From Bad To Worse – European Non-Performing Loans In Context

From Bad To Worse – European Non-Performing Loans In Context

Tyler Durden on 04/15/2013 10:41 -0400

Europe remains in a critical state – despite the protestations of its leadership and the indications of its nepotistic bond markets.Unconventional monetary operations have enhanced liquidity, but have done little-to-nothing to solve the real issue – insolvency. As Jassaud and Hesse notevulnerabilities remain; as reliance on central-bank liquidity is still high especially for banks in peripheral countries. Assets continue deteriorating and remain on banks’ balance sheets, weighing on profitability. Non-performing loans (NPLs) in EU banks continue to soar, drastically outpacing loan growth. Since 2007, loans to the ‘real’ economy have decreased by 3% while NPLs increased by almost 150%, i.e., €308 billion in absolute terms. This trend shows no sign of reversal, reflecting the continued macro deterioration in parts of the EU and the absence of restructuring (until the new ‘template’). During the last European Banking Authority recapitalisation exercise, 30% of the increase in capital ratio was reached by reducing risk-weighted assets, of which one third came from risk-weighted asset ‘recalibrations’ – i.e. from rotations among the peripheral bonds that (while ultimately risky) are deemed risk-free by the ECB. For a sense of just how absolutely dire the situation is (and entirely unsustainable) across the entire Eurozone, the following chart shows thecurrent ratio of NPL-to-Total-Loans relative to Dec-2007… As ever, credit creation inflated asset prices and provided the cushion for an increase in liabilities (and never a bubble is seen) but once the bubble in asset prices begins to deflate, reality sinks in and the liabilities remain (large as ever). Thus the central bank inspired cycle of credit boom and bust continues – until, of course, there is no capacity left (and no gold to transfer).


Amazon Goes After Older Adults & Seniors With New Store

Amazon Goes After Older Adults & Seniors With New Store


posted 11 mins ago


Amazon has launched a new store catering to mature adults and seniors, the company announced today. But while “Amazon Seniors” would have a nice ring to it, Amazon went with a more polite, if wordy, branding: “50+ Active and Healthy Living Store.” As the name implies, the new store will be focused on a variety of “healthy living” needs, including nutritional products, wellness, exercise, fitness, medical, personal care, beauty and entertainment items and more.

The site also serves as another smart extension of one of Amazon’s lesser-known features: subscription-based ordering. Today’s its “Subscribe & Save” program allows Amazon customers to schedule automatic deliveries of household products (cleansers, paper towels, etc.) and other replenishable goods, including baby products (diapers, wipes, etc.), personal care items (deodorant, lotions, etc.), and more. Read more of this post

From Foot Soldier to Finance Minister: Takahashi Korekiyo, Japan’s Keynes

From Foot Soldier to Finance Minister: Takahashi Korekiyo, Japan’s Keynes (Harvard East Asian Monographs)[Paperback]

images (6)

Publication Date: November 30, 2009 | ISBN-10: 0674036204 | ISBN-13: 978-0674036208

From his birth in the lowest stratum of the samurai class to his assassination at the hands of right-wing militarists, Takahashi Korekiyo (1854-1936) lived through tumultuous times that shaped the course of modern Japanese history. Takahashi is considered “Japan’s Keynes” in many circles because of the forward-thinking (and controversial) fiscal and monetary policies–including deficit financing, currency devaluation, and lower interest rates–that he implemented to help Japan rebound from the Great Depression and move toward a modern economy.

Richard J. Smethurst’s engaging biography underscores the profound influence of the seven-time finance minister on the political and economic development of Japan by casting new light on Takahashi’s unusual background, unique talents, and singular experiences as a charismatic and cosmopolitan financial statesman.

Along with the many fascinating personal episodes–such as working as a houseboy in California and running a silver mine in the Andes–that molded Takahashi and his thinking, the book also highlights four major aspects of Takahashi’s life: his unorthodox self-education, his two decades of service at the highest levels of government, his pathbreaking economic and political policies before and during the Depression, and his efforts to stem the rising tide of militarism in the 1930s. Deftly weaving together archival sources, personal correspondence, and historical analysis, Smethurst’s study paints an intimate portrait of a key figure in the history of modern Japan. Read more of this post

BOJ Finds Inspiration in a 1930s Iconoclast Korekiyo Takahashi

BOJ Finds Inspiration in a 1930s Iconoclast

By Michael Schiltz  Apr 11, 2013


Korekiyo Takahashi, left, in an undated photo, had a long career in public office, including stints as Japan’s finance minister in the 1930s. Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

The Bank of Japan has decided to take bold action to reverse the nation’s economic decline.

