The Cycle of Prosperity and Bust

I will use the familiar term “bubble” as a shorthand, but note that it confuses cause with effect. A better, if ungainly, descriptor would be “asset-price hyperinflation”—the huge spike in asset prices that results from a perverse self-reinforcing belief system, a fog that clouds the judgment of all but the most aware participants in the market. Asset hyperinflation starts at a certain stage of market development under just the right conditions. The bubble is the result of that financial madness, seen only when the fog rolls away.
Everything is a cycle, even financial markets which is determined by Demand and Supply, where the participants are you and I, which is linked to the population’s age groups, the number of young, middle-age and the old, and fundamentals of business cycles and processes for demand and supply of goods and services. Let me make myself clearer, there will be boom times, and down times which is caused by an imperfect market, the herd instinct where baby boomers start work, get married and buy a home, where they are the pillars of the economic boom, and a time when they grow old and retire, becomes unproductive and needs to cash out their retirement funds, but when all start doing at the same time, chaos will follows.
If you understand my logic, you will understand why high GDP growth never last forever, unless there is sustainment in innovations and productivity, where a revolutionary invention could prolong this from happening, where there is high growth there will definitely be a slowdown when the population ages. Therefore it is very important you must prepare for it. Spread out the effects caused by the slowdown, tweak policies to make sure there is renewal of innovations and productivity, renewal of the population.
I am 100% certain when baby boomers retire, there will be a huge lost of productivity, and unless there is renewal of the population, a slowdown of high GDP growth also, and if it is not managed properly, a bubble will form when the markets cannot support the high growth, there will be many sellers but no buyers, then the dangers of a crash, which may occur within the next twenty years.
– Contributed by Oogle.

Allow Singles to buy Studio Apts will solve the need to curb Shoebox Apts at OCR

Singles, I Hear You

Since I joined MND last year, I have often received suggestions and feedback from Singaporeans that HDB new flats should also be made available to singles.  Currently, they (above 35) can only buy resale flats, but not new HDB flats.
To these requests, I have routinely given an interim reply: I hear you. I know your wishes to have a roof of your own. But let me tackle the more urgent needs of the married couples first, especially the first-timers.
I am grateful that the singles have been patient and understanding.  Thank you.
Last year, I focused attention on the first-timers and we have produced good results.
I have now begun to focus on second-timers.  These are still early days, and results will take a few more months to show.   This means going into next year.  But I am confident that we will have results to show eventually.
This has allowed me to begin to think about how to address the singles’ housing needs.
Since PM’s ND Rally, many more comments and suggestions have surfaced.
Some are quite sound.  For example:
–   Allowing singles to buy BTO flats should not be at the severe expense of married couples;
–   There must be some restrictions on the type of flats that singles are allowed to buy;
–   Singles should not be allowed to rent out the flats;
–   If two singles with 2 BTO flats subsequently get married, one of the flats should be sold;
–   There must be a difference between the subsidy received by a single and a married couple.
There were other suggestions.
For example:
–   The flats sold to singles should be of shorter lease and longer MOP;
–   A higher (than 35) age threshold should be imposed on such BTO applicants.
Property analysts have added to the debate, commenting on the impact of such a policy on the resale market, and in particular on the “shoe-box” market.
I am glad that many Singaporeans have given thoughts to this topic.  That is the value of such national conversation, creating a forum for interested Singaporeans to share their views and suggestions on a common topic.  The Government cannot obviously accept all suggestions, but the informal nature of the consultation allows all views and ideas to be aired and duly considered.
I will continue to mull over this issue.  In any case, I cannot hurry too much as firstly, I need to focus on the immediate needs of the second-timers until they are largely addressed next year.  Secondly, I want to have a better handle over the likely additional demand on new HDB flats when we open the scheme to singles.  The additional demand is unlikely to be small and if we misjudge, the interests of the married couples, especially those with children, may be adversely affected.
I suppose one practical approach given the difficulty of assessing demand, is to adopt an incremental approach to implementation.  We can start the scheme with some initial restrictions (e.g. on flat type).  This way, we can better ensure the scheme meets the needs of the singles, while still protecting the interests of the married couples.
Another logical way is to launch a larger number of BTO flats next year.  Question is what should that magical number be.  This requires some study, and market research.  Hence, I need some time.
Meanwhile, please continue to let me have your views and suggestions.
Please visit the MND Facebook to leave a comment.
National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan

