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Vol. XIV No. 27
Friday July 7 - July 13, 2006

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Updated every Friday
by Saichon Paewsoongnern

 

 

COLUMNS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Money matters

Snap Shots

Modern Medicine

Heart to Heart with Hillary

Beyond the Beach

A Female Perspective


Money matters: The end of the Western World we have known since 1945

Part 1 - The Iranian Oil Bourse

Graham Macdonald
MBMG International Ltd.

In response to claims that March 20- 25th 2006 would be the beginning of the most significant political crisis since the fall of the Iron Curtain and the creation of an economic and financial crisis comparable with that of 1929, we need to consider the 2 key themes that have led commentators / conspiracy theorists to make this assertion:
1) March 20th being the Iranian decision to open the first oil bourse prices in Euros in Teheran.
2) March 23rd, the Federal Reserve ceases publishing M3 figures.
The Iranian Oil Bourse
Firstly, considering the oil bourse and some of the real concerns behind it, is it about oil or nuclear capability? Iran recently instigated talks in Vienna with EU negotiators who are pessimistic about reaching a solution to Iran pursuing its uranium enrichment programme.
Iran has consistently said it intends to use nuclear power for civilian uses only. Whether or not you believe this is irrelevant, the fact is that the under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty, they have yet to break a single international law in their pursuit of civilian nuclear power capabilities. If we assume they have no nuclear weapons it will take them some time to actually be a nuclear state – or one that even begins to approach the level of supremacy of the US. The IAEA has yet to produce any evidence that Iran is using this program to develop nuclear weapons. But just as with Iraq, they are also behaving like a state that is conscious that the very survival of their state is under threat of military invasion. The creation of the Iranian Oil Bourse is similar to what Iraq did in 2000 before the invasion when oil for food revenue was converted to euros, therefore moving trade from US dollars.
However, whether this is really about nuclear ability or the US dollar is probably a better question in terms of the economy. The oil bourse will be based on a euro-oil trading mechanism that naturally implies payment for oil in euro. In economic terms, this represents a significant threat to the dollar because it will allow anyone willing either to buy or to sell oil for euro to transact on the exchange, thus circumventing the U.S. dollar altogether.
It is then highly dependent on how other nations respond to the opportunity to buy oil in euros. Hypothetically speaking, the following reactions could be seen: The Europeans will not have to buy and hold dollars in order to secure their payment for oil, but would instead pay with their own currencies. The adoption of the euro for oil transactions could provide the European currency with a reserve status that will benefit the Europeans at the expense of the Americans.
The Chinese and Japanese currently have huge dollar reserves, the new exchange will allow them to drastically lower their enormous dollar reserves and diversify with euros, thus protecting themselves against the depreciation of the dollar. The Russians have an inherent economic interest in adopting the euro, the majority of trade is with European countries, with oil-exporting countries or with China, and with Japan. Transferring to the euro makes sense in relation to the first 2 and in the future will improve trade relations with China and Japan.
In the Middle East the main oil exporters will view the bourse as a means of diversifying against a huge exposure to depreciating dollars. The majority of trade is already with Europe and the new currency provides stability and a method of reducing currency risk, not to mention the fact that they have a tendency to view America as the ‘enemy’.
Outside the US probably only the British would see this as a real threat, finding themselves torn between an old alliance and their geographic pull towards Europe. The 2 major oil exchanges, NYMEX in New York and IPE in London could be affected by such events and if the British adopt the euro system they would effectively be damaging their own exchange. From an economic perspective should the Iranian Oil Bourse gain credence, it could be widely adopted and become a precursor to the demise of the dollar and create further inflationary issues.
Continued next week with: Federal Reserve ceases publishing M3 figures …

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: Stage photography for amateurs

