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Covering The Multicultural Asian American Community in Georgia August 1-15, 2013 Vol 10 No 15

What Do You Know About Health insurance MarketPlace?

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August 1-15, 2013 Georgia Asian Times

Georgia Asian Times August 1-15, 2013

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GAT Calendar of Events (For latest & updated events, visit

Publisher: Li Wong Account Manager: Adrian West Contributors: Andrian Putra, May Lee, Mark Ho Photography: Ben Hioe

Tel: 678-971-9388 Advertising: Editorial: URL: Mailing Address: P.O. Box 4502 Suwanee GA 30024

Copyright Georgia Asian Times 2004-2013

GAT welcome submission of announcement pertaining to community related events. Please email event, date, venue, and time to GAT does not guarantee insertion of event announcement and has the right to deny any posting. All Rights Reserved: including those to reproduce this printing or parts thereof in any form without permission in writing from Georgia Asian Times. Established in 2004, the Georgia Asian Times is published by Asiamax Inc. All facts, opinions, and statements appearing within this publication are those of writers and editors themseleves, and are in no way to be construed as statements, positions, endorsements by Georgia Asian Times or its officers. Georgia Asian Times assumes no responsibility for damages from the use of information contained in this publication or the reply to any advertisement. The Publisher will not be liable for any error in advertising to greater extent than the cost of space occupied by the error and will only be made for a single publication date. The Publisher reserves the right to reject any ad or articles submitted for publication that may not be in good taste for a free publication.

Lunch with Asian American DREAMers on National Tour Co-hosted by KAAGA and AALAC Date: Friday, August 2, 2013 Time: 11:00 am Venue: KAAGA, 4067 Industrial Park, Norcross GA 30071 Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Public Town Hall Meeting- Impact of Affordable Care Act and Health Insurance Marketplace Date: Thursday, August 15, 2013 Time: 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm Venue: Center for Pan Asian Community Services (CPACS) 3510 Shallowford Road, NE, Atlanta GA 30341 18th Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival - Atlanta Date: Saturday Sept 14, 2013 Time: 7:00 am - 5:00 pm Venue: Clarks Bridge, Lake Lanier Olympic Rowing Facility For more info: AAPOG APA Heroes & Advocates Awards Banquet Date: Thursday Sept 19, 2013 Time: 6:30 pm Venue: Oriental Pearl Seafood Restaurant, Chamblee For more info: http://aapg.eventbrite. com

JapanFest 2013 Date: Sept 21-22, 2013 Time: 10:00 am Venue: Gwinnett Center, 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway Peachtree City Dragon Boat Festival Date: Sept 28, 2013 Time: 8:00 am Venue: Peachtree City For more info: ptcdragonboats@gmail. com 9th Atlanta Asian Film Festival (AAFF) Date: Oct 12-25, 2013 Venues: Cinefest-GSU, GPC Dunwoody, University of West Georgia 9th AAFF Premiere Night Gala Date: Friday Oct 11, 2013 Venue: Plaza Theatre, Ponce De Leon Avenue, Atlanta For more info:

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August 1-15, 2013 Georgia Asian Times

METRO ASIAN NEWS Gwinnett’s Second Diverging Diamond Interchange Operational by Thanksgiving Norcross, July 26, 2013 — Gwinnett County is schedule to have its second Diverging Diamond Interchange operational by late November 2013 at Jimmy Carter Boulevard and I-85. The Pleasant Hill Road Diverging Diamond Interchange was opened to the public in mid-June this year. “We are targeting the traffic crossover shift by late November this year and no later than Thanksgiving with the weather permitting,” said Chuck Warbington, PE, Executive Director at Gwinnett village Community Improvement District, who is spearheading the Diverging Diamond Interchange project. The $5 million project is funded through a partnership funding by Gwinnett County SPLOST, Georgia Department of Transportation, and Gwinnett Village CID. “Based on a recent study, the new Diverging Diamond Interchange will improve traffic flow and reduce congestion by 45 percent from the current traffic condition,” according to Warbington. The project also sees North-bound traffic improvement by increasing the single-access lanes into two lanes. Georgia DOT will also extend the North-bound access towards Indian Trail Road and widening it to two lanes to accommodate increasing traffic. “This landmark project at a key entry to our county will serve to be an identifiable entrance to our community, and will accommodate our growth- improving the quality of life for businesses, residents, and all those who utilize this interchange,” adds Warbington.

The CID contracted Peter Drey, an Atlanta architect who designed the 14th Street Bridge in midtown to design the Jimmy Carter Interchange Bridge. “The new bridge will have an aesthetic impact with the tallest section stands at 35 feet tall. Together with improved decorative lighting, the bridge will have a nice visual aesthetic.” The public will receive advance notice prior to the closing of the bridge in November for construction and traffic shift configuration.

Chuck Warbington, Executive Director of Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District with an artist rendering of the Diverging Diamond Interchange.

“The closing will take place on a weekend and reopen to traffic by Monday pending on weather and construction goes smoothly.” Warbingto aimed to have the project completed by March 2014. The final stages includes asphalt paving, signs, concrete islands, sidewalks and decorative lighting. Pedestrian traffic on the bridge will also be reopened in its final center configuration. For up-to-date lane closures and construction update on Jimmy Carter Boulevard Diverging Diamond Interchange, visit

Korean Couple Found Stabbed to Death in Duluth Duluth, July 30, 2013 - A Korean couple was found stabbed to death at their home on Worrall Hill Way, according to Gwinnett County police. Young Chan Choi, aged 63, and his 59-year old wife, Sun Hee Choi, were found dead on Saturday night. Suspect Ki Song Kim, aged 45, was arrested and charged with two counts of felony murder and two counts of aggravated assault, Gwinnett County police said in a press statement. He is held without bond at the Gwinnett County jail.

The Korean couple owned Best Supply, a restaurant supply company in Norcross. Neighbors reported seeing a white passenger car at the scene prior to the crime and an unknown male was seen at the front door with a box of apples, according to police. Kim was an employee of Best Supply. Police citing ongoing investigation did not release additional information.

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FEATURE 7 ways to save in the Health Insurance Marketplace There are several ways you can save money in the Health Insurance Marketplace. How you save, and how much you save, depends on several things, including family size and income. 1. You may be able to get lower costs on your monthly premiums when you enroll in a Marketplace health insurance plan. 2. You may qualify for lower out-ofpocket costs for copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles. 3. You or your child may get free or low-cost coverage through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). 4. You can’t be charged more for a pre-existing condition or because you are a woman. 5. You may be able to be covered on your parent’s insurance plan if you’re under 26.

6. You may be able to buy a lowerpremium “catastrophic” coverage plan, if you’re under 30. 7. Small businesses may qualify for the expanded small business health care tax credit. How will I know what I qualify for? When you fill out your Health Insurance Marketplace application, you’ll find out how much you can save and what coverage you’ll qualify for. Here are some important things to know about getting lower costs on coverage: Most people who apply will qualify for some kind of savings. Open enrollment starts October 1, 2013 and coverage starts as soon as January 1, 2014. Marketplace plans and prices will be available on October 1.

