Vol. V No. 36 - Saturday September 2, - September 8, 2006
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by Saichon Paewsoongnern
 

 


Columns
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Your Health & Happiness

The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in the Laugh Lane

Language Matters

Your Health & Happiness: Helmet use saves lives: Increasing helmet use promoted as an effective method of reducing road injuries and deaths

World Health Organisation
Geneva -
Each year about 1.2 million people die as a result of road traffic crashes, and millions more are injured or disabled. Most of the deaths are preventable. In many low-income and middle-income countries, users of two-wheelers - particularly motorcyclists - make up more than 50% of those injured or killed on the roads. Head injuries are the main cause of death and disability among motorcycle users, and the costs of head injuries are high because they frequently require specialized medical care or long-term rehabilitation.
Wearing a helmet is the single most effective way of reducing head injuries and fatalities resulting from motorcycle and bicycle crashes. Wearing a helmet has been shown to decrease the risk and severity of injuries among motorcyclists by about 70%, the likelihood of death by almost 40%, and to substantially reduce the costs of health care associated with such crashes.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is intensifying efforts to support governments, particularly those in low-income and middle-income countries, to increase helmet use through a new publication, Helmets: a road safety manual for decision-makers and practitioners.
The manual is a follow-up to the World report on road traffic injury prevention, published in 2004 by WHO and the World Bank, which provided evidence that establishing and enforcing mandatory helmet use is an effective intervention for reducing injuries and fatalities among two-wheeler users. The manual has been produced under the auspices of the UN road safety collaboration, in collaboration with the Global Road Safety Partnership, the FIA Foundation for the Automobile and Society, and the World Bank, as one of a series of documents that aim to provide practical advice on implementing the recommendations of the World Report.
The importance of increasing helmet use follows dramatic growth in motorization around the world, largely from increasing use of motorized two-wheelers, particularly in Asian countries. In China, for example, motorcycle ownership over the last ten years has increased rapidly. In 2004 it was estimated that more than 67 million motorcycles were registered in the country, and approximately 25% of all road traffic deaths were among motorcyclists and their passengers.
“We want to make helmet use a high priority for national public health systems,” says Dr. Anders Nordstr๖m, acting director-general of WHO. “We need to stress not only the effectiveness of helmets in saving lives, but the fact that helmet programmes are good value for money. Countries will recoup their investment in these programmes many times over through savings to their health care systems, as well as savings to other sectors.”
Many countries have succeeded in raising rates of helmet use through adopting laws that make helmet use compulsory, enforcing these laws, and raising public awareness about the laws, as well as the benefits of helmet use. This new helmet manual draws on such examples.
In Thailand, for instance, 80% of the 20 million registered motorized vehicles are motorcycles. In 1992, when helmet use was not mandatory, 90% of deaths resulting from traffic injuries were among motorcycle users, almost all due to head injuries. Legislation passed in the north-eastern province of Khon Kaen to make helmet use mandatory, supported by enforcement and publicity programmes, led to a 40% reduction in head injuries among motorcyclists and a 24% drop in motorcyclist deaths within the two years.
This new manual provides technical advice to governments on the steps needed to assess current helmet use, and then design, implement and evaluate a helmet use programme. The manual addresses specific issues pertinent to many low-income and middle-income countries, such as:
* What can be done to protect the large number of children who ride as passengers on their parents’ motorcycles?
* Are there financial disincentives in place that make helmets unaffordable and thus reduce their use, for example, sales tax, or import duties that could be removed by governments in efforts to increase helmet use?
* How can enforcement be consistent and effective when resources are constrained? Should countries aim to implement a comprehensive helmet law, or is it more appropriate to phase in a law, in order to allow the traffic police to manage the new responsibility?
The manual will be implemented in a number of countries over the next two years, starting in the ASEAN region through the Global Road Safety Partnership’s GRSI initiative, but extending to cover countries from Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.
In addition to the publication of this manual, WHO has also established a network of experts working to increase helmet use, and supports helmet programmes directly in its country work on road safety.
The helmet manual can be found at: http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/publications/road_traffic/en/index.html
UN Road Safety Collaboration: www.who.int/roadsafety/en/index.html
The World report on road traffic injury prevention: www.who.int/world-health-day/2004/infomaterials/world_report/en/index.html
Partners:
Global Road Safety Partnership: www.grsproadsafety.org/
World Bank: www.worldbank.org/transport/roads/safety.htm
FIA Foundation for the Automobile and Society: www.fiafoundation.com/


