Thursday, November 29, 2012

In China, people with AIDS fight stigma at hospitals that refuse to treat them

In China, people with AIDS fight stigma at hospitals that refuse to treat them
In this Nov. 20, 2012 photo, 28-year-old HIV patient Wang Pinghe shows bottles of medicine pills he has been taking during an interview in Beijing, China. Wang has a tumor in his liver and he wants it surgically removed before it becomes life-threatening, but it will be hard to find a hospital that will do the operation because he has AIDS. In China, hospitals routinely reject people with HIV for surgery out of fear of exposure to the virus or harm to their reputations 

BEIJING, China - Wang Pinghe wants the tumour in his liver removed before it becomes life-threatening. But the 28-year-old Chinese villager knows it will be hard to find a hospital that will do the operation — because he has AIDS.

In China, hospitals routinely reject people with HIV for surgery out of fear of exposure to the virus or harm to their reputations. After years of denying AIDS was a problem in China, the country has significantly improved care for patients, but the lingering stigma sets back those advances.

"In my hometown, not a single hospital is willing to operate on people infected with HIV," said Wang, who travelled to Beijing from Runan county in the central province of Henan to try to draw the attention of central authorities to the issue by speaking to the foreign media.

"This is not discrimination by one single person but by an entire country," he told The Associated Press.
The stigma against people with HIV runs especially deep in China, from being unofficially barred from government jobs to being expelled from school.

Now, as more people rail against the myriad inequalities that plague Chinese society, people with HIV are becoming increasingly willing to assert their right to fair treatment.

One man recently claimed the spotlight by altering his medical records to hide his HIV-positive condition so he could get surgery for lung cancer. The man, who went by the pseudonym Xiaofeng, told state media he had been turned away by two hospitals.

His story sparked a firestorm of criticism directed at both the hospitals for rejecting him and the patient for exposing medical staff to risks they were not aware of.

"Xiaofeng was smart. When he felt that his life was in danger, he found a way to save himself," said Li Hu, a Tianjin-based activist who helped Xiaofeng and later publicized the case online. "But this way isn't good for anyone, be it the patient or medical workers. Now the question is: Can we find a way that is favourable for everyone?"

The incoming premier, Li Keqiang, was prompted to issue a statement saying that health facilities must not discriminate against people with HIV. During a meeting Monday with a dozen activist groups, he said such discrimination would be severely punished, according to Li Hu.

The disease is a sensitive issue for Li Keqiang, who was governor of Henan province in 1998 when tens of thousands of people contracted HIV from state-sponsored blood-buying rings with unhygienic practices. Activists have urged Li to acknowledge the government's responsibility for the disaster and provide compensation, with little success.

China has made significant strides in tackling the epidemic, with the AIDS mortality rate falling 64 per cent from 2002 to last year. The government last year increased HIV treatment by 50 per cent — reaching three-quarters of the adults and children who require it, according UNAIDS.

An estimated 780,000 people have HIV in China. There has been an increasing trend of cases transmitted through sex rather than intravenously, with sex workers and gay men considered most at risk, said Guy Taylor, a communications officer for UNAIDS.

About 70,000 new cases were reported in the first 10 months of this year, largely through sexual transmission, as compared with about 93,000 for all of last year, the Health Ministry announced this week at a news conference ahead of World AIDS Day on Saturday.

With improved access to lifesaving drugs, people with HIV in China are living longer, which means more are seeking treatment for other ailments.

Chinese law bars medical facilities from refusing to treat people with HIV, but activists say discrimination continues because the law spells out no serious punishments. Many patients cannot afford the time and expense of taking hospitals to court.

In interviews with patients, their spouses and activists, The Associated Press found a half-dozen cases of people with HIV being turned away by doctors as soon as they declared their HIV-positive status or it turned up in routine pre-operation tests.

In Henan province, a county hospital refused to operate on wheat farmer Zhu Weidong's 45-year-old wife, who had cervical cancer. Zhu, who spoke on condition that his wife remain anonymous, said he had to take her to the provincial capital. Including travel and other expenses, the procedure cost 40,000 yuan ($6,500) — a third more than at a local facility — which Zhu had to borrow from relatives and friends.

Similarly, a 31-year-old civil servant in the central city of Chongqing said his doctor recommended a liver biopsy after he reported severe lower back pain, but declined to carry it out once he tested positive for the virus. The man — who would only give his nickname, Xiaobai, out of concern he might lose his job — said it was a year later when he finally was able to get a biopsy in Shanghai, and it showed he had lost half his liver function.

"I can't help but wonder if I could have found out a year ago and saved more of my liver," he said. "I worry about what I would do if one day I needed dialysis. What if I need a liver transplant?"

The China Alliance of People Living with HIV/AIDS, a Beijing-based network, said that a survey last year found dozens of patients being turned away by facilities throughout the country — in some cases even leading to deaths.

"I feel that if a doctor refuses to treat a patient who is HIV positive, it is a crime akin to murder," said the group's co-ordinator, Meng Lin, who recounted being denied a CT scan by a Beijing doctor in September, after he told him he had AIDS.

Dr. Wu Zunyou, who leads the government's HIV/AIDS centre, said he believes attitudes will change. He said Chinese health workers report about 700 cases of accidental contact with the every year and none have resulted in infections. He welcomed the public debate the Tianjin case triggered.

"The debate causes medical workers to think about the issue and health facilities to improve their management, so there should be fewer chances for such things to happen in the future," Wu said.

Leveson report: the topics, people and key words in numbers

The Leveson report is out. How many times does it mention 'statutory' compared to 'self-regulation', and do 'failings' dominate 'sucesses'?

Lord Justice Leveson poses with a summary report into press standards
Lord Justice Leveson poses with a summary report into press standards 
Lord Justice Leveson has published his report setting out recommendations for the future of press regulation in the UK. The full document is an impressive 1,987 pages long, and contains over one million words.

We have been through the full text finding how often various words and phrases were mentioned, in an attempt to convey the report's tone as well as the topics and people that appear most frequently.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, references to failure are two thirds more numerous than those to success, with use of words including the text "fail" outweighing the total number of "success"es and "succeed"s by almost 75%.
Of terms related to the subject matter, "public" was one of the most frequently used, appearing on average more than twice per page.

Uses of either "regulate", "regulation" or "regulator" were almost as numerous, with an average of at least one (1.39 to be precise) appearing on every page. Narrowly behind were references to "police", at 1.3 mentions per page.

Interestingly, uses of "statutory" and "statute" were very slightly ahead of "self-regulation", "self-regulate" and other such variations, with a total of 16 more references to the former than the latter throughout the document as a whole.

"Private" and "privacy" cropped up on four out of every five pages, while "standards" appeared more than once every other page.

"Murdoch" dominated as far as names were concerned, appearing on 44.6% of the report's pages, ahead of "Cameron" (26.6%), "Hunt" (22%), "Blair" (12.2%) and "Brooks" (11.8%) among others.