Will I qualify for lower costs on monthly premiums? When you get health insurance coverage in the Marketplace, you may be able to get lower costs on monthly premiums. This depends on your income and family size. Pay lower costs for premiums each month In the Health Insurance Marketplace you may be able to lower the costs of your health insurance coverage by paying lower monthly premiums. You’ll see the amount of savings you’re eligible for when you fill out your Marketplace application. Prices shown for insurance plans will reflect the lower costs. These lower costs are handled with a tax credit called the Advance Premium Tax Credit. But these tax credits can be applied directly to your monthly premiums, so you get the lower costs immediately. Savings depends on income and family size The amount you save depends on your family size and how much money your family earns. In general, people at the following income levels will qualify to save in 2014. The lower your income, the higher your savings will be. (The amounts below are based on 2013 numbers and are likely to be slightly higher in 2014.) Up to $45,960 for individuals Up to $62,040 for a family of 2 Up to $78,120 for a family of 3

Up to $94,200 for a family of 4 Up to $110,280 for a family of 5 Up to $126,360 for a family of 6 Up to $142,440 for a family of 7 Up to $158,520 for a family of 8 You may also be able to get lower out-of-pocket costs, depending on your income and family size. How to estimate your income When you apply for lower costs in the Marketplace, you’ll need to estimate your household income for 2014. For most people, you can use your household’s adjusted gross income for this estimate. If you know your 2013 adjusted gross income, use that and take into account any changes you expect in 2014. Another way to estimate your income is to add up the following items for all the people in your household, based on what you think they’ll receive in 2014: - Wages - Salaries - Tips - Net income from any self-employment or business - Unemployment compensation - Social Security payments - Other kinds of income to include when estimating your 2014 income are: rental income, interest, dividends, capital gains, annuities, alimony, and some retirement and pensions. Modified adjusted gross income When you fill out the Marketplace application, a number called “modified adjusted gross income” (MAGI) will be used. Modified adjusted gross income is generally your household’s adjusted gross income plus any tax-exempt Social Security, interest, and foreign income you have. It’s used to determine your eligibility for lower costs on Marketplace coverage, and for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). You don’t have to figure out this income yourself. The math will be done for you when you apply through the Marketplace or your state agency. For Medicaid, it also matters if you’ve had a change in household income since your last tax return. When you apply you’ll need to tell us your household income now and also estimate the amount for 2014, taking into account changes that you know about.

Will I qualify for lower out-of-pocket costs? When you get coverage through the Marketplace, you may be able to get lower costs on deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance. This will depend on your income. The Marketplace cost-sharing reduction lowers the amount you have to pay for out-ofpocket costs like deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments. These are costs you have to pay when you get care. This savings is based on your income and family size. Savings depend on your income Health insurance companies offering coverage through the Marketplace must lower the amount you pay out of pocket for essential health benefits if your household income is below the following amounts. (Incomes below are based on 2013 numbers. They are likely to be slightly higher in 2014. Amounts are different for each family size, up to 8.) Up to $28,725 for individuals Up to $38,775 for a family of 2 Up to $48,825 for a family of 3

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Up to $58,875 for a family of 4 Up to $68,925 for a family of 5 Up to $78,975 for a family of 6 Up to $89,025 for a family of 7 Up to $99,075 for a family of 8 When you apply for coverage in the Marketplace, you’ll learn if you’re eligible for these savings on out-of-pocket costs. Out-of-pocket savings apply only to Silver plans Plans in the Marketplace are separated into 4 different categories: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. These categories are based on how much of your medical costs you pay and how much the plan pays when you get medical care. They are not based on plan quality. Learn more about plan categories and what they mean. If you qualify for out-of-pocket savings, you must choose a Silver plan to get the savings. In some cases, having a Silver plan will be like getting the cost-saving benefits of a Gold or Platinum plan for a Silver price. You can choose any category of plan, but you’ll get the out-of-pocket savings only if you enroll in a Silver plan. You’ll be able to choose your plan category when you fill out your Marketplace application.

Do I qualify for Medicaid? You qualify for Medicaid based on income and family size. If you’re eligible, you get free or low-cost care and don’t need to buy a Marketplace plan. Medicaid basics Medicaid provides health coverage for some low-income people, families and children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Medicaid programs must follow federal guidelines, but they vary somewhat from state to state. You may qualify for Medicaid - now or in 2014 The rules for Medicaid eligibility are different for each state. Most states offer coverage for adults with children below a certain income level, as well as pregnant women, some seniors, and people with disabilities. Under the health care law, Medicaid eligibility is expanding in most states. More people than ever will qualify for Medicaid starting in 2014. Even if you were told you didn’t qualify for Medicaid in the past, you may qualify under the new rules. To see if you qualify for Medicaid, do one of these: Visit your state’s Medicaid website. Use the menu below to select your state and you’ll be sent to the right page. You can apply right now and find out if you qualify. But if you’re not eligible now, you may qualify in 2014, when new rules take effect in most states. If you submit an application in October 2013 or later, the state will check the new rules when you apply. Starting October 1, 2013, fill out an application for the Health Insurance Marketplace. When you finish this application, we’ll tell you which programs you and your family qualify for. If it looks like anyone is eligible for Medicaid, we’ll let the Medicaid agency know so that your coverage can start right away. Medicaid benefits The benefits covered are different in each state, but certain benefits must be covered by every Medicaid program. Check with your state’s program to find out what’s covered. Medicaid costs Medicaid is designed to be affordable for everyone who’s eligible. Depending on your state’s rules, you may have to pay a small part of the cost (like a copayment) for some medical services.

August 1-15, 2013 Georgia Asian Times

What if I have a pre-existing health condition? Starting in 2014, health insurance plans can’t refuse to cover you or charge you more just because you have a pre-existing health condition. Being sick doesn’t keep you from getting coverage Starting in 2014, being sick won’t keep you from getting health coverage. An insurance company can’t turn you down or charge you more because of your condition. It can’t refuse to cover treatment for pre-existing conditions. This is true even if you have been turned down or refused coverage due to a pre-existing condition in the past. The only exception is for grandfathered individual health insurance plans--the kind you buy yourself, not through an employer. If you have one of these plans you can switch to a Marketplace plan during open enrollment and get coverage for your pre-existing condition. You can apply for Health Insurance Marketplace insurance when open enrollment starts on October 1, 2013. Coverage starts as soon as January 1, 2014. Be sure not to miss open enrollment Open enrollment ends on March 31, 2014. Outside of open enrollment, you can’t enroll in Marketplace coverage unless you have a qualifying life event. Pre-existing conditions with Medicaid and CHIP Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program(CHIP) also can’t refuse to cover you or charge you more because of a health condition.

Can children stay on a parent’s plan through age 26? If a plan covers children, they can be added or kept on the health insurance policy until they turn 26 years old. Children can join or remain on a plan even if they are: - married - not living with their parents - attending school - not financially dependent on their parents - eligible to enroll in their employer’s plan How to get coverage for adult children Adult child may be enrolled during a plan’s open enrollment period or during other special enrollment opportunities. The employer or insurance company can provide details. Under-26-year-olds can be signed up directly in new Marketplace plans. Be sure to include him or her on the list of people to be covered.

