Vol. XIII No. 23
Friday June 10 - june 16, 2005

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Fun City By The Sea

Updated every Friday
by Saichon Paewsoongnern

 



 

COLUMNS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Money matters

Snap Shots

Modern Medicine

Learn to Live to Learn

Heart to Heart with Hillary

Psychological Perspectives

European Union Savings Tax Directive - the real facts

Graham Macdonald
MBMG International Ltd.

From July 1, 2005, new tax legislation will become effective throughout the European Union. This could impact on anyone holding deposits or savings within any EU country, and the tax havens of Gibraltar, The Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. Knowledge of how they may affect Europeans is vital to those people who have savings within this area.

As a culmination of long-stated EU intentions to comply with OECD anti-money laundering standards and the increased global pressure to act against money laundering that built up following the ‘war on terror’, the EU Finance Ministers agreed a Savings Tax Directive which finally comes into force this summer. This requires all registered institutions in all the EU states to exchange information on interest payments on savings and deposit income of non-resident private individuals so that they can be taxed at the appropriate rates in their home country.

The majority of EU countries will adopt this method of exchange of information. In other words, if you hold deposits in one EU country and reside in another, the country where the deposits are held will inform your country of residence so that you can be taxed there.

There are exceptions to this - Luxembourg, Austria and Belgium have elected to instead deduct a withholding tax at source. Switzerland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands will also be adopting the withholding tax option, even though they are not members of the EU.

In practice, this means that for the countries adopting the exchange of information route, on an annual basis, details of interest earned from private bank accounts and investments shall be passed to the account holder’s home country.

In the case of countries choosing instead to levy withholding tax, then this will be deducted at source from interest payments at an initial rate of 15% subsequently rising to an eventual 35%. The withholding jurisdiction will retain 25% of the tax revenue and will forward the remaining 75% to the home country of the account holder, but without any details of the account holder.

The legislation will cover bank deposits that pay interest, as well as investment income that generates from fixed interest securities (government and corporate bonds). However trusts, offshore investment bonds and life insurance based products are excluded from the directive and therefore offer a legitimate means of tax planning. However, it should be remembered that under the arrangements already in place between the government of the UK and the authorities in both The Isle of Man and the Channel Islands then any withdrawals from such products that exceed twice the basic rate tax band in any tax year are automatically notified to the Inland Revenue if the policy holder is UK resident.

What this all means in practice is that:

1) Anyone whose residential address (according to the data held by their EU bank or financial institution) needs to look at the withholding tax and information exchange consequences of the changes in legislation and evaluate their impact and explore alternative structures;

2) Investments and deposits of any individual who might return to the EU or Switzerland at some future time might also be affected.

It has come to our attention that a number of organizations have been sending out rather scare mongering communications that have caused some considerable alarm amongst the expatriate community, without explaining who will be affected immediately and who may be affected in the future. Unless you currently hold EU domiciled investments or deposits AND you also have an EU residential address, then this should just be a matter to be addressed as part of your overall planning for the future IF you may subsequently resume residence of an EU country. If not, then there are unlikely to be any implications stemming from this.

We have prepared a detailed review of the arrangements for those persons who will be affected. The introduction to this was published last year in our weekly columns in both the Pattaya Mail and the Chiangmai Mail. Simply email us at [email protected] if you require a full copy, or contact us to arrange to discuss this further.

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 [email protected]


Snap Shots: The Nikon D2X. Is this the ultimate digital camera?

by Harry Flashman

While still adhering to traditional film, but carefully watching the digital alternatives, I had thought that I would like to have a play with the Nikon D1X. There was only one thing stopping me - the price. Last time I looked they were around 250,000 baht!

However, because I was so tardy in making up my mind (or saving the bikkies), Nikon decided not to wait for me and has introduced the new Nikon D2X this year. Officially, Nikon describe it as their 12.4 Megapixel Digital SLR with Wi-Fi options.

Having looked at the specifications for this camera, I would describe it as the most advanced picture taking device currently available, with the capabilities of a small photographic studio system. Hearkening back to my own studio, this was set up with medium format cameras, IR senders to trigger remote Broncolor flash units, which were all independently programmable and other ‘in-camera’ capabilities. Looking at the Nikon D2X, and incorporating their Wi-Fi (wireless remote) control option and Nikon’s TTL Speedlight system, this combination would beat my old system hands down. Not only total control of all functions, but even remote triggering for the camera with five frames per second speed.