It has been pointed out that of all 1,987 pages, only one is devoted to the internet. This is mirrored in the search term data, with "internet" appearing on less one page in ten.

Below is a list of the terms we've searched for. Can you spot any interesting topics, people or words we have missed?
Data summary
Pages, words, characters and search terms
Item/search term
     Appearances per page (average)

Pages    1,987
All words    1,026,098
Characters (excluding spaces)    5,795,996
"public"    4804       2.42
"regulate", "regulation", "regulator"    2761       1.39
"police"    2578       1.3
"private" + "privacy"    1583        0.8
"data"    1070       0.54
"standards"    1057       0.53
"Murdoch"    887       0.45
"hacking", "hacked" (excluding Hacked Off)    583       0.29
"fail" (, ...ure, ...ed)    542       0.27
"statutory", "statute"    532       0.27
"Cameron"    529       0.27
"self-regulat" (...e, ...ion, ...ors)    516       0.26
"ethics"    488       0.25
"Hunt" (Jeremy, not Lord Hunt)    437       0.22
"phone hacking"    431       0.22
"success", "succeed"    312       0.16
"Blair" (Tony)    242       0.12
"Brooks"    234       0.12
"legislation"    207       0.1
"internet"    194       0.1

Female's 50 gorgeous people 2012 draws singapore-based global contestants

Last year's winners engaged couple and teenage sweethearts Frederick Yap and Velda Tan.
SINGAPORE - Female's 50 Gorgeous People, now into its 16th year, continues to be one of the industry's most dynamic searches for individuals with the X-factor. The annual contest is organised by Female, published by SPH Magazines Pte Ltd (SPH Magazines).

This year's finalists, selected from over 400 entries, hail from an eclectic range of cities including Tokyo, Paris, Chicago and Texas. All contestants must be based here. To add to the diversity, the latest edition has seen a rise in the number of young professionals taking part, including bankers, consultants and entrepreneurs. Candidates were scouted through a street search at Raffles Place in July and an online open call that ran till end-August.

The top 25 male and 25 female contestants were unveiled in Female's November issue as well as - for the first time - at an exhibition featuring their photographs at Wisma Atria's Atrium from November 12 to 16.
"We've previously had catwalk shows prior to the finals," says Female's creative editor Jeanette Ejlersen. "Having a photo exhibition as a preview gives both the finalists and the event better exposure."

This year's winners - one male, one female - will be announced at a party at Zouk on the evening of November 30. Each stands to win $10,000 worth of prizes including luxury holiday packages, watches, fashion vouchers and fine jewellery. The top five contestants from each gender will be determined by Ms Ejlersen as well as online voting through, which closes the day before. A panel of judges made up of Ms Eljersen and sponsors will then pick the top winners.

The event has been a signature of Female since 1997, held with the aim of discovering new faces that best represent the magazine as Singapore's leading fashion and beauty publication. Past winners-turned-stars include former history teacher Annabel Tan, who has since fronted an ad campaign for a major beauty house, and fledgling model Adrian Jalaludin, now a popular sports host in the region.

Ms Diana Lee, SPH Magazine's General Manager, Lifestyle, Fashion and Beauty, said: "Female has always been about engaging top names and players in fashion, design and lifestyle from all over the world. This increased interest from foreigners and professionals not only proves that we are hitting the mark, but also lets us push our vision."

Sponsoring this year's contest are event presenter Subaru, clothing retailers Gap and Banana Republic, digital imaging partner Olympus, footwear label Nine West, local jeweller Risis, watch brand Citizen as well as Redken, M.A.C. and Kiehl's for hair, makeup and skincare respectively. The official partners for Female's 50 Gorgeous People 2012 are Zouk and Wisma Atria.

Two people win share of $580 million Powerball lottery

One of America’s largest ever lottery jackpots of $579.9 million (£361.68 million) has been won by two tickets, with the identities of the winners still unclear. Two people win share of $580 million Powerball lottery A crowd of people queue to buy Powerball lottery tickets at a shop in Arizona on Nov 27 as the jackpot reached a historic high
US Powerball Lottery officials confirmed that two tickets sold in Arizona and Missouri had matched all six numbers in the draw.
The ticket holders will share a prize of $384 million with the remainder of the money being split between almost nine million other winners who won smaller prizes, including about 60 who matched five numbers and will receive about $1 million each.
It was unclear whether the jackpot winners were individuals or part of a group syndicate.
Wednesday night’s draw featured the second-largest US lottery jackpot ever behind a Mega Millions prize of $656 million in March this year.
Anticipation for this week’s Powerball was heightened by the fact that the prize had rolled over 16 consecutive times with no winners claiming the jackpot.

Lottery fever gripped much of the US with tickets selling at a rate of 130,000 a minute. At one point Florida was reportedly selling 200,000 tickets per minute.

Sue Dooley, a production coordinator for the Multi-State Lottery Association, said that 563 million tickets had been sold for the draw which experts had calculated had a 75 per cent chance of the jackpot being won.

But as the hunt for the winners began, a warning was sounded by a previous jackpot winner.

Sandra Hayes, 52, a former child services social worker split a $224 million Powerball jackpot with a dozen co-workers in 2006, collecting a lump sum of more than $6 million.

She told CBS News: “I had to endure the greed and the need that people have, trying to get you to release your money to them. That caused a lot of emotional pain. These are people who you’ve loved deep down, and they’re turning into vampires trying to suck the life out of me.

“I know a lot of people who won the lottery and are broke today,” she added “If you’re not disciplined, you will go broke. I don’t care how much money you have.”

The Powerball lottery will resume again on Saturday with a relatively minuscule jackpot of just $40 million.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Grandfather takes China by storm – as women’s fashion model

72-year-old Liu Qianping, also known as "MaDiGaGa", poses for a modelling shoot in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou November 24, 2012. Liu was visiting his 24-year-old granddaughter designer as the model that his granddaughter and four friends had booked for a photo shoot to promote their online fashion business suddenly cancelled, so, Liu, a 72-year-old former farmer stepped in to help.

Liu Qianping was visiting his 24-year-old granddaughter in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou recently when the women’s clothes the aspiring fashion entrepreneur was packing into boxes caught his eye.

His visit came as the model that granddaughter Lu Ting and four friends had booked for a photo shoot to promote their online fashion business suddenly cancelled, dealing a setback to their new venture.

But Liu, a 72-year-old former farmer visiting to escape the chilly winter of central Hunan province, stepped in to help.

“I walked into the room and saw them packing up some clothes and I thought they looked quite interesting and quite cute,” Liu told Reuters.

“So I tried on a jacket and they found it really funny, and I thought it was quite funny. So they asked if they could take pictures of me and post them on the Internet to sell the clothes. And I said, ’why not?’”

