Source: The Economist
THE capital is now under siege from the waters slithering down from the north towards the Gulf of Thailand. Shops, businesses and government offices in Bangkok cower behind makeshift concrete parapets and piles of sandbags. Bridges and elevated expressways are filling up with fleets of parked cars, to spare them from the deluge below. And all the time people speculate about just how bad it might get in a city the Europeans once called the Venice of Asia.
Despite the defences, there is likely to be some flooding. The government desperately wants to divert water around the capital, to east and west, but the volume is too great. The desire to save densely populated Bangkok is understandable. But the strategy is angering those in the northern suburbs, where neighbourhoods are filling up with water as the sluice gates remain closed. An admirable steadfastness among Thai people is wearing thin.
Flood Map Of Thailand
Source: Canoe - April 14, 2011
Another Thailand traveller was treated in hospital after spending time in Chiang Mai, where a number of tourists have mysteriously died since January.
Megan Jefferies, 26, of Seattle, Wash., became violently ill April 4 along with two friends after eating and using restrooms at the Night Market in Chiang Mai, Thailand, on March 30.
The Night Market is next door to a hotel plagued with mysterious tourist deaths since the beginning of this year, including Edmontonian Bill Mah, who was found dead after using the hotel's facilities Jan. 26.
Mah's symptoms began with severe chest pain keeping him up through the night, a close friend earlier reported.
He later died of "suspected natural cause," after being diagnosed with acid reflux in a Thailand hospital and sent home.
Jefferies and her husband, Mike, had to abruptly cut their one-year travel across the world short, after two weeks in Chiang Mai resulted in Jefferies making two emergency hospital visits - "the worst week of their lives."
She was treated in a Chiang Mai hospital after suffering chest pains and flu-like symptoms April 8. They were staying at another nearby hotel.
"My hands and legs were shaking and really sore, and later Mike told me that my eyes had rolled back in my head and my lips were blue. We were really scared," she said.
Source: The Los Angeles Times - April 6, 2011
About 40 miles west of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, another kind of crisis may be unfolding — this one striking at the heart of the world's multibillion-dollar market for smartphones, portable music players and other cutting-edge electronics.
The powerful earthquake that rocked Japan last month knocked out a hillside factory owned by Shin-Etsu Chemical Co. Little known outside industry circles, Shin-Etsu is the world's biggest producer of advanced silicon wafers, a key material needed for the manufacturing of semiconductors. Its Shirakawa plant represented 20% of the globe's capacity to produce the building blocks on which some key high-technology products depend.
The disaster could prove to be a major concern for chip makers, including Intel Corp. and Toshiba Corp., that buy wafers from Shin-Etsu, analysts said.
But it also has turned the spotlight on a much broader problem in the global economy: Companies around the world often rely on small networks of suppliers that may be thousands of miles away. A good number of those suppliers are in Japan.
Already, quake-related shortages of automotive electronic sensors made by Hitachi's Automotive Systems business have been blamed for halting or cutting production of vehicles in Germany, Spain, France and Shreveport, La.
The crisis also is expected to slash the supply of some vehicles such as Toyota's Prius and contribute to higher passenger car prices in the U.S., where temporary worker layoffs already have hit Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and some Japanese auto firms.
Chinese computer maker Lenovo Group was among the latest to warn that a shortage of components from Japan could crimp supplies of finished products, in its case the LePad tablet computer. Another Chinese firm, ZTE Corp., a major producer of cellphones, said it could face shortages of batteries and LCD screens for months.
The likelihood of more disruptions to come has touched off a scramble for alternative suppliers. It has sparked a run-up in the price of memory chips and some parts. And it is almost certain to lead to a rethinking of a global production and logistics system in which a natural disaster in a small part of Japan's industrial base could have such broad effects around the world.
He said that only about three of his company's 50 factories sustained damage. But the actual effect is likely to be bigger as rolling blackouts, transport problems and fuel shortages in Japan hamper production and delivery of supplies for many companies, possibly for months to come.