The Speedlight system bears some explanation. Called i-TTL Speedlight Technology, this was first seen on the D2H Nikon, and is the same (or better) than studio multiple flash heads. Where you had to run around setting each flash head power settings individually, the i-TTL technology in the D2X allows photographers to wirelessly control in full TTL, up to three groups of Speedlights, with any number of individual speedlights in each group. This works for photographers who now do not need to ever calculate flash and distance ratios, because the i-TTL systems is capable of making all exposure calculations in real time, wirelessly, during the exposure to deliver a perfect flash exposure in any situation.

Photographers can even maintain full control of each group of Speedlights from a master, on-camera Speedlight, by dialing up or down flash exposure values for each group. This technology can potentially distill an entire portrait lighting system into a small set of multiple SB800 and SB600 Speedlights.

While creative control is a bonus, if done easily, the end result still needs to be pin-sharp and colour rendition needs to be excellent. After digital conversion, a new processing method has been added to increase precision for smoother display of tones from highlight portions to shadow portions of the image and smoother gradations with consistent and smooth transitions, all with exceptionally pure color rendition.

Professionals need their cameras to be fast. The D2X is ready to shoot the instant it is turned on having an almost imperceptible 37 milliseconds shutter lag time, an area which has been a problem with high resolution digitals in the past.

The time between each shot is reduced as well, so the D2X is capable of shooting 5 frames per second at full 12.4 megapixel resolution for up to 21 jpegs. If that is not fast enough for the action photographers, the D2X has a High Speed Cropped Image mode that allows 8 frames per second by using a dual area sensor that records only 6.8 million pixels in the centre of the sensor. The D2X also has a high-speed AF system that features eleven auto-focus sensors of which nine are cross type and placed in the rule of thirds layout.

Battery life with high performance cameras can be a problem, but Nikon claim approximately 2,000 shots per charge, with accurate real-time displays. This sounds almost unbelievable, but I doubt if Nikon would tell us lies!

With the Wi-Fi option to be able to operate the camera some distance away, this makes this the most complete camera system today, in my book. At the beginning of this article I said there was one thing that had stopped me getting a Nikon D1X, and that was the price. With the new D2X, there are two factors stopping me - firstly the price, and secondly the cost! But I would certainly like one! Go for a virtual look at http://www.nikondigitalusa.com


Modern Medicine: Gallstones - the 82 percent story?

by Dr. Iain Corness, Consultant

As medical students, we learned the Five F’s of gallstones. The mnemonic went Fat, Fair, Female, Fertile and Forty as these represented the typical gallstone sufferer. Unfortunately, like all catchy mnemonics it isn’t quite true, as 10 percent of men also have gallstone problems.

Unsure of where your gall bladder is hiding and what it is supposed to be doing? It is found under your lower ribs on the right side of your body and is attached to the underside of your liver and is involved with digestion. In its natural healthy state it is like a hollow sausage attached by a tube (called the bile duct) to your stomach. It is when it gets gallstones inside it that you begin to get a problem.

So where do these gallstones come from? Well, 80 percent of them are made of our old friend Cholesterol, or Cholesterol mixed with pigment, that’s why you can get such pretty colours, though I am yet to see any made into a necklace, but it could catch on, I suppose. The Cholesterol stays in solution until something happens to slow down the emptying of the gall bladder, or thicken the solution, such as happens during fasting or through not drinking enough - water (sorry to have raised your hopes for an instant). This results in what we call biliary “sludge” which then hardens and turns into gallstones.

Factors which increase the likelihood of developing gallstones include increasing age, obesity, a diet high in animal fats and certain medical conditions such as diabetes. Oh yes, pregnancy also increases the incidence. (With all these problems that can happen with procreation, it is a wonder the human race survived this far!)

The management of gallstones has also changed dramatically over the past 20 years because of three main factors. The first was the development of Ultrasound visualization. At last we had a way of diagnosing gallstones, and painlessly too. Not only could we now “see” the gallstones, but we could tell if they were the cause of pains in the belly by being able to pick out inflammation in the gall bladder wall.

