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Money matters

Snap Shots

Modern Medicine

Heart to Heart with Hillary

Learn to Live to Learn

Let’s go to the movies

Money matters:   Graham Macdonald MBMG International Ltd.

Reading the Runes, part 2

Going back to forlorn Bob Janjuah, his reading of the runes is that Wall Street may rally a little further into early July before short-lived momentum from America’s fiscal boost begins to fizzle out, and the delayed effects of the oil spike inflict their damage and that is when the US Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank face their dilemma as workers start to lose their jobs in earnest and lenders cut off credit. Janjuah sees this as a defining moment.
“Globalisation was always going to risk putting G7 bankers into a dangerous corner at some point. We have got to that point.”
In a recent MBMG Daily Update we highlighted this dilemma for Central Bankers but also highlighted one of the positive themes preached by Scott Campbell earlier this month - the silver lining for Japan within the global dark cloud of inflation.
“Central bankers everywhere seem to be torn every which way right now - in developing nations the dilemma which has them on its horns is whether the credit crunch or inflation is the larger threat to their economic progress whereas in developed economies, the choice is being expressed as a clear choice between growth and inflation.
In both cases, inflation seems to be gathering momentum as the greater perceived danger. The Philippines, Indonesia and India have joined the Bank of Thailand in increasing interest rates, while China has increased the required reserve ratio for banks. Other Asian central banks are following the Greenspan/Bernanke model (as also adopted by the European Central Bank’s Governor M. Trichet of late) and are letting their talking do the talking with increasingly threatening noises about what they’ll do if the inflation genie doesn’t somehow manage to squeeze himself back into the urn.
Speaking of Mr. Bernanke, even the Fed seems to have gorged itself on rate cuts and is sending out signals that now that the credit crunch is, in the Fed’s opinion at any rate, behind us all, then we can look forward to the prospect of future rate hikes to deal with that pesky genie. On the other side of the Atlantic the BoE’s governor, Mervyn King has added his two pennies worth - that a slowdown of UK growth is necessary to dampen prices. He propounded that British families will find it particularly difficult to deal with the decline in living standards that is seemingly around the corner. Obviously the exhortations weren’t delivered with quite enough conviction though because Sterling has continued to drift and it seems that the currency markets see dark times ahead for the sceptred isle.
You might say that flip flop would be an apt description of central bank strategy of late - you might well say that. Fighting talk doesn’t amount to much if you’re stood on shaky ground. In the rush to communicate, bankers everywhere would do well to remember that some times less really is more.
Notably absent from the brouhaha is Japan - as Scott Campbell recently commented, Japan is one of the few places in the world that would positively benefit from a dose of inflation. After years of deflation, then even the slightest signs of nascent price increases are a positive - one example quoted recently was how sales at department stores recently jumped because buyers, expecting inflation, decided they had an incentive to buy now before prices go up rather than the previous strategy of waiting for them to come down! The BoJ governor will probably find himself sitting all alone at the next central bankers’ get together - on the end of envious glances from his colleagues who wished that they too could just come out and state clearly that risks to economic growth override inflation concerns. But for now they can’t. This could be a further catalyst for the Japanese stock market right now.
Many of these themes are echoed by Bob Janjuah, who believes that central banks dare not respond with easy money because oil and food costs continue to push headline inflation to levels that are unsettling the equity markets and damaging economic, business and consumer confidence.
“The ugly spoiler is that we may need to see much lower global growth in order to get lower inflation ... the Fed is in panic mode. The massive credibility chasms down which the Fed and maybe even the ECB will plummet when they fail to hike rates in the face of higher inflation will combine to give us a big sell-off in risky assets.”
Almost as though they were reading from Scott’s script when he visited Bangkok, RBS expects the oil price spike to subside in the shorter term, although if supply and demand remain as stretched as it is now with increasing Asian demand we’d be looking to view this as a buying opportunity.
Poor Bob Janjuah can see the future but, unless RBS suddenly develop a genuine multi-asset multi-manager approach, they may not be able to do too much about it. We’re reminded of Aigisthos, who in the Odyssey is warned by the gods not to kill Agamemnon, but chooses to ignore the advice and is eventually slain by Orestes, Agamemnon’s son. By not heeding the warning, Aigisthos invited and duly suffered the gods’ revenge. If portfolio managers everywhere fail to heed the warnings, then the gods of the market will almost certainly avenge themselves by allowing the prophecy to be fulfilled, as then totally unmythological but nonetheless powerful force of debt deflation takes hold next year.
There may well be troubles ahead. In fact we’re certain that there will be and there may well be a lot of tear drops to be shed, but with the strategies outlined recently by Scott Campbell, we are confident our clients can look forward to continued gains and, at least, outdoing cash as his sole aim is to beat the LIBOR (bank rate) by 4% after all charges.