The Doctor's Consultation: Big boys don’t cry

by Dr. Iain Corness

I’m not sure, but I think there was once a pop song with the line “Big boys don’t cry” in it somewhere, but that is not important. What is important is that if you came from a western society, you were probably raised with that dictum. You probably even picked up your crying toddler son after a tumble and said, “There, there. Big boys don’t cry. You’re OK.” Correct?
We are all guilty of promoting this stereotype. The big strong man who protects the weak and vulnerable woman. Countless movies all follow this theme from “Gone with the Wind” through to “Mission Impossible III”, so it must be true. Unfortunately for all those big strong super-protective men out there, the stereotype is not necessarily true and rigid following of it can be quite contrary to good mental health.
“Men are far more reluctant to talk about their emotional vulnerabilities than women,” says Dr Nicole Highet, a psychologist. “This stigma may be due to the perception that emotional problems and depression are women’s problems.”
“Men tend to be action-oriented, so they mistrust feelings and tend to regard emotions as a sign of weakness,” says Dr Michael Dudley, a psychiatrist and chairman of Suicide Prevention Australia. “For men, mental illness is seen as a moral failing, so they bury pain and don’t talk to people about it. But depression is an illness, not a weakness.”
Depression is an illness that can strike at any time, even to those normally associated with dogged masculine determination. Famous amongst these was Sir Winston Churchill, who guided the UK through the tribulations of WWII, and who called his depression “the black dog”.
What has to be understood is that just “feeling down” on its own is not a symptom of mental illness. We all feel down from time to time, generally when something has happened to precipitate it, even the death of a family pet. “We all feel sad from time to time, but depression is an ongoing sadness that lasts for two weeks or more, with a complete loss of pleasure in things that were once enjoyed. Some men live with their condition for months, or even years, and become acclimatized to their low mood or negativity,” says Dr Highet. “But depression isn’t merely a passing blue mood or something that someone can ‘snap out of’ without help. Depression dramatically alters an individual’s body, mood and thoughts,” she says.
Since men have been raised not to have public displays of depression, many adopt strategies to cover the problem, with the common ways being to become workaholics, risk taking to produce ‘highs’, alcohol and illegal drugs.
“Men often try to manage their own symptoms,” says Dr Highet. “While this may provide temporary relief, it only compounds the illness as they are not addressing the underlying condition. There is also some debate as to whether the (drug) abuse masks the symptoms or actually causes the depression. Whichever way, getting help is essential.”
The incidence in the community is frightening. In Australia, which has a well developed reporting system, it is believed that clinical depression is Australia’s fastest growing illness. The National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing found that one in four women and one in six men suffered from depression. In 20 years it is predicted that depression will be second only to heart disease as Australia’s biggest health problem.
The enormity of the problem has remained hidden, but consider this: Depressed men are four times as likely as depressed women to commit suicide. Of the over 2,000 suicides in Australia each year, 80 percent are male. There are more men committing suicide each year than dying on the roads, and almost 50 percent of suicides are males aged 25 to 44.
While the causes of depression are multiple, and men try to mask their problem, the sad part is that depression can be treated. Modern pharmaceutical medication is not ‘mind altering’ but restores the chemical balance in the brain to allow ‘normal’ thought processes to return.
However, it needs the men to admit that they might, just might, have a problem!


Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
I look forward to reading your column every week. I have to write regarding the letter from “Mike’s Father” asking for advice on reading material for his son, you advised “Private Dancer” which I’ve never read. Some twenty odd years ago a good friend of mine, and famous novelist, Jason Schoonover, once told us fellow elbow benders, that the best thing you can do for a friend, on his first visit to Bangkok is lock him in his hotel room with a copy of “A Woman of Bangkok” and don’t let him out until he finishes reading it. Everyone in our crowd of friends agreed with Jason, as we all had read the book and were of the same opinion. The Far East Economic Review rated “A woman of Bangkok” one of the ten best novels ever written about Asia. It is a true story of a young English accountant sent to Bangkok by his company in the late 1950’s, falls crazy in love with the White Leopard (a woman of the night) that drags him so far down with requests for money that he ends up robbing his boss. I didn’t ruin the plot as there is so much to this story. I’ve never known anyone that has read this book that doesn’t rave about it. It’s been in and out of print over the years, owned by Asia Books (I don’t believe the author is still living). I even tried to buy the rights to the book about 20 years ago, had my Thai lawyer check into it but they want a stupidly large amount for it. I wasn’t looking to make money, I just wanted to get it back in print, it’s such a classic. Sometime later Asia Books made a reprint from it. I have friends that make photo copies of it to send out, because it was so hard to find. I haven’t looked for it in years so don’t know what it’s current status is. If you ever come across it, give it a read, you won’t be disappointed. Note: this is the only decent book I’ve ever read on Thai woman. Guys fly into Thailand spend a couple of years and think they got it all figured out. I’ve been in Thailand long enough to know I’ll never figure them out. I’ve been married to one for 16 years now, and we get along better than we ever have.
Art (now working in Indonesia, here at the office, and my wife is out on the golf course. She’s got the tough life of an expatriates wife.)

Dear Art (now living in Indonesia etc),
Thank you Petal for that information, and if I ever find a copy I will read it. By the way, it was written by Jack Reynolds and describes Bangkok in the Vietnam war era, not that it has changed all that much since then - or the bar girls have not (though these are the daughters of the ones in Reynolds’ book). Private Dancer was initially only available as a download from the internet, photocopied and passed around between ‘old hands’, but now available in paperback. By the sounds of it, the two books have a somewhat similar plot, with the male falling totally head over heels for someone out to empty their wallet. You are correct that you have to get hold of these newbies and educate them before they are allowed into the heady pleasures of Thailand’s bars and bar girls. The average young male visitor will unfortunately in some cases still ignore all the best advice and going the way of so many others, end up writing to Hillary with some horrendous tale of woe. And diminished bank balances. There’s no saving some people.
Dear Hillary,
I read in your column about all these dudes who end up being cheated by some Thai bar girl somewhere. Surely they are not all like this? There must be some who are not on the lam, who really are honest and the sort of girl you wouldn’t mind taking home to Mom. I’m coming over next year with a couple of buddies who’ve been to your country before, so I surely won’t be ripped off. I’m really interested to know what goes down over there?
California Guy

Dear California Guy,
Please re-read the letter above yours. Send off for Private Dancer, or the Woman of Bangkok, which you can get through Amazon.com, and read and then wonder why the ‘old hands’ are suggesting you understand what goes on before you come, not afterwards. There appears to be a culture which thinks that these girls are forced into slavery and all the foreigners are here to rescue the poor young things from a fate worse than death. This is not quite reality, my Petal. The real situation is that 99 percent of them do have one or two children in the village being looked after by her mother, and she does have to send money home for their keep. However, the occupation she chooses to make that money is her decision. There are many shop assistants, maids and nannies in the same situation as regards children in the village, who have chosen not to enter bar work. Slavery was outlawed many years ago in this country. Bar girls have made a financial decision, and it is up to you as to whether you make the choice in becoming an ATM.