The bank’s governor, Haruhiko Kuroda, announced a “new dimension in monetary easing,” vowing to double the purchases of government bonds and expand the monetary base. The BOJ also formally adopted a previously announced two-year target of 2 percent inflation. Quantitative easing will be the bank’s core business for the near future, a strategy that resembles the Federal Reserve’s response to the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.

The BOJ’s actions also mark a return, at least partly, to the unorthodox efforts of Japan’s finance minister in the early 1930s, Korekiyo Takahashi, who was praised by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke for “brilliantly rescuing Japan from the Great Depression through reflationary policies.” Read more of this post

Chinese industry caught in vicious circle of over-production

Chinese industry caught in vicious circle of over-production

Staff Reporter, 2013-04-15

Chinese industries are caught in a vicious circle of over-production and loss, owing to conflicting government policies and expectations, according to the Guangzhou-based 21st Century Business Herald. The country’s producer price index dropped by a total of 1.9% this year due to overproduction, which includes a 5.6% slump in ferrous metals and a 2.6% fall in non-ferrous metals sectors. The country’s steel industry produced 2.2 million tonnes of steel per day in February, which was a historic high and will ultimately drive up annual production to 800 million tonnes. The record production came despite most producers operating at a loss. Aluminum production increased from 24 million tonnes in 2011 to 26 million tonnes in 2012, yet only 20 million tonnes were sold in 2012. The slump in prices caused by overproduction has prompted the government to close outdated and inefficient plants, especially those which were producing iron, steel, electrolytic aluminum and coke. Despite closing plants a different government agency has contrarily offered to subsidize electricity for the non-ferrous metal industry, especially in aluminum factories which use electricity in production. Read more of this post

Which Country’s Gold Will Be Sold Next?

Which Country’s Gold Will Be Sold Next?

Tyler Durden on 04/15/2013 08:05 -0400

The first time the Status Quo/Troika tried to force a (not so) stealthy gold confiscation on an insolvent European country was back in early 2012, when as part of the most recent Greek bailout MOU, it was disclosed that “Greece’s lenders will have the right to seize the gold reserves in the Bank of Greece under the terms of the new deal.” However, the public outcry was so loud that the Troika had no choice but to shelve its plans and proceed with a full scale bondholder restructuring instead. Fast forward to last week, when Europe’s appetite for physical gold came back with a bang, this time as part of the Cyprus “Debt Sustainability Analysis“, and subsequent comments from Mario Draghi, demanding that tiny Cyprus, whose opposition, already weakened by the confiscation of uninsured deposits would be far less vocal than Greece’s, sell off €400MM, or virtually all of its sovereign gold, over 10 of its 13.9 total tons, to cover the excess costs of its ever ballooning sovereign bailout. So who’s next? It remains to be seen, although we are certain there will be a very clear correlation between the next country to see its gold “purchased” by the status quo, likely some time in the next 1-3 months, and the amount of total non-performing loans on said country’s bank balance sheets. The usual suspects are presented below. And, in the parlance of Goldman Sachs, these countries better scramble to sell, sell, sell now before gold hits 0, or maybe even goes negative.

sovereign gold_0

Canadians losing faith in economic “miracle”

Analysis: Canadians losing faith in economic “miracle”

1:16am EDT

By Louise Egan and Andrea Hopkins

OTTAWA/TORONTO (Reuters) – Factory worker Nelson Claros has little time for talk of the Canadian economic miracle.

The 50-year-old was laid off last year from his job of 22 years at a bus-assembly plant northwest of Toronto, and has since applied for 130 jobs. His best offer: A job at $12 an hour, half his previous wage and not enough to pay his bills.