Will I qualify for small business health care tax credits? You may qualify for employer health care tax credits if you have fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees making an average of about $50,000 a year or less. To qualify for the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit, you must pay at least 50% of your full-time employees’ premium costs. You don’t need to offer coverage to your parttime employees or to dependents. Starting in 2014, the tax credit is worth up to 50% of your contribution toward employees’ premium costs (up to 35% for tax-exempt employers). The credit is available only if you get coverage through the SHOP Marketplace. Higher benefits for smaller businesses The tax credit is highest for companies with fewer than 10 employees who are paid an average of $25,000 or less. The smaller the business, the bigger the credit.

For more information, visit

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US economy grows sluggish 1.7% in Q2 WASHINGTON, July 31, 2013 (AFP) - The US economy grew 1.7 percent in the second quarter after a 1.1 percent pace in the first quarter, according to the Commerce Department report released Wednesday. The second-quarter growth rate, while better than the average analyst estimate of 1.1 percent, still showed the world’s largest economy stuck in the doldrums four years after exiting the Great Recession.

“We still expect they will move a step closer to tapering today,” O’Sullivan said of the Fed. The second-quarter GDP report revealed a slowdown in consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of US economic activity. Personal consumption expenditures increased only 1.8 percent after a 2.3 percent rise in the first three months of the year.

The Commerce Department sharply revised the first-quarter rate to 1.1 percent from the prior 1.8 percent reading.

Exports provided a boost, jumping 5.4 percent and wiping out the prior quarter’s 1.3 percent decline.

The GDP report was accompanied by extensive revisions to GDP data back to 1929, done roughly every five years.

Nonresidential fixed investment rebounded and a build up in private inventories added 0.41 percentage point to growth.

Barclays analysts, in a research note, said that downward revisions to growth in the previous four quarters “mean that the underlying trend is no stronger.” Jim O’Sullivan, chief US economist at High Frequency Economics, said the report did not change HFE’s expectations that GDP growth will pick up in the third and fourth quarters as the drag from fiscal tightening fades. The Federal Reserve, holding a second and final day of a monetary policy meeting, likely shares that view of the economy’s expansion, he said. The Fed has said it would begin to taper its $85 billion-a-month assetpurchase program if the economy continued to improve.

The drag caused by federal government spending and investment cuts narrowed, falling 1.5 percent after a more than 8 percent drop in the first quarter. “The most important thing today’s data tells us is that the US economy continues to grow far too slowly to reliably improve job prospects; it remains far from healed from the Great Recession, and the root problem remains deficient demand -- a problem exacerbated by austerity,” said Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute.

Malaysia to get Twentieth Century Fox theme park KUALA LUMPUR, July 26, 2013 (AFP) - Malaysian casino operator Genting’s resort unit will build a 400 million ringgit ($125 million) Twentieth Century Fox Theme Park near the capital Kuala Lumpur, it said Friday. The park -- to open in 2016 -- will be the first Twentieth Century Fox theme park with rides and other attractions based on such blockbusters as “Ice Age”, “Life of Pi”, “Alien” and “Night at the Museum”, Resorts World Genting said in a statement. Jeffrey Godsick, president of Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products, said the park marked the launch “of our global location based entertainment strategy”. “For the first time, audiences will soon be transported into the worlds of their favourite Twentieth Century Fox properties,” he said.

Built on more than 25 acres (10 hectares), the park will feature more than 25 rides and attractions, the statement said. It replaces an older outdoor theme park, which is part of Resorts World Genting located at the peak of an area known as Genting Highlands. The resort, which also includes the country’s sole casino and has attracted more than 20 million visitors per year since 2011, is undergoing a reportedly three billion ringgit refurbishment. Muslim-majority Malaysia has banned gambling but allows non-Muslims to bet at the casino in Genting Highlands, on horseracing and the national lottery. Asia’s first Legoland theme park opened last September in the southern Malaysian state of Johor in an economic hub across a narrow waterway from Singapore.

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BUSINESS India aims to boost rupee with ‘quasi-sovereign issues’ NEW DELHI, July 31, 2013 - India said Wednesay it would ask state firms to raise funds abroad in “quasisovereign” bond issues and might also raise import taxes on luxury goods as it struggles to revive the rupee.

China to maintain steady growth in second half BEIJING, July 30, 2013 (AFP) - China’s economy will continue to grow at a steady rate during the second half of this year despite “extremely complicated domestic and international conditions”, the government said Tuesday. Leaders of the world’s number two economy will “coordinate the tasks of stabilizing growth, restructuring the economy and promoting reforms”, according to a statement from the Political Bureau of the ruling Communist Party’s Central Committee. The announcement came after a meeting of the politburo attended by President Xi Jinping, the state news agency Xinhua said. “Macro policy should be stable, micro policy should be flexible and social policy should support the bottom line. All of them should be coordinated,” the statement read. As is standard for such announcements, the communist leadership provided few details on concrete plans for the economy but said a “proactive fiscal policy and prudent monetary policy” would remain. China’s economy grew 7.5 percent year-on-year in April-June, slowing from the first quarter’s 7.7 percent. This in turn was worse than 7.9 per-

cent in the final three months of 2012. The economy is a key engine of global growth but last year recorded its worst performance since 1999, expanding 7.8 percent. China’s growth model has long been based on taking advantage of the country’s cheap and abundant labour to manufacture products for export, alongside credit-fueled domestic investment to develop infrastructure. Now, though, the government says the situation is unsustainable and the growth model should be rebalanced towards consumer demand. The new leadership under President Xi and Premier Li Keqiang appears willing to accept lower growth in hopes that weaning the country off its addiction to investment will ultimately result in stable and sustainable growth.

The announcement by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram came as the currency sank to 61.20 to the dollar, within a whisker of its lifetime low of 61.21 rupees hit earlier in July. “The balance sheets of some of our public-sector units are quite strong to raise funds abroad -- these would be quasi-sovereign issues,” Chidambaram told reporters. “Quasi-sovereign” means that the buyer of the issue would have the Indian government’s backing against any default. India has never defaulted on any of its debt. “We need to stabilize the rupee and going forward need to take steps to promote (economic) growth,” Chidambaram told a news conference marking one year since he assumed the reins of the finance ministry for a third time. The minister also promised that the left-leaning Congress government would further relax foreign direct investment policy, and raise interest subsidies to promote exports. He said the government was also considering raising luxury taxes on some unnamed imported goods. The government is struggling to narrow a record current account deficit -- the broadest trade measure -- which has been one of the central factors pressuring the rupee, along with a sharply slowing economy and lack of progress on liberalization reforms.

India was looking to “curb demand for non-essential luxury items”, he said, without elaborating. The government is also considering relaxing foreign borrowing rules and seeking ways to draw investments from global sovereign wealth and pension funds, and deposits from the vast diaspora of over 25 million Indians abroad. In addition, Chidambaram said the government might make a sovereign bond issue to raise foreign exchange “but I will not rush into any decision”. On Tuesday the central bank kept benchmark interest rates on hold at a policy meeting and sounded less hawkish than expected on monetary policy, pushing the currency lower. India’s economic woes have led to increased speculation that it could be headed for an economic crisis of the sort it suffered in 1991, which forced a bailout by the International Monetary Fund. In an interview published this week, veteran Indian economist Arvind Panagariya warned of the country’s dependence on foreign capital and said its foreign exchange reserves were too low. The rupee’s weakness is the latest blow for the scandal-tainted coalition of Premier Manmohan Singh, which is keen to see the economy pick up before facing voters in polls due in the first half of 2014.

