Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Franchising Rules

According to an artice in The Australian, just because a business becomes a franchise doesn't mean it will work.

Franchising has long boasted that it is the most successful business model, with fewer bankruptcies and more profitable businesses than any other form of small business.

Franchising is an innovative way to do business. But it is better to get in the curve up when the business is growing with plenty of potential to expand.

Monday, February 27, 2006

The Six Rules Jack Welch Lives by:

Here are the six rules that Jack Welch , the influential General Electric (GE) boss from 1981 to 2001, lived by. He remains highly regarded in the business circles still.

* Control your destiny or someone else will.
* Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it
* Be candid with everyone.
* Don't manage, lead.
* Change before you have to.
* If you don't have a competitive advantage, don't

National University of Singapore Graduates Get Jobs Faster

Singapore graduates are creating new records. They are getting jobs faster and earning higher salaries than their counterparts in the previous three years.

According to a National University of Singapore survey, nearly all (98%) its graduates found jobs within 6 months. Eight in 10 did it in less than three months. But many have also decided to set up their own businesses or join small start-ups.

Students who have been on the NUS Overseas Colleges Programme are paid an average of $2,900, $400 more compared to other NUS graduates. Companies who hire them say this is because these graduates can hit the roads running. Also, they have an international experience and a global mindset which can value add to the workplace. Other NUS graduates are also earning higher salaries - on average, about $125 a month more than those the year before. Bachelor in Law graduates commanded the highest mean gross monthly salary of $4,083, followed by medical graduates, at $3,911. On the whole, professional degree holders earned an average of $2,750, an increase of 3% compared to 2004.

Consumers Slow To Pick Up Wi-Fi Services

As reported on BBC, a study has found that most people are not taking advantage of the freedom offered by laptops with wi-fi built-in.

There are over 10,000 wi-fi hotspots in the UK but not everyone is aware of them.

The survey found that 15% thought there were not enough wireless locations for them to use the technology. Just 11% used laptops in hotels, 7% on trains and 3% in coffee shops, compared to 55% who used them mostly at home.

From these statistics it appears many consumers are missing out on the opportunities provided by the commercial Wi-Fi services and are available in places such as Internet cafes, coffee houses and airports around the world.

According to Wi-Fi Hotspots Directory, Singapore has 619 Wi-Fi locations in the city with another 63 in the Changi International Airport.

Wi-Fi is compatible with gaming consoles and handhelds, allowing online games that can be played at any access point.

The presenent trend is to treat wireless internet affordable to all. Where traditional wired broadband networks required massive investment, new technology means wireless networks can provide similar levels of service, at a fraction of the cost. With this, there are already fears that the rise of Voice Over Internet Protocol (Voip) calling - where net-connected computers can make cheap phone calls - will damage profits.

Although the free Wi_Fi services have not picked up dramatic growth as yet , it is an unavoidable first step reaching out to consumers at all economic levels just like the what the mobile phone has done. So, this is the time to brace for new opportunities to enhance the quality of personal life , increase business and commerce, and entertainment including gaming that is bound to revolutionize a new social behaviour.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Singapore Pays Tribute to Mr. S Rajaratnam.

Today Singapore bade farewell and laid to rest one of its founding fathers - the former Deputy Prime Minister and senior statesman, Mr S. Rajaratnam who died last Wednesday due to heart failure.

He was given a state funeral at the Parliament House, where Mr. Rajaratnam has given so many speeches after this island state's tumultuous separation from Malaysia in 1965. He was one of the founding members of the Peoples Action Party, which has ruled and transformed Singapore to what it is today.

Mr. Rajaratnam was the first and longest serving foreign minister of independent Singapore. He skilfully steered Singapore's foreign policy and tirelessly worked to enhance Singapore’s prestige among the nations of the world. He did this admirably well, winning many friends on the international stage of diplomacy.

He was a firm believer in multi-racalism and it was he who penned the Singapore Pledge (below), leaving behind a lasting legacy.

