A Balance of dreams, realities and opportunities

http://www.todayonline.com/CommentaryandAnalysis/Commentary/EDC121107-0000015/Of-dreams,-realities-and-opportunities

If you cannot create the idea environment, where wage increases need to be balanced by lower business costs, lower housing costs by eliminating excessive demand by building a mix of Micro, Shoebox and other housing, productivity that will lead to more skilled jobs, a lifelong education plan with world class education system that can offer training in technical and knowledge skills at the lowest costs possible thru distance learning, where healthcare and insurance rising costs need to be controlled by separating the business of advice from selling medication, and insurance to be more profitable by re-investing their pool to lower insurance costs, the final beneficiary is your pension plans which will be guaranteed when you retire, without solving all these problems with a balance, do you think everyone can move forward? Wealth with GDP growth is important but not as important as jobs with a sustainable population where there needs to be replacement for the aging population, without family values and a stable environment will there be growth in the creation of babies, especially the basic needs of puting food on the table, everybody needs to upgrade before this can happen. Especially the needs of everyone in a globalised world, the money required is tremendous and I can only offer one solution to solve the needs of the entire world, which God has commanded me to do for the coming of Jesus in the UN, so actually everything does not belong to me. Once I complete my mission then what others give then I will keep. The coming of a Perfect world with a Perfect Economy.

– Contributed by Oogle.

Not practical to think you can solve the problem bilaterally with individual countries involved, UN may have to be involved

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Senkaku_Islands
AFP
Monday, Nov 05, 2012

VIENTIANE – The Philippines on Monday pushed its call for an international solution to overlapping claims in the South China Sea at an Asia-Europe summit, saying vital global shipping lanes were at stake.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino raised the issue in bilateral meetings with leaders of the European Union as well as with Swiss President Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf and Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg in Laos.
“We noted the increasing importance of maritime security” in what Manila calls the West Philippine Sea, said Aquino’s chief spokesman Herminio Coloma.
“There was agreement that it was a matter of international interest considering that a significant amount of world trade passes through that body of water,” he told reporters in the Laotian capital Vientiane.
“Switzerland and the EU and to some extent Norway indicated their firm support to the Philippines in terms of our position that conflicts and disputes in that area are to be resolved peacefully and following international law.”
Coloma said Aquino is also likely to raise the issue at a plenary session of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) later Monday and in bilateral discussions with the leaders of Japan and Italy.
More than 50 Asian and European leaders or their representatives are attending the ASEM summit, held every two years.
Any instability in the South China Sea, home to global commercial shipping lanes, will affect Europe because it would lead to higher insurance premiums for their ships, Coloma added.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, even waters near the coasts of neighbouring countries. The Philippines and Vietnam have accused Beijing of becoming increasingly aggressive in staking out its claims.
The Philippines has since April been engaged in a stand-off with China over a disputed shoal. Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also have claims to parts of the sea.
Aquino has insisted in the past that solving the dispute needed a multilateral approach, but China has insisted on solving the problem bilaterally with individual countries involved.
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If you look at it’s history, the Chinese were the first to inhabit the islands, it is only after WW2 that the Japanese took control, but after they lost the war, US move into the picture. To solve this dispute, China should have Administration rights, but mining rights can be shared with Japan, as it is an international sea lane, all countries should have access, as such all claims will be invalid, and all these disputes can only be resolved at the UN at the highest courts. Therefore nobody can erect any structures on the islands. Japan, is it worthwhile just to fight for mining rights when you are losing millions every week? Settle with China.
– Contributed by Oogle.

Why the costs of Healthcare in Singapore cannot drop

The Problem : Healthcare costs in Singapore is ever rising and cannot drop

The Present : Doctors prescribe medications and get a commission from drug companies so there is no incentive to improve or recommend new technology unless it increases his bottom line. What is the difference between Tampines Polyclinic and NUH? The prices of healthcare is cheaper at Tampines Polyclinic but the expertise of the doctor and the medical equipments cannot be compared to NUH. If I see a doctor at NUH and I want to buy the same medication at Tampines Polyclinic, can it be done? No, the government gives a subsidy based on where you go and they will not just sell you the medication, and that is why the high profits are already fixed like a cartel/monopoly by the government. This is not healthy as the savings are not passed on back to the consumer. Small clinics will face the most pressure as they need to stock up on medication which narrows their capital and cannot get economies of scale.