It was at that time two weeks ago that a star was born.

Liu, known affectionately as “MaDiGaGa” - funny elderly - is now one of China’s most recognised models.

Delighted with his new fame, Liu says he now sometimes looks at fashion programmes on television for ideas on how to pose but generally relies on Ting’s team for direction.

He does, however, have his own opinions on styling.

“He will tell us which items should be stronger and what should be improved,” Ting said.

“He really likes bright, contrasting colours while I prefer more tone-on-tone combinations. So he gives lots of advice when we try different combinations, so we have some very different styles.”

Since her grandfather became involved, visits to their online site have increased four-fold and continue to rise.

Liu, who travelled to Shanghai with his daughter for the first time last week after they were invited to appear on television, said he had been approached by other companies to model for them but had turned them down.

“I never dreamed of lucky things like these happening to me. Now, my name has spread to everywhere in the country,” he said.

Ting has been criticised on the Internet and accused of using her grandfather, but he insists the experience has put a spring in his step and she says they are now closer than ever.

“We have no firm plans on how long we will continue, it depends on my grandfather,” Ting said. “If he is happy and his health is fine, we will keep using him as our model.”

Fashion without pollution. So hot right now.

Were you thinking about Zara fashions for this season? Maybe these images will make you think twice. There's a good reason even the 'mannequins' are walking out of Zara's stores in protest. Zara has a toxic little secret... and it's in the clothes. Certain clothing items have been tested in an independent labratory and been found to contain hazardous chemicals, some of which can even break down to become hormone-disrupting and cancer-causing substances when released into the environment. It's nasty stuff.
Hazardous warning on price tags for Zara
This past Saturday was a busy shopping day, and in over 80 cities around the world shoppers were treated to 'mannequin' walkouts at Zara stores. In Istanbul, Zara mannequins struck a pose in the street outside the shop, instead of in their normal place in the store front - and their price tags warned shoppers of the hazardous chemicals in the fashion.

A similar scene played out in cities like Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Prague and even on one of the world's most famous fashion streets: the Champs-Élysées in Paris. In the fashion capital 'mannequins' in Zara's clothes walked out into the busy Saturday crowds to demand toxic-free fashion, while in Germany 'Detox' symbols could be seen in the windows of Zara stores in 23 cities.

At every store the managers were asked by Greenpeace volunteers to pass on the Detox demand to their headquarters. Some managers were more willing than others, but in many cases the staff of Zara stores seem much faster at picking up on the fresh appeal of toxic-free fashion than their executives.
Detox symbol in Zara store fronts across Germany
Zara can make fashion without pollution. We're challenging them to eliminate toxic chemicals from the production of their fashion - that means they will need to work with their suppliers all over the world, including China. And Zara's toxic fashion reputation isn't just trending on Facebook and Twitter - but also on Weibo, one of China's most popular social media sites.
Mannquins strike a pose in Athens, Greece
More than 700 Greenpeace volunteers were involved in creating this weekend's Zara 'mannequin' revolt in 20 countries, and (while writing this) nearly 300,000 people have already asked Zara to Detox and eliminate hazardous chemicals from their fashion. Now the only question is when will the world's biggest fashion brand, which reacts so swiftly to changes in fashion trends, react to this toxic-free trend?
Zara: Toxic fashion is so last season

Millions of men haven't the faintest idea

Wife's bra size? Dress size? Date of birth? This might sound like basic information but millions of men haven't the faintest idea

Millions of men are completely clueless when it comes to choosing a Christmas gift for their significant other a new survey has found.

39 per cent have no idea what their wives' bra size is, while another 23 per cent don't know what dress size she takes.

Most shamefully of all, 12 per cent don't even know their other halves' date of birth.
Clueless: Many men have no idea what their wives' dress size is - or even their date of birth
Clueless: Many men have no idea what their wives' dress size is - or even their date of birth
The survey also found that 34 per cent of men have no idea what their partners' favourite perfume is and 24 per cent don't know what her favourite clothes shop is.

A staggering 11 per cent were also blissfully ignorant of their wives' real hair colour and shockingly, 10 per cent admitted to not knowing what their other halves' do for a living.
Not surprisingly, the research, conducted by high street beauty retailer, Superdrug, also found that 40 per cent of couples have fallen out because the man has forgotten - or not bothered to ask - about things he ought to know.

As a result, 12 per cent of women have had to return a gift they didn't like because their partner hadn't bothered to pay attention.
Tension: As a result, 40 per cent of couples say they've rowed because of male forgetfulness
Tension: As a result, 40 per cent of couples say they've rowed because of male forgetfulness

Fragrance fail: 34 per cent of men don't have a clue what their wives and girlfriends' favourite perfume is
Fragrance fail: 34 per cent of men don't have a clue what their wives and girlfriends' favourite perfume is


1. Mobile number - 54 per cent
2. Bra size - 39 per cent
3. Favourite perfume - 34 per cent
4. Favourite clothes shop - 24 per cent
5. Shoe size - 23 per cent
6. Dress size - 23 per cent
7. Underwear size - 20 per cent
8. Date of birth  - 12 per cent
9. Natural hair colour - 11 per cent
10. Job title  - 10 per cent
'The results of this study are quite alarming,' said Gemma Mason, marketing manager for Superdrug.
'There are some basic details men should really know about their partner - in particular, eye colour and natural hair colour.

'Men can be forgiven for not knowing their partner's mobile phone number off by heart but it's not difficult to take a look on their dressing table to see what perfume they're using.

'Christmas shouldn't be fraught because a woman receives a gift that makes her feel she's a stranger to her partner.'

Along with being unaware of their wives' bra and dress sizes, date of birth and job title, men also struggled to recall where their other halves went to school (28 per cent).

Anything that involves dates causes major problems, with a third of the men surveyed confessing to being unable to remember the day they met their wife or girlfriend.

20 per cent of men had no idea what their partner's best friend is called and the same number admitted that they didn't know whether their significant other suffered from allergies.

Shoe size, middle name and favourite song or film also baffled the majority of male respondents.

Although the men themselves were hapless when it came to remembering their partner's likes and dislikes, more than three quarters of men said their wife or girlfriend would probably know everything about them.
When it comes to Christmas shopping, it appears that being female is definitely an advantage.

Technology firm creates 100 jobs

A technology company has announced plans to create 100 jobs in Belfast, with the positions being in software development in Concentrix Technologies.

Invest Northern Ireland has offered the company £749,000 of support to secure the jobs.
Concentrix Technologies, which is part of the international SYNNEX Corporation, provides businesses with advanced customer relationship management (CRM) software.

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster welcomed the move.

She said: "Having met with Concentrix during my recent trade and investment mission to San Francisco, I was able to hear precisely what the company's plans were for Northern Ireland."

"These jobs will deliver in excess of £4 million annually in salaries. This is proof that Northern Ireland remains one of the most competitive in Europe for inward investors seeking talented people in a cost competitive location."