“Really there is a recession right now. They don’t call it a recession, but the companies are closing, there are a lot of layoffs. How can this be a miracle economy?” he asked.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Canada’s recovery from a mild 2008-09 recession was quick and job-filled, and the country added nearly 900,000 jobs to take the jobless rate to 7.2 percent from 8.7 percent at the depths of the downturn. Read more of this post

Wells Fargo is slashing an approved list of money managers and investment vehicles that its stockbrokers market to the firm’s wealthy clients, a change of direction that has rattled the third-largest U.S. brokerage network

Exclusive: Wells Fargo cuts approved list of money managers

1:46am EDT

By Jed Horowitz

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Wells Fargo & Co is slashing an approved list of money managers and investment vehicles that its stockbrokers market to the firm’s wealthy clients, a change of direction that has rattled the third-largest U.S. brokerage network.

Executives said the clampdown protects clients from exposure to a plethora of investment models that have received little oversight. It will also reduce the firm’s risk at a time when litigation and compliance costs are rising industry wide. Read more of this post

Ahead of the curve: but bendable screens still seek breakthrough

Ahead of the curve: but bendable screens still seek breakthrough

Sun, Apr 14 2013

By Jeremy Wagstaff and Sinead Carew

SINGAPORE/NEW YORK (Reuters) – The touted arrival this year of wearable gadgets such as computer displays strapped to wrists and in wrap-around glasses is just a step towards a bigger revolution in screens – those that can be bent, folded and rolled up.

Once freed from today’s relatively heavy, breakable and fixed glass displays, tomorrow’s devices may look very different, with screens that can be rolled out, attached to uneven surfaces, or even stretched.

But there’s still some way to go.

“It becomes a product designer’s paradise – once the technology is sorted out,” says Jonathan Melnick, who analyses display technology for Lux Research. Read more of this post

Pyramid IPOs on the Chinese Growth Enterprise Market

Pyramid IPOs on the Chinese Growth Enterprise Market

Martin Holmen University of Gothenburg – Department of Economics; Göteborg University – Centre for Finance; Hanken School of Economics

Peng Wang Hanken School of Economics

March 7, 2013

This paper investigates Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) of high-tech firms on the Chinese Growth Enterprise Market (GEM). Almost half of the high tech IPOs on the GEM are set up in pyramid structures. The likelihood of a pyramid structure increases with the size of the IPO firm and state control. Our results do not suggest that pyramids are set up to overcome financial constraints. However, we document that pyramid IPOs are discounted before the IPO. The price to book ratio estimated at the subscription price is significantly lower for pyramid IPOs compared to stand-alone IPOs. Furthermore, the underpricing is higher and the oversubscription is lower for pyramid IPOs. We conclude that IPO investors are reluctant to invest in pyramid firms and demand a higher risk-premium which translates into a lower subscription price and higher underpricing.

Bird Flu Surge in China Spurs H7N9 Pandemic Vaccine Preparations; “The risk of this becoming a pandemic is increasing. This is a much more serious outbreak than H5N1, which from 2003 until now only infected 43 people in China”

Bird Flu Surge in China Spurs H7N9 Pandemic Vaccine Preparations

A surge in bird flu cases in China increases the pandemic potential of the H7N9 strain, according to a Beijing-based supplier of influenza vaccines to the Chinese government.

Sinovac Biotech Ltd. (SVA), the first company to win regulatory approval for a swine flu shot in 2009, is preparing to make immunizations against the new virus that’s infected dozens of people in China and killed 13. The Nasdaq-traded company will hold off producing the shots until it’s received an order from the state, said Chief Executive Officer Yin Weidong. Flu labs around the world are developing vaccine seed strains to serve as a template for bulk immunization production, should it be required. While there is no evidence that H7N9 is spreading easily among people, it hasn’t been detected in humans before, so they have no natural immunity. That raises global public health concerns, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said last week.

“The risk of this becoming a pandemic is increasing,” Yin said in an interview at the company’s headquarters in the Chinese capital, where a second H7N9 infection was reported today. Over the past two months, 61 H7N9 cases and 13 deaths have been reported by health authorities, mostly in China’s eastern provinces. About half the infections occurred this month, suggesting the pace of transmission is increasing. The H5N1 bird flu strain, which killed at least 371 people in Asia and Africa over the past decade, hasn’t acquired the ability to spread easily among people. In 2009, a novel swine flu virus, known as H1N1, touched off the first influenza pandemic in 41 years, showing how diseases of livestock can spill over into human populations, causing a contagion.