The second development was ERCP (you know how we love acronyms in medicine) which stands for Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio Pancreatography. At the end of the operating telescope (the Endoscope) the surgeon can sneak into the bile duct and scoop out stones that are blocking the duct which have been causing jaundice.

The third development was Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy and was pioneered in 1987 by a French surgical team. Instead of practically sawing you in half to get at the gall bladder, hiding under the liver as I mentioned before, this is a much less invasive method, where the operating laparoscope is inserted through a small incision in the abdominal wall, and the surgeon does the job under the direct vision. While this results in less trauma, shorter hospitalisation and quicker recovery, it is not always successful as it may be too difficult to snare the gall bladder, and the operation may have to be converted to the older “open” method.

It is also important to remember that gallstones can be found incidentally, and if they are causing no problems, the answer is simply to leave them alone. The chances of developing symptoms over 20 years are about 18 percent, or so the good books tell me, so with an 82 percent chance of getting off with nothing, who is going to volunteer for an operation you probably will not ever need? What “gall” to even suggest it!


Learn to Live to Learn: Journey’s End, Part I

“Parting is such sweet sorrow” Romeo & Juliet act 2, sc.4, 1

with Andrew Watson

One journey ends, another begins. Graduating from high school is a rite of passage that is rightly celebrated, with varying degrees of pomp and circumstance, often according to the dominant cultural heritage of the school. In Jerusalem, I witnessed lavish celebrations that were immaculately choreographed, featuring wonderful oratory from the Principal, guest speakers and graduating students. The valedictorian bade a teary farewell to his/her classmates, teachers and the place itself, all of which had conspired to make the person, that which they had become.

Neli Ivanova and Anurag Garg: keeping all the good memories.

Last week, I was invited to the Regent’s School graduation ceremony, their ‘Senior Formal’, at the Dusit Resort, a grand affair full of the flavour of fulfilment. A couple of days before, I spoke to two delightful graduating students about their feelings on leaving the Regent’s School and their plans for the future. Neli Ivanova and Anurag Garg, from Bulgaria and India respectively, came to Thailand from vastly different cultural backgrounds but discovered common ground in education. Neli and Anurag seemed to speak for all the graduating class, as they described the Regent’s School as less a school, more a home from home. Thus, perhaps predictably, they had mixed feelings on their impending graduation.

AW: The Regent’s has been your home for five years (Anurag) and four years (Neli) respectively. Now you’ve reached the end of this part of your life’s journey, how do you feel?

AG: It’s quite sad to be leaving the place, but at the same time I’m quite excited about going to university. I’m going to Purdue University (US) to study engineering. I have lots of really great memories of teachers and friends. Five years is a long time.

NI: I am also troubled by ambivalent feelings because at first it was difficult to get used to the different lifestyle here and now, four years later, I am so used to it that it’s become my second home. It’s going to be very difficult to leave, but there are always new challenges. I’m going to keep all the really good memories from here and look forward to whatever is coming next. I still can’t really believe that I’m going to be leaving.

AW: What are you going to do next year?

NI: I don’t know yet. I’ll go to university somewhere, hopefully somewhere in Europe because I’d like to be closer to home. I don’t really have a particular university in mind. I’m looking more for an experience – so a country that is interesting, a place where I can take a course that I like.

AW: If you cast your mind back over your time here, particularly your last two ‘IB’ years, can you think of one ‘highlight’ and one ‘lowlight?’

AG: Lowlight has to be making silly mistakes in exams. I made a major one in an IGCSE exam. I ended up with a ‘C’ but it could have been much worse. Highlights? I don’t think I can pick just one. It’s just everything about this school. All those events, times we’ve spent with friends. We’ve had a lot of opportunities at this school.

NI: There are many highlights. Round Square is one of them - not one particular event but overall, because I’ve gained so much through it. For example, the international conference we went to in South Africa and the one we organised here a month ago, on Koh Chang. It’s been great being involved with all of this. I guess most of all I’ve enjoyed meeting people from all around the world and having great teachers, who are very supportive at all times, which has really helped me to adapt to life here and make me feel at home. Lowlights? I don’t know. I suppose ‘IB’ did turn out to be as difficult as everybody claimed and there were many nights of not sleeping and finishing off extended essays and internal assessments. On the whole, it’s been worth it, of course.