Koriyama Central Industrial Park in Fukushima prefecture is a case in point. Plants operated in the park by Panasonic Corp., Hitachi, Shin-Etsu and other leading Japanese companies are mostly up and running now, but only at about 50% capacity combined, said Endou Katsuei, executive director of Shinwa Planning Co., which is managing the zone.
He said these factories depend on the delivery of other components, which has been anything but stable. The town's train station has yet to reopen, roadways have been cracked by the earthquake and many gas stations remain closed, more than three weeks after the disaster.
It's much the same along the 125-mile stretch of Tohoku Expressway, from Utsunomiya, about 60 miles north of Tokyo, to Sendai, a city in Miyagi prefecture that was ravaged by the tsunami and where many homes remain without gas and hot water.
On the outskirts of Sendai, mangled cars thrown by the massive waves still litter the roads and are jammed against trees and fences, including those outside Sony's flood-impaired chemical and information devices plant.
Sendai is also home to Tohoku University, one of Japan's premier institutions and a leading center for semiconductor and related research.
It's 2008 in Bangladash...
Source: Priyo - February 16, 2011
The government sits today with merchant bankers to find ways to bring stability to the troubled stockmarket. The officials of the market regulator will also be present during the talks.
The last week went through chaos, as the general index of the prime bourse plunged 9.21 percent amid credit crisis. However, the government initiative on Tuesday, the closing trade session, to buy stocks through state entities such as Investment Corporation of Bangladesh (ICB) halted the fall.
There was no trade on the Dhaka Stock Exchange on Wednesday and Thursday.
The DSE general index went down 600 points to 5,926 points on the last trading day.
When the government steps to offload shares of some state enterprises came under fire from analysts and investors went berserk on streets on Monday, the latest move was put on hold.
The credit crunch and inactiveness by institutional investors, analysts say, have helped fade out investor confidence.
Experts were in favour of raising credit supply to stop the market debacle rather than SoE shares offloading.
Besides ICB, the four other state-run organisations that came forward to buy shares were Sonali, Janata, Agrani and Rupali banks.
ICB received a Tk 200 crore financial assistance from the central bank for the purpose.
Dhaka Stocks Gain On Government Action
Source: Priyo - March 3, 2011
Dhaka stocks that rode a bumpy ride on Thursday ended up marking an upward curve as the state-owned financial institutions injected some funds to the market by purchasing shares following the previous day’s massive slide.
The general index of Dhaka Stock Exchange, which flip-flopped throughout the day, advanced by 136.23 points, or 2.57 per cent, to close at 5,428.40 points.
Market operators said the irrational trading pattern in the last few days had made the retail investors more nervous and froze them into inaction.
‘Thursday’s rise in share prices was mainly caused by the participation of the state-owned institutions. The small investors are still jittery and becoming inactive,’ said one of the operators.
The general index of the bourse gained a whooping 398.51 points on Tuesday after the Investment Corporation of Bangladesh and six other state-owned financial institutions declared a joint fund investment in a bid to stabilise the volatile securities market following a government order. But the selling pressure from the retail investors and inactivity of the state-owned enterprises pushed down the market by a massive 309.42 points the very next day. The aggrieved investors, who had lost more than 60 per cent of their capital in the past two months of stock market debacle, held a mass prayer in front of the DSE building on Wednesday.
The trading on the bourse began in a negative mood on Thursday with the DSE general index shedding 122 points in the first 20 minutes as panic-stricken investors continued to sell off shares heavily.
The market, however, rebounded slightly in the later half as a rumour spread that the state-run banks were buying shares, prompting the retail investors to hold on to their stocks.
Experts, however, considered Thursday’s rise a result of a unified effort made by the SoEs to stabilise the market.
Market analyst Akter H Sannamat said, ‘The state-owned institutions should play the role of market makers as is demanded by the current market condition.’
‘It is not necessary for them to buy shares every trading day. But, whenever, the market needs support, they should act promptly and at a short notice,’ he added.