by Harry Flashman

As a photographer, you are a window to the world for everyone to look through. Everything that goes on around us can be captured on film (or didgitally), though sometimes this is harder than you would imagine. Stage photography is one of these.
Have you ever looked at the credits at the end of a movie? They have one person, a photographer, whose job is just to take the stills of the movie which can later be used as reference points and for publicity. Remember that much of a movie is shot with stage “sets” so movie stills is really just another branch of stage photography, but the lighting has been done for you.
Now when you go to a stage performance and would like to capture some of the action, you have to keep it in your mind that it is indeed a “performance”. You cannot ask the ballet dancer to hold that pose, or Mick Jagger to stand still for a minute while you check the focus.
This is one branch of photography where you have to be prepared and ready to anticipate what is coming next. If possible, it is good sense to make notes at a prior performance.
Now one of the first things the average photographer will do is to bolt on his megawatt donnerundblitzen flash gun with enough power to light up the far side of the moon. While understandable, I do not necessarily endorse that approach to stage photography. Again it is the old adage of “Walk several meters closer” for this type of photography too. Use a standard lens and get close. If needs be find which row seat you need to be able to do this. All part of the being prepared.
Now, what about the lighting? What about a flash? For my money, you use fast film, possibly 400 or even 800 ASA, and let the stage lighting itself do the illumination. The lighting too is quite different from that you normally experience. Stage lighting is generally tungsten based and sharp (what we call “spectral” lighting). Spots for the performers and floods for the background are the hallmarks of the usual stage lighting. The use of spots in particular is used to highlight the principal performer or action on stage. Successful “stage” photographs are then ones that have managed to retain that “stagey” lighting feel to them, so that instantly you look at the image you know it is of a performer on a stage somewhere.
The secret of retaining that stage feel is just in the lighting. Because it tends to be dark, we all break out the super-pro flash gear, or activate the in-built flash that comes with the camera. Unfortunately, what happens is that the flash can overpower the stage lights and you lose the effect. All you get is someone dressed in strange garb, flash-lit at night. Not Mick Jagger at all!
Going back to getting as close to the action as you can. I know the pro types get to walk right up on stage, shoot the performer clean in the eye and shuffle off stage left. You will probably be thrown out on your ear if you try it, so please don’t. However, do get a seat as close to the action as you can, a seat where by using a standard lens you can fill the frame with the performers. If all you have is a fixed lens point and shooter, get as close to the front of the stage as you can. You can still get the scene stopping shot – you just need to get very close.
Now then, f stops. If you are confident, then monitor for the central subject. If you are unsure, just set the camera on “Auto” – with the 400 ASA film loaded there will be enough light to run the “auto” settings. You will be surprised just how strong stage lighting can be.
So there you are. Get close, use fast film and no flash. Have fun.


Modern Medicine: Hello!.....Hello! Is this an Echo?

by Dr. Iain Corness, Consultant

In medicine’s grab bag of diagnostic procedures, there is one called an “Echo”. This is short for Echocardiogram and is one of the procedures that can yield much information on the workings of the heart, with pictures produced by Ultrasound.
This type of ultrasound test uses high-pitched sound waves to produce the image of the heart. The sound waves are sent through a device called a transducer and are reflected off the various structures of the heart. These echoes are converted into pictures of the heart that can be viewed on a monitor similar to a TV screen.
The difference between an X-Ray and an Echo is that the X-Ray is a static picture, whilst the Echo shows dynamic ‘action’ images of the functioning heart. The former is similar to taking a photograph of your car engine, while the Echo is the same as measuring your car engine’s workings on a rolling road dynamometer.
The echocardiogram is used to evaluate how well the heart chambers fill with blood and pump blood to the rest of the body. It can also be used to estimate the amount of blood pumped out of the left ventricle with each heartbeat (called the ejection fraction). It helps evaluate heart size and heart valve function. Echocardiography can help identify areas of poor blood flow in the heart, areas of heart muscle that are not contracting normally, previous injury to the heart muscle caused by impaired blood flow, or evidence of congestive heart failure, especially in people with chest pain or a possible heart attack. In addition, ECHO can identify some heart defects that have been present since birth (congenital heart defects).
There are several different types of echocardiograms, including the Transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE). This is the standard, most commonly used method of echocardiography. Views of the heart are obtained by moving the transducer to different locations on the chest or abdomen wall. This is a totally painless procedure.
Another is the Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE). In this case, the transducer is passed down the esophagus instead of being moved over the outside of the chest wall. A TEE may show clearer pictures of the heart, because the transducer is located closer to the heart and because the lungs and bones of the chest wall do not interfere with the sound waves produced by the transducer. A TEE requires a sedative and anesthetic applied to the throat to ease discomfort.
The main reasons for carrying out an Echocardiogram are to evaluate abnormal heart sounds (murmurs or clicks), a possibly enlarged heart, unexplained chest pains, shortness of breath, or irregular heartbeats. It can also diagnose or monitor a heart valve problem or evaluate the function of an artificial heart valve, detect blood clots and tumors inside the heart, measure the size of the heart’s chambers, evaluate heart defects present since birth (congenital heart defects), evaluate how well the heart is functioning after a heart attack, and to determine whether the person is at increased risk of developing heart failure. It can also show some specific causes of heart failure, detect an abnormal amount of fluid surrounding the heart (pericardial effusion) or a thickening of the lining (pericardium) around the heart.
Echocardiography is a painless procedure. You will not be able to hear the sound waves, since they are above the range of human hearing. The gel may feel a bit cold and slippery when rubbed on your chest. The transducer head is also pressed firmly against your chest, but this is not uncomfortable.
There are no known risks associated with transthoracic echocardiography. You are not exposed to X-rays, radiation, or any electrical current during this test. However, there are some risks associated with transesophageal echocardiography, including the possibility of a tear of the esophagus, bleeding, and discomfort of the mouth and throat.
Unfortunately, Echocardiography may not be accurate in between 10 to 18 percent of people because of technical difficulties. These are found in people who are overweight, women who have large breasts, or people with lung disease.