Chris Caldwell, President, Concentrix Corporation, said: "Our European operations service a fast growing, dynamic market so when looking for potential locations for our expansion, Northern Ireland was immediately one of our main options.

"The support provided by Invest NI, the strength of the ICT sector and the resources on offer make our decision an easy one.

"We have already commenced recruitment at a range of levels from graduate to highly experienced software professionals and hope to have the first 20 developers in place by January 2013."

Concentrix Technologies' Belfast operation will be based at Lanyon Place.

3M invests in voice technology co VocalZoom

VocalZoom is developing an optoelectronic microphone that significantly improves the speaker’s understanding in any noisy environment.

3M Co. (NYSE: MMM) has announced an equity investment and collaboration in VocalZoom Ltd.. Based in Yokne'am, VocalZoom develops speech enhancement technology and voice-enabled user interfaces that allow voice communication and recognition in any environment. The terms of the investment through its corporate venture capital fund 3M New Ventures were not disclosed although reports in the Israeli media have indicated that it was several million dollars.

VocalZoom chairman Yechiel Kurtz said, “While touch capability has become the de-facto standard for user interfaces, voice activation is also gaining more and more momentum to enable hands-free operation of state-of-the-art devices. VocalZoom’s technology will accelerate this trend by enabling the use of voice in even the most demanding environments. 3M’s investment and collaboration provides us with new and exciting opportunities, such as integration of our sub-system into 3M’s display and touch technology as well as a broad range of additional applications.”

VocalZoom was founded in 2010 by CEO Tal Bakish to strive to enable use of speech for communication and voice activation purposes in any natural environment, by developing an optoelectronic microphone that significantly improves the speaker’s understanding in any noisy environment. While conventional approaches focus on filtering and signal processing to isolate the voice from ambient noise, VocalZoom is applying its patented technology that integrates a standard acoustic microphone and a special optical sensor to solely detect the speaker’s voice. VocalZoom says that the benefits are essential for next generation user interfaces, providing high directivity, speaker isolation, improved signal quality, and precise voice activity detection.

3M New Ventures president Stefan Gabriel said, “For voice activation to become ubiquitous it must seamlessly work in any environment regardless of the level of background noise. VocalZoom is a critical enabler for a new generation of user interfaces that do not just rely on touch or gestures but also on our voice to input data. The investment in VocalZoom will help us to complement our existing technology in this field, and to collaboratively develop new products for our OEM customers.”

3M energy and electronics business group VP R&D Robert Visser said, “We see a great variety of applications in which people may prefer voice as a means to interact with their personal device environment, including their industrial work places, hospitals, or commercial kiosks, and even consumer electronics. VocalZoom’s signal capturing system adds a critical component to 3M’s technology portfolio in user interfaces and acoustics to enable novel solutions for those spaces.”

3M Israel managing director Nir Leshem said, “Israel is one of the most vibrant technical and entrepreneurial regions in the world and there are plenty of opportunities for 3M. VocalZoom is our very first investment and we look forward to other investments in Israeli high tech startups."

Technology Built Into Mannequins Helping Stores Track Customers

PC WorldFacebook and Google arent the only companies with the ability to spy on you. Brick-and-mortar stores can too thanks to some creepy technology.

Its no secret some companies track your online browsing activities to figure out what you're interested in so they can serve you targeted ads that you're more likely to notice. Now some stores are employing a new breed of mannequins equipped with facial recognition technology, reports The Washington Post .

The Italian company Almax SpA sells a mannequin called the EyeSee that has a camera built into one of its eyes that ports data into facial recognition software that can tell the age, gender and race of people walking by.

With such data, retailers can pivot store layouts, displays and promotions to better market to whatever demographic is checking out a certain area. Fashion retailer Benetton is reportedly investing in the EyeSee, which costs more than $5,000.

If the thought of mannequins seeing you is a troubling thought, you might as well get used to the idea. Online companies such as Facebook, Google and Apple have been using the technology for a while to identify people in photos.

Not only that, the FBI has started rolling out its $1 billion biometric Next Generation Identification (NGI) system, a nationwide database of mug shots, iris scans, DNA samples, voice recordings, palm prints, and other biometrics collected from more than 100 million Americans and intended to help identify and catch criminals.

The FBI has been piloting the program with several states and by the time its fully deployed in 2014 it will have at its fingertips a facial recognition database that includes at least 12 million photos of peoples faces.
Its a touchy subject.

Facebook, when rolling out its facial recognition feature in mid-2011, said it would help users tag photos of friends and family members. Privacy groups complained that the company was collecting new personal data without asking users for permission.

The use of facial recognition by Web companies, including Facebook, and government agencies has raised concerns from privacy advocates and some lawmakers. In July, U.S. Sen. Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, said that legislation may be needed to limit the way various entities use the technology.

AVA adopts new technology on food screening system

SINGAPORE: The Agri-Food  Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) has added a new line of defence to its food screening system.

Dubbed the 'non-targeted' approach, which utilises High Resolution Mass Spectrometry (HRMS) Technology, this form of food safety screening will allow the detection of contaminants that are not usually targeted in screenings and complements already existing modes of screening.

This screening on top of the traditional 'targeted' approach where the machines are calibrated to detect usual suspects and in the process, possibly ignore abnormalities.

The 'non-targeted' form of screening is usually carried out on inherently high-risk foods such as meat, ready-to-eat food and cultured seafood, or food deemed high-risk due to consumers who are potentially more sensitive to contaminants, such as baby-milk powder and baby food.

Facilities for this new technology has been in the pipeline since 2010 and over the past two years.

AVA has been acquiring the technology, built a database of about 11,000 compounds, and developing and fine-tuning its analytical procedures.

Singapore is among the few countries that are exploring HRMS technology. Other laboratories which are adopting similar approaches are mostly in Japan, the European Union, and the United States.

Such emerging technologies and innovations to enhance food safety are being shared by scientists and researchers at the 6th Asian Conference on Food and Nutrition Safety.

Speaking at the conference, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for National Development Maliki Osman elaborated on the importance of food safety.

Dr Maliki Osman said: "With easy access to information via the internet and other social media platforms, our consumers are now more aware of health issues and possible health risks from food. I believe that greater consumer awareness is a good thing, but we should be cautious of sensational or inaccurate reports which could undermine consumer confidence in food safety."

Dr Ch'ng Ai Lee, Deputy Director of Laboratories Department, Veterinary Public Health Lab, said: "Previously, our approach is to look at known food-borne hazards. So anything that is unusual, just like melamine, we will not be looking for. But with the new approach we are looking for everything that could be there. So we should not miss items like melamine anymore."

