HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Your Health & Happiness

The Doctor's Consultation 

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

Money Matters

Life in the Laugh Lane

Your Health & Happiness:  Calls for gov’t to set up independent consumer watchdog

A leading academic and child health activist called on the government to establish an independent consumer protection agency in line with the constitution, saying that it would help solve the growing problem of child obesity.

Dr. Chanika Tuchinda, who leads a campaign against child sugar consumption and acts as an advisor to the medical council of Siriraj Hospital, described child obesity as a global crisis that is leading to a host of related illnesses, including diabetes in children as young as eight.

Calling for urgent action to stamp out the problem, she said that the government should address childhood obesity as a matter of serious concern by issuing a raft of related measures.

“Clause 57 of the constitution makes for the establishment of a consumer protection agency, but this has never been set up despite five different deputy prime ministers having overseen the issue,” she noted.

“As a result, consumers are not being fully protected, particularly when it comes to snack food.”

She noted that other sectors of society also have a responsibility to help crack down on childhood obesity, particularly schools and parents, which has a duty to instill correct eating and exercise habits.

At the same time, local communities should be given equipment to allow children to engage in exercise, while families should be given more information from the Ministry of Public Health on the dangers of childhood obesity and how to solve it.

The media, meanwhile, should slap controls on advertisements for unhealthy snacks, while manufacturers should turn to the production of healthier alternatives. (TNA)

The Doctor's Consultation: MRI, the non-invasive, non-radiating imaging

by Dr. Iain Corness

We are all conversant with X-Rays, those invisible rays that can look through our bodies and end up as images on special X-Ray film. When we first started using these as an aid to diagnosis, we thought that it just couldn’t get any better. Of course we were wrong!

Since those early days we now have much more sophisticated techniques, and one of these is MRI, which stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. This aid to diagnosis has seen tremendous improvements over the past few years with continued advances in technology. One of these improvements is in the power of the magnetic field (measured in a unit called Teslas, named after inventor Nikola Tesla). The greater the magnetic force, the better images that result.

MRI simply uses radio waves in combination with a strong magnetic field looking at the interaction between the radio waves and the hydrogen atoms in the body fluids. Remembering that we are 95 percent water, and that water is made up of two hydrogen atoms to every one oxygen atom, there are enough for the MRI unit to focus on.

The strong magnetic field lines up the hydrogen atoms in the same direction, and then the bombarding radio waves make the hydrogen atoms give off a signal. This signal is then picked up by the MRI scanner computer and turned into images that look like X-Rays, but in actual fact are not.

It is important to note that because the equipment uses radio waves which are harmless (after all, we are surrounded by radio waves every day that you tune your radio into) and a magnetic field which is also harmless, there is not the danger from this technique as there is compared to the usual ionising radiation.

A magnet strength of around 1.5 Tesla or greater, allows for special examinations, including the assessment of acute brain haemorrhage strokes), brain infarcts (another type of strokes), and brain lesions such as tumours and infections. Other examples include extremely detailed imaging of the eyes, inner ears, pituitary gland, temporo-mandibular joint, uterus and ovaries, the heart, arteries of the abdomen, kidneys, legs, neck, and head, and even the wrist.

MRI technology also allows MRA (magnetic resonance angiography) which looks at blood vessels and blood flow in virtually any part of the body, generally without injection of contrast medium. This is important, as the contrast medium used in conventional angiography can be very dangerous.

It is important to also understand the differences between CT scans and MRI. Both MRI and CT make cross-sectional images (slices) of almost any area of the body using a sophisticated computer system. The major difference is that while an MRI uses a large magnet and radio waves to produce images, a CT scanner uses ionising radiation. With the MRI studies, there is no exposure to ionising radiation and there are no known side effects. Both systems have their inherent strengths and weaknesses, however CT can only directly acquire transverse and coronal images, whereas MRI can directly acquire slices in any plane and is superior when it comes to soft tissue contrast.

Any part of the body can be scanned on the MR scanner. The part being scanned must be in the centre of the scanner and near the scanner coil which is usually shaped so that the body part will just fit into it. MRI machines come with many different coils designed for imaging different parts of the body - knees, shoulders, wrists, heads, necks - you name your body part and we can look inside it - safely!

Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
This is a sensitive subject, so I must choose my words carefully. The subject is condoms. Do you realize that none of the brands on offer at local pharmacies have instructions on how to use them?! Being a lifelong bachelor, I rely on the ladies that staff the beer bars for female companionship. But because of my hang-ups involving condoms, I never get past the stage of carrying on conversation and drinking the obligatory booze until I fall off my stool. This has earned me the nick-name “Khee Mau” at these places. Here’s my problem with buying and using condoms: First; all pharmacies have female clerks that ring up purchases. Being the shy type, I just glance at the condom rack, and end up buying band-aids. Second; I am aware that certain condoms are more reliable than others, but to stand at the condom rack reading the labels while there are others in the store would embarrass me. Third, of course is the aforementioned lack of instructions on the package. I am pretty sure that if I can use the condom properly, I have a good chance of scoring with one of these lovelies. Can you advise me on a text or website that covers this subject? I want to limit my drinking and get on with the more important reasons for visiting beer bars.
K. Mau

Dear K. Mau,
My poor Petal! What a fix you have managed to get yourself into. It is appalling that this state of affairs has developed into psychological hang-ups, though in your case it sounds more like ‘hang-downs’ doesn’t it. Another victim of ‘Brewer’s droop’ it seems? But not to worry, my shrinking Petal, you don’t need a web-site to help you work out which way is up, while preparing for use - Hillary will tell you how it is done. You have first off forgotten that your lady drinking companions are often referred to as ‘service girls’ in the pulp press, aren’t they? Now part of that ‘service’ can not only be just in pouring your beers, but also helping you on and off with your jacket, and even later, your overcoat! Another part of the service is supply and personal fitting. Since the best quality is even more important from their point of view, you can safely let them do the choosing and purchasing, and I’m sure they’ll be able to correctly guesstimate the size you’ll need as well. By the way, please do not ever consider repairing these items with the vast supply of band-aids that you obviously have at home. They are single use and throw away items, and please dispose of them properly, that’s a good chap.
Dear Hillary,
I recently had the opportunity to visit your great city for a look and see. I stayed in a local hotel for one week. You have some of the prettiest girls (ladies) in the world. I say this as a retired US Navy sailor that has sailed the world over. This trip was a short one to see if Thailand really had what I wanted in retirement. I gotta tell you, I continually tripped over my feet staring at all the beautiful girls so fit and trim. I am looking forward to returning to Thailand and establishing a home away from home. In addition to opportunities to meet attractive ladies, I look forward to deep-sea fishing, travel and shopping. I am really not interested in hanging out in the nightspots though. Where is a good place to meet lovely ladies?

Dear Ron,
There are lovely ladies in every city in the world, not just Thai cities. How would you go about meeting attractive ladies in your own country? Hanging around the bars and nightspots turns up the same sort of ladies everywhere - the more ‘professional’ girls, and Thailand is no exception. If you are serious about meeting a soul mate, you will find one in groups that have similar interests to yourself. When you come here, then join the groups and clubs and become active in the community. However, if your interest is merely in propping up a bar while draped with a gorgeous bar girl and discussing the downsides of the Thai society, you will get what you deserve. It’s up to you, my Petal.
Dear Hillary,
My girlfriend is becoming a pain, complaining if I go out for more than two nights in succession. She accuses me of having other ladies and then will not talk to me for days on end. I never complain when she goes home to see her children and family. I have been a good partner to her and have taken care of Mama and Papa and every month I give her 30,000 baht pocket money for herself, but she still complains. What do you suggest? Please not more money as I am running low!
Tired Tim

Dear Tired Tim,
You have to accept the fact that she is the way she is, and she considers two nights in a row is too much temptation. You have to make the choice. Domestic quiet or disco duck twice a week. The answer does not lie in spending more money, my Petal, the answer lies in spending less. There is no point in flogging a dead horse with thousand baht notes. It will still be a dead horse.

Camera Class: Get in close – but try to avoid being killed

by Harry Flashman

When war photographers are being discussed, one name will always be mentioned amongst the bravest, and that is Robert Capa. In December 1938, the publication Picture Post featured what they headlined as “The Greatest War Photographer in the World: Robert Capa” with a pictorial spread of 26 photographs taken during the Spanish Civil War.

It was also war photographer Robert Capa who said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough,” and that in a nut-shell encapsulates photojournalism, particularly shots taken in war-times, but actually relevant to almost all photographs. “Step several meters closer,” has been one of my catch-cries for many years for amateur photographers who want to improve their images.