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FOCUS After years as an international pariah under the former junta, Myanmar is stepping firmly back onto the Southeast Asia tourist trail under a new reformist regime that came to power in 2011. With thousands of monasteries and a regional reputation for being spiritually devout, the country hopes to attract visitors interested in Buddhist practice.

Myanmar monasteries offer bootcamp for the spirit YANGON, July 29, 2013 (AFP) - Pre-dawn wake-up calls, days of silence and hunger may not be everyone’s idea of a holiday, but for tourists seeking spiritual sustenance Myanmar’s monasteries offer help on the path to Buddhist nirvana. The search for inner peace is unlikely to appeal to those who take a more hedonistic approach to vacations -- booze, beaches and bikinis are definitely out. “When you first start it is a bit like running into a brick wall, you know, you are having extreme problems settling down and for your mind to settle,” said Rupert Arrowsmith, a British art historian. He spent 45 days of total silence in the “famously austere” Chanmyay Yeiktha monastery, a peaceful compound of rooms for meditation and sleeping in the countryside near Yangon. “The new environment, different way of dressing, different way of eating... It’s like some sort of military

bootcamp. You’ve even got the same hairstyle,” he said. After their heads are shaved at an ordination ceremony, new monks - foreign or Burmese -- retreat to the quiet but challenging routine of monastic life. Rising at 3.30 am, they practice sitting and walking meditation for the majority of the day, spending long periods cross-legged in the complex, which is largely silent apart from the sound of birdsong. Food, though often sumptuous dishes such as local curries, is served before noon. The last meal of the day at Chanmyay Yeiktha is at 10.30 am and monks have nothing more to eat before they retire to bed in the evening to sleep in individual rooms on a bed with no mattress. Arrowsmith urged those entering a monastery to “be serious... this is not Disneyland”, but he said the experience -- his second at the monastery -- was worth it. “It’s more or less essential for anybody who wants to understand how their own mind functions. I mean this is probably the key point for people in the West,” he said. “You know people who talk about self knowledge, they really need to come and do some Vipassana meditation in Myanmar,” he said.

Phyoe Wai Yar Zar, of the Myanmar Tourism Board, said visas for meditation visits can now be “easily” obtained and that spiritual tourism is on the rise -- although authorities are currently unable to provide hard data.

Striving for nirvana Both men and women can enter monasteries from two weeks up to several months. Across the border in Thailand, an established destination for spiritual tourists, Buddhist authorities say some 1,000 people from abroad join monasteries for meditation stints every year, while about 50 foreigners are fully ordained as monks annually. Abbot Bhaddanta Jatila of the Mahasi Meditation Centre in Yangon said foreign visits dried up as the country came to the end of its near half-century of military rule. “When the government opened, more foreign meditators came. Many of them are coming now, especially this year,” he said. A whole wing of accommodation has been set aside for foreign visitors at his monastery, which recently had about 20 people from Korea, Japan, China and the United States among its 500 meditators and child novices. Paradoxically, the rise in foreign meditators could result in villagers in one of the world’s poorest countries feeding visitors from rich nations. Monasteries rely for food and funding on local people, who believe their donations earn them “merit” and kar-

mic reward in the cycle of rebirth that is a key part of Buddhist faith. Arrowsmith said the sight of impoverished local people donating precious supplies of rice was “quite difficult to accept”, but that his abbot assured him that donors were giving the food not to him as an individual, but “for the potential for enlightenment in you” as a monk. Myanmar’s Buddhist clergy has faced international scrutiny amid extremist anti-Muslim campaigns by some monks that have been linked to recent deadly waves of violence in the Buddhist-majority country. But Arrowsmith said this should not taint the Buddhist establishment as a whole. “Personally, I have never experienced Myanmar monks getting involved in anything other than intensive meditation, non-violence, and the issuance of goodwill to all living beings,” he said. Meditation, detachment and loving kindness are just some aspects of the quest for nirvana -- and freedom from the suffering of perpetual reincarnation. Abbot Bhaddanta Jatila said Buddhism helps practitioners to rise above a cycle of life that “starts with being in the mother’s womb, then involves getting old, ill and dead”. That search for release was particularly appealing to 36-year-old Shigenari Moriya, whose path from working in the stock market in Japan, to entering the Mahasi centre in Yangon was dominated by a battle with cancer. Attracted to Myanmar because its meditation practice was “directly inherited” from Buddha, he was unperturbed by the drastic change to his lifestyle. “I like the sunshine, the food is delicious and above all, I’m happy meditating here because I believe that the country has more dharma (truth) than any other place on the planet,”

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TRAVEL Dark tourism brings light to disaster zones RIKUZENTAKATA, August 1, 2013 (AFP) - Before the huge tsunami virtually wiped it off the map in 2011, Rikuzentakata’s pristine beach and luxuriant pine forests were a wellworn stop on Japan’s tourist trail. Now the visitors are coming back, but this time they want to see the devastation and the monuments to those who died, the latest example of a phenomenon dubbed “dark tourism” where holiday makers pay to witness the aftermath of others’ misery. “You can’t really get a sense how huge the tsunami was unless you actually come here and see,” said Akira Shindo, 15, from New York, on a recent tour of part of Japan’s devastated northeast coast. More than 18,000 people were killed when a 9.0-magnitude undersea quake sent huge waves barreling into Japan. Whole communities were destroyed, buildings turned into matchwood and acres of prime land left unfarmable when a furious sea smashed ashore. In Rikuzentakata, a forest of 70,000 pine trees that had protected the city from ocean winds for 300 years was swept away. Just one tree -- the “miracle pine” -- survived the ravages of nature. It has undergone 150 million yen ($1.5 million) of reinforcement to prop it up and has now become a must-see spot for visitors to the area. “The tree was the tallest, 89 feethigh, and the two story-building behind it prevented the wave from sweeping it away,” said Mitsuko Morinaga, a 62-year-old volunteer who takes tourists around her devastated home town.

Near the pine tree, dozens of excavators and dump trucks work busily, processing piles of debris or clearing land for new homes.

Christchurch’s central business district where mass fatalities occurred, provided they were respectful and avoided sensationalism.

“Reconstruction is under way, but evacuees have to wait at least three years before their new houses will be built on the hillside,” Morinaga said.

The study, carried out using in-depth focus groups, said as memories of the quake faded outside Christchurch, disaster tours served to remind incoming visitors about its victims and what the city had endured.

Travel agent Shuichi Matsuda, who organized the tour for 24 people, said he set it up because he “wanted to prevent the memory of the disaster from fading”. Everyone spoke to on the tour of Rikuzentakata expressed horror at the suffering of people whose lives were torn apart by the tragedy. But disaster zones undoubtedly draw their fair share of ghoulish sightseers. Seven years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the United States city of New Orleans, residents of one hardhit area became so fed up with the hordes of gawking tourists feasting on their misery that they got the city to ban tour buses. A hand-painted sign on one street corner summed up their frustration in dripping black paint: “Tourist -- shame on you. Driving by without stopping. Paying to see my pain. 1,600 died here.” Lauren Cason, a spokeswoman for the city’s tourism board said visitors were welcome to New Orleans, but residents wanted them to see the positive side. “What we try to highlight is the comeback story and that the city is now thriving,” she said.