"We, the citizens of Singapore
Pledge ourselves as one united people
Regardless of race, language or religion
To build a democratic society
Based on justice and equality
So as to achieve happiness, prosperity & progress for our nation"

Mr. Rajaratnam was a thinker, a lover of books and was a voracious reader. He used reasoning and persuasion to win over opponents to his side.

Judging by the steady stream of national leaders and common people who turned up to pay their last respects and pay tribute to him, it is clear that Singapore has lost one of the most illustrious leaders of the Founding Generation.

Business Jets In Asian Air Show in Singapore

Gulfstream USA's corporate and business jets are on show at the Asian Aerospace 2006 held in Singapore from 21 Feb to 26th Feb 2006.

Asia is becoming a huge market for the aerospace industry with major players looking to take advantage in China and India among the huge growth centres.

Airbus and Boeing are demonstrating more fuel efficient carriers for the commercial sector. This year's aerospace show has more than 930 exhibitors from 43 countries.

Gulfstream which has sold 16 business jets in the Asia Pacific region in 2005, sees huge potential for the demanding business travellor. Business and corporate jets save travelling time for the top business mangers, who can arrive at their destinations fresh and well rested to continue their business. The private jets can also be used as a mobile office. Since you can never recoup lost time, the private business jet can now be considered as a business tool which definitely gives a competitive advantage in a fiercely business world.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Aamir Khan's Rang De Basanti

On Wednesday night I watched Aamir Khan's film Rang de Basanti. The film is about life in Delhi and covers the trials and tribulations of the city.

Rang de Basanti' is a film about awakening. About standing up for ones beliefs. Where the spirit of rebellion transcends time and age. A young idealistic English filmmaker, Sue, arrives in India to make a film on Indian revolutionaries Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad and their contemporaries and their fight for freedom from the British Raj. Owing to a lack of funds, she recruits students from Delhi University to act in her docu-drama. She finds DJ (Aamir Khan), who passed out five years back but still wants to be a part of the University because he doesn't think there's too much out there in the real world to look forward to. Karan (Siddharth), the son of Industrialist Rajnath Singhania, who shares an uncomfortable relationship with his father, but continues to live off him, albeit very grudgingly.

The film grips your attention for what is wrong with Indian society, especially corruption which they say is part of their society's DNA. There is lot of crazy fun and light-hearted moments applicable to rebellious youth. It also brings about a climax which gets the viewer sitting on edge.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A Visit To The Bugs'ingham Palace

This visit was perhaps long overdue for me, partly because I was a frequent visitor to the island that housed this palace or Butterfly Park, the Sentosa which is the popular entertainment theme island of Singapore. I used to take my family on weekends to sentosa and hit the beach, our most favourite spot. It was easier and cheaper for us to take a bus which took us right inside Sentosa.

So, finally time was right for me pay a visit to the butterflies. I later realized the pollen filled air that my hosts enjoyed so much was perhaps not very helpful for my son, who is very sensitive to allergens. All in all, the visit was good and we had a fun visit, ending our day at the Musical Fountain, which put up a spectacular feat of display using water, laser and fire. Best of all it was free entertainment. It was a pity that we did not have a camera with us, but I'll try to post in Flickr some photos taken with a phone camera.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Bridge JOB

American baby boomers may be looking for that kind of job, what the economists call the bridge job, a new category of employment.

Economists use this term to describe part-time or full-time jobs typically held for less than 10 years following full-time careers. According to a 2005 working paper from the Center on Aging and Work at Boston College, one-half to two-thirds of workers take on bridge jobs before fully retiring--one reason the number of workers 65 and up is expected to increase 117% by 2025.

Revamping the retirement system requires a shift in attitudes and changing of rigid bureaucratic rules.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Bird Flu Strikes India

Avian influenza has struck India. After the Maharashtra government on Saturday confirmed that the recent deaths of chickens in Nandurbar and Dhule districts of North Maharashtra were caused by bird flu, eight people were reportedly admitted to a government hospital at Navapur, with suspected bird flu.