Allow singles to buy studio apts with 99 years lease where they must be 35 years & above, if you do, there is no need to restrict shoebox apts in OCR because there is a real demand where demand outstrip supply, I do not need to look at statistics I can easily predict the outcome.
Source of Info;
Population growth segmented into age group
Anticipated demand from those in the marriageable age
Anticipated demand from Singles and Divorcees
Anticipated demand from foreigners
Present supply for 2013 for private
New HDB BTO flats supply
Monthly HDB Resale flats supply
Place everything on a Timeline to see the overall Demand/Supply
By shifting demand from shoebox to studio apts, what is the outcome?
It will moderate the rate of increase of prices of HDB flats
*Sky rocketing prices of HDB flats is because the government is not building enough HDB flats to satisfy demand, where there is a delay to supply due to 3 years building time and the holding period of 5 years that will make the situation worse, where the average % trend is for families who purchased a flat to stay for at least 8 years before considering selling in the resale market, for private there will be an oversupply in 2013/14 which will moderate prices. 
Traditionally, we have reached the peak of birthrates where there will be a slowdown in demand of housing, but the mass influx of FTs have artificially spiked demand, now the gap is even wider where HDB is not able to satisfy demand, but when baby boomers retire, it will become a pain when many will downgrade which will create a property bubble, if not managed properly in future the crash will be even worst than Japan’s.
– Contributed by Oogle

HDB housing grants, are they really "free"?

The Additional CPF Housing Grant (AHG) and Enhanced Grant Scheme, introduced in March 2006, is meant to help citizen families with a steady household income to buy their first subsidised HDB flat. Supposedly, the Grant is to reduce the monthly installment for the buyer.
I was a property agent. From what I observed, buyers who took these housing grants will usually sell their flat at a loss with no money coming out from their sale. The longer they wait to sell their flat, the bigger their paper loss from their CPF account.
This is the true picture. Initially, the grant will be disbursed into you & your co-applicant’s CPF Ordinary Accounts and it will be deducted from your CPF Ordinary Account in one lump sum on that day of purchase.
However, when you sell your HDB flat, you are also required to use the sale proceeds to pay back whatever is outstanding in the HDB loan and followed by the housing grant that was given to you initially in CPF.
Therefore, if you sell your flat at $500,000 and you have an outstanding HDB loan of $200,000 followed by a CPF refund of $100,000. If you have taken a housing grant of $40,000, you are also required to make good of the whatever left sale proceeds to replace the $40,000 in your CPF with the accrued interest over the years. .
CPF interest rates are 2.5 per cent per annum. If you waited for 5 years to sell your flat, your accrued yearly interest on the housing grant would be 2.5% of the $40,000.
It is no wonder that many sellers who took housing grants would sell their flat without any cash proceeds coming out from their sale.
Of course, if the seller sells at valuation, CPF doesn’t require the seller to top up the paper loss but then again, without any cash proceeds, the seller has to use his/her own money to fork out the cash to pay for his agent’s commission. In some cases, under-the-table money and under declaration will occur.
I have observed how some buyers circumvent this loophole. They simply refused to take the housing grant but instead willing to fork out their own cash for higher installment. Their rationale is that since banks’ annual interest rates are lower than CPF interest rates of 2.5%, they are willing to use their own money cash from the bank to pay for the slightly higher monthly installment.
These buyers are usually Singapore PR who want to stay in Singapore for a few years before they decamp to greener pastures elsewhere.
Edmund Lim