While the bigger buses are gone, the voyeurs are not. Two of the city’s more than 30 tour operators still offer limited “Katrina” tours and a fair number of the Big Easy’s nine million annual visitors also opt to take a taxi or rent a car to see the remaining wreckage.

Respectful tourism please Residents in Christchurch, New Zealand, where 185 people died in a February 2011 earthquake that flattened the downtown area, have grown accustomed to buses disgorging camera-wielding visitors at sites such as the ruins of the Anglican cathedral, once the symbol of the city. Shelagh Ferguson and Alex Coats, marketing researchers at New Zealand’s Otago University, last month published a study on the dark tourism phenomenon which found locals accepted such interest was inevitable, but wanted strict controls to prevent stirring more trauma in a community where memories of the disaster remain raw. The locals resented “rubbernecking” in suburbs where people are still rebuilding their homes twoand-a-half years on. But they had no problem with tours taking in sites in

“We found that residents understood the fascination that death and disaster might exert over visitors and should not be ignored as confrontation with death allows for catharsis, acceptance and a means of grieving” it concluded. On a very practical level, tourists spend money -- often at a time when a devastated area desperately needs jobs and investment to get back on its feet. Akira Oikawa, who sells fish, seaweed and other processed marine products, said the post-disaster day-trippers to Rikuzentakata and the nearby area were helping to make up the shortfall. “We are grateful for tourists visiting here and buying local products, as we saw a drop in the number of tourists after the disaster,” he said. “But it’s hurtful when people ask casually about how many people died,” he added. “We appreciate a little bit of empathy.”

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CULTURE A life spent in the wettest place on earth MAWSYNRAM, July 29, 2013 (AFP) - Deep in India’s northeast, villagers use grass to sound-proof their huts from deafening rain, clouds are a familiar sight inside homes and a suitably rusted sign tells visitors they are in the “wettest place on earth”. Oddly enough, lifelong residents of Mawsynram, a small cluster of hamlets in Meghalaya state have little idea that their scenic home holds a Guinness record for the highest average annual rainfall of 467 inches. “Really, this is the wettest place in the world? I didn’t know that,” said Bini Kynter, a great-grandmother who estimates she must be “nearly 100 years old” tells. “The rain used to frighten me when I was a young girl, it used to make our lives hell. Today people have it easy,” she says, wrapping a green tartan shawl tightly around her shoulders. Meteorologists say Mawsynram’s location, close to Bangladesh and the Bay of Bengal is the reason the tiny cluster receives so much rain. “What happens is that whenever any moisture gathers over the Bay of Bengal, it causes precipitation over Mawsynram, leading to a heavy, long monsoon season,” said Sunit Das of the Indian Meteorological Department. While annual monsoon rains lashed the national capital last week, causing traffic chaos and flooding at the international airport, such problems are mild for Mawsynram. Just thirty years ago, Mawsynram had no paved roads, no running water and no electricity, making its sixmonth long monsoon an insufferable experience for its mostly impoverished residents. Landslides still occur regularly, blocking the only paved road connect-

ing the hillside hamlets. Rainwater still seeps into the mud huts occupied by some villagers. And, while most homes now have electricity, outages are commonplace. Every winter the people of Mawsynram spend months preparing for the wet season ahead, anticipating nonstop rain and no sunshine for several days at a time. They repair their battered roofs. They cut and hoard firewood -- a source of light and fuel for cooking. They buy and store food grains, since few will venture out to shop during the wettest months between May and July. The women make rain covers known as “knups,” using bamboo slivers, plastic sheets and broom grass to create a rain shield that resembles a turtle shell, meant to be worn on one’s head while being large enough to keep rain off one’s knees. The labour-intensive process of weaving a knup -- each one takes at least an hour to complete -- occupies the women of the village right through the rainy season, when they are cooped up indoors for months at a time.

“I don’t like the heavy rainfall, it’s boring to stay indoors all day. It’s annoying,” she said. Although few Mawsynram residents seemed to know or care about their record-holder status, the right to the Guinness title has been hotly disputed by a nearby town, Cherrapunji, which used to lay claim to that honor. In sleepy Mawsynram, many find the record-setting monsoon downright depressing. “There’s no sun, so if you don’t have electricity it’s very dark indoors, even during the day,” Moonstar Marbaniang, the pyjama-clad headman of Mawsynram says.

Bamboo and broom grass -- a delicate, fragrant, olive-colored grass used to make Indian brooms -- are among the chief plants grown in this rocky, hilly region.

Those who have second homes elsewhere flee to escape the season. Others catch up on their sleep, according to Marbaniang, whose first name suggests one of the more striking legacies of colonial rule in India’s northeast.

Broom grass is dipped in water, flattened using wooden blocks and finally dried on rooftops across Mawsynram. According to Prelian Pdah, a grandmother of nine, this makes the grass stronger and more likely to survive a downpour.

Historians say the past presence of British soldiers and missionaries in this region has seen many people name their children after random English words or famous historical figures, often with no knowledge of what they might mean.

Pdah, 70, spends part of the winter and all of the monsoon season making bamboo baskets, brooms and knups which are bought by visiting businessmen who sell them around the state.

State capital Shillong’s former nickname as the “Scotland of the East” also goes some way to explain the popularity of tartan scarves and shawls, even in the most far-flung and

underdeveloped villages of Meghalaya. Somewhat fittingly for a state whose name means “the abode of the clouds” in the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit, it is not unusual for clouds to drift through people’s homes in Mawsynram, leaving a wet film on their furniture. The grass-covered roofs are meant to muffle the relentless drumming of the rain, but a heavy downpour will usually dislodge the grass to deafening effect. “We have to talk a little louder to be heard during the monsoon!” said the 67-year-old Marbaniang, his mischievous eyes sparkling. When the monsoon finally ends, there are no parties to mark its exit. The rainy season simply gives way to the repair season, Marbaniang says. “We don’t hold any celebration or festival to mark the end of the rain. We just start drying our clothes outside,” he says, flashing a toothless grin. Despite enduring record amounts of rain, sanguine villagers say there is no other place they would rather live. Marbaniang, whose children all live in Shillong, says: “I’ll never leave, this is my home, I was born here, I will die here.”

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A rare Bruce Lee Figurine. Photo: @VivienneChow (Twitter)

Hong Kong show marks 40 years since Bruce Lee death The late superstar Bruce Lee is bestknown for the kung fu skills he displayed in his movies, but his daughter hopes that more people take the effort to understand his teachings and life philosophy.

“People immediately assume that I am some amazingly skilled and deadly martial artist,” said Lee, who added she has studied martial arts but is a 44-year-old businesswomen with a 10-year-old child.

Marking his death 40 years ago Saturday, the Hong Kong government has teamed up with the Bruce Lee Foundation to put together an exhibition to showcase the late star’s life, from his famous yellow tracksuit he wore in the movie “Game of Death,” to his writings and drawings.

Lee, who is also the president of the Bruce Lee Foundation, said not many people know the depth of her father as a man, with most appreciating only his martial arts skills.