Heart to Heart with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
You keep saying to look in the right places if you want to find a good relationship with a better class girl in Thailand, but I don’t think it’s just that simple. Look in the shops, offices and the like and ask one of these “good” women out and they turn you down. I’m from the UK and I gave up trying and like us all ended up in the red light area where you really do get to feel like a “sexy man” and you never get knocked back. You get a really sexy girl who looks stunning, and who will look after you. Maybe they aren’t “in love” with you, but they sure make out like they do.
Happy in the Beer Bars
Dear Happy in the Beer Bars,
I am delighted that you are happy, down there in the male paradise, being thought of as a “sexy man”. Well, you think you are being thought of as a “sexy man”, but is that what your attentive, stunning, sexy girl really thinks of you? You are certainly correct when you say that they aren’t “in love”, but never let it be thought that they are without emotions. They love your wallet, my Petal. And even more importantly, the contents of your wallet. It has been said many times before, but you are their own personal ATM and your pin number is easily found nestling down there in the undershorts. Wake him up, watch the investment grow and wait for the (financial) withdrawals. You say you get turned down by the better class girls. That is a shame, but have you ever stopped to think why? Perhaps you are not the sort of person a young university graduate wants to go out with? Thai women value politeness highly. And personal hygiene. However, if you have a short time viewpoint, than stay where you are, my Petal, but don’t expect to find your life’s partner there. Otherwise you will be writing to me again in a couple of years complaining about the treatment you have received at the hands of the stunning, sexy one.
Dear Hillary,
I know I sent you a letter a few days ago, but I had to mention this. I have seen more miracles in this World Cup than ever took place in the Bible! I’ve seen players writhing in agony on the ground, and you think for sure they will never be able to play football again, but, lo and behold, when a penalty, yellow or red card is given to their opponents within seconds they are running around like chooks with their heads cut off! Surely a miracle Hillary. Leaves the Bible for dead don’t you think?
Yours tongue in cheek.
Delboy
Dear Delboy,
You can keep your tongue out of my cheek for a start, my Petal. However, it is good to hear from you again and we are enjoying your reviews of the actors, sorry, soccer players. Mind you, whether or not I would wish to draw allegories from the bible is something else I don’t really want to pursue too deeply either. You might like to try and view this video: ItalianTrainingCamp.mpg, as it will add some weight to your parable of the miracles.
Dear Hillary,
My husband and I have been invited to a Thai wedding up country and we are a little unsure of what to do, or even more importantly, what not to do. Are there any special things we should watch out for? We enjoy your advice column and appreciate your help.
Janet
Dear Janet,
Just be guided by your hosts, they will indicate what happens next. As regards, “what to do”, just have some money in an envelope to give to the happy couple at the appropriate time - you will see everyone doing this, so you will know when. As regards “what not to do”, since this will be a full ceremony with the monks sitting in pride of place, do avoid falling asleep during the chanting. This would be exceptionally bad karma. Just remember that Thais are very tolerant and understand that you will not know what to do. Just go with the flow and you will have a most enjoyable time. Try eating everything at the feast – just don’t ask what each item is!
Dear Hillary,
We girls feel that Thailand is far too much geared up for the males in this society. Why is there nothing for us? Do you agree, or are you one of “them” too?
The Girls.
Dear Girls,
Honestly my heart goes out to you all. How terrible it must be to be totally blind, deaf and dumb and forced to live here. Just what in tarnation is it that you girls want to do? The male dominated areas are usually go-go driven, but there are places for us too. The bars too male? Women have been drinking in bars since Emily Pankhurst. The beaches? You can get more attention there than any man. So, sorry, Hillary does not agree with you, nor do I really understand what you mean by your phrase, one of “them”. I am not one of “them” – I am Hillary!