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: by Harry Flashman

Getting down to basics

Please take a look at the photographs with this week’s column. These are commercial shots done for an advertising campaign for the Chivawattana health benefits card. The photographer knew what he was doing (not me, by the way) and I want you to analyze just why these are successful photographs.
The subjects include children, adults, plus mothers and daughters. Varied subjects, but there is a common thread running through them all. Do you see it yet? Quite simply, the photographer got down and shot from the same eye level as the subjects. Nowhere does he (or she) take a superior view on the subject. The photographer got down to basics and got down to shoot from the same height as the subject.
The end result of that is to produce an immediacy in the final photograph. You feel as if you are there, part of the scene. And when you begin to relate to the scene, you will relate to the message, and that of course is the secret of advertising photography!
However, this week’s column is not designed to just give advertising pro photographers the warm and fuzzies, but it is to make you look at any photograph that pleases you, pleases your senses to the point that you say to yourself “I wish I’d shot that.” Having decided on the photograph, then go and duplicate the shot. Not duplicated down to the last speck of dirt, last fold in the clothes, but duplicate the style of the shot, not the subject matter. OK, professionals have a budget to hire great models who know how to pose. You are going to have to use your friend from across the street, but look at what the lighting was in the pro shot, the placement of the subject and the position from which it was shot. When you have those three factors mastered, you will be producing ‘professional’ results.
Let’s look at the three factors. Where are the shadows in the photograph? That will immediately show you whether it is long shadows, meaning late afternoon or very early morning or short shadows, meaning middle of the day. The position of the shadows will also tell you whether the light source was relative to the subject. In front? Behind? From the side? Simply by looking at the picture you can get the answer.
Now, look at the placement of the subject in the shot. Central? Or at the intersection of thirds, one third in and one third from the top or bottom?
Finally, the position of the photographer, relative to the subject. High? Low? Or eye level? There is nothing radical about this analytical approach, but it gives you a very quick learning curve.
You must cultivate the enquiring eye so that you begin to analyze every photograph you have ever seen published anywhere, that includes landscapes, industrial shots and travel shots, as well as simple portraits. By doing that, ‘simple’ happy snaps become real portraits, and you are well on the way to becoming an accomplished photographer.