Not only you have to return the interest provided by the housing grant, if you used up your two allocations, you have to payback when you apply for the third flat a percentage of your previous flat sold depending on the type you have applied eg 3/4/5/Executive/Maisonette. Not only that, if you downgrade to a rental flat your rental premium will be based on market rates, when it is deemed you have used up your allocation and can afford to pay. So it is better you seriously consider properly using the HDB “subsidy” because there is a catch, there is payback and not entirely “free”.
After you sell the flat, you need to payback the grant you take back into your CPF account with interests, which you cannot touch until you retire, but pay CASH upfront a percentage from your sales when applying for a third flat under direct from HDB.
And if you are a retired person who wants to downgrade to a studio, do not use the S$20K grant because you need to topup your CPF minimum sum in CASH, you take S$20K but you will definitely payback more. “HDB grant subsidies” to help the low income, what a joke!
I am not so stupid to buy a HDB flat at market rates where it is impossible to use as collateral which is deemed “illiquid asset”, where you cannot convert your CPF into CASH.
– Contributed by Oogle.

FBI launches $1 billion nationwide facial recognition system

By on September 7, 2012 at 1:08 pm
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has begun rolling out its new $1 billion biometric Next Generation Identification (NGI) system. In essence, NGI is a nationwide database of mugshots, iris scans, DNA records, voice samples, and other biometrics, that will help the FBI identify and catch criminals — but it is how this biometric data is captured, through a nationwide network of cameras and photo databases, that is raising the eyebrows of privacy advocates.
Until now, the FBI relied on IAFIS, a national fingerprint database that has long been due an overhaul. Over the last few months, the FBI has been pilot testing a facial recognition system — and soon, detectives will also be able to search the system for other biometrics such as DNA records and iris scans. In theory, this should result in much faster positive identifications of criminals and fewer unsolved cases.
According to New Scientist, facial recognition systems have reached the point where they can match a single face from a pool of 1.6 million mugshots/passport photos with 92% accuracy, in under 1.2 seconds [PDF]. In the case of automated, biometric border controls where your face and corresponding mugshot are well lit, the accuracy approaches 100%. Likewise, where DNA or iris records exist, it’s a very expedient way of accurately identifying suspects.
FBI Biometrics logo 
So far, so good — catching criminals faster and making less false arrests must be a good thing, right? Well, yes, but there are some important caveats that we must bear in mind. For a start, the pilot study has only used mugshots and driving license photos of known criminals — but the FBI hasn’t guaranteed that this will always be the case. There may come a time when the NGI is filled with as many photos as possible, from as many sources as possible, of as many people as possible — criminal or otherwise. This might be as overt as parsing CCTV footage and collating every single face into a database; or maybe you’re just unlucky and your face ends up in the system because you’re in the background of a photo starring a known criminal.
Imagine if the NGI had full access to every driving license and passport photo in the country — and DNA records kept by doctors, and iris scans kept by businesses. The FBI’s NGI, if the right checks and balances aren’t in place, could very easily become a tool that decimates civilian privacy and freedom. Time to invest in a hoodie, I think…
Read: Precrime creeps closer to reality, with predictive smartphone location tracking

Lytro unveils radical new camera design

By Stephen Shankland
October 19, 2011 1:05 PM PDT
The startup hopes light-field cameras, such as its $400 model, due in early 2012, will revolutionize photography by letting people focus photos after they’re taken.

Get ready for camera 3.0. Because next year, you might have to decide whether an 11-megaray sensor is enough for your new light-field camera.
Lytro, a Silicon Valley startup, today unveiled its radical new camera–also called the Lytro. With it, the company hopes to rewrite the rules with a technology called light-field photography, but the scale of the company’s ambition is matched by the scale of its challenge.
On the outside, the Lytro looks different–a smooth, two-tone elongated box 4.4 inches long and 1.6 inches square. At one end is the lens and at the other is an LCD touch-screen display; along the sides are power and shutter buttons, a USB port, and a touch-sensitive strip to move the F2 lens through its 8X zoom range.
There are three models–the $399 cameras with “electric blue” and “graphite” exteriors whose 8GB of built-in memory is enough for about 350 shots and the “red hot,” 16GB camera that can record 750 shots, Chief Executive Ren Ng told CNET in an interview today. U.S. residents can buy one now, through Lytro’s Web site only, though they won’t ship until the first quarter of 2012.
It’s a striking industrial design for those accustomed to cameras festooned with buttons, protruding lenses, scroll wheels, and knobs. But the biggest differences are on the inside.
The three Lytro camera models sport a very different design on the outside, but their light-field technology inside is even more of a departure from conventional cameras.