Spending money does not equate to producing rare earths ready for market, this is a long and expensive project, and China has the lead by a ways now, just when these metals are going to be needed most. In the graph above it's clearly shown that the United States is basically eaten by China in the rare earths market, the difference perhaps between a command and control economy, and the form of hyper crony capitalism (cannabalism) here in the west.
Source: International Business Times - February 25, 2011
The Japanese government and private companies will spend $1.34 billion to curb Japan's dependence on rare-earth imports from China by a third, the Nikkei news report said Friday.
Japan to curb rare earth dependence on China
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has selected an initial 110 companies that will receive subsidies totaling 33.1 billion yen, as part of efforts to diversify procurement and additionally invest 9 billion yen in other subsidies and encourage more companies to apply for them, the report said.
Rare earth metals have a wide variety of applications. They are used in hybrid car motors, computer hard drives, cell phones, and wind turbines. They are also essential for military equipment. Jet engines, smart bombs and guided missiles, lasers, radar, night vision goggles, and satellites all depend on rare earth metals to function.
The investments are expected to slash Japan's annual imports of rare-earth elements from China by about 10,000 tons from the current 30,000 tons, the paper added.
China suspended exports of rare-earth elements to Japan as an apparent protest to the arrest of a Chinese skipper in early September, following his boat's collision with Japanese coastguard vessels off disputed islets in the East China Sea. Beijing said it re-stared exports in late September, but Japanese traders said shipments resumed only very slowly.
China, has exported 6,000 tons, or 49.8 percent, of its total rare earth to Japan, representing a 167 percent rise year on year, according to China's Ministry of Commerce.
According to the US Geological Survey's Mineral Commodities Summary, China produces approximately 97 per cent of the world's rare earth. Of the 124,000 tonnes of ore mined in the year 2009, China produced 120,000 tonnes.
China mines about 90 percent of the world's rare earth minerals - which is a collection of seventeen chemical elements and is used to various technological devices, cellular phones, high performance batteries, flat screen televisions, green energy technology, and are critical to the future of hybrid and electric cars, high-tech military applications and superconductors and fiber-optic communication systems.
China has been reducing export quotas of rare earth minerals for the past few years, citing environmental concerns. However, Wang Caifeng, who is in charge of setting up the China Rare Earth Industry Association, stated that China might slightly raise the production cap and export quota next year.
China's monopoly of the rare earths market has allowed it to manipulate this market by restricting production, using export quotas to limit global supply, and increasing taxes on rare earth metals. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has estimated that non-Chinese producers pay at least 31 percent more for raw rare earth metals than Chinese producers. As a result a black market in rare earths has developed.
Source: Foreign Policy - January 20, 2011
Picture this: millions of followers gathering around a central shrine that looks like a giant UFO in elaborately choreographed Nuremberg-style rallies; missionary outposts in 31 countries from Germany to the Democratic Republic of the Congo; an evangelist vision that seeks to promote a "world morality restoration project"; and a V-Star program that encourages hundreds of thousands of children to improve "positive moral behavior." Although the Bangkok-based Dhammakaya movement dons saffron robes, not brown shirts, its flamboyant ceremonies have become increasingly bold displays of power for this cult-like Buddhist group that was founded in the 1970s, ironically, as a reform movement opposed to the excesses of organized religion in Thailand.
Yet, despite the pageantry, the inner workings of this fast-growing movement are little known to Thailand's general public, and certainly to the rest of the world, though its teachings loom large among the legions of devotees.....
This obscurity is because -- despite its 24-hour satellite TV station -- Dhammakaya has diligently worked to avoid the limelight. Until now. Over the past year, photographer Luke Duggleby and reporter Ron Gluckman have been granted unrivaled access to the facilities and ceremonies of Dhammakaya, and they provide an exclusive look at this mesmerizing movement.