While Robert Capa is remembered as the intrepid American war photographer, he was actually a Hungarian Jew who did not espouse war. Born in 1913 in Budapest, his real name was Andre Friedman. He became politically active as a teenager and had to leave his homeland and studied political science at the Deutsche Hochschule fr Politik in Berlin (1931-33). To finance this, he worked part-time in a photo lab; however, the rise of the Nazi party drove him out of Germany and into France.

In France he became conversant with the artistic community including Picasso and Hemingway and met the female journalist and photographer, Gerda Taro. It was with Gerda that Andre came up with the name “Robert Capa an American photographer” and sold his prints under that name. Artistic license was well entrenched at that time in France.

By 1936, “Andre Friedman” had been supplanted by the new alter ego, “Robert Capa” and it was under this new name that he went to Spain to cover the Spanish Civil War, with his photographs being syndicated to several continental magazines and newspapers.

His 1936 photo showing the final seconds of an unnamed Spanish Loyalist soldier as he falls to the ground has become one of the most powerful symbols of war time tragedy. This really brought his reputation (or that of Robert Capa) to the fore. Unfortunately the same Spanish Civil War saw his friend Gerda Taro (Gerda Pohorylles) being killed as well, which apparently was to have a lasting effect upon him.

Capa, now a sadder soul, left Europe and went to China but then immigrated to New York in 1939. From 1939-45 he photographed World War II as a Life and Collier’s correspondent in Europe, from the perspective of the American Allies, including the landing of American troops in Omaha Beach, the Liberation of Paris and the battle of the Bulge, and he received the Medal of Freedom Citation from General Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was known for running onto the beaches shoulder to shoulder with American troops, photographing while those around him were firing. Capa was always in the thick of all the action, even though sometimes he would be so shaken it was difficult for him to reload his cameras. He certainly was close enough. And it was through this that his reputation as a war photographer was sealed.

After the war, in 1947, along with the leading lights of photography Henri Cartier-Bresson, David Seymour (Chim), George Rodger and William Vandivert, he founded Magnum Pictures, one of the foremost photo libraries in the world, which is still in existence today.

During the initial phases of Magnum, it was necessary for them all to bring in award winning standard shots, which Capa did photographing the post-war “good” times with his friends, including Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck, with whom he traveled to Russia and then to Israel with Irwin Shaw.

With it looking as if Capa, the war photographer, was behind him, there came a fateful call for him to stand in for an assignment. He had been visiting pre-war friends in Japan when he was called to replace the other photographer on a LIFE assignment in Indochina. Capa took the job, and was killed after stepping on a land mine, the first American correspondent to die in Indochina. This time he had gone just too close.

Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

by Dr Byte, Citec Asia

As usual, Thailand’s internet connections to the outside world continue to thrill and spill as we roll coaster around the world wide web. Late January saw a new e-mail worm overloading Mail Servers and consequently slowing the internet down to snail pace. Early February and both electricity outages and telephone line disconnections between Chiang Mai and Bangkok stopped internet in its tracks completely. Modem users continue to find Friday is the day of the week where it’s faster to mail then e-mail. I wonder what the real cost is to business and government. No one seems to know the answer to that and so for now, the only consolation is a mai pen rai from those who control the networks.

Some more Questions and Answers this week, starting with Josh from Charoenprathet Road, Chiang Mai: I am setting up my first web home page and when testing at a friend’s place, I discovered that when I move my cursor over the menu items, it shows the URL. I can’t see that on my own PC. This is a great help for finding problems but I have searched for a long time on my computer and cannot find where I can turn this on, yet we are both running the same version of IE6.

Answer: This is a great feature to have especially when making sure links are properly set up. This is normally on by default but it is not difficult to restore. You probably haven’t found the solution because your delving too deeply while the fix is almost trivial. From Internet Explorer, click on View and then just click on Status Bar.

Khun Pratchurn, Chang Moi asks: I have a laptop running Windows XP Home edition. Over the last 10 years I have been using a Thai software system for our costing and accounts on a standard PC operating on the old DOS system. We are going to update to a new Windows based application and I would like to know how to keep these records on my laptop for possible future queries. I have been told that, while I have a CD burner, XP does not support any data used with DOS.