The three Lytro camera models sport a very different design on the outside, but their light field technology inside is even more of a departure from conventional cameras. (Credit: Lytro)
Conventional digital cameras use lenses to focus a subject so it’s sharp on the image sensor. That means that for an in-focus part of the image, light from only one direction reaches the sensor. For light-field photography, though, light from multiple directions hits each patch of the sensor; the camera records this directional information, and after-the-shot computing converts it into something a human eye can understand.
The result is that a Lytro camera image is a 3D map of whatever was photographed, and that means people can literally decide what to focus on after they’ve taken the photo. “Camera 1.0 was film. Camera 2.0 was digital,” said Ng, who worked on the technology at Stanford University before founding Lytro, originally called Refocus Imaging, in 2006. “3.0 is a light-field camera that opens all these new possibilities for your picture taking.”
Lytro camera lets a single shot be refocused on different subjects.

Lytro’s camera lets a single shot be refocused on different subjects.
(Credit: Eric Cheng)
The biggest such possibility Ng points to is that an image becomes more dynamic. With the camera, a photographer looking at the screen can change the focus point. In one demonstration, the image shows the droplets of water on the window at one moment and the New York skyline from the same image at the next moment.
The interactivity is not limited to the camera. Software included on it lets people do the same operation on computers, with images hosted for free at Lytro’s Web site, or embedded in Facebook pages. Only a Mac application will be available at launch, though a Windows version is on the way, and Lytro plans viewer apps for mobile phones as well.
Lytro believes the cameras will be be handy for focusing an image after it was taken; you can whip the camera out, turn it on, and snap the shot rapidly without worrying about waiting for an autofocus system to hunt around while the baby’s first smile fades away.
“It’s got an instant shutter. You press the button–bang! It takes the picture right away,” Ng said. “We have that unique feature–shoot first, focus later. The camera doesn’t have to physically focus while you take the shot.”
The image is ready for refocusing operations immediately after it’s taken, the company said. And though people can toy with the image on the 1.46-inch LCD display, they don’t need to. That’s good, given the limits of such a small view.
Another interesting feature: because the camera captures depth information, Lytro images can be viewed in 3D, something the company demonstrates with 3D TVs. The image information will be recorded for anyone who buys a Lytro camera, but the ability to view the 3D versions will come later with a future version of the company’s software.
One big challenge for the company will be convincing people that they want this interactivity.
After-the-fact fiddling with photos can be a drawback as well as an asset. Focusing 40 birthday party snapshots after the fact might get tedious for the photographer, not to mention for a more casual viewer flipping through views of the event. Some might enjoy exploring the new aesthetic domain of shiftable focus, but a lot of people taking snapshots just want it in focus in the first place.
The camera’s image quality also remains to be seen. Another Silicon Valley startup, Foveon, tried to shift the digital photography paradigm with a new sensor design that produced what Ng would call camera 2.0 images. But Foveon struggled to convince the photography industry of the approach’s merits and cost-effectiveness, and lensmaker Sigma ended up acquiring the company. Lytro will have to prove its way here, too.
Another challenge will be convincing people to buy something so different online. People like to handle cameras, and though they’ll be able to try the refocusing effect online, they won’t be able to get a feel for the camera itself. Lytro wouldn’t comment on its retail strategy.
Then there’s the vocabulary gap. The Lytro cameras gather 11 megarays worth of data, Ng said. “The sensor collects 11 million rays of light at every shot,” he explained. That’s a lot of rays, but it’ll be awhile before anyone has an idea what kind of image quality that enables, the way people have at least a vague understanding of megapixels today for conventional cameras.
So there are challenges. But if the company can get a foothold, it can grow–and it’s got Moore’s Law on its side, because much of the challenge of light-field photography is in the image processing rather than the optics. 