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Dubai Culture celebrates Emirate’s maritime industry with richroster of activities during Dubai Maritime Week

Dubai Maritime WeekThe Dubai Culture Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), the Emirate’s dedicated Authority for culture, arts, and heritage, is celebrating the rich maritime heritage of the emirate with a wide roster of activities for the inaugural Dubai Maritime Week, organised by the Dubai Maritime City Authority (DMCA), held under the patronage of His HighnessSheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council.

From November 25 to 30, Dubai Culture will host a series of events, lectures, workshops, film screenings and an art exhibition, highlighting the humble evolution to the flourishing growth of Dubai’s maritime industry.
Flagging off the activities is an art exhibition at The Majlis Gallery on Nov. 25 at 7pm, featuring works by 20 Emirati and UAE-based artists, highlighting the influence of the marine environment on diverse art forms – from sculpting to photography.

The six dedicated Heritage Centres, established by Dubai Culture in various public schools across Dubai will host several marine-inspired activities, performances, workshops, plays, and competitions, for the students.
Dubai Culture will also hold lectures at the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, the cultural nerve-centre of the city, providing audiences with the history, evolution, contemporary and future landscape of the maritime industry.

Twelveart workshops exploring various facets of art will be held at Marsam Mattar from Nov. 25 to 30, where young enthusiasts and aspiring artists can express their creative potential using the maritime sector as their creative inspiration. On Nov. 25, children can learn about different kinds of boats, interpreting them artistically using inks, charcoal, and crayons, and on Nov. 26, participants can explore marine life through painted artwork.

On Nov. 27, the workshop focuses on the use of collage technique, where works are developed in layers, exploring varied media and techniques including drawing, painting, lace, markers, crayons, and fabric, under professional guidance; and on Nov. 28, participants can learn to create 3D designs using clay.

Pop art in contemporary style will take centre-stage on Nov. 29, where students can create artwork using numerous layers of colours; and on Nov. 30, the Authority will host a photography workshop, where participants can capture the beauty of Khor Dubai using basic digital cameras.

Outdoor film screenings at the newly opened space, The Archive, in Al Safa Park during Dubai Maritime Week include: a glimpse into the history of filmmaking in the gulf with clips from Bas Ya Bahar (Cruel Sea) the first feature film in the gulfon Nov. 26; a series of short films including Nujoom Al Ghanem’s Between Two Banks, Ahmed Zain’s Seashells, Hamad Saghran’s The Sea Hides,Ahmed Zain and Nasser Yaqoobi’s Foresight, and Michael Naguib’s Samaka, , on Nov. 28; Nawaf Al Janahi’s Sea Shadow on Nov. 29; and a children’s night with the screening of The Turtle, a film by the UAE National Media Council on Nov. 30.

Dubai Maritime Week is organised by DMCA in collaboration with Seatrade. The event aims to feature world-class activities for government officials, industry professionals, experts, as well as local and regional ship owners, to discuss key issues and latest developments in the sector.

'Cowboy culture' factor in Montana's high suicide rate

112512 suicide cowboys2.jpg In Miles City, an iconic “Cow Town,” many locals still resist opening up to others about their feelings, which health experts think hinders getting help with mental health issues.
112512 suicide cowboys1.jpgLocals visit over a homestyle lunch in the 600 Cafe in downtown Miles City. In Miles City, an iconic “Cow Town,” many locals still resist opening up to others about their feelings, which health experts think hinders getting help with mental health issues. This is the first in a three-day series of stories on Montana’s epidemic of suicide.

There’s a romance to Montana that beguiles. Ask anyone to define the state and they’ll mention the mountains, the wide open spaces, the stoic and hardworking cowboy culture.

Like all great places, though, it comes with trade-offs.

Those distances, that stoicism, the frontier pockets of the state where jobs are scarce can be overwhelming.
And it may be why the state that residents regard as the “last, best place” has been near the top in the nation in the rate of suicide for 35 years.

Montana’s suicide epidemic is a public health crisis,” said Matt Kuntz, executive director of the Montana chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Last year, at least 452 Montanans killed themselves. That’s about 22 people per 100,000 residents, nearly twice the national average.

The victims are military veterans, American Indians, senior citizens and teenagers. Often, they are depressed and hundreds of miles from the nearest mental health professional. Even where they can get help, they tend to “cowboy up,” afraid their illness will be seen as weakness.

Not only has Montana’s suicide rate hovered in the top five nationally for decades, in the past few years it has gone up. That spike is reflected across the nation.

In the past five years, the state’s suicide rate has crept from 20.1 per 100,000 people to 22.5. Nationally five years ago, the rate was 10 people per 100,000. Today, it’s closer to 12 people per 100,000.

And those are the ones who succeed. A recent federal study suggests that 8.3 million Americans – 3.7 percent of all adults – have serious thoughts of suicide each year; 2.3 million make a plan, and 1.1 million attempt suicide.

The result is an estimated 37,000 suicide deaths annually, and the Rocky Mountain region shoulders the bulk of the deaths.

In Montana, every one of the 452 Montanans who killed themselves last year had a face, be they a troubled father, a confused teenager, or a lonely, elderly widow.

The majority who took their lives – 77 percent, or 350 – were males. The victims came from all age groups, although most of them – 91 people – were ages 55 to 64. Another 88 were 45 to 54, and 75 of the victims were between the ages of 24 and 34.

Another 5,600 Montanans – an average of about 15 per day – attempted to kill themselves last year.
“We’ve got a lot of hurting people,” said Jim Hajny, executive director of the Montana Peer Network, a nonprofit organization of individuals who are in recovery from mental illness, substance abuse or both. “We have to get at this.”

Suicide figures vary from community to community, with the bulk of them occurring in western Montana and pockets on the eastern edge of the state.

The highest rate of suicide in the state is among American Indians, 27.2 per 100,000, followed by Caucasians at 22.2 per 100,000. For 2010-2011, there were 38 American Indian suicides, compared to 410 Caucasian suicides. American Indians make up 7 percent of the Montana population.

There are specific risk factors for American Indian communities that contribute to their higher suicide rate, including high unemployment, substance abuse, alienation and varying cultural views on suicide.

A major issue among the American Indian communities is the separation taking place between generations, said Karl Rosston, Montana’s suicide prevention coordinator. Traditionally, the youth have looked toward the tribal elders for guidance and identity.

“However, in recent generations, there has been a breakdown in this guidance,” Rosston said.
“Subsequently, American Indian youth appear more hopeless and unsure of their place in their culture. This may contribute to the high number of suicides among American Indian youth.”

The underpinnings of Montana’s problem are considered universal among many, though not all, health experts on the local, state and national level.

Many of the self-imposed death sentences stem from a Western independence, where acknowledging personal problems may be viewed as contrary to the cowboy way, said Drew Schoening, a psychologist at the Montana State Hospital in Warm Springs.

“So they go untreated and we know untreated mental illness results in higher rates of premature death, accidental death and suicide death,” Schoening said.