Answer: You shouldn’t have any problems with your old DOS programs. Usually the only programs that will not work are programs that access the hardware directly without using the Windows system calls. These are mainly old DOS games. The only problem you will have is printing since most of the old DOS based applications were designed with old printers in mind and probably won’t be able to print using the current standard printers.

To run your programs, just copy that folder to a CD and, after restoring the files, remember to remove the Read-Only attributes.

Peter from Chiang Mai Gate asks: The toolbar which is normally at the bottom of my desktop where Start and all the icons of programs and clock are, has moved to the right of my screen. Without me knowing quite how, the bar has moved to the top of the screen. How do I get it back to the bottom?

Answer: This is a question that I receive often, and usually happens in the heat of the moment when you’re doing something else, and Windows clicks and drags the Toolbar somewhere else on the desk top, sometimes even resizing it several times larger.

The fix is not that hard but may need a bit of perseverance. You just have to click on the Toolbar - somewhere blank, and drag it back where it belongs. However, this is not always easy, as it can be stubborn. Try clicking on the Start button or close to it and, holding the left mouse button, drag it down. If it refuses to move, drag it to one side first and then repeat the process to get it to the bottom. With enough persuasion, it will go. Just keep trying till you succeed.

In the next column, I have a few more Questions and Answers to share with you. Don’t forget to keep your preferred anti-virus and spysweepers up to date. Do a full hard disc scan and sweep at least once a week. Don’t open emails with funny attachments if you’re not expecting them and last but not least, make sure your firewall is on. Dr Byte appears in Chiangmai Mail every 2 weeks and if you have any questions or suggestions you would like to make, you can contact me at Dr Byte, Chiangmai Mail.

Money Matters: Wall Street’s Crystal Ball Reveals Overcast in 2005

Alan Hall
MBMG International Ltd.

As we have already seen, the Street is much more bullish than MBMG about the prospects of the equity markets in 2005. How well founded is this optimism? Let’s look at each analyst’s views and the basis for these views:

Oak Associates
Edward Yardeni, chief
investment strategist

Akron, Ohio
S&P 500: 1385; DJIA: 11700
Fed-funds rate: 3%
10-year Treasury yield: 4.5%
Dollar: The euro at $1.45 in the first half

“The most critical element of my forecast is my very benign outlook for inflation,” writes Mr. Yardeni, who predicts inflation as measured by the consumer price index will hold steady at around 2% - for the rest of the decade. That’s some forecast. He offers several reasons to back it up. The end of the Cold War and China’s admission to the World Trade Organization accelerated globalization, he argues, spurring the integration of national markets around the world. That development acts as a catalyst to free trade, which helps keep down inflation through increased open competition. In other words, writes Mr. Yardeni “Prosperity, like love, conquers all.”

MBMG view – there is a very strong risk that the deflation much feared only last year has not gone away but simply been deferred. Mr. Yardeni’s inflation numbers may actually exceed the 2000-2010 decade average so he certainly isn’t going out on a limb there. Quite how he can equate such deflation/disinflation with prosperity is beyond us – take the blinkers off and it indicates the opposite, a lack of wealth liquidity and capital. To us Mr. Yardeni is like a man who, in 1927, would have stood on Wall Street, sniffed the air and deduced prosperity from the lack of sustained inflationary pressure.

Wells Capital
James W. Paulsen,
chief investment strategist

S&P 500: 1325
Fed-funds: 4%
10-year yield: 5.5% to 6%

Near the top of many market watchers’ lists of danger signs is the relatively weak spending by consumers during the holidays.

While luxury goods flew of the shelves, low-income consumers, crimped by a slack job environment and rising energy prices, have hurt discount retailers such as Wal-Mart, which in November ratcheted down its holiday sales-growth forecast to 1% - 3% growth from 2% - 4%. And with interest rates on the rise, the days of cheap credit could be coming to an end. Mr. Paulsen, however, thinks consumer spending will continue strong into 2005. “In the last year, wages and salaries have risen by about 5%,” he says, while the core personal-consumption-inflation rate has gone up by just 1%. Household net worth in the last year has grown at a 10.2% rate, according to his calculations, primarily because property values have skyrocketed. One figure Mr. Paulsen expects to focus on in 2005 is the U.S. trade deficit. “The surprise of 2005 is going to be that the trade deficit improves,” he says. “That’s why I think growth is going to be stronger than people think and that job creation and profits will be stronger than people think.”