Modern Medicine: by Dr. Iain Corness, Consultant

Mature Onset Diabetes

Are you more than 40 years of age? Are you overweight? Do you have a blood relative who has Diabetes? If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, then you may have Mature Onset Diabetes. If you answered “yes” to all three, then it is dollars to donuts that you do have it. (If you come from the UK, you can make that pounds to peanuts!)
Diabetes (sugar) is one of the commonest ailments in the world. There are 60 million people living in the UK (I’d probably say ‘surviving’ in the UK is more accurate) and 2.1 million of these had diagnosed Diabetes, of which 1.8 million had the Maturity Onset form of the condition. Official estimation from the UK would also suggest there were another 1 million walking around with Mature Onset Diabetes that did not even know they had it. That’s a worry. Not for me, but for them.
Before we go much further, just exactly what is Diabetes? Quite simply, it is an inability of the body to use glucose correctly. Insulin is produced by the body to keep the glucose system in balance and if the insulin production is lacking, this is called Type 1 Diabetes. With Mature Onset Diabetes (also called Type 2, or Non Insulin Dependent Diabetes) the cells become less responsive to insulin, and there may be a reduction in insulin levels as well.
Insulin is necessary for the body to be able to use glucose for energy. When you eat food, the body breaks down all of the sugars and starches into glucose, which is the basic fuel for the cells in the body. Insulin takes the sugar from the blood into the cells.
When glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, it can cause many problems. First off, your cells may be starved for energy, so you begin to feel tired. Secondly, over time you may develop heart disease (cardiovascular disease), blindness (retinopathy), nerve damage (neuropathy), and kidney damage (nephropathy).
So how do you know if you have developed (or are developing) Mature Onset Diabetes? The main symptoms to look for include a lack of energy, hunger (which comes from the fact that the cells are ‘starving’), excessive passing of urine combined with thirst and a dry mouth, insufficient sleep because of the need to pass urine at night (though this may be due to prostate enlargement in males) and blurred vision (again not to be confused with reading difficulties - short arms - which is called Presbyopia and occurs after 40 years of age), slow healing of minor cuts and sores.
How does Diabetes cause such diverse symptoms? Large blood vessels may be damaged by atherosclerosis, which is a major cause of coronary artery disease and stroke. Other long-term complications result from damage to the small blood vessels throughout the body. Damage to blood vessels in the light-sensitive retina at the back of the eye causes the visual impairment (diabetic retinopathy). Diabetes also increases the risk of developing cataracts.
If diabetes affects blood vessels that supply nerves, it may cause nerve damage. There may be a gradual loss of sensation, starting with the hands and feet and sometimes gradually extending up the limbs. Loss of feeling, combined with poor circulation, makes the feet and legs more susceptible to ulcers and gangrene. The nerve and blood vessel damage may also produce impotence in men (which Vitamin V may not be able to fix).
Damage to small blood vessels in the kidneys may also lead to further complications. Damage to the nerves controlling the body’s internal functions (autonomic neuropathy) can lead to problems with low blood pressure on standing (postural hypotension) or disturbance of the GI tract (vomiting or diarrhoea) and increases the risk of sudden cardiac death.
So if you think you might have it, or are a likely candidate, what next. A simple trip to your doctor and some inexpensive blood and urine tests will confirm or deny.
In the initial stages, dietary measures may be sufficient to control this condition, but oral drugs and sometimes insulin injections become necessary as it progresses. But you have to prove you have it first!

Heart to Heart with Hillary

Hello Hillary,
Thank you so much for your reply to my previous e-mail where I had implied that I can’t get a bird in a brothel! I took your advice, went into a bar and slapped 2,000 baht on the table and shouted “OK birds, I am over here, come and get it!” And did they... they were all over me, and it was all going fine. I had a great time. However, it slipped out! It had to I suppose! What can I do! I didn’t mean to do it, but a ‘gnaam’ just slipped out. I think it was followed by a ‘lai lai der’. That was it, a deathly silence. Then one of the birds said “Falang Laos” and the party was over. Oh dear, I’ll try again next week. You lucky people that only speak English! Regards,
I aint bovvered
Dear I aint bovvered,
Despite your hiding behind your pseudonym of ‘I aint bovvered’, I get the distinct impression that you are very ‘bovvered’ by it all. Otherwise you wouldn’t continue writing to me with your tales of woe, would you Possum? Re-reading your email, I am glad it was just a ‘gnaam’ that slipped out. For a while there I thought you were trying to make pun of me. I also get the distinct impression that you are an antipodean with that quaint way to refer to the bar girls as “birds”. The only way the ladies of the night are similar to our feathered friends is that some of them have been known to go “Cheep Cheap” under certain financial conditions and are good at midnight flights under other conditions. Do try again later, but is your English really English? It doesn’t seem that you are all that lucky. Best of luck and ‘kaneedur’.

