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Poultry farmer Ho Seng Choon, 90, is still the prince of quails; “We should be billionaires,” said the younger Mr Ho. “But while dad is an excellent and passionate farmer, he has never been a good businessman.”

Poultry farmer, 90, is still the prince of quails

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He has tried his hand at goat, turtle and crocodile farming – but at the age of 90 he is now rearing quails with his son. -ST
Melody Zaccheus
Sat, Mar 16, 2013
The Straits Times

SINGAPORE – He has tried his hand at goat, turtle and crocodile farming – but at the age of 90 he is now rearing quails with his son.

Meet Mr Ho Seng Choon, a poultry farmer credited with modernising farming techniques in Singapore over six decades.

Together with son William Ho, 48, he runs Lian Wah Hang, one of two quail farms here. It provides Singapore with 11 million quail eggs every year.

These come from their brood of 130,000 quails and are sold at supermarkets or served at restaurants such as Crystal Jade.

But this could be the “last frontier” for their 2.7ha farm in Lim Chu Kang, said the younger Mr Ho. “Just two years remain on our tenancy and we cannot expand our business on such terms. We are worried about our future.”

The older Mr Ho, who features in the National Heritage Board’s Trading Stories exhibition, has been credited with introducing the battery system for livestock in the 1950s. Born in China’s Fujian province, Mr Ho came to Singapore in 1929. His father ran a provision shop but business was disrupted by World War II.

Mr Ho saw poultry farming’s potential as the population grew, so he sold his dad’s shop and headed to Japan and the Netherlands to pick up livestock techniques.

“Farming techniques in Japan were very modern compared to Singapore where chickens would roam freely and farmhands would have to run around with their baskets in search of eggs,” said Mr Ho. He has published a series of journals on poultry farming and in 1963, he led a rally fighting for a three-cent tax on imported chicken eggs to benefit local farmers.

Two years later, he organised a farming exhibition at Kallang Airport and played host to then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

“We should be billionaires,” said the younger Mr Ho. “But while dad is an excellent and passionate farmer, he has never been a good businessman.” Read more of this post

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Private Equity’s $36 Billion Retail Bet Not Going So Well

Private Equity’s $36 Billion Retail Bet Not Going So Well

In the years before the recession, private-equity firms put so much faith in the future of U.S. brick-and-mortar retailers that they spent $36 billion on them.

That hasn’t worked out so well, especially for the era’s biggest spender, Bain Capital LLC. The firm started by Mitt Romney inked four deals valued at $17 billion from 2004 to 2007 and still owns all of the purchases. The largest of the bunch was Toys “R” Us Inc., which posted a drop in sales during the holidays, followed by Chief Executive Officer Gerald Storch stepping down.

The private-equity model — load up an acquisition with debt, cut costs and take it public — hasn’t gone according to the usual script with most of Bain’s retail acquisitions. That’s largely because the firm, which has $67 billion in assets under management, doubled down on specialty retailers just as they were about to be pummeled by the likes of Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN)

“There isn’t anything special about specialty anymore,” said Leon Nicholas, an analyst for Kantar Retail in Boston. Their advantages on product assortment, expertise and price have disappeared, he said. Read more of this post

China firms desert US stock markets amid scrutiny by US regulators and short-sellers

China firms desert US stock markets

More than two dozen US-listed Chinese companies have retreated from the US stock market in the past 15 months, amid scrutiny by US regulators and short-sellers. -China Daily/ANN
Michael Barris

Sat, Mar 16, 2013
China Daily/Asia News Network

NEW YORK – When 7 Days Group Holdings Ltd announced in September that it had received a buyout proposal to be taken private, the Chinese budget hotel operator’s US-listed shares soared to a four-month high.

Prior to the announcement, the shares, which trade on the New York Stock Exchange, had tumbled 23 per cent in 12 months, amid investor worries over corporate governance that hurt valuations of Chinese companies.

Last week, 7 Days became the latest US-traded Chinese company to go dark, after a group that included Washington-based private equity firm Carlyle Group LP and the company’s co-chairmen sweetened its offer to $688 million (S$854.7 million).

More than two dozen US-listed Chinese companies have retreated from the US stock market in the past 15 months, amid scrutiny by US regulators and short-sellers and shrinking advantages from US listings. Read more of this post

Why some think China is approaching a political tipping point

The old regime and the revolution

Why some think China is approaching a political tipping point

Mar 16th 2013 |From the print edition

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FOR some of China’s more than 500m internet users the big news story of the week has not been the long-scheduled one that their country has a new president, Xi Jinping, who already has more important jobs running the Communist Party and chairing its military commission. Rather it was the unscheduled, unwelcome and unexplained arrival down a river into Shanghai of the putrescent carcasses of thousands of dead pigs, apparently dumped there by farmers upstream. The latest in an endless series of public-health, pollution and corruption scandals, it is hard to think of a more potent (and disgusting) symbol of the view, common among internet users, that, for all its astonishing economic advance, there is something rotten in the state of China, and that change will have to come.