Bigger Threat

“This is a much more serious outbreak than H5N1, which from 2003 until now only infected 43 people in China,” Yin said. Read more of this post

World Bank Says East Asia Should Consider Stimulus Withdrawal to curb the risks of asset bubbles and inflation

World Bank Says East Asia Should Consider Stimulus Withdrawal

Asia’s emerging economies should consider reining in monetary stimulus to curb the risks of asset bubbles and inflation as policy easing in developed nations spur capital inflows, the World Bank said.

Demand-boosting measures that helped sustain growth “may now be counterproductive,” the Washington-based lender said in its East Asia and Pacific Economic Update released today. “As the global economy recovers, an emerging issue is the risk of overheating in some of the larger economies,” it said in a release accompanying the report.

The International Monetary Fund warned last week that risks from the easing policies of central banks around the world are increasing as the Bank of Japan (8301) joined its counterparts in the U.S. and Europe in unleashing monetary stimulus to end 15 years of deflation. Gross capital inflows into the East Asia and Pacific region surged 86 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, the World Bank said in its report, adding to pressure on inflation and asset prices.

“Near-zero interest rates and new and protracted rounds of quantitative easing in the United States, European Union, and Japan are inducing large capital inflows into emerging markets including in East Asia,” the World Bank said. “The risk of an asset boom in the markets, in which global liquidity spills over is emerging, with asset valuations moving ahead of fundamentals and possibly a correction down the road.” Read more of this post

Made-in-Asia Luxury Sheds Fake Image Challenging Vuitton

Made-in-Asia Luxury Sheds Fake Image Challenging Vuitton

For decades, made-in-Asia luxury has been shorthand for “fake.” Now, companies from South Korean bag maker Couronne to Malaysian dressmaker Farah Khan are making a case for homegrown chic.

Couronne, Khan and brands such as Woo, a Shanghai-based producer of silk scarves, are winning clients with products that can rival goods made in Europe. Their growing popularity, amid slowing sales at Louis Vuitton and other European brands, shows how demand is changing in Asia, with consumers favoring fresh designs over ubiquitous logos. The trend may lead to more acquisitions in the region as companies such as LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (MC) SA and PPR SA (PP) seek to boost growth.

“Luxury brands of the 21st Century can come out of anywhere,” said Uche Okonkwo, executive director of consultancy Luxe Corp. For consumers who increasingly value craftsmanship over provenance, “what’s important is that a product is made by the best hands using the best materials.” Read more of this post

Hong Kong Pollution Reaches Severe Level as Pollutants Trapped

Hong Kong Pollution Reaches Severe Level as Pollutants Trapped

Hong Kong’s air pollution index reached the “severe” level for the third time this year, triggering a government warning, as the lack of air flow trapped pollutants in the city.

The Air Pollution Index (HKAICEMA) reached 203 at both the Central business district and the Mong Kok roadside-monitoring stations as of 11 a.m. local time, according to the Environment Protection Department. The index last registered similar readings in March.

“The high air pollution incident is caused by the trapping of pollutants,” the Environmental Protection Department said in a statement on its website today. “Air quality will start to improve gradually later tomorrow” after the wind picks up, according to the statement. Read more of this post

Symptom-Free Bird Flu Case Suggests more people may be catching the H7N9 influenza virus than reported. “…the virus may have been going around as a normal cold.”

Symptom-Free Bird Flu Case Suggests Wider H7N9 Spread

Bird flu was found in a 4-year-old Beijing boy who has no symptoms of the infection, health authorities said, suggesting more people may be catching the H7N9 influenza virus than reported.

The first asymptomatic H7N9 case was discovered by health care workers searching for possible cases, the Beijing Municipal Health Bureau said in a statement on its website today. The boy’s parents are poultry and fish sellers, and their neighbors across the street had bought chicken sold by the family of a 7- year-old girl whose H7N9 infection was reported two days ago.

The boy, who is under medical observation, suggests that some H7N9 infections may be going unrecorded because of a lack of obvious symptoms. Almost all the 60 previous cases in eastern China were extremely unwell, with complications extending to brain damage, multi organ failure and muscle breakdown.