What does that mean for the market? “Stocks go quite a bit higher,” he says.

The extent of the self-delusion on the Street is a constant source of amazement to MBMG. Any improvement in the trade deficit in 2005 can only come as a result of the utter impoverishment of the US consumer. Sadly we see this as a near certainty. Re-mortgages have dwindled, house prices are on the verge of collapse, the job numbers are extremely worrying and the increase in personal net worth has seen an accompanying rise in indebtedness that Mr. Paulsen simply ignores. Exhibiting such an inability to interpret the symptoms in front of him, we’re glad that Mr. Paulsen isn’t a physician.

Goldman Sachs
Abbey Joseph Cohen, chief investment strategist
New York
S&P 500: 1325; Dow: 11800
Real gross domestic product: 3.4%

Ms. Cohen also sees the spending-weary consumer as a potential red flag heading into 2005. In recent years, “we’ve been fortunate in that consumers have done what they do best, and that is consume,” she says. “But that has to be followed up by businesses being willing to spend.” As businesses start unloading all the extra cash sitting on their balance sheets in 2005, job growth should pick up, says Ms. Cohen. Since “balance sheets are in their best shape in a long time,” that will lead to increased M&A activity, more dividends, share buybacks and job expansion. Clearly the rate of job expansion has been disappointing, and we’re going to be waiting to see what companies do in 2005,” she says. “We’re hoping that there will be somewhat better job creation in 2005.”

MBMG thinks that Abbey’s hopes hint of desperation. The balance sheets are indeed in good shape but unless there are new customers out there there’ll be no new investment. Cash-rich companies should perform relatively well defensively when the recession bites. Abbey sounds like she knows that but is hoping that we won’t see that in ’05. Whether she’s right and disaster doesn’t actually strike until ’06 is the real question for equity markets for the year ahead.

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 Alan Hall on [email protected]

Life in the Laugh Lane: Think Thai or Die: Chapter Two

by Scott Jones

Red means stop. Green means go. If that’s what you think, you’ll soon be driving yourself to the hospital or someone will be driving you to the cemetery. In America, red and green are pretty black and white. A red light means stop NOW and wait until the green light says you can go NOW. (The yellow “caution” light between the red and green is definitely a grey area. It either means slow down to stop on red or accelerate to the speed of light so you can beat the red.) In Thailand, red and green just suggest a vague period of time when you can stop or go, depending on your schedule, your personality, the antics of the pack of vehicles near you, the time of day or how badly you need a toilet.

Red? Green? Stop? Go? Whatever...

Intersections are four-way battlegrounds. You’re in front at a red light waiting for the green while the enemy force builds up across the street from you, in your lane, itching to make a right turn. Defiantly, the entire troop of vehicles around you edge forward, tackling the opposing stream of cars charging through their light that has changed to red and barely avoiding the rogue pack of 26 cars and bikes that are now turning right in front of you. At this point, it’s best to be driving a fully-insured, disposable rental car, perhaps a used tank, or riding safely in a mammoth VIP tourist bus with a shotgun out the window.

Some lights are completely ignored. New stoplights were recently installed around the moat. Absolutely no one paid any attention to them. “These lights weren’t here when I started driving during puberty and I won’t accept their existence for at least 300 years.” After 10 p.m. the stoplight by Tesco near the superhighway could be shut off to save electricity. It stands there like a ragged evangelist shouting at people racing by to avoid the smell of his clothes and the message from his mouth.

A few folks do obey every law, religiously follow all cultural traditions and have never run with a sharp stick. They drive between two and three kilometers per hour, are between two and three hundred years old and think their cars are as wide and long as an ocean liner. A water buffalo in a herd of gazelles, these vehicles are as dangerous as the rest. You finally get used to the frenetic pace of go whenever wherever and you suddenly find your motorbike lodged in their rear fender like the bug crushed in their front grill.

How do you survive? Assume that everyone on the road is the village idiot, a mafia thug with a contract on you or the offspring of Alien and the Predator. Have a spirit house surgically installed on your shoulder. Remember that stop lights are merely suggestions, like advice from your parents. The parents aren’t around so you do the opposite. Even if you’re walking, wear a helmet.