The prevalence of guns in the state compounds the problem, not only because they’re handy, but also because they’re generally fatal. Victims are less likely to survive an attempt and then seek help. Most of the state’s victims last year – 291 – used a gun.

The second and third most common methods were suffocation/hanging and poisoning/overdose. Other methods included drowning, cutting and piercing, jumping from heights, burning, and motor vehicles.
Montana ranks third in the nation for per capita gun possession, according to an analysis by the news website The Daily Beast of the FBI’s National Instant Background Check System.

Kentucky is first, followed by Utah at second, with Wyoming in fourth and Alaska fifth.

People who live in areas with high concentrations of guns are more likely to die by suicide, according to a 2007 study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health. The study looked at the 15 states with the highest firearm ownership and found that twice as many people were successful in committing suicide in those states compared to the six states with the lowest firearm ownership.

Another leading cause is considered to be the social isolation that comes with living in Montana. The state has 6.7 people per square mile, according to the 2010 Census. The national average is 88.7 people per square mile. Neighbors are often few and far between, reducing the possibility for social contact or communication. The isolation can contribute to many emotional, behavioral and physical disorders, including anxiety, panic attacks, eating disorders, addictions, substance abuse, depression and violence.

“That may be because when somebody gets into a difficulty, they don’t have friends and family to go to (who can) help them with that,” said Dr. Alex Crosby, a medical epidemiologist with the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Those who have a stronger network of social support have a lower incidence of suicide.”

Use of drugs in Montana, especially alcohol, is also widespread. That is significant because nationally about 33 percent of the people who die by suicide have alcohol in their system, Rosston said.

Montana counties with the highest suicide rates also have high unemployment and high rates of poverty. Twenty percent of Montana’s youth live 100 percent to 200 percent below the poverty line.

The shortage of mental health professionals and mental health treatment facilities in the state is also well-known and widely reported.

As of Nov. 1, there were 146 licensed psychiatrists in Montana. Patients can wait anywhere from two weeks to three months or longer to see a psychiatrist. In some areas of the state, there is one psychiatrist serving a vast, multicounty area.

There are about 50,000 psychiatrists in the United States – too few to serve all the patients who need help, especially in rural areas, according to the American Psychiatric Association. About half of currently practicing psychiatrists are over the age of 55, and many will soon retire.

“How do you provide service if you’re trying to cover 1,000 square miles?” asked John Glueckert, administrator of the Montana State Hospital in Warm Springs. “It’s very difficult.”

In the absence of psychiatrists, patients sometimes are referred to lesser-trained therapists.

“They can assess the gravity of the situation,” said Dr. Bruce Swarny, a psychiatrist at Glendive Medical Center. “Is it the ideal set-up? I don’t know, but it’s the best we can do.”

NAMI’s Kuntz said it is unrealistic to think every Montana town will ever have its own psychiatrist. Still, he believes there is an opportunity to infuse communities with the help they need.

“If we had psychiatrists or psychiatric nurses everywhere that Wal-Mart thinks there’s enough people to set up a store, we’d be a little closer,” Kuntz said. “If you’re in a little, tiny Montana town and you drive to Miles City to go to Wal-Mart to get cheap groceries, then that’s the town you would go to for your mental health treatment.”

Most residents in the far corners of the state don’t have access to mental health professionals, forcing them to travel hundreds of miles to seek help. In one extreme case, a person traveled more than 400 miles one way, much of it on secondary roads, to receive mental health services in Bozeman.

“The stigma for reaching out in their own community was so extreme, it wasn’t an option,” Hajny said.

Despite all the well-reasoned explanations for the runaway number of suicides, there is no one-size-fits-all reason.

“Every person I talk to would probably have a different, unique reason for wanting to take their life,” Schoening said. “That’s why we have such a struggle at trying to help people through this. … I think the true scientists are still trying to figure it all out.”

Kuntz said the reasons for suicide go beyond the idea of the state having a “cowboy culture.”
“It’s not that easy,” Kuntz said. “Personally, I think we need to be comfortable with the fact that no one really knows.”

Crosby concurs. “Most researchers that look into the area of suicide believe it is not the result of just one factor.”

Suicide is so common that some see it as the solution to divorce, family dysfunction, custody disputes and financial woes. It is considered acceptable when an individual’s burdens mount, said Crosby, the medical epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Though it’s difficult to place a dollar figure on the impact of suicide, the fact remains that the economic burden of suicide falls on everyone in the state. The total lifetime medical and work loss costs of suicide in Montana was at least $279.4 million during 2010, according to data available from the CDC.

The price tag includes expenses associated with suicide and its aftermath, including cost for the medical examiner/coroner investigations, emergency department treatments, hospitalizations and nursing home care. It also includes costs associated with future productivity losses (i.e. lost wages, fringe benefits and lost household work) due to premature mortality. Not included in this figure is the cost associated with property damage, pain/suffering, loss of quality of life, litigation, and the impact, emotional and otherwise, of each suicide on surviving family members, friends, and other loved ones.

So dire is the problem that in 2007 the Montana Legislature passed Senate Bill 468, which created the statewide suicide prevention coordinator position to spearhead the Department of Public Health and Human Services suicide prevention activities. The program’s annual budget is $400,000 with $200,000 going to the state suicide prevention hotline.

Rosston said that to reduce the suicide numbers it is going to take a cultural shift in thinking.

“We need to begin to challenge our traditional perceptions of how we view depression as a weakness or that we are a burden to our families if we are depressed,” Rosston said. “We need to make it OK to talk about depression and make it OK to ask for help. This is not a quick fix. If it is a generational problem, it is going to take generations to fix.”

It is not an impossible mission, he said.

“I wouldn’t be in the job if I didn’t think something could be done. I think it’s just going to take time.”

In Monday’s Missoulian: Matt Kuntz, executive director of Montana’s chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, discusses his own suicide attempt.

Known for photos, Vogue's Coddington pens memoir

The 2012 CFDA Fashion Awards Sponsored by Swarovski

The 2012 CFDA Fashion Awards Sponsored by Swarovski
This June 4, 2012 photo released by Starpix shows Vogue stylist and former model Grace Coddington at the 2012 CFDA Fashion Awards, sponsored by Swarovski, at Alice Tully Hall in New York.

The last time Vogue creative director Grace Coddington was impressed by fashion, she was at a Balenciaga runway show in Paris.

Since then, designer Nicolas Ghesquiere has left the house, and it could be some time before Coddington, the woman now largely famous as the woman with flowing red hair perched next to Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour at scores of catwalks each season, gets to see his clothes again.

Tears or even sympathy seems unlikely from Coddington. While in the eyes of industry observers she might be the good cop trying to defend fashion's integrity and creative license, she also comes across — especially in her new autobiography, "Grace: A Memoir" (Random House) — as very matter of fact: the no-use-crying-over-spilled-milk type.