“With asymptomatic cases around, I think everything changes,” said Ian Mackay, an associate professor of clinical virology at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, in a telephone interview today. “There has been a spike in pneumonia cases that have drawn the health officials’ attention, but the virus may have been going around as a normal cold.” Read more of this post

Bird Flu to Dead Hogs Curb China’s Soybean-Import Demand

Bird Flu to Dead Hogs Curb China’s Soybean-Import Demand

An eight-year surge in soybean imports by China, the biggest buyer, may come to an end this year as feed consumption drops following a bird-flu outbreak and the discovery of thousands of dead pigs floating in a river.

Imports, which more than tripled from 2004 to 59.2 million metric tons in the year to Sept. 30, will probably fall to 58 million tons this year, as consumers, wary of infectious diseases, shun poultry and pork, according to the median of a Bloomberg survey of four crushers and three analysts in China. Feed is mostly made with soybean meal and corn.

China’s 60 cases of H7N9 flu virus infections and 13 deaths are raising the specter of the 2003 global pandemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome that killed 774 people. Imports of soybeans plunged 21 percent in the 2003-2004 marketing year and an outbreak of H5N1 virus in 2006 also led to the slowest growth in shipments since the SARS outbreak.

“We believe this new avian flu will cut at least 500,000 tons of soybean-meal demand in the immediate future,” said Liu Xianwu, general manager at researcher China Cereals & Oils Business Net. “Soybeans will come down because at the current level, Chinese crushers don’t make money,” he said April 12. Read more of this post

India Convertible Sales Halt as Funds Bleed on Defaults

India Convertible Sales Halt as Funds Bleed on Defaults

Convertible debt sales in India have halted as investors shun the notes in Asia’s worst- performing stock market, with defaults extending 2012’s record.

Issuance of bonds that can be exchanged for shares was zero in 2013, compared with $600 million in 2012 and a record $7.5 billion in 2007, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s the slowest start since 2000, the data show. Convertibles returned 0.27 percent last quarter, the worst performance in the Asia-Pacific after Singapore’s 0.8 percent loss, Barclays Plc indexes show. The region’s average return was 3.8 percent.

“Convertibles are generally issued in bull markets, when there is lot of appetite for equities,” U.R. Bhat, director at Dalton Capital Advisors India Pvt. in Mumbai, said by telephone on April 11. “There is no appetite now. Investors are not optimistic about the equity markets because the economic indicators are not good.” Read more of this post

N. Korea Celebrates Founder’s 101th Birth Anniversary Amid Heightened Tensions

North Korea Celebrates Founder’s Birth Amid Heightened Tensions

North Korea marks the 101st birth anniversary of state founder Kim Il Sung today, after the U.S. reached an agreement with China, Japan and South Korea to try to coax the reclusive regime back to talks.

“We’re prepared to reach out,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday in Tokyo at the conclusion of an Asian tour that left the door open for a U.S. meeting with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un. Any meeting would have to be at the “appropriate moment, appropriate circumstance,” he said.

Kim early today paid his respects at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, which houses the tomb of both his grandfather Kim Il Sung and his father Kim Jong Il, the official Korean Central News Agency reported. Diplomats are now focused on whether Kim will mark the April 15 anniversary by testing another missile or nuclear device.

North Korea has repeatedly said the region is on the brink of war since its February nuclear test — the third at its Punggye-ri underground site — prompted stronger United Nations sanctions and the U.S. and South Korea began their joint annual military exercises last month. Read more of this post

Charles Handy: Righting management wrongs; Britain’s best-known business guru believes modern companies damage personal relationships


April 14, 2013 4:50 pm

Charles Handy: righting management wrongs
By Andrew Hill

Portfolio careers, the rise of the home-worker, the spread of outsourcing, the dangers of an obsession with shareholder value. Charles Handy was talking about these ideas two decades ago. At the time they sounded radical, now they are commonplace. At 80, he ought to be content.

Yet, from his armchair in front of the fire, overlooking the garden of his flat in a prosperous part of Putney, southwest London, the management writer and self-described social philosopher sounds gloomy. “I am seriously worried that the rather frenetic atmosphere in some organisations. . . . is really damaging relationships at home,” he says.