The Solution : Separate the business of healthcare by hospitals and clinics between giving advice and dispensing of medication. Common drugs will drop in price as more supply is introduced and drug companies can make more money from introducing the latest drugs to combat diseases, this in turn will also force doctors to upgrade themselves so they will get even higher income than those who do not. Even drug companies need economies of scale and those who can match demand and supply will enjoy the greatest profits. Existing hospitals with dispensaries can outsource to private with the requirements that they must provide the best medication with the lowest possible price, where the consumer can have the option to chose, this will drive old medication drugs down and economies of scale will also force common drugs to drop in price.  

PS : I am not going to buy my diabetes medication from NUH because it is too expensive, but since Tampines Polyclinic do not want to sell to me, I am going without medication forever and use excessive water and a strict diet to control my sugar level, I know the effects is not serious in the short term, but can be very serious in the long term, and I am going to play with both. People with diabetes can now visit general practitioners in private clinics, and even optical shops, to get tested for diabetic eye problems. Such eye tests typically cost $6.50 at polyclinics and $70 or more at specialist eye centres. Wah lau, so expensive at hospital, I am going to get it done at the polyclinic.
– Contributed by Oogle.

Six key messages Microsoft is sending to Windows 8 developers

Oct 30, 2012 3:30 PM
Steve Ballmer looked relaxed on stage. Dressed down in a short sleeve shirt and pants, he smiled, he cracked jokes, and he energetically rallied the 2000-strong crowd of developers at the opening keynote to Microsoft’s Build conference on the company’s leafy Redmond, Washington campus.
It was a very different Ballmer on stage than we saw at other events in the past year, including last week’s stiff and formal Windows 8 launch event in New York City. The energetic tenor of Ballmer’s keynote and the second, Windows Phone 8-focused keynote, reflected the conference’s underlying theme of building out the Windows app ecosystem.
“In case it’s not clear, we’re all in with Windows 8,” Ballmer enthused during Tuesday’s Build opener. “Every group in Microsoft has contributed something that’s optimized for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 and touch.”
Tuesday’s keynote was clearly aimed at its audience of attending developers. But six trends and takeaways emerged from the talk that paint a clear picture of Microsoft’s view of the world.

Windows 8 has huge potential for apps

Ballmer opened things up Tuesday by noting that Microsoft has sold 4 million Windows 8 upgrades since the operating system went on sale three days ago. (For context, 670 million Windows 7 PCs have the potential to run Windows 8.) And current estimates are that some 400 million new devices will soon be shipping that developers can target.
“Our industry is rebuilding itself around new devices and services,” Ballmer noted before he called on developers to rise to the occasion. This new universe represents an opportunity for app developers to make one app for all PC forms. “It’s an unprecedented market. Hundreds of millions of users are dying to buy your application.”
Throughout the morning, Ballmer energetically rallied the troops. “This is a market in which you can do your best work, most innovative work, most creative work. Whatever you do as a developer, Windows 8 is the best opp for software developers today.
“I guarantee you this will be the best opportunity software developers will see.”

The apps are coming

At last week’s Windows 8 launch event, I was disappointed to hear so little about Windows 8 apps. During Tuesday’s keynote, Microsoft showed off more app icons on-screen, though it was unclear from how they were presented which ones were shipping now and which were coming soon.
The big news was that Ballmer announced that SAP, Dropbox, and Twitter have all announced plans for Windows 8 apps. This is exactly the kind of app development commitment consumers need to hear about and see more of in the coming weeks if people are to get excited about the modern interface in Windows. It’s a pity we didn’t hear this last week—a time when consumers were paying attention.
I still wish that that Microsoft could be more specific about the number of apps, and which apps are coming. To say that Windows 8 has more apps than other platforms’ app stores did at launch isn’t enough: The market has changed since those other App Stores debuted. And consumers want to know more what they’re buying into up front if they’re to have confidence in what Microsoft’s building.

Opportunities for new and more personal apps are huge

“Your application will be the most personal [it can be] if you choose to marry the opportunities in the system [with the software],” Ballmer told Build attendees. He emphasized the easy sharing between phone and PC, the ubiquity of various Windows experiences like search and share, and the strength of integrating with a Microsoft account and leveraging SkyDrive cloud storage.
“Search, share, live tiles, live activity—these are all things you can also do with your apps,” Ballmer said.
Perhaps Steven Guggenheimer, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of developer and platform evangelism, put it best: “The thing about the hardware ecosystem is that it doesn’t come to life without the software. It’s about the marriage of hardware and software—and services, in some cases.”
The reality check here is that what Guggenheimer espouses isn’t new. In fact, it’s what we’ve known for years now, and have seen epitomized by Apple’s iPhone hardware and its integration with the iOS app ecosystem.
The difference now is that we’re hearing this from stodgy old Microsoft—the company that arguably has the most vibrant and daringly different touch interface of any operating system today. It’s refreshing to hear, because it’s an admission that means Microsoft does indeed get what it needs to do to succeed in this brave new mobile world.