Beyond the Beach: ‘Still in search of real England’

Caspian Pike
Well talk about getting out a bit! Having found himself in the middle of a freezing field somewhere in the Cotswolds last week in “Search of real England”, Andrew Watson delves deeper still in this week’s “Beyond the Beach”.

This week Andrew meets Henry Elwes - a man proud to be English.
He talks to Henry Elwes, who is something called, the “Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire”, a title which carries with it the privilege of caring for Her Majesty the Queen and her entourage, when they venture into the county. His family has lived on their ancestral land for centuries and he resides with his wife Carolyn in a home suitably adapted from the palatial pile which until the late 1950’s adorned the undulations of his impeccably maintained estate.
Henry is a man much-loved by the community, whose interests he holds very close to his heart. He’s also genuinely proud of his Englishness and I suppose to many of us, he probably reflects our ideas of all that is to be revered in ‘Englishness’. Indeed, he is the quintessence of gentlemanly grace.
If last week’s Watsonian wardrobe was preposterous, replete with ridiculous Soviet Army ‘Ushanka Faux’ Fur hat and cricket sweater, then this week he at least matches it, pulling a foppish cravat from nowhere in a self-deprecating and quite hilarious attempt to blend in with his surroundings.
Watching the series so far, I feel that I am becoming familiar with the subtle ribaldry of the conversations, a gentle irony running through them, bringing a promise of something unexpected. Sometimes, you cannot quite tell whether Watson is totally serious or not.
That was certainly true in last week’s show, where John Hughes-Reckitt, a pillar of the Cotswold community, seemed happy to play along. There’s an air of warmth and intimacy to the programme but you never get the impression that Andrew is ingratiating himself to his guests. In fact, in this week’s programme, I find it rather refreshing that someone is prepared to say positive things about England, in a climate where it often seems unfashionable. After all, there’s nothing like World Cup fever to bring out England-bashing tendencies and the English are pretty bad at it themselves. Take Richard Williams in the Guardian Unlimited (online). In a damning article, he writes that, “When England has the world [football] stage, how the world laughs”. (Williams, 26/6/06).
Yet here on “Beyond the Beach” is grand old Henry Elwes, speaking of his enormous pride in the extraordinary achievements of the English nation, “Just a dot on the map” he muses, whose influence is profoundly global.
Next week, I’ll be previewing “Beyond the Beach” when Andrew Watson meets Ranjith Chandrasiri, Deputy General Manager of the Royal Cliff Beach Resort, an elegant, suave and consummately sartorial individual, whose job it is to keep the Royal Cliff, “A Class Above.”
Catch Andrew Watson’s interview with Henry Elwes, Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire, “Still in search of real England”, Sunday, at the following times:
Sophon at 8:00am - Midday- 4:00pm- 8:pm and Midnight.
Chonburi at 9:40am- 2:00pm - 8:40pm and 40 minutes after midnight.
Jomtien at 9:00am- 12:30pm - and 9:00pm
Sattahip at 8:00am - 1:30pm - 5:00pm- 8:00pm and 11:00pm


A Female Perspective: A Wine Club Treat

with Sharona Watson

Looking forward to a day’s indulgence.

Every so often, there comes a time when you’re feeling a bit tired and down, perhaps not for any reason in particular and suddenly something really wonderful happens; and that’s just what happened to me the other day. There I was, just about 10am, enjoying a relaxing cup of coffee, listening to the sea gently collapse into the sand on the beach, when Andy calls and asks me if I’d like to cover a Royal Cliff Wine Club trip to PB Valley Khao Yai Winery & Vineyard, for the paper. Would I? I couldn’t imagine anything more wonderful! “What’s the catch?” I immediately asked my husband. It’s not that I don’t trust him, but I was always told that if something seems too good to be true, then it probably is. “Starts at 6.30am. You could stay at the Royal Cliff overnight, I suppose?” Andy suggested. Now that really did sound great! We live about 45 minutes from Pattaya so a pre-dawn start wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. I’m not at my best in the morning (“or the evening either!” Andy rudely interjects).