"I've had a really fun life, and I hope it's interesting and amusing to read the story," she says. "You can't really pick and choose what happens."

Yes, she misses the days when, as both a model and then a magazine editor, she'd go off with a photographer to the world's most exotic lands looking for the scenery to shoot the next greatest picture. Who wouldn't?

She also appreciates that things evolve. They're not better or worse, they're just different, she says during an interview at her Times Square office. She's wearing a red cardigan, black trousers and flat black lace-up shoes.

"It's all very professional now. It's all very fast. Now time is money. There is so much money in this business now, but no one cared then because there wasn't so much money. But somehow we did find money for a three-week photo shoot. Now we're lucky to get people for three days," she says.

Coddington grew up in Wales, where her parents owned a small hotel on the coast. That wasn't going to be the life for her, she decided early on. She moved to London and got gigs as a model, she thinks because of her quirky style. After a serious car accident, her work was mostly done on the other side of the camera, which was fine with her.

As long as she could wear the latest, greatest Yves Saint Laurent outfit, everything was fine with her.
She hung out with cool people — even Mick Jagger and George Harrison — and had lots of fun at night at the hippest cafes, even marrying celebrity restaurateur Michael Chow.

She made it through the swinging '60s, the disco era and a corporate job at Calvin Klein. However, as soon as Wintour, whom Coddington knew from the London fashion scene, took the helm at American Vogue, she settled in for the long haul, joining the magazine in 1988.

Coddington emerged as the unsung hero in the 2009 behind-the-scenes documentary "The September Issue" about the magazine and fashion industries; a champion of art over commerce, talent over celebrity.

Last year, Wintour threw Coddington a 70th-birthday bash. Guests included Marc Jacobs, Carey Mulligan, Seth Meyers and "tons of designers from New York and Europe; all my favorite models."

"Anna loves to give a party," says Coddington. "Do I like getting one? Yes and no. It's a nightmare the five minutes before you go in, but it's very flattering."

It was suggested to her — on more than a few occasions — that she "was at that age to write her memoirs." So, she did. She also drew scores of pencil-drawing illustrations that steal the show from photographs taken by Bruce Weber, Ellen von Unwerth, Steven Meisel and Annie Leibovitz.

AP: Did you tell everyone who's in the book that these stories would be in print?

Coddington: I'm good at staying in touch. I still talk to all my ex-husbands and most of my ex-boyfriends.
AP: Are all your friends in fashion?

Coddington: I've always recognized the major influences in my life, and they are mostly in the business. It's so interwoven. I don't stop at five o'clock and put on a different hat.

AP: Who are the best models to work with?

Coddington: Everyone is so eager to move on to the next girl now, but THE supermodels (of the '80s and '90s) — brats that they might have been — had personality and were really good models. Now they're all too beautiful, too perfect, and they're little girls.

AP: How did you manage to dress in off-the-runway YSL back in the '60s and '70s?

Coddington: I think they gave me a big discount and I probably spent all my money there, but I have never owned couture. I probably don't need to now because they don't have my size, and I don't lead that life, anyway.

India Resort Fashion Week 2012: Designers flaunt their collection at preview party

Fashion Designer Pria Kataria Puri gave a glimpse of her collection at the preview party for India Resort Fashion Week 2012.

India Resort Fashion Week 2012: Designers flaunt their collection at preview party

India Resort Fashion Week 2012: Designers flaunt their collection at preview party India Resort Fashion Week 2012: Designers flaunt their collection at preview party

India Resort Fashion Week 2012: Designers flaunt their collection at preview party

India Resort Fashion Week 2012: Designers flaunt their collection at preview party

India Resort Fashion Week 2012: Designers flaunt their collection at preview party India Resort Fashion Week 2012: Designers flaunt their collection at preview party

India Resort Fashion Week 2012: Designers flaunt their collection at preview party

India Resort Fashion Week 2012: Designers flaunt their collection at preview party

" How fashion evolved through history"

A page on the 1891 Reception dress from “Fashion: The Definitive History of Style and Costume
A page on the 1891 Reception dress from “Fashion: The Definitive History of Style and Costume" by Susan Brown, consultant editor with the Smithsonian Institution.

“Fashion: The Definitive History of Costume and Style" by Consultant Editor Susan Brown with the Smithsonian Institution (DK Publishing, New York, $50)

It’s always fun to find a book that is one-stop holiday shopping for both newcomer and expert, especially when the book is full of history and photographs.

Susan Brown, a consultant with the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, edited the coffee-table book “Fashion: The Definitive History of Costume and Style." For anyone with a casual interest in clothing, a browse through its 480 pages will give a lesson how fashion affected human history.

For experts, it can be used as a reference book. For example, do you remember who Biba was? “Less a label, more a way of life, the influential Biba brand of the 1960s and ’70s blazed a trail for young, hip fashion and the affordable boutique."

Full pages are devoted to fashion icons. Alexander McQueen. Coco Chanel. Elizabeth I of England. Eleanor of Aquitaine. Nefertiti. All of these people were influential whether royalty or creators of fashion for royalty. Their styles were followed by millions.

“Fashion" has ten sections, each beginning with a useful timeline.

Prehistory starts with the first clothing, a leather animal hide, and ends with Byzantinium. The “Scythian rider on horseback from a 5th-4th century BCE carpet found in Siberia" has curved moustaches like evil villains in an old West television program. A pottery warrior from China, circa 210 BCE wears a scarf — “one of the earliest examples of men’s neckware."

“Downton Abbey" fans will enjoy the spread of “1900-1914 Evening and Tea gowns" — all of which would fit in on the show.

One special treat within each section is an example of clothing as done by a modern reconstruction dressmaker. For example, a two-page spread shows an 1891 Reception Dress." The outfit has a lace jabot, damask underdress, golden silk train, a long velvet coat with gathered tucked sleeves and a tightly laced corset binding in a very narrow waist. It looks stunningly uncomfortable.

Men are not ignored. There are many examples of menswear through the ages: Roman togas, stuffed doublets with tight hose and codpieces, the leather jackets and jeans of 1960s rebels and examples of current designer Tom Ford — better known at the moment as the man who dressed the latest “James Bond" (Daniel Craig,) in “Skyfall."

What is lacking in “Fashion" is any culture other than Western. There are references to Arabic styles, the Japanese influence of the late 1800s, but in general this vast book covers only Western culture.

Trends become clear as you read through history. The lower classes usually had more comfortable clothing. Women’s legs were covered, uncovered, covered — most of the time they were hidden. Big shouldered jackets didn’t start with 1980s “Dynasty": in 1533 Holbein the Young painted a French ambassador whose “round puffed sleeves create massive shoulders." Egypt has been rediscovered by Western fashion several times over the centuries, most notably by fashionistas in the early 1800s, and the “Egyptomania" that “gripped fashion design of the 1930s." Likewise with Greece, where classic draped gowns have reappeared on celebrity red carpets.