It is estimated that around 40,000 to 1,00,000 chickens in the poultries of Nawapur have been affected by bird flu. Avian influenza is caused by a strain of viruses of which H5N1 is the most lethal. These viruses occur naturally among birds. Wild birds carry the disease across borders and health agencies across the world are gearing up to counter a possible pandemic.

Avian influenza is highly contagious and usually results in the death of domesticated birds, including chickens, ducks and turkeys, once infected. Bird flu has infected humans in some countries and killed around 90 persons since 2003 in various parts of Asia and Europe.

Officials in India say there is no cause for alarm and they are taking measures to put a preventive plan in place and authorities have cordoned off a three-kilometre radius area where the cases are reported.

Infections of humans, mostly through contact with infected poultry, result in symptoms typical of common human influenza — fever, cough, sore throat, and muscle aches — to eye infections, pneumonia, severe respiratory diseases and other life-threatening complications.

Security Overshadow Dubai Purchase Of P&O

Last week Dubai Ports World, (DPW), based in the United Arab Emirates, announced that it would purchase London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. (P&O). The deal gives DPW control over commercial operations at six US shipping terminals- New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.

This fact has caused a small but growing number of US lawmakers to press the White House and the Treasury Department to review their decision on the grounds that Arab control over American ports could jeopardize national security.

The purchase worth $6.8 billion dollars which gives a controlling stake of six US ports to a Dubai company has now become the subject of controversy and a national security debate. Although Dubai is a US ally in the combat of terrorism after 9/11, there are opponents of this administration as well as sceptics within the ruling party who strongly believe that the US should not allow its ports to be managed by Dubai which still has links to the terror groups in the middle east.

Dubai has beaten Singapore's Port Authority, (PSA) to take over P&O, but they still have to win over US lawmakers and public opinion who feel nervous that by allowing a Dubai company to manage their ports, it could compromise their security, giving the terrorists a gateway into their land.

Friday, February 17, 2006

End of the world in 1,000 years?

This eery headline is from Rediff.com, and they say:

"To stay alive, we have to meet a deadline.

  • If man does not stop burning fossil fuels, by the year 3000, rising oceans will drown many countries and cities, and temperatures will have risen by as much as 15 degree Centigrade.
  • Global warming could quadruple by 2100. Abrupt climate changes will become routine.
  • Ocean water will become less acidic, throwing the marine ecosystem out of gear and resulting in catastrophic results for the earth."

These are the findings of a study called Climate Change on the Millenial Timescale by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research for the United Kingdom's Environment Agency.

We started off with homo sapiens , our ancestors with limited intelligence who habituated mother earth before we took over as the most intelligent and most wise successor. Unfortunately, it is the same intelligence that has also made us the most self-centred and narrow-minded which also leads us to the opposite end of being the most stupid of all ,when you think of the warmongering and horrendous consequences of our own actions.

Here, I am talking about global warming . Scientific research suggests that we are rapidly moving in the direction of ireversible damage, considering the green house gases that we continue to pump into our atmosphere. United States, one of the biggest pollutors in the developed world says they are addicted to oil and they cannot give up their gas guzzler SUVs nor agree to cut green house emissions as agreed by most of the international community as per the Kyoto Protocol aimed at cutting down the cardondioxide emissions.

For the world's largest economy, it seems it is 'business as usual' and if we continue down this road, scientific predictions are that the most intelligent human species may perish as a result of its own actions. I hope this is a false outcome but history does show that we are woefully slow in bringing dramatic change to our social behaviour.

Singapore Honours The First Social Entrepreneur

Mr. Jack Sim who founded the World Toilet Organization has won the first Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award. As owner of a building materials company, Mr. Sim's inspirational idea to put more thought in the design and proper usage of toilets was recognized by the Switzerland-based Schwab Foundation For Social Entrepreneurship.

Mr. Sim beat three other finalists to win a trip to the World Economic Forum and the Annual Global Summit For Social Entrepreneurs to be held in Switzerland next year.