Many think it will. According to Andrew Nathan, an American scholar, “the consensus is stronger than at any time since the 1989 Tiananmen crisis that the resilience of the authoritarian regime in…China is approaching its limits.” Mr Nathan, who a decade ago coined the term “authoritarian resilience” to describe the Chinese Communist Party’s ability to adapt and survive, was contributing, in the Journal of Democracy, an American academic quarterly, to a collection of essays with the titillating title: “China at the tipping point?” Read more of this post

How cricket has lost its working class tradition; The game is better for having its working-class heroes

Class and cricket

A lower-order collapse

Mar 12th 2013, 19:54 by B.R.

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IT USED to be said that when England needed a fast bowler, all it had to do was whistle down a Nottinghamshire coal mine. Harold Larwood (pictured), the most fearsome bowler of his generation, was destined for a life in the pits before he was spotted while playing for his village team and offered a contract by Nottinghamshire in 1923. Nuncargate, the tiny mining village in which he was born, unearthed four further England cricketers, including Bill Voce, who shared the new ball with Larwood during the 1932-33 bodyline tour of Australia.

England’s great batsmen, too, often came from humble beginnings. Jack Hobbs, one of the country’s most revered players, grew up in poverty in Cambridge. Herbert Sutcliffe’s father was a pub landlord in Yorkshire. Indeed, from Fred Trueman, the first bowler to take 300 Test wickets, whose father spent time in the coal mines, to Ian Botham and Freddie Flintoff, working-class heroes have always bestrode the game.

This is not to say that English cricket has not been subject to class division. On the contrary, it is enshrined in its history. The first recorded games, in the 17th and 18th centuries, were often between teams playing under the patronage of the landed gentry, such as the Second Duke of Richmond, who employed local farm hands in fixtures convened for toffs to bet on. Until 1962, England’s first-class cricketers were formally divided into two categories, gentlemen and players—the nobs who could afford to play cricket as amateurs, versus working-class professionals who needed to be paid. At Lord’s, the home of the game, teammates entered the field through separate gates dependent on this distinction. There was even an annual fixture between the two which was, for a while, the highlight of the domestic season (and in which the professionals usually prevailed). It was not until 1952 that a non-gentleman, Len Hutton, captained the Test side.

Class is even enshrined in the game’s aesthetic. Some shots—particularly front foot drives—are to this day considered more elegant, to be purred over by purists. This may be because they are also associated with the upper classes. In “More Tales from a Long Room”, a satire of the game, Peter Tinniswood relates the story of an aristocrat who undertakes “a missionary crusade to the dourlands of the north to preach to the working classes his fervent belief that the cover drive, the late cut and the wristy leg glance were not the sole province of the upper classes.” In contrast, brutal, clubbing back foot shots, such as pulls and cuts, were considered professionals’ shots, born of those who cared little about art and much about efficacy.

Yet if there was once a class battle in cricket, it is on the verge of being conceded. Today, fewer working-class players reach the top of the English game than probably at any time in the sport’s history. If one takes a very broad measure of class—whether a player attended a state or private school—the majority of England’s Test cricketers since the second world war could be said to have come from relatively modest backgrounds (see chart). In 1993, nine of the starting XI who played in the first Test against Australia had been to a state school. By the 2009 series, only half did (one, Monty Panesar, attended both types). In the last Test match England played, against New Zealand last week, that proportion had gone down to a third. Read more of this post

China’s ‘new farmer:’ an investor, manager and & decision maker; mass exodus from the countryside has left China asking, “Who will till the farmlands and feed 1.4 billion Chinese people?”

China’s ‘new farmer:’ an investor, manager and & decision maker

  • Xinhua

2013-03-15

China is going to great lengths to foster a “new type” of professional farmer to inhabit the empty farmhouses across its vast rural areas and entice more migrant workers to return home to till fields and feed the world’s largest population.

If it succeeds, China will solve a major problem that cropped up after its urbanization process resulted in a population split 50:50 between rural and urban areas. Decades ago, nine in 10 people lived in rural areas, where their lives were not as good as that of their urban peers.

As large numbers of farmers, especially young farmers, have flocked to cities and towns, they have left the countryside largely inhabited by the elderly, women and children.

This mass exodus from the countryside has left China asking, “Who will till the farmlands and feed 1.4 billion Chinese people?” Read more of this post

Tinkering key to innovation

Tinkering key to innovation

Created: 2013-3-16

Author:Wang Yong

DESPITE the global success of Apple iPhones, the US suffers a stasis in technological innovation – at least in the eye of American journalist Alec Foege, author of “The Tinkerers: The Amateurs, DIYers, and Inventors Who Make America Great.” While Thomas Edison (1847-1931) tinkered with projects in an unstructured way, the author says that a modern-day American would more often than not be enslaved by standardized test scores that leach creativity. American children today are also less creative, observes the author, who believes that many busy parents deprive their children of any opportunities for unstructured play – the setting where taking old things apart and creating new things used to be part of growing up. Partly because of this rigid education that suppresses the spirit and skills of tinkering, the US is no longer the biggest producer of engineers and scientists. As the author points out, it has fallen behind many other countries in filing new patents. “True tinkering is all about risk and unusual behavior. The far-flung fanaticism that world-class tinkering requires rarely thrives in an institutional setting,” says the author. Because the education system cannot be overhauled any time soon – most universities and colleges in America still survive and will continue to survive on mass-producing standard graduates and diplomas – one way to improve the nation’s creative spirit and capacity is for the government and corporations to fund pure experiments.  Read more of this post

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