I can easily modify Lytro technology to fit into the camera of a smartphone, it is really the sensor that is doing all the work, you can easily bump the resolution beyond 41 megapixels, take a snapshot first then focus later by software. For HD videos to have a small footprint, it is the first image that is important to capture, thereafter the changes to the light conditions will be taken in subsequent frames, so that onl
y a small footprint is required for video images, everything can be edited using software that sits on your desktop, including panaroma and 3D images. To take a picture or a video under low light conditions, just add a stabilizer and the sharpness will rival any technologies of conventional cameras.

Microsoft and Nokia, your pureview technology only have a 50/50 chance after you pump in millions to kick it off, it can never beat light field photography, listen to my advice to dump your existing project, it will definitely fail. If you incorporate light field technology into your Lumnia range of Windows phone and use your first mover advantage, I guarantee you will be handsomely rewarded, more than a hundred fold.
Technical Challenge;
You need the brightest lens f1.8 where you already have a 41 megapixel sensor, the rest of the work will be mainly software to intergrate to the desktop where the programming of HD video will be most challenging, frames could embrace the next HD2560 standards due to the very bright lens and the stabilizer must be most effective for low light condition, an algorithm need to be built-in to be able to capture the first frame and subsequent changes to the frame will reference the first frame so that the video footprint will be small. This way, I can easily create a prototype within 6 weeks.
– Contributed by Oogle.

Bits of Mystery DNA play crucial role in diseases


Published: September 5, 2012

Among the many mysteries of human biology is why complex diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and psychiatric disorders are so difficult to predict and, often, to treat. An equally perplexing puzzle is why one individual gets a disease like cancer or depression, while an identical twin remains perfectly healthy.