Dear Hillary,
The chap who called himself “I aint bovvered” is surely pulling your leg. We native English speakers may be able to understand conversations in Thai/Laos but to get good enough to understand the differences between Thai and Isaan (Laos) and then how to speak it, is exceptionally rare in my opinion. He also claims that he gets the intonation right each time too. If he can really do all that he is another Einstein. He’s just another show-off as you pointed out.
I can’t be bovvered either!
Dear I can’t be bovvered either!
As you will have read from the email above yours, our ‘bovvered’ chap has returned to these pages, complete with the perfect tones. And still in trouble. I feel that he should just go to the beer bars and pretend he is deaf and dumb. He might do a little better.
Dear Hillary,
David from Western Australia wants to apply the British Standard (BS) Duck Test, “If a bird looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck” to all women. David must have really gone down the gurgler to be so bitter. All women are not the same. Thai women are not the same as western ones and bar girls are a different species altogether. David feels that all women are out to rip off mankind and all that is left is 0.01 percent of decent women. How pessimistic is that? He should stop feeling sorry for himself and get out and enjoy the company of the ladies in the bars. That’s what they’re there for. You don’t have to buy the library when you want to read a book.
Jack from Melbourne
Dear Jack from Melbourne,
Despite the 50 percent divorce rate in many countries, including Australia, all women are very obviously not the same. I’m not like that for one. Despite David’s pessimism, his 0.01 percent still works out as 1,000 women, even in Australia. I agree that if you want a ‘good time’, the good time girls are there to give it to you. The problems always arise when the smitten male forgets that a good time girl is just that - a good time girl. A girl for the good times in life, not a girl who is good for life times. It should also be understood that a beer bar is not an outside office for an accredited match-making and marriage agency. I have said in this column many times that you don’t go into a hardware shop if you are looking for a piece of cheese.

Dear Hillary,
I enjoy your bits each week and the advice is right on. Somebody said you should get a raise from your editor and I reckon so too. You are doing a public service so you should get the top dollar. All the ones in the US like Oprah get big money, so should you. Keep up the good work.
Dear Hughie,
Aren’t you just the nicest man! Comparing poor little Hillary with the mighty Oprah! However there are some differences between us, you know. She’s in America, for one! You worry me though, when you say you “enjoy my bits” each week. What “bits” are we talking about here? Some of my bits are never discussed here in the column. This is a family newspaper Hughie. As far as a raise is concerned, I’ll show your letter to the editor, but he’ll just laugh and say I made it up.

