their philosophy, standards and
practice. IB schools which take their IBO world school status
seriously or schools affiliated with value-rich movements such
as the United World Colleges or the Round Square group of
schools (www.roundsquare.org) place specific emphasis on
providing students with an education which attends to
“self-discovery and personal growth”.
The IB Diploma’s central Creativity, Action, Service (CAS)
Programme, which is a mandatory requirement for all IB Diploma
students (and in progressive schools a requirement of all
students in the school) recognises that “Education does not
begin or end in the classroom or examination hall and the most
essential elements of education may exist outside of both” (IB
CAS Guide 1996). Which is one of the reasons why, in the new CAS
guide (all IB subjects undergo a constant process of evaluation,
review and modification) students must spend a week in an
unfamiliar environment. Which does not include the library, as I
recently explained to a group of Year 11 students on a recent
school inspection. CAS goes to the heart of what Einstein was
talking about and indeed what international education should in
my view, be about, going well beyond the provision of
information and involved in the “development of attitudes and
values which transcend barriers of race, class, religion, gender
or politics” (ibid).
“Aiming for utopia as usual,” I hear you cry (thanks for the
recent batch of letters on the battleground between idealism and
pragmatism). But part of maintaining hope, creating vision and
delivering change, I submit, is developing a P.M.A. especially
when faced with more than periodical stories in the British
press reporting on and bemoaning the lack of something or other
in British children or the British educational systems
(sometimes I think they mean ‘English’ when they say ‘British’).
When that which is regarded as lacking is something that is
fundamental to the ideals of CAS and one would hope, the goals
of international and national education, then you need all the
P.M.A. you can muster.
Consider, if you will, a recent Guardian article by Anthea
Lipsett (12/11/2007) which reliably informs us that, according
to the British Council, British children “lack global
awareness”. Whilst cynics might remark, “Tell me something I
don’t know”, the well being of the UK in an increasingly
connected world might appear to be at risk if we are to believe
British Council chief executive, Martin Davidson, appears to
agree; “Our schoolchildren cannot afford to fall behind the rest
of the world. For the UK to compete in a global economy, it is
vital that we encourage our young people to have an interest in
and engagement with the world around them.”
In a league table measuring the international outlook of young
people around the world, British pupils scored slightly lower
than those in the US and significantly lower than those in other
European countries. According to the Guardian, the survey asked
11 to 16-year-olds with household internet access in ten
countries a range of questions to ascertain their attitudes
towards language learning and international affairs. Top of the
table, you might be surprised to learn (no comments about
banking scams please) came Nigeria, followed by India and then
You might have imagined that the larger the country, the less
need there might be to look outside themselves; apparently not.
Perhaps the old adage “They little know of England whom only
England know” is true after all? According to the research, UK
schoolchildren (32%) are the least likely to go out of their way
to understand current events in the world. More than twice as
many Brazilian (69%) and German children (61%) said they would
do so, compared with a third of Scottish. Then a question
related to a subject I’ve dealt with on these pages before; when
asked whether they saw themselves as citizens of the world or of
their own country, most of the school children saw themselves
first and foremost as world citizens. But children in the UK, US
and Czech Republic saw themselves more as citizens of their own
country. Under three-quarters (70%) of UK school children felt
that it was important to speak a foreign language for their
future working life (65% in Scotland).
I wonder what Einstein would have made of it all?
Next week: A Visit from the Esther Benjamins Trust
Let’s go to the movies:
by Mark Gernpy
Now playing in Pattaya
Iron Man: US Action/Adventure - This long-gestating
project stars Robert Downey Jr. as the superhero Tony Stark, a wealthy
industrialist who is forced to build an armored suit after a
life-threatening incident and ultimately decides to use its technology
to fight against evil. With Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, and Ghostface
The Eye: US Drama/Horror – A remake of the hugely successful Hong
Kong film written and directed by two of my favorite filmmakers, the
Pang brothers (Oxide Pang and Danny Pang). A young, blind violinist is
given the chance to see for the first time since childhood through a
corneal transplant. As she adjusts to a dizzying new world of colors and
shapes, she is haunted by frightening visions of death itself capturing
the doomed and dragging them away from the world of the living. For me,
it’s a great story in a fairly poor remake. Generally negative reviews.