In a lecture on Monday night for Relate, the UK relationship counselling service, he will take employers to task for setting a breakneck pace for their staff. He will also urge individuals, specifically couples, to reformulate the unspoken contract with their employers, and with each other, at critical phases of their lives. Read more of this post

Amazon’s Letter To Shareholders Should Inspire Every Company In America

Amazon’s Letter To Shareholders Should Inspire Every Company In America

Henry Blodget | Apr. 14, 2013, 10:06 AM | 19,692 | 23

Late last week, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos published his latest letter to shareholders.

This year’s letter, like most of Bezos’ letters, should inspire most companies to change the way they do business.

Specifically, it should inspire companies to do business the way Amazon does business — sacrificing this year’s profits to invest in long-term customer loyalty and product opportunities that will create bigger profits next year and for years thereafter.

The way most companies do business is to focus primarily on today’s bottom line: The prevailing ethos in corporate America, after all, is that companies exist to make money for their owners — and the more and the sooner the better — so every decision should be made in the context of that.

The result of this is that many (most?) companies scrimp on things like long-term investments, customer service, product quality, and employee compensation, in the interest of delivering a few more pennies to this quarter’s bottom line.

This obsession with short-term profits has helped produce the unhealthy and destabilizing situation that now afflicts the U.S. economy: Read more of this post

Antarctic Ice Melt Is Worst In 1,000 Years [Study]

Antarctic Ice Melt Is Worst In 1,000 Years [Study]

Posted: April 15, 2013

This year’s Antarctic ice melt is the continent’s worst in 1,000 years, according to a new study by a research team from the Australian National University and the British Antarctic Survey. Read more of this post

Commodities: Tougher times for trading titans; Reaping the supercycle: the top 20 trading houses have posted almost $250bn of net profit over the past decade

April 14, 2013 7:46 pm

Commodities: Tougher times for trading titans

Reaping the supercycle: the top 20 trading houses have posted almost $250bn of net profit over the past decade

By Javier Blas

If you want to raise $10bn quickly, you need to know who to call. When Igor Sechin, chairman of Rosneft, decided to buy TNK-BP and create the world’s biggest listed oil producer, he faced a problem: banks would not be able to provide the full $55bn required.

So Mr Sechin went elsewhere. Late last year, he phoned two of the world’s trading titans: Ian Taylor and Ivan Glasenberg, the chief executives of Vitol and Glencore. In a matter of weeks, the trading houses offered a $10bn loan that the state-owned Russian company guaranteed with future supplies of crude. Vitol and Glencore were financing one of the largest deals in the history of the oil industry. “We have never seen the trading houses embarking on a deal of this scale,” says a banker who helped to put together the contract. “We are in new territory.” Read more of this post

The family-run firms of Savile Row are an object lesson in how to update a centuries-old brand. Campden looks at the family business keeping classic tailoring on-trend



If you’d walked into the upstairs offices of Savile Row tailor Henry Poole & Co a few weeks ago you’d have been met by a plaster model of the seated figure of the late Emperor Hirohito of Japan, completely naked except for a pair of smartly polished black City brogues.  His Imperial Majesty was waiting to be measured for a new suit ready for his appearance in a new branch of Madame Tussauds in the Far East. It’s all part of everyday life for the celebrated tailors, which was founded in 1822 and dressed the real life emperor, along with Edward VII (see panel), Buffalo Bill and Charles Dickens.

“We’re constantly finding famous people that we’ve dressed over the centuries,” explains Simon Cundey, the seventh generation of the family which founded and still runs Henry Poole, as he points to huge leather bound books containing measurements, cloth details and delivery dates. Next to them are row upon row of brown paper patterns for current clients and racks of jackets and trousers, tacking stitches and linings on display, ready for first fittings. Alongside them sits a magnificent piece of military finery in brilliant red fabric with lashings of gold braid (pictured, right). Read more of this post

Creative ambition is lovely, but what happens when you need real money?


Creative ambition is lovely, but what happens when you need real money?