Learn to Live to Learn: with Andrew Watson

Ignorance is Fear

Ignorance is in my view, the single most dangerous condition that anybody, or any group of people, can suffer from. It is the cancer of society, eating away the fabric and potential of humanity like a malicious, repugnant virus. It is fundamentally nasty, simultaneously pernicious and cowardly, capable of great deceit and great subtlety and ultimately unforgiving.
The only antidotes, knowledge and understanding, leading to wisdom, remain tragically distant dreams for those too sunken in the swamp of ignorance.
The greatest tragedy of all is when ignorance becomes the path of choice; often consciously, sometimes unconsciously, but always in defiance of reason, logic and the application of intelligence. Equally, one of the main reasons why people and groups of people remain imprisoned by ignorance is because they lack the moral and sometimes physical courage to break out. Surely, the main purpose of formal education (besides the cynic’s choice of maintaining the status quo) is to banish ignorance; to leave no question unanswered (even if it is answered with another question) in a quest to bring individuals and through each individual, the group, to a broader understanding of our rights and responsibilities in the maelstrom of the 21st century.
The role of the teacher, therefore, is clearly critical to the chances of humanity improving itself. So beware the notion that ignorance in its purest, most evil form can fester within the source of formal education itself; but more of this next week.
The fight against ignorance is a daily one and happens on many different levels. But where does it all begin? I’m pleased (or relieved) to report that my children, at the ages of 16 and 8, are by now, more or less “self-managing”, but I am careful not to allow my focus to become blurred. When the 8 year old is presented with say, fried squid in oyster sauce and says that she “doesn’t like it” without having tried it, I have to say to her that it is impossible to come to a conclusion about liking or not liking a particular food without having tasted it. She could say that she “doesn’t like the look of it” or “doesn’t like the smell of it” but these are different (if associated) questions. Of course, as a father, I want to her experience as many of the glories of world cuisine as possible and whilst I recognise that palettes develop at different rates and in different ways, it is important to me that at the very least, she be introduced to a wide variety of potentially enriching experiences, including those of taste. But don’t decide before you’ve tasted it.
On the other hand, my eldest child of 16 is at an age and lives in an environment where among her peer group, use and abuse of recreational drugs and alcohol are relatively commonplace. If I adopt the same strategy with her as I have done with my younger child, then consistency would demand that I encourage her to try what is on offer. Indeed, to a certain extent this is what happens. For instance, if we are drinking wine with our meal or celebrating with champagne, we will offer her a glass. This is common practice in countries like Italy and France and means that young people grow up, by and large, with a healthy respect for alcohol and drink in moderation, as opposed to cultures where alcohol is regarded as taboo until a certain age, which can result in an unhealthy disregard for its dangers and addictive qualities, binge drinking being a most unpleasant and unsatisfactory side effect.
But what about tobacco? (Drugs will have to wait). If I am to develop and maintain a balanced, consistent, measurable, sustainable, strategy I need to be clear on my position on tobacco. Call it a concession to prejudice if you will, but ever since they were babies, cigarettes have been portrayed (along with litter throwing and bad manners) to my children as absolutely unacceptable in any form. Even my closest friends and family (sometimes with volume argument) have been asked not to smoke even in view of my children.
I regard cigarettes as the embodiment of ignorance, so I play it at its own game - zero tolerance is the policy - and I have adopted an extremist position towards it, not necessarily because I can feel I can sustain my positions entirely, but to demonstrate my passionate disgust for ignorance.
If my daughters smoke, they smoke, and the bottom line is (don’t tell them this) that if they do, it will be their choice and there’s nothing I can do about it. Other than to say, that whilst they will be choosing a path of ignorance which I will find profoundly disappointing, I will have done my best to avoid this scenario by (hopefully) providing them with the tools and skills to deal with personal, social and health situations. I will not have shirked the responsibility of a parent in the same way as I refuse to shirk my responsibility as a teacher. They are, in many regards, one and the same, roles for which unconditional love and unconditional commitment are pre-requisites.
My wife Sharona, who might playfully suggest that she has blindly suffered in ignorance the tragic consequences of her association with me (although next week I’ll explain how this was once more seriously reversed) is truly suffering at the moment as she wrestles with the notion of what security means for her (and her family) in the context of international travel. Since 9/11, Bali, Madrid and London, our sense of personal security is something that we all, I am reasonably certain, devote an unreasonable amount of time to.
Similarly, she harangues me regularly for driving too fast, whilst I maintain (and once did so to a judge when one regrettable incident occurred) that I drive at “reasonable speed”. If I was going to be pedantic about it I’d happily go into detail. Before substantiating an opinion or formulating a judgement, consider all the factors, in this case; type of car, condition of the road, competence of the driver, amount of traffic, time of day and so on. But please don’t leap to unsubstantiated conclusion; don’t willingly exist in the darkness of ignorance; it’ll soon become irrational fear.
Next week: A sinner repents