The Mothership: The gold-topped Cetiya temple is the center of the Dhammakaya's expanding global meditation movement and the focal point of ceremonies. The dome is actually composed of 300,000 identical titanium- and gold-coated bronze statues of Buddha -- another 700,000 are nestled inside a temple that even devotees will admit looks like a UFO. Some call it "The Mothership." Estimates have placed the value of the temple complex at around $1 billion. - Foreign Policy
Buddhism on Life in the Universe
The Budhha's explanation of the universe was what the present scientists found out to be. He divided the process of "creation" (for lack of better word) into four stages...formation, existence, degeneration, and destruction. Upon destruction, all the material elements returned to their original base elements, and after a long long time, they began to group together and the process of formation would start again. So you can understand, that the whole process is a cycle, and has no beginning or ending. These forces of "creation, formation, existence, and destruction" are universal throughout the entire cosmic space which has no ending. Time is a non factor, it has no meaning in this cosmic display of life cycle. Space is also a non entity; it is just void.
At any point in time there is this incessent cycle of creation, existence, degeneration and destruction of stars, planets, and even galaxies! Space has no ending, which can be better decribed as void. The Buddha called our galaxy, Cakkavala. Cakka meaning wheel or spiral. Our galaxy is spiral in shape. The whole universe, the Buddha called it Loka Dhatu, meaning, world of elements. In this endless void, there exists countless galaxies. The size and distance of these galaxies are beyond our human imagination and understanding! Our earth world is just an insignificant speck of dust in this whole unimaginable universe of cosmic existence! As a law of probability alone, if such an insignificant speck of dust can support life, what about the others in this gigantic display of cosmic drama! The answer to both your questions is that Buddhists KNOW that there exists extraterrestrials; but very very very far away.
In many of the Buddha's discourses there were always the mention of beings from 10,000 world systems gathered to listen to him. The Buddha also revealed that in our world alone there were 31 planes of existence (life forms). Humans and animals are 2 planes that we can see. The others, such as ghosts and higher plane beings, we cannot see with our limited vision. Wherever there are life forms in any of the worlds (planets) in other galaxies or universes, these 31 planes of life forms take hold. All are subject to this universal cycle of formation, existence, degeration, and ultimate destruction; and the cycle repeats itself ad infinitum. - Justin Choo
Source: Bloomberg - February 19, 2011
South Korea’s Financial Services Commission suspended the business of four local savings banks for six months from today due to a liquidity crunch.
The four banks are Bohae Mutual Savings & Finance Co. and three subsidiaries of Busan Savings Bank -- Jungang Busan Savings Bank, Busan II Savings Bank, and Jeonju Savings Bank, the financial watchdog said in a statement today.
“They have suffered a bank run” after the recent suspension of two other banks, the FSC said in a statement after a meeting at 7:30 a.m. today. “We concluded that they will not be able to meet demand for withdrawals, eventually hurting depositors’ interests and credit order.”
Busan Savings Bank and Daejeon Mutual Savings Bank were ordered to halt operations for six months from Feb. 17 due to soured construction project loans. The commission is tightening scrutiny of smaller mutual savings banks, with a plan to buy as much as 3.5 trillion won ($3.1 billion) worth of deteriorating loans made to builders and developers.
State-run Korea Finance Corp. and other big commercial lenders in the country are prepared to provide 2 trillion won in credit to the mutual banks to prevent a potential liquidity crunch, and the government may secure as much as 10 trillion won together with Korea Deposit Insurance Corp., the commission’s chairman, Kim Seok Dong, said on Feb. 17.
"In 1968, amid escalating tensions between the Soviet Union and China, Chairman Mao uttered the words, Shenwadong, chengjiliang, buchengba, a phrase that quickly became as well known as any of his Little Red Book quotations. Most commonly translated as, "Dig deep tunnels, store food and prepare for war," it became a rallying cry that mobilized approximately 300,000 Beijingers to dig, dig, dig. Using shovels, bamboo baskets and the occasional wheelbarrow over a 10-year period, citizens -- many of them children -- created a network of tunnels that extends from Tiananmen to Chongwen District and Xidan.