The exhibition that opened Saturday, “Bruce Lee: Kung fu. Art. Life,” has more than 600 items on display, including photos, costumes, videos and even a 3.8-yard statue. Lee, who was born in San Francisco but raised in Hong Kong, died at the height of his fame due to an allergic reaction to painkillers at the age of 32. His last film, “Enter the Dragon,” was released six days after his death and became his most popular movie. Shannon Lee, who was 4 when her father died, said he is still such a strong influence that many make assumptions about her.

“Hopefully this exhibition will help show a more complete picture” by showing Lee’s family side, the hard work he put into making his movies and other aspects of his life such as the poetry he wrote, she said. “I think a lot of people see the final product up on screen and they go, ‘Oh, there’s a talented guy,’ but they don’t see all the effort that went into it,” she said. Lee said working to promote her father’s legacy was inspiring because she gets to see “how many lives he’s touched in such a positive way, and if I can keep that going, that’s meaningful.”

Bruce Lee’s plaster face cast made in 1966 to mould the mask he wore as Kato in Green Hornet. Photo: @VivienneChow (Twitter)

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US blanks Panama to win Gold Cup final CHICAGO, July 28, 2013 (AFP) - Brek Shea scored in the 69th minute to give the United States a 1-0 victory over Panama in Sunday’s title match of the Gold Cup, North America’s biennial continental football championship tournament. The Americans stretched their team-record win streak to 11 matches and claimed their fifth Gold Cup crown after previously taking the title in 1991, 2002, 2005 and 2007. Every edition of the event has been played on US soil. “It’s an unbelievable feeling,” US captain DaMarcus Beasley said. “I’m at a loss for words. I’m so excited. This is what it’s about, winning championships together.” With the victory, the US squad booked a date to face the 2015 Gold Cup champion to decide a berth at the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia. The decisive moment came when

a US centering pass was deflected toward the Panama goal. Onrushing Landon Donovan, the all-time US scoring leader, raced for the ball and attracted all attention from Panama’s defenders. But the ball rolled past Donovan’s outstretched foot and toward the far side of the yawning goal, where Shea raced forward and tapped it across the line. “I tried to shoot it. It wasn’t my finest moment,” Donovan said. “But fortunately Brek was there to put it in. “It has meant a lot to all of us. We had a dream and a goal and I think we once again showed the American experience.” Donovan, a three-time World Cup standout who has netted five goals in the tournament, has not played in a World Cup qualifier this year after having taken almost four months off between seasons for the Los Angeles Galaxy.

But the 31-year-old striker could be poised to return to the top squad for the next US World Cup qualifier on September 6 at Costa Rica and play a key role if the Americans, who top the qualifying table, reach the 2014 World Cup. “We’ll see for the World Cup,” Donovan said. “We have a lot of guys who weren’t here for the qualifying. We want to keep pushing each other and keep getting better and better.” Not all was good news for the US side, however, as Stuart Holden went off with a sprained knee. Andreas Herzog served as the replacement coach in the match for US coach Jurgen Klinsmann, the former German international star who was banned for the match after being sent off in the 87th minute of the semi-final against Honduras for complaining to the referee.

It was a loss to Mexico in the 2011 Gold Cup final that prompted USA Soccer to dump then-coach Bob Bradley, now the coach of Egypt, and hire Klinsmann. Overall, the Americans are 12-2-2 this year and their win streak includes three World Cup qualifying triumphs and a friendly victory over Germany last month as well as an unbeaten Gold cup run. The Americans, who also beat Panama in the 2005 final on penalty kicks, improved to 10-1 with two drawn all-time against Panama, whose only prior trip to the title match came eight years ago.

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SPORTS I love you! Asia’s EPL passion grows and grows JAKARTA, July 26, 2013 (AFP) - It started as a crush in the 1980s and became a steady relationship -- but wild scenes show Asia’s love for English football is not just passionate, it’s getting stronger. While Asian ardor for the English Premier League has long been known, the unbridled affection seen during this year’s pre-season tours has stunned even seasoned observers. Rock-star welcomes from Vietnam to Australia. Screaming fans at every hotel and photo-shoot. Sold-out arenas across the region and thousands paying just to watch their heroes train. In Jakarta, Liverpool fans are so well-versed that when ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ rang out around the cavernous Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, it was in a pitch-perfect Scouse accent. “Liverpool fans here know all the club’s songs and chants, and they’ve even learnt the accent just from YouTube,” said Fajar Nugraha, who helps run Indonesia’s BIGREDS fan club. More than 95,000 fans turned out to watch Liverpool’s friendly in Melbourne, the second biggest for a football match ever seen in Australia. In Bangkok, motorbike taxi riders showed loyalty to Manchester United by charging 200 baht ($6.40) for passengers headed to watch the Red Devils, and 300 baht for the same journey when Chelsea were playing. One enterprising fan ran five miles through the streets of Hanoi alongside the Arsenal team bus, wearing the team’s shirt, before finally being invited on board. And in Kuala Lumpur, Chelsea devotees surrounded a rogue Manchester United supporter and forced him to

remove his shirt after he turned up at a public training session wearing red instead of blue. David Moyes, newly appointed as Manchester United’s manager, was amazed at the welcome when he stepped off their chartered jet in Bangkok, comparing it to Beatlemania. “We arrived at the airport and I heard lots of screaming young ladies. I don’t think it was at me!” he said. “It was like some famous pop group arriving, it was an incredible welcome.” Julian Jackson, a veteran Asian hand for sports marketing agency Total Sports Asia (TSA), said the popularity of the Premier League, often known regionally as the EPL, was growing “without a doubt”. “The popularity has been soaring for the last few years,” he told AFP. “They’re only scratching the surface in terms of getting money out of Asia,” he added. Jackson points to the ever increasing value of TV rights deals for the EPL in Asia, an area with vast growth potential given the region’s enormous and upwardly mobile population. On their trips to Asia, clubs charge appearance fees to play friendly games, and benefit from sales of official merchandise. And they trade on their popularity by signing sponsorship deals involving everything from banks and credit cards to beer, telecoms, airlines, and even tomato juice. “Our global fan base is just short of a billion, and half of those are here in Asia, so it (Asia) is a hugely important part of what we do,” said Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore.

Jackson said Liverpool sharpened their focus on Asia when they hired Ian Ayre, formerly with Kuala Lumpurbased TSA, as their managing director, and agreed a main sponsorship deal with Standard Chartered, a bank with a strong Asian presence. The EPL now has a presence in the dynamic region that rivals, including NBA basketball and Major League Baseball, and even Spanish and German football, can only dream about. But it has been decades in the making, after British TV companies struck deals to screen English football in Asian countries long before the advent of explosive economic growth. “It’s a history thing,” said Jackson, an English expat. “The BBC and ITV (British TV stations) were selling English football way before the Germans and Italians and Spanish got involved in the situation.” He added: “English football has a particular brand: 100 miles per hour, exciting to watch... and the English were always good at producing highlights shows, magazine shows, interview shows. It meant the fans were more educated.” With the Premier League followed across the continent, media coverage is vast. Asian TV channels and newspapers devote generous space to the competition, reducing the exposure of local sports.