AW: Did you ever imagine when you left Bulgaria that you’d be essentially travelling the world as a student?

NI: I never thought that I’d stay for the four years. I thought it would be really difficult being away from home and it has been, but I’m glad I managed to resist the pressure of homesickness and I’ve made it so I feel I’ve achieved something.

AW: You’ve been Head Boy and Head Girl. What has this meant to you?

AG: Being Head Boy has been a great experience. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve been exposed to a number of things that perhaps I wouldn’t otherwise have been exposed to, such as recently, when the school was interviewing for a new Head of Campus. A group of students, including the Head student, were invited to meet the candidates and have an informal interview with them. I learned how things worked. We posed questions.

AW: Were you severe?

AG: (laughing) Not too severe! It was really a casual meeting. An informal sort of thing.

NI: At first, being a Head Girl was difficult because it was the first year that the school had Head students and it was up to us to create our roles, our ‘job description’. With the help of Mr Crouch and some other teachers, we managed to set up a student council which I was quite proud of and the Round Square council. It was nice to see the response of students. Overall I think we did well. Maybe it wasn’t perfect, but we were learning.

To be continued…
[email protected]


Heart to Heart with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
I went out for my birthday and spent some time at a few bars in some of the naughty but nice sois then caught a motorcycle taxi to another set of bars where I had a few, then I went around the corner where I had a few beers in some bars and when I checked my pockets the next morning (well afternoon really) my money was all gone other than 20 baht. Do you think I was robbed? And should I report this to the police?
George

Dear George,
No, my little Poppet, you weren’t ripped off, you were just attacked by the beer bug. This little creature gets into your wallet in pubs and eats into your money, generally leaving you just enough to get home, if you are lucky. There was a bad infestation of these little blighters at New Year, though I believe some isolated outbreaks have even been reported since then. The only way to beat the bug is to keep your wallet hermetically sealed every time you go out on a bender. Of course you won’t win too many friends, but at least it stops the money being eaten. The only other thing you could do is to send all your money to Hillary and I’ll treat it with bug spray and see if it happens to me. I’ll let you know whether it was successful by email from the Bahamas.
Dear Hillary,
I have a really great relationship with my new Thai girlfriend other than one thing - she kisses funny. I have always thought that kissing is where you put your lips on her lips and go “smack” but she doesn’t do that. She sort of puts her lips on my upper lip and then sniffs. First time I thought she just missed my mouth. The next time she did it I thought she had a cold or something. The next time she did it I thought I must have bad breath so I cleaned my teeth till the gums were practically rubbed raw. What am I doing wrong, Hillary? Or is there something strange about my girlfriend?
Smooch

Dear Smooch,
There is nothing wrong with either of you, my Petal. Well, nothing that I can deduce from your letter anyway. You have been “sniff kissed” young man, a unique Thai way of showing a romantic endearment. While foreigners get all wet and mushy, the Thais can do it without even smudging their lipstick. Enjoy your relationship. She likes you! But please do keep brushing your teeth. You can’t be too careful.
Dear Hillary,
It is obvious now to everyone that you must be a smoker. Your reply to Anxious Annie where you suggested she set fire to her dog is cruel and vicious, as well as being a ridiculous answer to the poor woman’s philandering husband problem. It is people like you that have allowed beagles to be used by tobacco companies to smoke cigarettes and get cancer. You should be ashamed of yourself. I am disgusted that a woman in your category would put forward such notions.
Disgusted Wife

Dear Disgusted,
I don’t know what tablets you are supposed to be taking Mrs. Disgusted, but I do suggest you double the dose immediately. They are not working. I did not suggest to anyone that hot dogs were the answer for anything. And how did the beagles get into this? Personally I didn’t think the tobacco companies liked their dogs smoking cigarettes, as they’d much rather sell the ciggies instead. And on my salary, what with the price of chocolates pegged to the price of petrol, I couldn’t even afford to smoke, even if I wanted to. Finally, what sort of “category” do you think Hillary is in? The third category perhaps? You are certainly barking up the wrong tree, and I suggest you take the dog with you. I really wish you would check your facts before barking at Hillary, my Petal!
Dear Hillary,
Is there something wrong with me? I’m from America and I am not used to going into a bar to be propositioned. I don’t want to have someone ask me where I come from. I don’t want people to know how much money I make. How many children I have is my affair. Why doesn’t someone tell these girls in the bars that not everyone wants to tell them personal details? All I want is a quiet beer!
Jackson