When I was 26, my then roommate was a great scavenger of furniture. One day, she came home with a daybed frame: a twin-size wooden box with only three legs, which is likely why someone had left it on a curb in the first place. The frame sat propped against our dining room wall for the next year, until I moved in with my boyfriend (now husband), and she let us take it. My husband made a fourth leg out of salvaged wood, and we found a cushion that more or less fit the frame in the “as is” section of IKEA. The back was constructed from a mattress pad rolled up and stuffed into a homemade pillowcase, and the whole ensemble was eventually covered with some black corduroy fabric that we bought for $10. All told, I think we spent about $40 on the “couch.” That was six years ago. At the time, I thought of our jury-rigged furniture as a temporary arrangement, a way station on the path to adulthood. Now it serves as a reminder of how slow and grueling the road to financial security can be.

Which brings me to a second anecdote, one that occurred about a year ago. Over a plate of pasta one night, my husband told me that I needed to make more money. I don’t remember what prompted it, whether we were discussing saving for a down payment or planning a vacation, but regardless of the topic, it was hard to argue with his point. If I really wanted the things I said I did, we’d need more than we were bringing in, than I was bringing in, because, as he implied, I was the one who wasn’t really holding up my end.

My husband and I both chose careers in so-called creative professions—he in architecture, I in magazines. Both are fields in which the prestige often outstrips the financial rewards, but for years that was fine by me. Beyond the fact of having a paycheck, I’d never really thought it mattered how much I actually brought home. Instead, every major career decision I made I’d decided with my heart, not my bank account. My first job, at a nonprofit, paid $23,000 a year. When I decided to pursue journalism, I got a job at a glossy financial magazine, but a year and a half later, I happily left it to work at my favorite publication, accepting a $31,000 salary—and a $20,000 pay cut in the process. Four-plus years passed, and, at 30, I still hadn’t closed the gap on those lost wages. Still, I had no doubt that I’d made the right decision. I loved the work and my colleagues, and I thought of my relative poverty as the price I had to pay. As a friend said of her own professional choices, “I cared about career success. I didn’t care about security.” Read more of this post

Persistence, preparation and a fearless attitude speak volumes in success; PT Hakuhodo Indonesia’s eye-catching advertisement for a language school took top honors at the recent region-wide Adfest 2013 competition

Persistence, preparation and a fearless attitude speak volumes in success

Bruce Emond, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Business | Sat, April 13 2013, 2:50 PM

Paper Edition | Page: 16


Words of wisdom: PT Hakuhodo Indonesia’s eye-catching advertisement for a language school took top honors at the recent region-wide Adfest 2013 competition in Pattaya.(Courtesy of PT Hakuhodo Indonesia)

Many people reveal grand ambitions to head out of their own backyard and achieve success in international arenas. In most instances, they remain ambitions, based mostly on boasting and bragging, or taking a bit of creative license, in the attempt to show they can compete on the world stage.

It’s not so for Irfan Ramli, director of PT Hakuhodo Indonesia, which scooped Agency of the Year in the 2012 Citra Pariwara awards for ad agencies in Indonesia. His company also has the metal – and the mettle – of international success after taking one gold and two bronzes at the prestigious Adfest 2013 competition in Pattaya, Thailand, in March.  Read more of this post

Datuk Hashim, CEO of SME Corp Malaysia: Time to transform and win big

Time to transform and win big

Published: 2013/04/15

“If you’re really in love, appearances aren’t important. The best house is the one you build in each other’s heart.” 

Yu-jin, Winter Sonata

COMING from someone who is not blessed with good looks, flawless skin and model figure, of course, I would agree with Yu-jin! The South Korean drama series “Winter Sonata” has created a viral effect of sorts as an Asian modern classic drama since it made its debut about a decade ago. I am sure the beautiful melody of its ballad “From the Beginning until Now” still haunts most of us, as it does to me, till this day. Needless to say, people of all ages, not just the makcik and the aunts are tuning in to South Korean television dramas that have flooded the local market. Last year, K-Pop star Psy also introduced the world to his “Gangnam Style”, which went viral in August. The song, which was released in July as the lead single of his sixth studio album, debuted at number one on South Korea’s Gaon Chart. In September, “Gangnam Style” was recognised by the Guinness World Records as the most “liked” video on YouTube. By the end of 2012, the song had topped the music charts of more than 30 countries, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain and Britain. As of April 1 2013, the music video has been viewed more than 1.5 billion times on YouTube and it is the site’s most watched video, surpassing that of Justin Bieber’s “Baby”.