Addressing the award ceremony, the guest of honour, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, said ComCare Enterprise Fund, which provides seed funding for viable businesses with a social objective has todate approved $4.8 million for 48 approved projects. He urged the business community to look for opportunities with voluntary welfare organisations and charities as these organisations seek opportunities in the business area.

Hats off to Mr Sim for your innovation that is now recognized as a model for singapore. Poor toilet condition is a world wide problem and more than half of the world population have no proper sanitation.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Animation And Gaming Industry In India

According to the National Association Of Software And Service Companies, NASSCOM India, Newsreport issue No 51of January 2006, Indian animation and gaming industry is expected to show significant growth in the near future as global outsourcing takes off. A special study conducted by NASSCOM on the Indian animation and gaming market has found that the country could emerge as a significant destination for such outsourced work in the years to come.

According to the NASSCOM study, the global animation business was estimated to touch US$ 55 billion in 2005 and will grow to US$ 75 billion in 2009including segments such as entertainment (including TV broadcast, fully animated movies, direct-to-DVD and VFX), e-Education and web designing, with the entertainment market generating close to 73 per cent of the overall revenue during 2005.

The gaming industry, on the other hand, comprising the video console, PC, wireless/mobile and on-line gaming segments, achieved revenues of around US$ 19 billion in 2005. The sector is expected to witness exponential growth.

The NASSCOM study indicated that the mobile gaming segment would grow the fastest, increasing its overall share of the market from 16 per cent in 2005 to 28 per cent in 2009.

Presently the Indian animation market is dominated by the entertainment and film industry.
Mobile gaming so far is dominating the Indian gaming market. But India is making the right moves in these sectors to become a true global player

Kennedy and Cronkite

While scanning the internet for interesting reading material, I came across a book "About Why business people speak like idiots". The excerpts to this book bring out some interesting historical perspective giving a powerful example of an incident that has etched into the psyche of the American memory, thanks to a broadcast journalist by the name of Walter Cronkite. What you read in the 'Cronkite' example is just the opposite of how the idiots do it; without any double-speak or jargon, he connects with a nation to share in their grief.

Here is the excerpt that I selected.

"What has been called the 'most moving and historic' passage in broadcast history - and it's hard to say otherwise - was a sharp departure from the rehearsed and stiff television of its era... News of the shooting broke an hour earlier, and there were unconfirmed reports that President Kennedy had been fatally wounded. Cronkite himself had delivered that momentous news, breaking into the soap opera As the World Turns. But it was this segment that got inside of everyone watching. Decades later, it has the same effect. There's no doubt that Kennedy's death would have moved the nation no matter who reported it, and others did, nonstop for days, but Cronkite's broadcast is the one of record. Why?"

Walter Cronkite choked up on the most important broadcast of his career. It gave the whole audience a license to share their grief. Cronkite went on to become a legend in broadcast news. These are the rare moments when humanity rises above their party affiliation , ideological or religious differences to grieve or celebrate the life of a person who has made his mark and left a lasting legacy.

Even as we salute the advancements made possible by globalization, we are saddened that the gap between the rich and the poor continue to increase. In the mixed up world that we live today, greed, corruption, poverty, religious intolerance and terror has become an alarming problem.

Well, coming back to the book; I get the feeling that this book talks about an epidemic applicable especially to business but generally to other sectors as well. Today much of the world is dominated by the free market system of capitalism based on intense competition.. It seems business people cannot talk or give out a report without disclaimers or sugar-coating what they have to say. Go on and look into company accounts or attend an annual general meeting and you'll know the kind of deceptive and hard-to-understand lingo that is used . In order to impress an audience the idot, when he has nothing worth saying will talk about the "value proposition, ecosystems and generate concepts " that will create fog in the mind of the listener.