Dear Jackson,
Are you one of those strong silent men? Or maybe you have something to hide. Stop worrying, the girls aren’t from the CIA or the IRS, they are just doing their job as well as they can, in a foreign language too, and you’re lucky they can converse as much as they can. If you don’t want the girls to talk to you then you have lots of choices. You can buy a bottle of beer and sit alone in your room (I’m sure that nobody as secretive as you shares with anyone else), or you can drink in more up-market watering holes for starters. Finally, is there something wrong with you? Yes, Petal, there is. You wrote to Hillary - that’s enough. I rest my case!


Psychological Perspectives:  Beautiful people

by Michael Catalanello, Ph.D.

Last week the Kingdom played host to the Miss Universe Pageant, in which eighty-nine stunning female contestants vied for cash, prizes, and the coveted title of Miss Universe. Despite longstanding objections and criticisms by some feminists and conservative traditionalists, beauty contests like the Miss Universe Pageant continue to attract widespread public attention and support in our societies.

In celebrating physical beauty through our beauty contests, we persist in idealizing the beauty of glamorous, smiling, shapely women dressed in revealing swimsuits, and lavish evening gowns. In apparent contrast, popular maxims, such as “beauty is only skin deep,” and “you can’t judge a book by its cover” seem to promote the creed that beauty is not, or should not be a significant factor in social interactions.

A considerable body of psychological research suggests that the attraction we experience toward beautiful people is universal, and possibly innate to humans. A remarkable degree of consensus exists both within and across cultures as to what qualifies as human beauty. Further, our human preference for beautiful people appears well established, even before we are influenced by socialization from parents, peers, and the media. Infants as young as three months of age already demonstrate a preference for attractive faces over unattractive ones.

Research also reveals the existence of a bias, or stereotype that operates regarding those we consider beautiful. We generally expect attractive people to possess desirable personal qualities, such as intelligence, success, and happiness. Conversely, we assume that unattractive people possess undesirable traits, such as deviousness and untrustworthiness.

One of the most fascinating research studies on beauty suggests that our interactions with a beautiful person can have the effect of a self-fulfilling prophecy, influencing that person to behave more appealingly. Social psychologists Mark Snyder, Elizabeth Decker Tanke, and Ellen Berscheid produced surprising evidence of such a phenomenon in a clever 1977 experiment.

Male subjects in the experiment were told that they were taking part in an investigation of “how people become acquainted with each other.” Each was shown a photograph and given biographical data on a female partner. They were then provided an opportunity to become acquainted with the partner through telephone conversations. Half of the males received a picture of a very attractive woman, while the other half received a picture of a relatively unattractive woman. The woman on the phone, however, was the same for both groups.

When the conversations were concluded, the men were asked to rate the woman with whom they had spoken on a number of personality characteristics, such as poise, sense of humor, and social adeptness. Psychology students who had not seen the pictures, but were allowed to hear only the woman’s side of the conversation were, likewise, asked to provide ratings of the woman.

As expected, the men who thought they were speaking to an attractive woman rated her higher on poise, humor, and social adeptness, than men who thought they were speaking to a relatively unattractive woman. Surprisingly, however, the unbiased student raters who had not seen the photos, but had heard only the woman’s side of the conversation, provided ratings that were consistent with those of the men who had seen the photos. Thus, when the woman had a conversation with men who believed her to be beautiful, she was rated as more animated, more confident, more attractive, and warmer than when she spoke to a man who believed her to be less beautiful.

This investigation provides evidence of a positive stereotype for beautiful people, which includes positive personality, intelligence and behavioral qualities, and a negative stereotype for plain or unattractive people. It further suggests that our stereotypes can influence us to behave toward that person in such a way as to elicit those positive or negative behavioral traits we assume the person to possess. Thus, the stereotype that beautiful people possess favorable traits, while less than beautiful people possess unfavorable traits, appears to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Dr. Catalanello is a licensed psychologist in his home State of Louisiana, USA, and a member of the Faculty of Liberal Arts at Asian University, Chonburi. You may address questions and comments to him at [email protected], or post on his weblog at http://asianupsych.blogspot.com



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