Camera Class:  Panoramas made easy

by Harry Flashman

This week I will describe a simple technique to produce a panorama that is suitable to be mounted as wall art. This “old fashioned” way with glue and scalpel is not only a satisfying Sunday evening project, but teaches your children that you do not need to depend on computer programs.
Having found your scenic view, select your point from which you will take the photos. Mark the spot by erecting your tripod on it! It is very important to make sure the three legs are firmly locked into place and the whole structure is stable. (Some professional photographers will even hang a sand bag from the tripod to make it even more steady and secure.) Any movement of the tripod and the effort will fail. Guaranteed!
The next step is crucial. Adjust the legs of the tripod to get the tripod head absolutely level. “Eye balling” is not good enough. This is where a spirit level comes in. Any carpenters level will do, and some tripods actually come with spirit levels built in. Check north-south and east-west. The tripod head must be horizontal in all planes.
The idea is that all sideways movements of the camera have to be in the exact horizontal plane. This movement is called the “pan” and the handle to allow this to happen is the “pan handle” - just shows you how basic photography really is!
The “standard” 50 or 55 mm lens is just perfect for this job. For the technically minded, the standard lens has an angle of view of around 46 degrees, and even allowing for a 6 degree overlap, five successive shots will produce a panorama of more than 180 degrees.
For the non-mathematical photographer - do not despair - just slowly rotate the tripod head while you look through the lens. Note the number of shots you need to cover the intended scene, allowing for a slight overlap each time. Generally you will find four to five shots will be enough to cover it.
If you have a manual camera, meter for the correct exposure by selecting the most important feature in the panorama and noting the exposure readings necessary to record it.
Now if the camera has manual over-ride then fix on those readings for every shot in the panorama sequence. This will give a more even tone to the skies and backgrounds in the successive pictures. Mind you, even with fully automatic cameras you will still get good results provided the successive shots are taken quickly to avoid differences in light levels caused by sun and cloud movements. Try to avoid shooting into the sun as you complete the multi-exposure panorama or you will get enormous changes in sky and foregrounds.
Now you are ready to take the four or five shots. Rotate the “pan” head so that you start your first shot from the left edge of the scene. Make a small pencil mark on the pan head, then move to the next shot in the series, remembering a slight overlap. Again make a pencil mark and you will be able to see how much you are rotating the camera for each shot. This comparison will allow you to have the same amount of overlap on every print. Whilst you do not have to be accurate to the nth degree, it does make it better if you have round about the same overlap.
Get borderless prints and get an extra set at the time of initial processing. This is important, because if you make an error during cutting, you have replacement processed at the same time as the original and should match colour and density.
Lay the shots down, side by side and carefully line them up with their overlaps. Because you shot with the tripod head horizontal, there should be no up and down movement in the horizon from print to print. Now, with a steel rule and a scalpel, or very sharp knife, cut the overlapping sections away leaving a continuous pictorial scene of around 600 mm in width. This trimming is tricky and you will appreciate the extra set of prints!
Now glue the shots together on art board and finally have your work laminated. Your panorama will last for years, and you will have a worthwhile work of art for the lounge room!


Money Matters:  Currency Management Strategy

Alan Hall
MBMG International Ltd.

Currency management is a very important component of global portfolio management. Either an investor can ignore the short term monthly movements and invest in underlying assets classes consistently on a fundamental basis, or the currency decision can be managed in an active hedged fashion. In this article we analyse the technical and fundamental issues facing the world’s reserve currency and the impact of portfolio management.

US dollar index

The chart below shows the US dollar index (DXY), a basket of currencies approximately Euro 57%, Yen 14%, Canadian$ 14% and the British Pound 10%, since 1997 to the end of May 2006. Over the longer term the DXY has traded in a range between 120 and 80. Therefore, the argument that currency management can be ignored over the long term holds true as the dollar index has remained range bound throughout the last 20 years through numerous business cycles.
However, active management utilizing a well executed currency overlay programme can add significant value throughout the business cycles. Taking an example, the US capital markets were very strong through the second half of the 1990’s as the budget deficit turned to surplus during the Clinton administration and the US$ appreciated significantly from the 80 levels in 1995 on the DXY. From 2002 the fundamentals changed, the primary trend changed technically as the GW Bush regime altered the budget and current account deficits and geo-political risks rose.
As a US dollar based investor from 1995 to 2002, all assets held outside of the dollar block, needed to be hedged back into dollars to achieve the full benefit of their performance in dollars. For European, Asian and Emerging Market investors they needed to have their US equity, bond and property exposure unhedged as they gained the double benefit of asset class return and currency strength. The only shorter term technical change to this strategy would have been during the LTCM hedge fund/Russian debt default in Quarter 3 1998.