It is no wonder that Enron, the worlds biggest energy giant named by Forbes magazine consecutively as"America’s Most Innovative Company" for six consecutive years, became the largest corporate bankrupcy in US history causing millions of dollars of loss to shareholders and investors.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Some Tips On Achieving Financial Independence

This article from rediff.com refers the reader to the book 'Rich Dad Poor Dad', by Robert T Kiyosaki wherein he writes; that the sources of money can be divided into four quadrants. One is employment, the second is entrepreneurial- or self-employment, the third is investments, and the fourth is business.

Well, you have to live well. Make choices that will help you to achieve financial goals.

You are financially independent when your lifestyle is sustained by passive income, that is income which comes to you automatically without you having to work in any way for earning it. How could this happen?

Here are the tips.

  • Assets create income and liabilities deplete income. Choose assets over liabilities as far as possible .
    Invest 10% or more of your gross income to create financial independence for yourself. This is an important step.
  • Of your savings, put 15 to 20% in life insurance, 10% in post office instruments or a provident fund, 25% , you can buy mutual funds, shares or anything else of choice. Choose something that allows you some liquidity and yet appreciates quicker than the more conservative investments. Be aware that risk and return are positively correlated. Higher the risk, the higher the return.

The thumb rule is to put only as much money in these that you can put away without feeling the pinch into your day-to-day living expenses.

EU Probes Airline Price Fixing

In many countries 'price fixing' is illegal where firms agree to sell commodities at a common price or at a certain minimum price.

U.S. and European officials have raided airlines in US and Europe in an investigation of possible price-fixing of freight shipments by passenger and cargo airlines.

The European Union's executive arm and the U.S. Justice Department conducted searches of some leading passenger airlines' cargo operations in Europe and around the United States, and other airlines were asked for information related to the probe.

"The Commission has reason to believe that the companies concerned may have violated (a European Union) treaty, which prohibits practices such as price fixing," the European Commission said in a statement.

It is against the law in most countries for companies to collude to set prices or divide territory. It is standard practice for antitrust authorities in Europe, the United States and other countries to coordinate simultaneous raids on suspects in cartel cases.

Some of the world's biggest airlines including American Airlines, British Airways Plc, Air France KLM, Lufthansa and several others have been asked for information related to alleged cartel activity.

International cartels deprive the consumers of fair competition which is essential in a free market. Such price fixing which is considered a criminal offence can be prosecuted under antitrust laws of many countries. In a global economy, the long arm of the law has got to reach far and wide to keep the crooks at bay.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Fries Under Fire

All this while McDonald's had said its fries were free of gluten and milk or wheat allergens and safe for people with sensitivities to those foods.

This has suddenly changed and Mcdonald's has quietly added "Contains wheat and milk ingredients" this month to its Web site's french fries listing. Last week, the fast-food giant acknowledged that its french fries contain more trans fat than previously advertised. While for most people it may not matter, it is a big deal for people who are sensitive to wheat and dairy derivatives which are used as flavour in the preparation of fries.

A heathy eating campaign that former President Bill Clinton has just started for public schools in order to combat obesity among young children will focus on the nutritional value of foods; burgers and fries no doubt will be included.

The schools will get help in improving the nutritional value of the food served in cafeterias and vending machines, increasing physical activity, providing health lessons and promoting staff wellness.

"What we want to do is to create a national recognition program shining a spotlight on schools that have done a good job, with concrete, innovative steps to create healthier learning environments for children and healthier work environments for staff," President Clinton said.

Monday, February 13, 2006

e- Community Centres Boost Rural Communities

e-Community Centres (CeCs) or telecentres are providing access to the rural communities to reach out to the wider world. In the Asia Pacific region where major farming communities live, the resources of information and communication technology are set bring far-reaching changes to the community life and their way of doing business.

In a province in Mindanao, Phillipines a high school student uses this e-centre to call her mother in Saudi Arabia and it cost her less than the bus fare for the 13 kilometre ride to reach her home.

The telecentres which look like cyber cafes provide facilities where, for a minimal fee, the public can access various information and communications technology (ICT) services such as web browsing, email, voice service, and fax service. These centers serve as community libraries, points of access to distance education, business service centers, local, regional and international news services centers, and portals for various government services. The e-centers, have enriched the learning experience of students in the area who previously had access only to antiquated library materials.