As a result, Premier League footballers are adored like matinee idols, ensuring an ecstatic reception when fans get a rare chance to see them in person. “They’re like stars, like Hollywood stars coming here. Football fans feel like that,” said Peerawit Anantasirarat, a sports reporter for Thailand’s Modern9 TV. “When John Terry came out, or when Rooney came out at the airport, we’re seeing superstars come here. It’s amazing.” In Vietnam, hosting a Premier League club for the first time, fans queued up overnight not only for tickets to see Arsenal, but also to meet them at the airport. Not all has gone smoothly this month, however. In Indonesia, a promoter was ordered to repay fans who were charged to meet players -- a practice seen elsewhere in the region. And in Thailand, eyebrows were raised when the prime minister’s young son strode out as a mascot for Chelsea, after also appearing at a coaching clinic by the London club’s stars.

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HEALTH Some blood pressure drugs found to slow dementia PARIS, July 25, 2013 (AFP) - A class of drugs designed to lower blood pressure also slightly brakes the progression of dementia among the elderly and may even boost brain power marginally, a study published on Friday said. Doctors in Cork, Ireland, looked at data from a long-term study involving 361 patients aged in their late seventies on average who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or a form of dementia. The group, enrolled at memory clinics in two university hospitals in Ontario, Canada, was monitored between 1999 and 2010, using two standard tests to track their cognitive skills. Eighty-five of them were already taking blood pressure medication called centrally active angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors -- better known as CACE-I drugs -- when they were enrolled in the study. Patients in this group had a small but measurable slowing in mental decline compared with counterparts who did not take the medication, according to the Irish analysis. The researchers also carried out a smaller-scale probe, assessing the brain power of 30 patients who were newly prescribed the drugs, during their first six months on the medication. They found a slender improvement in cognitive abilities in this group compared to others that did not take CACE-I drugs -- the first time that any such improvement has ever been seen.

Tall women face higher cancer risk: study WASHINGTON, July 25, 2013 (AFP) - Taller women may face a higher risk of many cancers than their shorter counterparts, according to a US study released Thursday. Researchers looked at a sample of nearly 145,000 postmenopausal women aged 50 to 79 for the analysis published in the US journal Cancer Epidemiology. They found that each additional four inches of height was linked to a 13 percent higher risk of getting cancer. “Ultimately, cancer is a result of processes having to do with growth, so it makes sense that hormones or other growth factors that influence height may also influence cancer risk,” said lead author Geoffrey Kabat, senior epidemiologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York.

The height association remained even after scientists adjusted for factors that might influence these cancers, such as age, weight, education, smoking habits, alcohol consumption and hormone therapy. “We were surprised at the number of cancer sites that were positively associated with height. In this data set, more cancers are associated with height than were associated with body mass index (BMI),” added Kabat. Some cancers saw an even higher risk among taller women, such as a 23 to 29 percent increase in the risk of developing cancers of the kidney,

rectum, thyroid, and blood for each additional 10 centimeters of height. None of the 19 cancers studied showed a lower risk with greater height. The study did not establish a certain height level at which cancer risk begins to rise, and Kabat said it is important to remember that the increased risk researchers found was small. “It needs to be kept in mind that factors such as age, smoking, body mass index, and certain other risk factors have considerably larger effects,” he said. “The association of height with a number of cancer sites suggests that exposures in early life, including nutrition, play a role in influencing a person’s risk of cancer.”

Elderly with diabetes 50% likelier to have disability PARIS, July 23, 2013 (AFP) - Older adults with diabetes are between 50 and 80 percent likelier to have a disability compared to people without the disease, according to a review published on Wednesday.

“Although the differences were small and of uncertain clinical significance, if sustained over the years, the compounding effects may well have significant clinical effects,” says the paper.

Researchers at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia, trawled through more than 3,200 previously published studies that explored the link between diabetes and disability.

The researchers say that the cause for the apparent upturn is unknown, and caution against unrestricted use of CACE-1 drugs, given their potential side-effects.

They narrowed the catch down to 26 studies that compared like with like.

The work, appearing in BMJ Open, comes on the heels of research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2009, which found a larger, long-term braking effect on mental decline from CACE-Is.

After 12 years of following women who entered the study without cancer, researchers found links between greater height and higher likelihood of developing cancers of the breast, colon, endometrium, kidney, ovary, rectum, thyroid, as well as multiple myeloma and melanoma.

Most of the people in these studies were aged over 65 -- an age category in which Type-2 diabetes, also called adult onset diabetes, predominates. Disability was defined as either crimped mobility or an impaired ability to perform daily activities such as bath-

ing, eating, using the phone, shopping and using transport. Lead epidemiologist Anna Peeters said the association between diabetes and disability was long known but until now poorly identified. The causes remain mysterious, she said. “It’s possible that the high blood glucose concentrations experienced by people with diabetes might lead to chronic muscle inflammation, eventually resulting in physical disability, and some studies have shown that diabetes is associated with rapid and worsening muscle wasting,” she said. “The complications associated with diabetes, such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease, can all result in disability.

“As the world’s population ages, and diabetes becomes more common, it seems clear that we will see an increased need for disability-related health resources.” The paper appears in the journal The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology. According to the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO), 347 million people around the world have diabetes, a disease in which the body fails to break down glucose in the blood through the hormone insulin. Ninety percent of these have the Type 2 form of the disease, which typically shows up in adulthood or late childhood, driven by obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.

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Misc Asia

Vietnam upholds jail term for hero fish farmer HANOI, July 31, 2013 (AFP) - A Vietnamese fish farmer who became a folk hero after he used homemade weapons to resist forced eviction has lost his appeal against a five-year jail term for attempted murder, a court clerk said Wednesday.

Bidens have orchid named after them in Singapore SINGAPORE, July 26, 2013 (AFP) - US Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill received a customary Singapore honour Friday -- an orchid named after them -- as they paid an official visit to the tropical city state. Singapore has long used orchid naming to recognise international leaders, with high-profile political figures including Nelson Mandela and Margaret Thatcher having blossoms at Singapore’s National Orchid Garden. The Bidens were feted at a ceremony at the 63-hectare (155 acre) garden, where a new hybrid orchid, Dendrobium Joe and Jill Biden, was named in their honour. The vice president signed a symbolic “birth certificate” officially naming the orchid, one of many new varieties constantly being developed in Singapore.

“Mr. Prime Minister, never did I think in my wildest dreams that I would have an orchid named after me and my wife,” a smiling Biden told Singapore’s Lee Hsien Loong. “That was beyond any expectations I ever had as a child or an an adult.” VIP orchid-naming first took root in 1957 during British colonial rule when a variety was named after Anne Black, the wife of London’s high commissioner to Singapore. Singapore is a leading exporter of orchids and its national flower is an indigenous violet-hued variety called the Vanda “Miss Joaquim”.

Doan Van Vuon and his family rose to prominence when they armed themselves with makeshift shotguns and land mines to resist eviction by local authorities. Land rights are a flashpoint issue in the communist country, where land is wholly owned by the state and rights of use are not always clear or protected. Millions of rural tenants such as Vuon are vulnerable to the whims of local officials, who can reclaim land for vaguely defined “public interest” reasons. Experts say this leads to widespread corruption. The rare act of defiance by the 50year-old former soldier triggered a nationwide outpouring of support, with even Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung branding the family’s eviction in January 2012 “illegal”. But Vuon and three of his male relatives still received between two and five years in prison during their trial in April this year, after seven policemen were injured in the stand-off at the farm in Tien Lang district, 55 miles east of Hanoi.