From 2002 until presently, the complete opposite has been true. US dollar based investors have been faced with a weak dollar policy and actuality and therefore needed to be fully unhedged to all their Euro, GBP and Yen based assets. However, whilst US assets may have been attractive to some foreign investors, they needed to hedge the dollar value of their holdings as the currency value fell and hold their cash on home soil.
The latter part of the 1980’s/early 1990’s was the last time we had had a significant period of dollar weakness. The primary trend was negative all the way from 120 to the 80’s level on the DXY.
From a chart perspective and using the above rationale it is easy to conclude that once the DXY reaches the 80 levels, the dollar correction has run its course and the hedging programmes should change tact. We will review the fundamentals later but first let’s evaluate the following.
We receive independent research from Cross Border Capital. In their recent Global View they stated, “Currencies are critical to the health of financial markets. Countries with weak currencies never enjoy strong financial markets for long. Currency volatility looms large as a trigger for financial panics. As such, several years of low currency volatility have underpinned the latest bull market in financial assets.” The recent 4 years of the DXY trend may have been one way traffic but it has not been volatile. They also produced the following 50 year chart that shows clear trend lines and whilst it is unclear what the scale is, it implies that the Euro could only be halfway through the present movement.
Continued next week…

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: Embarrassed to Death (Almost)

by Scott Jones

Centuries before McDonald’s, Starbuck’s or any other buildings, roads or electricity, many Scandinavians settled in the central, northern area of America, which was flat and desolate, populated only by mosquitoes, grass, dirt and rabid packs of lawyers learning

Not embarrassed to death.

to sue everything in sight. Unlike their beautiful native land, there were few trees, no stunning fjords and no Volvos. I’ve never understood why they stayed. Perhaps arriving during the sweltering three days of summer, they built a sod hut, then spent the interminable, frozen winter nights making children, dying soon after, and leaving their kids stranded in hell with no memories of their heavenly homeland. Perhaps they were just demented. Over the years an endless stream of Swedish and Norwegian stories have surfaced, told with thick, sing-song accents, many featuring the hapless characters, Sven and Ole.
At the hardware store Ole asks the owner, “So Sven, ya [you] gots [have] any 4 by 2’s?” Sven says, “Ve [we] only gots 2 by 4’s.” Ole replies, “Ya sure [okay], I guess ve’ll [we’ll] yust [just] put dem [them] on der [their] sides.” Sven asks, “So how long do ya [you] vant [want] ‘em [them]?” Ole replies, “Vell [well], ve need ‘em for a long time since ve’re [we’re] buildink [building] a gratch [garage].” Sven says, “Ya need some nails den [then]?” and places several on the counter. Ole says, “Uffdah! [Uffdah!] Doncha [don’t you] gots some wit [with] da [the] points on da udder [other] end? Deisel [these will] only verk [work] on da left side a [of] da gratch.” As Ole is leaving he asks, “Can ya make me a box dat’s 20 metres long and only 10 centimetres square?” Sven says, “You betcha, but vhatcha [what are you] gonna use it for?” Ole says, “My neighbor moved avay [away], forgot his garden hose and vants me to send it to him.”
The Scandinavians are actually sweet, hard-working, hard coffee-drinking folks; wizened farmers and generally the salt of the earth. They tell their self-effacing stories good-naturedly except that war has almost broken out over whether Ole and Sven are Swedish or Norwegian. Now that you have a grasp of these grand people, keep in mind this next story is true:
Thirty years ago, when the internet and HBO were non-existent and everyday language was more restrained, an elderly Lena and her elderly friend Bertha (names changed to protect their ancestors’ reputations) ventured down south from their tiny town in the hinterlands of Minnesota to the big, bad, busy city of Minneapolis for a shopping trip. Their destination: Dayton’s department store, several stories of everything you’ve ever wanted and don’t really need, including an up-scale shoe emporium. As they sat and tried on any of the latest fashions that might fit over their calluses, corns and bunions with a polite, young shoe salesman kneeling at their feet, Lena passed a surprisingly healthy quantity of gas. Loudly. Also, it did not smell very good, though it smelled very much, and permeated their general area, especially near the salesman whose head was eleven centimeters from her kneecaps. Absolutely mortified, Lena could not get out of the store fast enough. She hustled Bertha out of the department and left the young man squatting in a mound of opened boxes and scattered shoes.
Once she regained a modicum of composure, Lena realised she had left her new umbrella in the shoe department, but vowed never to enter that area again. Bertha badgered her relentlessly, dragged her back to peek around the corner and view the layout of the store, and pointed out the main desk on the other end of the expansive shoe department where Lena could retrieve her umbrella, unseen by their previous salesman. Summoning all her courage and swallowing her pride, Lena crept around the corner to the main desk, which sat in front of a curtained doorway leading into the shoe storeroom. When she reached the desk, the same salesman suddenly materialised from behind the curtain and asked if he could help her. Eyebrows and lids barely covering her bulging, horror-stricken eyes, a trembling Lena blurted out, “I forgot my fart.”
Her wide-eyes then rolled back into her head and she collapsed onto the floor, unconscious. She’d had enough of herself and the day and checked herself out of that disastrous moment. Afraid she was dead, the salesman called paramedics who carried her out in a stretcher. When she was finally able to relate the incident, she’d end her tale with these words: “If I had a nickel for every time the young salesman probably told that story, I’d be a rich lady.”