Businesses are interested in Windows 8

Before Tuesday, the signs around how enterprise’s interest in Windows were tepid at best. And that’s not surprising, given IT departments’ traditional reticence to jump on a major Windows upgrade.
But Ballmer announced Tuesday that Microsoft had sold some 10 million units of Windows 8 into the enterprise market. While no mention was made of when those unit might be deployed into the field, it still highlights burgeoning interest in the new operating system within the business world.
Even better: In talking with developers here at the event, it sounds like businesses are investigating how to make the jump to the new platform. One developer, Anthony Handley of Magenic, noted, “We have a lot of enterprise clients that are interested in taking their internal line-of-business applications to Windows 8.” 

Windows app development tools are robust, but not perfect

Before this event, I heard praise for Microsoft’s development environment. By comparison to what mobile tablet and phone developers are used to with Google’s Android, in particular, I’ve heard some waxing poetic in casual conversation about working with Microsoft’s tools. I’ve also heard grousing that Microsoft didn’t do enough to unify development for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, but on the whole, the vibe has been more positive than what I hear about Android.
Magenic’s Handley is a cross-platform developer for iOS, Android, and Windows. “Obviously there’s a good story around iOS,” he said. “But as a designer working with Microsoft tools, they’ve come a long way in the past couple of years. Designers can work in Blend, and developers can work in Visual Studio, and the two can be melded in the end. Underneath the covers, we’re working on the same code. So there’s a lot of things to be excited about.”
We saw a glimpse of why the tools matter in action during the Windows Phone 8 portion of the keynote. Tony Garcia of Unity showed off the first demo of the Unity platform on Windows Phone 8. He emphasized during his demo how the Shadowgun sample being shown off was really easy to develop and debug on the PC. And the visuals looked great. 

Also during the Windows Phone 8 keynote, we got a picture of Microsoft as a company that was being responsive to its developers’ needs to create compelling app experiences. Microsoft said it has delivered 90 percent of the top developer requests. That doesn’t say how many requests the company received, mind you, but it does show Microsoft is listening and responding.
Among the additions highlighted here: NFC support, SD card access, voice commands and navigatio
n, in-app purchasing, peer-to peer networking, advanced networking, Bluetooth data transfers,text-to-speech, better multitasking, support for VOIP and video chat, and new proximity requests. Microsoft has also added deeper integration with native phone experiences; for example,it opened up access to its camera.

Microsoft is backing its developers

Every developer attending Build will walk away from this year’s conference with a 32GB Microsoft Surface RT tablet, 100GB of SkyDrive storage, and a Nokia Lumia 920 phone. The idea, of course, is to stimulate excitement and energy among developers for creating new apps for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8.
Giving out new hardware to developers is common at developer-centric events like this: Google and RIM have done the same thing at their events. But this is a notable shift for Microsoft, and Ballmer’s plea after announcing the Surface giveaway to “please go out and build lots of apps” underscores that the company recognizes it needs to generate enthusiasm in its developer community around making apps.
Contrast that with the mood at last year’s Build conference in Anaheim. That’s when Ballmer and Steven Sinofsky held their big Windows 8 unveiling, and developers were gaping open-mouthed at the implications of the vast software changes.
This year, Microsoft shifted its attention from simply introducing Windows 8 to focusing on getting developers to create apps for its new platforms across desktop, laptop, tablet, and phone. And this time, we had real, shipping hardware to spark app developers’ creativity.
“I think the creativity of your app is not just a function of what we build in [the software] but also of the hardware it sits on,” Ballmer told developers.
In the end, one of Ballmer’s lines particularly underscored that Microsoft’s success rides on more than what the company itself can control. “We need your support. Need your commitment [to building apps],” said Ballmer.
That right there sums up Microsoft’s Windows 8 “if you build it they will come” gamble. Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 are here. Now all Microsoft—and us consumers—need is for developers to come and build out the ecosystem.