Nim’s Island: US Adventure/Family/Fantasy – Nim is a smart,
independent 11-year-old who lives with her microbiologist father Jack on
an uncharted South Pacific island. She has a life most kids would envy:
no school, a host of tame animal friends, and a whole island to herself.
Then her dad goes missing in a storm, and she turns for help to her
favorite author of adventure stories. The film has impressive scenery,
an unexpectedly funny performance by Jodie Foster as a neurotic writer
who lives through her novels, and an unflaggingly spunky Abigail Breslin
as the young heroine. An exhilarating and enchanting family picture,
with enough inspirational messages for two movies. Mixed or average
Phobia/See-prang: Thai Horror – Four quite good horror stories by
four accomplished Thai directors. Quite well done. I haven’t heard such
audience screaming in a long time. If you at all enjoy Thai horror
films, I suggest you check this out.
In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale: US
Adventure/Action – A reworking of a video game by the director Uwe Boll,
widely considered to be the worst movie director ever. It’s a loose and
cheap rip-off of “The Lord of the Rings.” Reviews: Extreme dislike or
The Forbidden Kingdom: US Action/Adventure – I thoroughly enjoyed
this movie. It’s a wrap-up and summary of every Kung Fu/martial arts
movie ever made, encapsulating every known cliché, all of the standard
shots of beautiful scenery, and nearly all the tricks of martial arts.
It’s all here! And done lovingly and with a great sense of humor and
style by the tops in the business, the legendary Jackie Chan and Jet Li.
I found it quite witty indeed, and continually poking fun at the genre,
like the nearly impenetrable Buddhist words and concepts that only
confuse (such as “The Gate of No-Gate”).
This is the top film in Thailand, and in the US as well. Unfortunately,
at the present it’s only shown in Pattaya in a Thai-dubbed version,
though it was filmed in English.
Horton Hears a Who! US Animation/Family – With Jim Carrey. A whimsical
and quite witty version of Dr. Seuss that I found completely delightful.
Generally favorable reviews.
Superhero Movie: US Action/Comedy – A send-up of superhero films,
and I didn’t find it so bad after all. At least, I found myself laughing
a great deal throughout. I particularly adored the terribly cruel
portrait of the great Stephen Hawking, who, it turns out, is greatly
frustrated sexually, being nearly unable to move and having to speak his
come-on lines with a computer’s voice. There is also more farting in
this movie than in half an average Thai comedy, meaning a lot. Generally
Street Kings: US Crime/Thriller – With Keanu Reeves playing an
LAPD detective forced to go up against the cop culture he’s been a part
of his entire career. Excellent performance by Forest Whitaker. Rated R
in the US for strong violence and pervasive language. Mixed or average
Orahun Summer: Thai Comedy / Drama – Misadventures of boy monks.
Scheduled for May 8
Speed Racer: US Action/Drama (live action against drawn
backgrounds) – A somewhat computerized but basically live action film
from the classic anime series created by anime pioneer Tatsuo Yoshida,
with revolutionary visual effects and cutting-edge storytelling. After
the success of their films in the Matrix series, the Wachowski Brothers
return to directing with this adaptation of the classic cartoon, filmed
almost entirely in front of a green screen, with the backgrounds drawn
in later. Emile Hirsch plays Speed, a boy who was born to race cars –
he’s aggressive, instinctive, and, most of all, fearless. John Goodman
and Susan Sarandon play his parents.
What Happens in Vegas…: US Comedy/Romance – Cameron Diaz and Ashton
Kutcher star as strangers who unwittingly end up as bride and groom
after a wild night in Las Vegas. When they find that one of them won a
jackpot the night before, the two greedily fight for the loot.
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