Language Matters : New CMU complex targets foreign languages

by Peter McKenzie-Brown

“It’s all about globalisation.” Ask Dr. Tanun Anumanrajadhon about Chiang Mai University’s construction of the largest language centre outside Bangkok, and that’s what he’ll tell you. Political and commercial forces are increasing the importance of knowing key languages, he contends. To compete in a globalised world, people need to use them.

Dr. Tanun

Tanun, who is CMU’s vice president of international affairs, describes Chiang Mai as a crossroads for business, education, culture, government, politics, tourism and retirement. “We are the second capital of Thailand,” he says, “and the city is becoming more cosmopolitan. Of course we must study many languages. Of course!”
Tanun asks rhetorically, “How else can we deal with people from other language backgrounds who come here? We (in Chiang Mai) must be able to speak at least one other language.” The associate professor received post-graduate degrees in France and the United States. He is a commanding advocate for foreign language learning.
Close to Suthep Road, the university’s ultra-modern, 40-million baht complex will open in the middle of September. It will be quite a grand addition to campus life. In addition to 35 air-conditioned classrooms, it has a 200-seat theatre, two 100-seat lecture halls and two other large lecture halls with 60 seats each. When fully furnished, it will also have a specialized language library, two language labs and a self-access learning centre.
The facility will provide office space for Language Institute staff and for those of the Confucius Institute, which arrived in Chiang Mai a few months ago. Confucius Institutes are China’s answer to the British Council, Alliance Fran็aise and Germany’s Goethe Institutes. Their purpose is to spread the study of Mandarin. The main sponsor of Chiang Mai’s Confucius Institute is the government of China. Other participants include Yunnan Normal University and China’s National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language.

CMU’s new language institute

The chairman of the Language Institute’s board, Dr. Tanun believes the city badly needs access to more languages. “We have ties with business and tourism interests throughout the world, and we have special links in the Greater Mekong sub-region,” he says. “People in Chiang Mai have commercial ties with Kunming in (China’s) Yunnan province, with (Lao’s) Luang Prabang, also with Mandalay and Hanoi and many others. To do business with them, you have to speak common languages. We are doing important work.”
The university’s Language Institute is only two years old. However, it has already taught non-degree courses in English, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, Spanish and Thai (for foreigners) to nearly 6000 students. The opening of the new facility means it now feels the pressure to become Chiang Mai’s language school of choice. Institute director Sansanee Wannangkoon says her goal is to fill the new classrooms by the end of next year. She wants to add French, German, Italian, Burmese and Vietnamese to the institute’s existing offerings.
“CMU students, staff and faculty are an obvious market. So is the wider Chiang Mai community. We also have our eyes on bigger markets,” she says. “We have already served 30 organizations from government and from private companies,” but she wants to do more. “We are aiming at language markets throughout the upper north of Thailand and even beyond. Our vision is to become this region’s centre of excellence for language learning.”
Peter McKenzie-Brown ([email protected]) teaches TEFL at the Language Institute.



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