The e-center has also had a significant impact on local businesses. Business people, who once had limited contact and little access to markets , can now arrange efficient domestic and overseas transactions through the CeC. In fact, locally-made baskets made by the indigenous Teduray tribe, are being sold internationally through the Internet. Thanks to technology, product information on these baskets is posted in the local government unit’s website.

According to UNESCAP Report over 60% of the people in the Asia-Pacific region live in rural areas. The rural population tends to be poor, neglected and marginalized groups of society. In comparison to urban areas, the accessibility and availability of information and communications technology (ICT) is significantly lower in rural areas. Government and the private sector do not invest much in infrastructure development for ICT in rural areas, as it is not cost-effective. But modern communication and technology is changing the rural landscape, albeit perhaps rather slowly but with profound changes in the offing. With the awakening of the sleeping giants China and India, propects for an economic boom are greater in this region.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Some Useful Info For Small Businesses

Based on the wiki model, this site smallbusiness.com does provide some very useful information. It is gives a wide array of user contributed information, from starting a business to marketing, accounting, human resources and legal issues.

It is an intersting concept to share knowledge which can be used to help other people in getting started or inspiring the motivation to focus and do well. With the opportunities that come about, thanks to the power of the wide reach of internet, how-to-do information is in no short supply and if it can contibute to your understanding or inspire you, then it is worth your time to have a look.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Million Dollar Experiment

Here is a Million Dollar Experiment which is a financial exercise intended for personal and financial development.

The author states that the goal of this experiment is to attempt to use the power of intention to manifest $1 million for each person who chooses to participate. It is 100% free, and there are no costs of any kind. You can even participate anonymously.

It sounds interesting. To let the power of intention and intution be the driving force for motivation and to stay the course can be quite powerful. It is an exercise to tune the mind and for the universe to do the rest. What you invest is only your time to think with clarity and focus and pick up clues as they flash in your mind. The author states, "there's no downside other than investing a fraction of your time each day in holding the intention."

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Integrity & Success

Integrity is characterized by upright character, sound moral principles and honest behaviour. For a person to be truly successful, these traits will have to be inculcated very early on in life.

If a person is dishonest at any level, is scheming and has the desire for something for nothing, it will lead the person to cheating and robs the individual of good character.

Enduring success depends on one's integrity. Do not sacrifice your chances for enduring success by yeilding to ill-gotten gains. Once you have sacrifised your character, you have lost all.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Giant Crabs May Invade Britain

According to this news and discovery item of Ananova , Environmentalists warn that Britain's waterways are set to be invaded by giant exotic Chinese crabs.

They say the mitten crabs, which can grow to the size of a dinner plate, could overrun canals and rivers. They also say that there could be a population explosion at any time.

This type of crabs are considered a delicacy in China and Japan when eaten raw and are already present in some British rivers including the Thames, Humber and Tyne.

One solution for the expected population explosion could be, export the crabs en masse to the countries of Far East, where the raving exotic food lovers could feast all year round. It certainly would be good business.

Sultan Loses To His Brother

This article in the UK Times Online states that the Sultan of Brunei, one of the world’s richest men, has failed in his attempt to have Prince Jefri, his younger brother, jailed in Britain in a family feud over £8 billion.

The Times reported that Prince Jefri Bolkiah won a key victory in the High Court last week in a five-year battle that has exposed the extraordinarily extravagant lifestyles of the brothers.

Prince Jefri, 51, has been accused by his brother Sultan Hassanal, 59, of embezzling £8 billion from the Brunei Investment Authority (BIA) during his 13 years as Finance Minister of the oil-rich country on the northern coast of Borneo.

Click on the 'article' above as well as Asiaweek.com article to read about this story which Asiaweek titled "Paradise Lost."