Now scientists have discovered a vital clue to unraveling these riddles. The human genome is packed with at least four million gene switches that reside in bits of DNA that once were dismissed as “junk” but that turn out to play critical roles in controlling how cells, organs and other tissues behave. The discovery, considered a major medical and scientific breakthrough, has enormous implications for human health because many complex diseases appear to be caused by tiny changes in hundreds of gene switches.
The findings, which are the fruit of an immense federal project involving 440 scientists from 32 laboratories around the world, will have immediate applications for understanding how alterations in the non-gene parts of DNA contribute to human diseases, which may in turn lead to new drugs. They can also help explain how the environment can affect disease risk. In the case of identical twins, small changes in environmental exposure can slightly alter gene switches, with the result that one twin gets a disease and the other does not.
As scientists delved into the “junk” — parts of the DNA that are not actual genes containing instructions for proteins — they discovered a complex system that controls genes. At least 80 percent of this DNA is active and needed. The result of the work is an annotated road map of much of this DNA, noting what it is doing and how. It includes the system of switches that, acting like dimmer switches for lights, control which genes are used in a cell and when they are used, and determine, for instance, whether a cell becomes a liver cell or a neuron.
“It’s Google Maps,” said Eric Lander, president of the Broad Institute, a joint research endeavor of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In contrast, the project’s predecessor, the Human Genome Project, which determined the entire sequence of human DNA, “was like getting a picture of Earth from space,” he said. “It doesn’t tell you where the roads are, it doesn’t tell you what traffic is like at what time of the day, it doesn’t tell you where the good restaurants are, or the hospitals or the cities or the rivers.”
The new result “is a stunning resource,” said Dr. Lander, who was not involved in the research that produced it but was a leader in the Human Genome Project. “My head explodes at the amount of data.”
The discoveries were published on Wednesday in six papers in the journal Nature and in 24 papers in Genome Research and Genome Biology. In addition, The Journal of Biological Chemistry is publishing six review articles, and Science is publishing yet another article.
Human DNA is “a lot more active than we expected, and there are a lot more things happening than we expected,” said Ewan Birney of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory-European Bioinformatics Institute, a lead researcher on the project.
In one of the Nature papers, researchers link the gene switches to a range of human diseases — multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease — and even to traits like height. In large studies over the past decade, scientists found that minor changes in human DNA sequences increase the risk that a person will get those diseases. But those changes were in the junk, now often referred to as the dark matter — they were not changes in genes — and their significance was not clear. The new analysis reveals that a great many of those changes alter gene switches and are highly significant.
“Most of the changes that affect disease don’t lie in the genes themselves; they lie in the switches,” said Michael Snyder, a Stanford University researcher for the project, called Encode, for Encyclopedia of DNA Elements.
And that, said Dr. Bradley Bernstein, an Encode researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital, “is a really big deal.” He added, “I don’t think anyone predicted that would be the case.”
The discoveries also can reveal which genetic changes are important in cancer, and why. As they began determining the DNA sequences of cancer cells, researchers realized that most of the thousands of DNA changes in cancer cells were not in genes; they were in the dark matter. The challenge is to figure out which of those changes are driving the cancer’s growth.
“These papers are very significant,” said Dr. Mark A. Rubin, a prostate cancer genomics researcher at Weill Cornell Medical College. Dr. Rubin, who was not part of the Encode project, added, “They will definitely have an impact on our medical research on cancer.”
In prostate cancer, for example, his group found mutations in important genes that are not readily attacked by drugs. But Encode, by showing which regions of the dark matter control those genes, gives another way to attack them: target those controlling switches.
Dr. Rubin, who also used the Google Maps analogy, explained: “Now you can follow the roads and see the traffic circulation. That’s exactly the same way we will use these data in cancer research.” Encode provides a road map with traffic patterns for alternate ways to go after cancer genes, he said.
Dr. Bernstein said, “This is a resource, like the human genome, that will drive science forward.”
The system, though, is stunningly complex, with many redundancies. Just the idea of so many switches was almost incomprehensible, Dr. Bernstein said.
There also is a sort of DNA wiring system that is almost inconceivably intricate.
“It is like opening a wiring closet and seeing a hairball of wires,” said Mark Gerstein, an Encode researcher from Yale. “We tried to unravel this hairball and make it interpretable.”
There is another sort of hairball as well: the complex three-dimensional structure of DNA. Human DNA is such a long strand — about 10 feet of DNA stuffed into a microscopic nucleus of a cell — that it fits only because it is tightly wound and coiled around itself. When they looked at the three-dimensional structure — the hairball — Encode researchers discovered that small segments of dark-matter DNA are often quite close to genes they control. In the past, when they analyzed only the uncoiled length of DNA, those controlling regions appeared
to be far from the genes they affect.
The project began in 2003, as researchers began to appreciate how little they knew about human DNA. In recent years, some began to find switches in the 99 percent of human DNA that is not genes, but they could not fully characterize or explain what a vast majority of it was doing.
The thought before the start of the project, said Thomas Gingeras, an Encode researcher from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, was that only 5 to 10 percent of the DNA in a human being was actually being used.
The big surprise was not only that almost all of the DNA is used but also that a large proportion of it is gene switches. Before Encode, said Dr. John Stamatoyannopoulos, a University of Washington scientist who was part of the project, “if you had said half of the genome and probably more has instructions for turning genes on and off, I don’t think people would have believed you.”
By the time the National Human Genome Research Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, embarked on Encode, major advances in DNA sequencing and computational biology had made it conceivable to try to understand the dark matter of human DNA. Even so, the analysis was daunting — the researchers generated 15 trillion bytes of raw data. Analyzing the data required the equivalent of more than 300 years of computer time.
Just organizing the researchers and coordinating the work was a huge undertaking. Dr. Gerstein, one of the project’s leaders, has produced a diagram of the authors with their connections to one another. It looks nearly as complicated as the wiring diagram for the human DNA switches. Now that part of the work is done, and the hundreds of authors have written their papers.
“There is literally a flotilla of papers,” Dr. Gerstein said. But, he added, more work has yet to be done — there are still parts of the genome that have not been figured out.
That, though, is for the next stage of Encode.

A version of this article appeared in print on September 6, 2012, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Study Discovers Road Map of DNA; A Key to Biology.