The problem is opium is targeted at the wrong markets

Wednesday, Oct 31, 2012
AFP

BANGKOK – Opium cultivation in South-east Asia has doubled over the last six years as growing demand for heroin in China and the rest of Asia lures more farmers to grow poppies, the UN said on Wednesday.
Opiate users in East Asia and the Pacific now account for about a quarter of the world total, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said in a report.
China alone has more than a million registered heroin users, and consumes most of the drug in the region, it said.

With prices rising, cultivation in Laos soared 66 per cent to 6,800 hectares in 2012, and by 17 per cent to 51,000 ha in Myanmar, the world’s second largest producer after Afghanistan, according to UN estimates.
“Overall, opium poppy cultivation in the region has thus doubled since 2006,” despite officials reports from Laos, Myanmar and Thailand that nearly 25,000 ha of poppies were eradicated in 2012, the report said.
The study estimates opium produced by Laos and Myanmar to be worth US$431 million (S$526 million) in 2012, a third more than the previous year. Farm-gate prices per kilogram reached US$1,800 in Laos amid scarce supply, and US$520 in Myanmar.
The number of people engaged in cultivation has risen in parallel with up to 38,000 “opium growing households” in communist Laos and 300,000 in Myanmar.
The rise indicates Myanmar farmers – mainly in northeastern Shan state – will only turn away from opium cultivation if alternative livelihoods are available, the report said.
“Farmers are very vulnerable to losses in income derived from opium, especially those who depend on such an income source for food security,” it said.
“Furthermore, opium cultivation is generally linked to the absence of peace and security, which indicates the need for both political and economic solutions,” it added, referring to conflict in opium-producing Kachin state.
Myanmar has followed a 15-year-plan to eradicate opium by 2014, but the UN study, which used satellite, helicopter and ground surveys, suggests the target is falling away.
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There is nothing wrong with opium cultivation, it is also a drug with medical values so instead of allowing it to be supplied to drug addicts, the government should step in to control this lucrative trade by only supplying it to medical companies for the manufacture of drugs, if it goes underground, many people will suffer and there will be no end to crime, so the UN should step in to train the farmers on these benefits, once there is a ready buyer ie government and medical companies, the farmers will have no reason to go underground.
– Contributed by Oogle.

Hurricane Sandy will bypass Washington DC, heading northwest at 18mph

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/
Posted: 29 October 2012 1314 hrs
WASHINGTON: Locating the nearest emergency shelter or chatting live with forecasters — social networks were abuzz with the latest news, tips and reassurance on Sunday as Americans hunkered down for Hurricane Sandy.
The massive storm, which has already killed at least 66 people in the Caribbean, is expected to pummel large swathes of the US East Coast, leading authorities to order evacuations and halt public transport in some areas.
On Twitter, #Sandy was one of the top trending topics in cities and areas on the predicted pathway of the storm as nervous residents looked for the latest news and posted links to useful websites on how to stay safe.
Google set up an interactive map that tracks the path of the storm, provides real-time precipitation figures in areas already hit by the outer edges of Sandy and locates the user’s nearest active emergency shelter.
The map also enables people to locate webcams already set up in affected areas to watch as the storm unfolds, as well as videos posted on YouTube showing the situation in various locations, including images of choppy seas or flooding.
AccuWeather.com, the weather forecast website, set up a Google+ Hangout — a group video chat — inviting netizens to join and get their questions about the hurricane answered in real time by their meteorologists.
The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, took down their paywalls to enable people to get storm updates for free.
“Run riot! Read everything!”, one Twitter user joked, although the Wall Street Journal still had its paywall up for other stories not related to the storm.
One netizen on Twitter posted a link to the website of animal welfare group ASPCA, which told concerned pet owners how to prepare their animals for the upcoming storm.
Smartphone users were also able to download applications to help them keep informed about the storm.
The American Red Cross, for instance, provided an app giving the latest storm information, a check-list of things to have stored in the house, and even a quiz on hurricanes to while away the hours.
On Facebook, meanwhile, a community page set up for the hurricane, which includes graphics illustrating Sandy’s wind speed or “threat index”, had already garnered thousands of ‘likes’.
But for all the concern on social networks, many netizens also lightened the atmosphere with some humour and funny pictures.
On Tumblr, the blogging platform, one person posted a picture of a bottle of red wine with the legend “Might as well post up for Sandy #sandy #hurricane #letsdrink.”
– AFP/al