Asiaweek wrote, "Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei rules his tiny realm from the world's largest residential palace built on the edge of the Borneo jungle. The gold-domed Istana Nurul Imam has 1,788 rooms, which makes it bigger than the Vatican and on a par with Versailles."

Brunei also known as Negara Brunei Darussalam or Sultanate of Brunei has a population of 372,361 (July 2005 est.) according to the World Factbook.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Cartoons Being Used To Settle Scores

When the cartoons over which there is a fire storm raging across most of the muslim world were first published in Sept 2005, apparently there was no hoo-ha then. Perhaps emboldened by this meek no-reaction, the Denmark paper printed more of the same some ten days back recently, I guess, to push the envelope further and test the level of the bar of muslim tolerance. The publishers who reprinted these cartoons in other countries, too, believe that they have the right of expression, which is the hallmark of the free world; such a right and its implementation has kept their countries away from the grip of tyranny and dictatorships. This is necessary to uphold public scrutiny in the affairs of the state, good governance and to maintain checks and balances between the different branches of the government while holding them accountable to the citizens from whom they derive their power. Drawing caricatures of the muslim prophet does not enhance or help any of the issues mentioned here, other than dare the publishers right to do so. The consequences for doing so have not been taken to account, certainly the publishers would have least expected the passion and violence that this incident has unleashed across some parts of the muslim world. All muslims are offended by the cartoons but many don't agree that burning of national flags or torching of embassies is the way to register their dismay and protest.

I read in a newspaper that Financial Times in an editorial last friday said, " Freedom of speech is among the most invaluable of our liberties. But it is not absolute; It would not, say, include the right to cry 'fire' in a crowded theatre. But there is something dishonest, too, about the way arab leaders defer in these matters to reactionary clerical establishments that they rely on to legitimise their autocratic rule."

When the Danish Embassy in Beirut was burnt down, there was speculation that the Syrians may have a hand in it. State sponsored protests in Iran reflect the defensive stance of a government determined to devleop nuclear power against the will of the UN nuclear watch dog , the International Atomic Energy Agency. From United Kingdom, all across the middle east, to Pakistan, Afghanistan, to Indonesia and New Zealand; the extremists have come to the fore front to demonstrate radical forms of protest and violence. Whenever an incident like this occurs, the moderate muslims are blamed for not speaking up and making their voices heard. Unfortunately in this instance the wrath of fury and passions are running so wildly high that unless the muslim religious and political leaders come out to calm the frailed nerves, the moderate majority would be marginalised once again.

Final Word: To try to still justify reprints of this cartoons in the name of freedom of expression is to justify the misuse of the highest value that the free world so cherishes unlike the monolithic muslim middle east that Financial Times pointed out and which the US and the West have supported for far too long. Cooler heads need to prevail over the extremists to put this incident behind us and move on.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Freedom Of Expression Versus Respect For Religion

Regardless of one's religious affliliation, virtually everyone in the democratic west has individual liberty, political and religious freedoms. These are among their most cherished heritages .

In Denmark, a small town newspaper has drawn cartoons of the muslim prophet.The majority of the 5 million Danes are lutherian christians while a small minority are muslims. Other Eurpoean countries have reprinted these cartoons and there is a huge outrage among the muslims, affecting diplomatic relations with some muslim countries, boycott of Danish goods while others are protesting with fury.

If individuals are to live in peace and harmony, freedom of expression should not be used as an excuse to degrade any religion. It serves no other purpose other than to provoke ill-feelings and incite hatred. When the French jumped on to this bandwagon reprinting these insulting cartoons, it is worth to remember the famous philosopher Voltaire. In the 18th Century, his advocacy of freedom of speech and religion, along with attacks on the Church and the French nobility, resulted in two prison terms in the Bastille and years of exile from France. So there was a huge furore then and I wonder if anything was learnt from that experience.