Let’s go to the movies: by Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Pattaya
Where the Miracle Happens: Thai Drama – Produced by Her Royal Highness Princess Ubol Ratana Rajakanya, this film premiered in Cannes in May, and is a drama adapted from a story in her book, “Rueng San Tee Chan Kit” (“Short Stories from My Thoughts”). The Princess also stars in the film as a successful businesswoman who values only material things until she loses her only daughter in a car accident.
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor: US/Germany/Canada Action /Adventure /Fantasy – A shame! All this talent, all this fantastic attention to detail, wasted on a mess of a movie that is nothing but one bang after another, one explosion after another, one bloody fight after another, one chase after another, all to no purpose. There is so little restraint, so little taste, in what is seen. It is as though the creators just threw into the mix everything they could think of, and then confused it all with very fast editing, to simply make a loud blur of action. Ignore this one, unless of course you like mindless action, one bang after another, and the rest. Apparently some people do.
It’s a ludicrously extravagant tale of “a mythic battle between good and evil played out in ancient China,” as a narrator informs us. It’s been seven years since “The Mummy Returns” and as Brendan Fraser says in this movie, “Here we go again!” Fraser is Rick O’Connell, and he and his wife Evelyn (Maria Bello) are British aristocrat-adventurers who have retired, apparently living richly off of the $800 million worldwide box office of the first two “Mummy” films. They head East in hopes of re-capturing the adrenalin of adventure and meet up with their grown son Alex (Luke Ford).
There the three unearth the mummy of the first Emperor of Qin, China’s ruthless Dragon Emperor, doomed by a double-crossing sorceress to spend eternity in suspended animation, along with his 10,000 warriors, entombed in clay as a vast, silent terra cotta army.
Also starring Jet Li. Generally negative reviews.
Journey to the Center of the Earth: US Adventure /Fantasy – Starring Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson, and Anita Briem. During a scientific expedition in Iceland, visionary scientist Trevor Anderson, his 13-year-old nephew and their beautiful local guide, are unexpectedly trapped in a cave from which their only escape is to go deeper and deeper into the depths of the Earth. It’s utterly preposterous, but fun, as the trio travel through never-before-seen worlds, and come face-to-face with surreal creatures – including man-eating plants, giant flying piranha, glow birds, and even dinosaurs. Can’t stand the smart-assed kid – I would have offed him after about his third line of dialogue. Mixed or average reviews for the 3D version, which we won’t be seeing here.
The Strangers: US Thriller/Horror – Repellent and repulsive. If I were in charge of things, it would be banned. Shows kids how much fun it is to terrorize people, and details how to do it. Why thoughtful, sane people aren’t boycotting it is a mystery. Three malevolent, masked strangers terrorize a couple in their isolated vacation home. Rated R in the US for violence/terror and language. Mixed or average reviews.
The Dark Knight: US Action/ Crime/ Drama/ Thriller – I think it’s just a wonderful film, but not everyone agrees; I find it dark, complex, and unforgettable, and think it succeeds not just as an entertaining comic book film, but as a richly thrilling and disturbing crime drama. And Heath Ledger gives a performance that is terrifying in its portrayal of an insane mind. I would suggest, however, that the film is not for kids – it’s way too dark for them to appreciate or even understand.
In this episode, set within a year after the events of Batman Begins, Batman, Lieutenant James Gordon, and new district attorney Harvey Dent successfully begin to round up the criminals that plague Gotham City until a mysterious and sadistic criminal mastermind known only as the Joker appears, creating a new wave of chaos. Batman’s struggle against the Joker becomes deeply personal. And there’s a love triangle that develops between Bruce Wayne, Dent, and Rachel Dawes. Reviews: Universal acclaim.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army: US Action/Fantasy – Directed by Guillermo del Toro and starring Ron Perlman as Hellboy, this is a dark fantasy full of frightening creatures. It’s a brilliant nightmare, and almost too rich – one is truly overwhelmed with astonishing visuals and strange stories. Generally favorable reviews.
Scheduled for Aug 12
US Animation/ Comedy/ Family/ Romance/ Sci-Fi – The film is a work of genius from the first frame to the last. Robot love in a dead world, and the cutest love story in years. There’s virtually no dialogue for the first 30 minutes; you’ll be enthralled. Reviews: Universal acclaim.
Rogue: Australia/US Thriller – An American journalist on assignment in the Australian outback encounters a man-eating crocodile. Generally favorable reviews.

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