The 30 km of tunnels -- between eight and 18 meters underground, with an area of 85 square kilometers -- has been dubbed China's Underground Great Wall. It was designed to house nearly half the city's population in case of, say, a nuclear attack, and while each tunnel system is different, army engineers had enough foresight to install underground basketball courts, theaters and mushroom-cultivating storerooms. Many of the stones came directly from Beijing's Old City walls, which were systematically demolished in favor of this project.
The tunnels were never used for their intended purpose, as China never went to war with the U.S.S.R., and over the years they became largely forgotten..." - The Beijinger
Source: The Telegraph - February 1, 2011
There, in the city's vast network of unused air defence bunkers, as many as a million people live in small, windowless rooms that rent for £30 to £50 a month, which is as much as many of the city's army of migrant labourers can afford.
In a Beijing suburb, beneath one of the thousands of faceless residential tower blocks that have carpeted the city's peripheries in a decade-long building frenzy, one of Beijing's "bomb shelter hoteliers", as they are known, agrees to show us his wares.
Passing under a green sign proclaiming "Air Defence Basement", Mr Zhao leads us down two flights of stairs to the network of corridors and rooms that were designed to offer sanctuary in the event of war or disaster.
"We have two sizes of room," he says, stepping past heaps of clutter belonging to residents, most of whom work in the nearby cloth wholesale market. "The small ones [6ft by 9ft] are 300 yuan [£30] the big ones [15ft by 6ft] are 500 yuan."
Beijing is estimated to have 30 square miles of tunnels and basements, some constructed after the Sino-Soviet split of 1969, when Mao's China feared a Soviet missile strike, and many more constructed since to act as more modern emergency refuges.
The fact Mr Zhao can easily rent out 150 such rooms, with the connivance of the city's Civil Defence Bureau with whom he has signed a five-year contract and invested nearly £150,000, is testament to China's massive unfulfilled demand for affordable housing.
"Some 80pc of our tenants are girls working in the wholesale market and the rest are peddlers selling vegetables or running sidewalk snack booths," he adds. "There are dozens of similar air defence basement projects in residential communities. In this area, they say 100,000 live underground."
Checking out the price of property above ground it is not difficult to see why. To buy a small flat (860 sq ft) in the tower block above – a typically grim, grey concrete affair – currently costs more than £200,000. In a city where the average monthly salary is 4,000 yuan, the average person would take 50 years to buy such an apartment, assuming they saved every penny they earned.
At the market, Xiao Wang, a sales girl who is one of the basement dwellers, says she lives in a small basement room with a friend. They have no kitchen and only the use of a stinking public toilet upstairs.
"I can earn 4,000 yuan on a good month with commissions," she says, "but sometimes it is only 2,000. I could maybe afford something a little better, but I need to save money so this is how I have to live."
Such vast discrepancies between house prices and earnings are creating social and economic difficulties for China's government – the discontented poor can't find a decent place to live while the rich look to store their wealth in a speculative, bubble-prone property market. Not for nothing did Li Daokui, an adviser to China's central bank, tell the World Economic Forum in Davos last week that rising property prices were the "biggest danger" to China's economy.
With inflation and wage pressures also mounting, a growing number of investors are starting to question the long-term sustainability of China's investment-heavy growth model. A survey of global investors by Bloomberg last week found that 45pc of them expect a financial crisis in China within the next five years, with another 40pc anticipating a crisis after 2016.
Others point to the low level of mortgages on Chinese property and the underlying demand for property in a country that will urbanise 200m people in the next 20 years and argue that the bull market has a long way to run yet.
But for Beijing's bunker residents who will never be able to afford a house, no matter how far prices fall, such considerations are superfluous, so long as China's government does more to manage their rising discontent. This year, in a sign that it is getting serious about low-cost housing after years of paying lip-service, Beijing's municipal government announced it was putting 200,000 new low-cost rental homes on the market, compared with 10,000 last year.
"We don't ask for much," said a roadside vegetable seller who also lives in a nearby basement shelter, "but the government must give us somewhere to live, because without us labourers what is going to support the Beijing economy?"
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