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Hurricane Sandy’s target is a direct hit on Florida USA moving southwards, but due to the HAARP Project to mess with the epicentre, it is diverted northwest away from major cities to lessen the impact.
– Contributed by Oogle. 
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Ways to follow Hurricane Sandy online:
CBS News Hurricane Sandy storm tracker and forecast maps
National Hurricane Center
Google Crisis Map
Live Hurricane Webcams: NY, NJ, Va
Instagrams via Statigram
Emergency Services and Government Agencies on Twitter
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Hurricane Center
Red Cross
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Ready.gov
Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of State
The Federal Aviation Administration
Government Twitter Feeds
Delaware (hashtag #StormDE)
District of Columbia Mayor’s Office (hashtag #SandyDC)
Maryland (hashtag #MDSandy)
Massachusetts (hashtag #MASandy) 
New Hampshire
New Jersey Governor’s Office (hashtag #Sandy)
New York City (hashtag #Sandy)
New York Governor’s Office (hashtag #Sandy)
North Carolina Governor’s Office
Ohio Governor’s Office
Pennsylvania Governor’s Office (hashtag #HurricaneSandy)

Rhode Island (hashtag #rigov)
Vermont
Virginia Governor’s Office (hashtag #Sandy)

West Virginia
Hurricane Sandy Hashtags
#Sandy
#HurricaneSandy
#njsandy
#MASandy
#StormDE
#SandyDC
#rigov

No budget to restore National Monuments? Isn't it time to let the Church decides?

28th October 2012
Recently, while at the NTUC Income HQ to run some errands I have decided to explore the vicinity.  First was a visit to the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, bounded by the parallel Queen and Victoria Streets, and Bras Basah Road.
From the signage erected at the front of the Cathedral, the Cathedral was gazetted a national monument on 6 July 1973 by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).
I’ve spoken to one of the helper who was busy cleaning the interior in preparation for the weekend masses on the status of the Restoration Fund.   Pathetic was my conclusion.  This helper shared with me that the Church of Saints Peter & Paul is also facing similar fate.
The Church of Saints Peter and Paul, located at Queens Street was also gazetted a national monument on 10 February 2003.
At the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, its church restoration fund aims to restore its premises urgently as there are cracks and other structural defects in the building. This is due to Land Transport Authority (LTA) works during the construction of the Bras Basah MRT station and the Singapore Management University.  Despite much of the current dilapidated state of the church building was the direct consequence LTA works, it was understood that they have not sufficiently compensated the Cathedral. The cathedral needs around S$40 million, of which S$8 million has been raised as at December 2011, according to a board tracking the fund raising progress outside the main entrance of the cathedral.
The nearby Church of Saints Peter & Paul requires about of S$10 million for its restoration.  Similarly, appeal for public fund is on-going.
I have resided in New York, Paris, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Seoul and New Delhi during the cause of my work.  What I have learnt is that when buildings in these cities are gazetted to be conserved as national monuments, its restoration and maintenance are usually funded by the State.  Why isn’t the Singapore government paying for the restoration instead of passing the buck to the public?
If the government is not willing to finance the restoration, why even bother to conserve these buildings in the first place?  Might as well leave them to the Archdiocese to make their own decision if they want to tear down the buildings and build a totally new Cathedral or church?  Restoration usually costs more than new build and far more time consuming.
The Singapore government is known to have huge reserves.  The state sovereign wealth funds are known to lose billions due to bad investments, politicians pay themselves million$ yet not willing to pay for the restoration to retain heritage to the city-state?
.
Caroline Charles
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All these churches at located at prime land where it is possible to get funding if the Church decides to mortgage their land to build a new building which is cheaper than restoration. If the government does not provide the funds to help in the restoration of National Monuments, isn’t it time to leave the decision to the Church to decide what to do with their old buildings? If the government wants the land, make them pay compensation so that you can relocate somewhere else with a new premises, which is likely the cause. My assessment is in a few years time when South Beach Project is launched, this area might raise to up to $3K-4K psf, so everyone is now sitting on a goldmine, use your bargaining powers to get the best deal. Now you know the real reason. You can decide to sit out until the launch of South Beach Project, by then average prices will hit $2K psf but I doubt you can be compensated at the historical high value of $4K psf. As such, you can see the present trajectory of inflation which will continue to rise and hover around 8-10% in less than 10 years time.
– Contributed by Oogle.