All these successes came from what used to be a third-world country torn by conflict with its former northern state. How did the Koreans do it? As we can clearly see, apart from technology and innovation that forms the pillar of strength of the South Korean economy, the country has also begun to tap into the creative industry and recognising its entertainment and cultural strength as one of the best-selling products. The diversification and resiliency of the South Korean economy is brought about by their domestic companies, largely their SMEs, which forms 99.9 per cent of enterprises in the country, providing 88 per cent of employment and contributing 47.6 per cent to national production.  Read more of this post

300-year-old Phoenix Ancient Town consumed by fire of anger because of new government-imposed entrance charge; “None of the ancient towns in Europe charges an entrance fee. I’d rather go there.”

300-year-old Phoenix Ancient Town consumed by fire of anger because of new government-imposed entrance charge

Alia | April 14th, 2013 – 10:31 pm

Fenghuang Gucheng, or Phoenix Ancient Town in English, has been the center of much online discussion in the past week. The small town, located on the western boundary of Hunan province, can be dated back to Ming and Qing Dynasties. It’s a very popular tourism destination in China due to its outstanding natural beauty, untouched ancient architecture and unique culture of the Miao ethnic minority who live there.

This little small town had a restless week last week when on Thursday, local small business owners took to the street to protest against a newly-imposed “entrance ticket” of RMB 148 yuan, effective on April 10. All of a sudden, pictures of cheng guan officers (China’s city law enforcement officers) and anti-riot police raiding the little town are everywhere on the Chinese internet.

fc Read more of this post

The first patent on OxyContin expires Tuesday, a milestone in the history of one of the most powerful and abused painkillers on the market

Updated April 14, 2013, 8:15 p.m. ET

Generic OxyContin Pains the FDA

Patent Expiration Brings Debate Over Abuse Deterrents


The first patent on OxyContin expires Tuesday, a milestone in the history of one of the most powerful and abused painkillers on the market.

But it could be quite some time before generic versions of the drug are available.

Read more of this post

In lab, “bio-kidney” offers hope for renal patients

In lab, “bio-kidney” offers hope for renal patients

POSTED: 15 Apr 2013 9:29 AM
Researchers in the United States said they had bio-engineered a kidney and transplanted it into rats, marking a step forward in a quest to help patients suffering from kidney failure.

PARIS: Researchers in the United States on Sunday said they had bio-engineered a kidney and transplanted it into rats, marking a step forward in a quest to help patients suffering from kidney failure.

The prototype proves that a “bio-kidney” can work, emulating breakthroughs elsewhere to build replacement structures for livers, hearts and lungs, they said.

Described in the journal Nature Medicine, the work entailed taking a rat kidney and stripping out its living cells using a detergent solution, leaving behind a shell made of collagen.

The next step was to repopulate this empty structure with living cells, comprising human endothelial cells, which line the walls of blood vessels in the kidney, and kidney cells taken from newborn rats.

The trick was then to “seed” these cells in the correct part of the kidney, using a muscle duct called the ureter as a tube. Read more of this post

Shanghai Chicken Served With Blood Shunned as Bird Flu Spreads

Shanghai Chicken Served With Blood Shunned as Bird Flu Spreads

By Bloomberg News  Apr 14, 2013

Wu Liangui left Shanghai’s Xiao Shaoxing restaurant with a delicacy his daughter wants him to avoid. Inside a plastic box were slices of white-cut chicken, traditionally served rare so that blood seeps from the bones.

“My daughter says I am committing suicide,” the gray- haired 65-year-old said. “But I really enjoy a dinner of chicken and rice wine and I won’t be giving it up easily.”

Wu was one of a few customers still buying Xiao Shaoxing’s specialty after the H7N9 strain of bird flu killed 13 people in China, including nine in Shanghai. Sales of white-cut chicken at the seven-decade old eatery have dropped to about 100 servings a day from as many as 600 before the outbreak, according to deputy General Manager Chen Zhiqiang, who said that in his 30 years at the restaurant he’s never seen demand fall as much.

“I fully understand,” Chen said. “I wouldn’t dare eat chicken either if I didn’t work here.” Read more of this post

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