Everything old is new again.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

South Asian fashion, art and culture fair in Spain

Over 400 companies from Sri Lanka, India, Dubai, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal will participate in the South Asia Trade Fair 2013 (SATF) between 14-17 February, at Feria Valencia, Spain.
The fair is organized by Rangoli Events in collaboration with Feria Valencia and Event Horizon (Sri Lanka), Zing IMS (India), Frozen Moments and Culture Craft (Bangladesh), First Kathmandu (Nepal) and Aah!zure (Dubai), the Sri Lankan organiser said in a media release.

The 10,000 square metre fair grounds will bring together the latest fashion trends, art and culture from Southern Asia. This is set to be the first commercial fair of its kind in Europe with 25,000 visitors expected. The two opening days are reserved for professional visitors whilst exhibitors will showcase their products to the general public during the weekend.

SATF 2013 was conceptualised to consolidate exports from Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Dubai to Spain and the rest of Europe, creating a long term platform for manufacturers and customers. “It is about defining future European markets for South Asian industries, besides promoting their culture and tourism,” noted Marta Ferrando, Deputy Director of SATF 2013, on behalf of the organizing company Rangoli Events. Celebrity Indian fashion designers, Rocky S and Neeta Lulla, will present their Summer and Autumn collections during SATF 2013. India’s top twenty jewellery groups including TBZ, Gili, D’damas and WHP will participate in the four day event conceived to promote Indo-Asian culture.

Minha Akram from Event Horizon, Sri Lanka said the fair is a good opportunity for Sri Lankan organisations to showcase their products and explore new avenues in the European market. “We are keen on garnering a strong representation from Sri Lanka to emphasize the post war market conditions of the country. Feria Valencia is a reputed venue with 90 years of experience in creating trade fairs and we are confident in the event’s success,” she said.

Hakka culture & arts festival held

Hakka culture & arts festival held, KMT chairman worships Fujian ancestors
Wu Po-hsiung, honorary chairman of the Kuomintang in Taiwan, greets participants in fluent Hakka dialect at the opening ceremony of a Hakka culture and arts festival in Meizhou, Guangdong province, on Friday.
In a fluent Hakka dialect, Wu Po-hsiung greeted participants at the opening ceremony of a Hakka culture and arts festival in Meizhou in eastern Guangdong province on Friday.
The honorary chairman of the Kuomintang said the visit reminded him of the history of ups and downs between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan in the past decade.
"Some 12 years ago, when I first returned to my hometown in Fujian, I could not have imagined that the relationship between the mainland and Taiwan could be improved so much," he said.
Wu, whose family originated from Yongding county of East China's Fujian province, was on a one-week visit to the mainland for a series of cultural exchanges in Guangdong and Fujian.
The festival, the first of its kind in Meizhou, dubbed the Hakka capital, featured a series of Hakka cultural exchange activities between Taiwan and the mainland. And more than 300 Taiwan businesspeople, most from Hakka-populated areas, took a direct flight from Kaohsiung in Taiwan to Meizhou on Thursday afternoon.
"Today, the mainland and Taiwan have reached more common points than differences. And we, as Hakka people both on the mainland and in Taiwan, should join hands to help push forward development of peaceful and healthy ties across the Straits," Wu said.
Hakka people, who moved from central China more than 1,000 years ago, now live mainly in the mountainous regions of Guangdong, Jiangxi and Fujian provinces, and the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.
"We will take the greatest sincerity to further develop a peaceful relationship with the mainland and conduct more economic, social and cultural cooperation," Wu said.
Wu also said his trip includes meetings with some Taiwan investors in Guangdong to encourage them to better upgrade businesses on the mainland, as some have been struggling amid the global economic downturn.
Before the opening of the festival, Wu met with Zhu Xiaodan, governor of Guangdong. Zhu said Guangdong will import from Taiwan more advanced technology and equipment in the years ahead to help the province better upgrade its industries.
Wu said that enhanced economic and trade ties will help further develop a healthy relationship between the mainland and Taiwan.
Wu returned to his hometown in Yongding county, Fujian, on Thursday, to worship his ancestors.
"My family roots are on the mainland. When my father passed away several years ago, he told me and my children to come back to the hometown to seek the family roots," Wu said.
Wu is scheduled to pay his respects to the martyrs at the Huanghuagang Martyrs' Cemetery in Guangzhou on Saturday, which marks the 118th anniversary of the founding of the Kuomintang.

Author Camille Paglia loves queer culture

Author Camille Paglia loves queer culture but attacks pop culture and Lady Gaga
Camille Paglia
Lesbian author and art critic Camille Paglia loves LGBT culture but has no problem speaking her mind. According to Xtra on Nov. 21, the art critic who is known for provoking controversy in the 1990’s by attacking “gay Stalinists” which are described as gay, lesbian and transgender folks not willing to change their ideology when it comes to gay culture. She sees a gay culture movement that is in decline and disses celebrities like Chaz Bono and Lady Gaga and praises artists from earlier days as genius in the gay culture movement.

In her book Glittering Images, Paglia praises icons like Andy Warhol as a true genius of modern art and she describes 19th-century art critics like Walter Pater and Oscar Wilde as visionaries who helped create modern gay-male style. Throughout the book it is clear that Paglia has a clear and deep love for gay culture which supports her frustration overall with today’s movement. Glittering Images is a book that celebrates the gay community for keeping the art deco style alive and Paglia’s aim is to challenge social conservatives to rethink what she describes as a puritanical rejection of sensual pleasure and the arts. The author and art critic recently spoke at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto and she had a lot to day about gay culture and gay youth.

“Gay culture today is becoming totally marginal and irrelevant,” says Paglia. “Gay youth have been done a terrible disservice by the movement, which doesn’t teach them about their great heritage of art and style.”

She attacks the modern transgender rights movement comparing it to the 60’s when drag queens and transsexuals were “fierce and powerful”. She believes youth today lack an understanding on the deeper issues of the movement which she believes is focused “on manipulating the physical, through surgery”. She says as humans we have the responsibility and obligation to explore our inner selves and seek self-understand apart from “the social and physical”.

Paglia says that Chaz Bono is mutilating his body by going through a sex-change operation and believes because he is a public figure he is bringing the sex-change procedure into the mainstream which she fears will bring about an “easy solution” for youth who may see it as an “easy fix” solution and avoid true introspection.
Paglia does not stop there. She also has an opinion about pop culture which she feels is in “decline”. She compares gay icon Lady Gaga to David Bowie pointing out the contrasts of the two pop icons.
“Lady Gaga is a fraud. She’s surrounded by all these gay men who are advising her, telling her what to wear, what to say, but everything about her is derivative. Everything is stolen from another artist.”
By contrast she says David Bowie’s music was that of genius. She saw his music as revolutionary with sexual energy and a man of true art. Gaga, in her opinion, is just “fake”.