In a free world, you do require a free press. But the press does carry a social responsibilty. From time to time we should look at ourselves objectively and ask, "Should we do something because we can do it or should we do it because it is right to do so?" If you choose the former, then there are unacceptable consequences. When action is taken on the latter, it can enrich our lives and help us to live in peace and harmony.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Tradition Marches On in Singapore's Chingay Parade

Just returned after watching Singapore's Chingay Parade. Originally started in 1973 in Singapore as an annual Chinese festival marking the Chinese New Year celebrations, it has now become a multicultural event with Malay and Indian performances alongside the Chinese festivities. Every year it seems to become more grand and more colourful. Reflecting harmonious unity in diversity, these street dances are from Malay, Indian and Chinese cultural institutions and schools together with glittering lights and spectacular floats in this night-time parade. There were floats from other countries too adding an international flavour to this event.

Although you now don't hear the fire crackers that was reminiscent of the early festivals which originated from Penang in Malyasia and then came over to Singapore, you do have some amazing performances among the beat of drums and cymbols, colourful costumes and dragon dancers still reflecting its originality. The balancing act on a 30-foot pole swinging from side to side was the best performance that I witnessed as I walked along the Orchard lined which was lined with curious onlookers, tourists and enthusiastic children singing and clapping to the beat of the drums and to the steps of the cheerleaders. At its finale it became a cracking street party and onlookers were were urged to join and participate in the fun.

This is a refreshing experience depicting the cultural diversity that exist in a society that has achieved excellence in national progress and social development from very humble beginnings just over three decades ago. As you see the dragon dance snake through amid the towering buildings welcoming the year of the dog, even the cannines are happy and smiling from cheek-to-cheek confirming that this country has done exceptionally well.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Million Dollar Fish Head Battle

Here is a Singapore success story born out of a simple idea. In the early 1950s, an Indian cook in Singapore came up with the idea to use fish heads that were not eaten but usually thrown away . His idea to cook fish heads has created what is now famously known as the Indian fish head curry. Despite the name, you'll be surprised to know that it is not an Indian but regional creation using Indian spices and flavour. It seems, in India they do not eat fish heads as a meal in the same manner they do here.

The "Banana leaf Apolo" in Little India which is the Indian cultural district in Singapore has the fish head curry as it's premier dish. It is not only an irresistable moderately spicy dish for locals here, but also a must-stop point for tourists to saviour this dish. True to it's name, food is served on a big green leaf and rice and veggies are scooped onto it, the waiters don't even need to wash the plates. But the majestic fish head comes in a big bowl, it's eyes and meat shining bright.

According to this article the battle to woo fish head curry customers in Little India has become spicier among the few competitors serving this famous dish. The owner of Apolo Mr. Chellapan is opening another posch outlet after giving his existing flagship 'banana leaf apolo' a two million dollar renovation revamp.

FOR a man who used to make a measly one dollar a month, Mr S Chellappan has come a long way.

As a young boy from Tamil Nadu, India, he initially worked, without pay, as an odd-job labourer at a boarding house.

'I worked in exchange for my meals and lodging. I got a dollar each month as tips for cleaning the place. ' he said.

This is an amazing rags-to-riches story, not only creating a world class brand "the banana leaf apolo" but in the process lifting the once discarded fish head to the front lines of the food industry here. All this out of a simple idea and a lot of hard work.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

People Versus Banks

"This is a staggering thought. We are completely dependent on the commercial Banks. Someone has to borrow every dollar we have incirculation, cash or credit. If the Banks create ample synthetic moneywe are prosperous; if not, we starve. We are absolutely without apermanent money system. When one gets a complete grasp of the picture,the tragic absurdity of our hopeless position is almost incredible, butthere it is. It is the most important subject intelligent persons caninvestigate and reflect upon. It is so important that our presentcivilization may collapse unless it becomes widely understood and the defects remedied very soon.
"-- Robert HemphillCredit Manager of Federal Reserve Bank, Atlanta, Ga. http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quote_blog/Robert.Hemphill.Quote.CA66"

Banks have almighty power and if they are overtaken by greed and mismanagement, it is a frightening prospect for they can destroy business and livelihoods just as effectively as they create and prosper them.