An exceedingly pleased Royal Cliff Wine Club President, Mr. Ranjith Chandrasiri.
Anyway, as it transpired, I had to get up and drive instead of staying at the Royal Cliff, after all. I had however, had time to do a bit of research. We were going to visit one of Thailand’s largest vineyards in the heartland of highly-acclaimed “wine country”. Situated on the edge of the Khao Yai National Park, PB Valley Khao Yai Winery, named after the initials of its owner, Dr. Piya Bhirombhakdi, is 300-350 metres above sea level in a lush 320-hectare plantation, of which 80 hectares is dedicated to growing grapes. Now into its sixteenth year of operation, the winery has become the birthplace of Thailand’s premium wines. With its professional, large-scale wine operation featuring state-of-the-art technology, it strives to produce world-class wines for Thais, as well as for export and is one of the leading wineries in Thailand and Southeast Asia.

A long day in excellent company.
Of course from Pattaya, it’s a long trip; about three and half hours on a bus. But when we arrived, the scenery was absolutely stunning. Beautiful and green, like a picture, mountains all around, I felt my fatigue being swept away. The bus was full of happy campers, waking from their slumber, looking forward to a day’s indulgence, I am sure. “If you have the right conditions, you can grow grapes” was the common consensus. Sure, but from a novice point of view, (such as my own) one of things you always hear is that Thailand just isn’t right for certain grapes. The humidity for instance, is only appropriate for sweet wines like Sauternes. Well, apparently not! Anyway, the tasting would tell.
I am a fan of Chenin Blanc, so I was intrigued to see how it measured up. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. You could taste the fruits, (I thought definitely pineapple) and there were distinct floral aromas. It was crisp and cool and set me on my way. I should point out that unlike my first tasting adventure, in the Barossa valley in Australia, I used the spittoon. I wanted to savour the pleasure of the wines and actually remember the experience! Moreover, I was on Pattaya Mail business!
Now here’s a grape I didn’t know very well; “Tempranillo”. Very, very tasty. A touch of spice, some cedar certainly, and a beautiful alizarin crimson hue. The kind of wine which is perfectly matched to lamb, pork and other meats. Next up were a couple of Shiraz wines. The greatest compliment I could pay the 2002 and the 2006 vintages, is that they did not pale in comparison to my favourite Wolf Blass Shiraz. Furthermore, if a wine is supposed to reflect the ambience of its surroundings, then the older of the two Khao Yai Shiraz could be said to be a complete success. It was bright, light and refreshing, like Khao Yai itself.

Beautiful and green, like a picture.
The day was heating up as lunch loomed, yet Khao Yai has a beautifully clean feel about it. All that fresh air; wonderful! I was being overtaken by a feeling of enormous well-being. I reflected that the 350 Baht paid per person for the whole day’s excursion represented exceptional value, including transportation, breakfast on-board, winery tour, wine tasting, PB Valley vineyard tour and lunch at the ‘Great Hornbill Grill Restaurant’. This country-style restaurant is newly-opened and serves an exquisite selection of Thai, Fusion as well as German dishes. It’s also a great place to start or end a tour of the Khao Yai National Park (tigers permitting).
I was being looked after quite magnificently by Royal Cliff Wine Club President Mr. Ranjith Chandrasiri, who was adding quite radically to my previously rudimentary knowledge of wine-making. There’s something about learning about vineyards and the whole process from grape to bottle, which captures the imagination. It’s kind of romantic and with the enthusiasm of the wine club members overflowing as freely as the wine, it was enough to convince me that I should take my interest further.
It became clear that the PB Valley Khao Yai Winery has become increasingly successful at raising awareness of the quality of its wines, locally, regionally and globally. Whereas before, there existed (and I may have been guilty of this myself) a kind of unhealthy, perhaps snobbish scepticism regarding its quality, if you compare some of the top Thai wines that are on the market with equivalents from more established countries, PB Valley wines are unmistakeably excellent. I should have known better. My home town is Rishon Letzion and I grew up near the Golan Heights. Both areas have developed their reputations for great wines painstakingly, over a long period of time. Wines produced under the supervision of Khun Prayut, Manager and Chief Winemaker of PB Valley are now being served on-board flights operated by Thai Airways International. His most recent achievement was having the Khao Yai Reserve Shiraz 2000 selected to be served at the gala dinner hosted by the Thai Prime Minister for the Heads of States at the APEC 2003 conference in Bangkok.
Anyway, I was convinced. I invested in a couple of bottles of Chenin Blanc.
It had been a long day in excellent company and great fun; interesting, informative and above all, relaxing. My thanks to Ranjith Chandrasiri and the members of the Royal Cliff Wine Club for their hospitality.
For more information, visit their Wine Club website at: www.royalcliff.com/rcwineclub.htm and the PB Valley Khao Yai Winery at: www.khaoyaiwinery.com
Next week: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff!
[email protected]

Happy members of the Royal Cliff Wine Club.



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