At an appeal hearing in Hai Phong City, which ended Tuesday, the court upheld Vuon’s sentence -- and that of his brother -- for attempted murder, said a court clerk. Farmer Vuon told the court he was driven to take drastic measures after more conventional attempts to resist the eviction orders failed. “I sent complaint letters -- some 100 kilograms worth of letters -- to local authorities, provincial authorities,” but no solution was forthcoming, he said in court, according to a report Tuesday in a newspaper published by Ho Chi Minh City’s Justice Department. “I told my brothers not to injure the eviction forces... the guns, if shot from a distance of 25 to 30 metres, would not have killed people even with a direct hit,” he was quoted as saying. The appeal court reduced sentences for two of Vuon’s relatives, the court clerk added, declining to give further details to AFP. The court saw “no new details to eliminate the sentences, as proposed by Vuon and (his brother) Doan Van Quy,” a report on the news site VNExpress said. “At the trial, the defendants could not show evidence that they were attacked before (they retaliated),” a

Georgia Asian Times August 1-15, 2013

Misc Asia prosecutor said, according to the report. The two other defendants at the appeal trial “were given a reduction for their honesty and regrets” of five and nine months, VNExpress said. Vuon’s five-year sentence was seen by analysts as surprisingly lenient -- attempted murder charges can carry the death penalty -- and an attempt by the government to diffuse public anger over the case in a country where more than 70 percent of all complaints lodged with authorities concern land. “If a population is on the side of someone who has broken the law, then the magistrate or the judge is in a very difficult position,” said Professor Adam Fforde, a Vietnam expert at Australia’s Victoria University.

Words of Wisdom In the authoritarian country, where the government severely limits freedoms of expression and association, there are daily protests in the capital Hanoi over land grabs.

Bobby Ray Carter, 51, died after he was stabbed twice in the chest while his son Adam, 27, suffered a stab wound to his arm, during a fight with members of the house band from the Longhorn Saloon early Wednesday at Ao Nang beach in Krabi. Police said the three musicians were arrested at the scene and confessed to stabbing the Americans. Carter had joined the musicians on stage for a singalong, but a row broke out when he refused to stop singing as the band took a break. On its website the Longhorn Saloon advertises “jam with the band” as one of its attractions, along with “good music, fun fun fun and friendly staff”.

Archery and discus are to men, as songs and dances are to women. Bhutanese proverb A stupid act entails doing the work twice over. Burmese Proverb

Twenty-year “land use rights certificates” issued nationwide in 1993, as the country introduced market reforms, will expire this year.

Aspire to the principle, behave with virtue, abide by benevolence, and immerse yourself in the arts. Chinese Proverb

The government has not made clear what will happen next.

Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it. Chinese Proverb

Public opinion is firmly on the side of the land protesters. One popular blog is named Farmer Vuon “Person of the Year 2012”.

A quitter never wins, a winner never quits. Filipino Proverb Poverty is not a hindrance to success. Filipino Proverb Better to have a diamond with a few small flaws than a rock that is perfect. Indian Proverb

US tourist killed in Thailand for refusing to stop singing

BANGKOK, July 31, 2013 (AFP) - An American tourist was allegedly stabbed to death by three Thai musicians after he refused to stop singing at a bar in a popular tourist resort, police said Wednesday.

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“He and his son quarreled with all three musicians because he wouldn’t stop singing despite the musicians taking a break,” said Lieutenant Colonel Attapong Seanjaiwuth of Krabi tourist police. “He then demanded the money he had already given as a tip back. But the real fight broke out outside of that pub. He was stabbed twice and died while on the way to local hospital.” Thailand has come under scrutiny in recent months over its treatment of foreign tourists, who are a mainstay of the economy. Tourists have registered a series of complaints with authorities over their treatment ranging from jet ski scams, drink spiking, robbery, assault and even police extortion. A dozen European ambassadors recently raised the issue with local authorities on a visit to the resort

Life is not a continuum of pleasant choices, but of inevitable problems that call for strength, determination, and hard work. Indian Proverb The more stupid the child the dearer it is. Japanese Proverb

A ship will go to the mountain if there are too many captains. Korean Proverb Good manners are not bought and sold. Malay Proverb Like a fowl which eats in the morning what it scratches up in the morning, and eats in the afternoon what it scratches up in the afternoon. Malay Proverb The meat-biting tooth is in the mouth; the man-biting tooth is in the soul. Mongolian Proverb Age pays the penalty for the sins of youth. Thai Proverb Men of few principles are apt to take the line of least resistance. Thai Proverb Watch your character; it becomes your destiny. Tibetan Proverb Lies have short legs. Vietnamese Proverb Necessity knows no laws. Vietnamese Proverb

The eyes speak as much as the mouth. Japanese Proverb Habits (learned) at three last until one is eighty. Korean Proverb

island of Phuket -- where a 59-year-old Australian woman was killed in June 2012 in a robbery. Earlier in July an American man was slashed to death by a taxi driver in Bangkok after an apparent argument over the fare. A record 22 million foreigners visited

Thailand last year. Although most did not encounter any serious problems, diplomats say tougher action is needed to ensure their protection.

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‘Smart’ homes open doors to hackers SAN FRANCISCO, July 30, 2013 Smart homes that let residents control alarms, locks and more over the internet are opening doors for crooks with hacker skills, according to computer security specialists. “The smart home trend is growing, and it evolves quickly into a story of security,” said Trustwave managing consultant Daniel Crowley. “Connecting things to a network opens up a whole range of vectors of attack, and when you are talking door locks, garage doors, and alarm controls it gets scary.” Crowley and Trustwave colleague David Bryan found security “pretty poor” on the home networking devices they studied. “If someone can access your home network, but doesn’t have a key to your home, they can still unlock your door and get in,” Crowley said of what he found in gear on the market. Trustwave researchers will share their findings Thursday with peers at a premier Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas and at the infamous Def Con hacker gathering taking place in that city through the weekend. A vulnerability of particular concern to the researchers was that once hackers joined local home networks, perhaps through poorly protected wireless routers or using malware slipped onto

computers, they could control devices with no password or other authentication required. “The fact that you need to be on someone’s local network to exploit these things is not as big a hurdle as you’d imagine,” Crowley said. And the trend of providing people with smartphone applications for controlling smart home devices while away means that crooks who hack into handsets could potentially grab the reins, according to the researchers. There are also ways to use computer “IP” numbers to figure out real-world addresses, and some smart home applications, themselves, reveal location information, according to Trustwave. Combing that capability with hacking tools could put an Internet age twist on home burglaries, the researchers said. “I don’t think this will be something that enables the ordinary criminal to do something they weren’t doing before,” Crowley said. “The big risk is that a compromise could give you access to hundreds of thousands of homes all at once; I could see that as an attack someone could actually use to launch a crime spree.”

Facebook toys with mobile game publishing SAN FRANCISCO, July 30, 2013 (AFP) - Facebook on Tuesday got into the business of publishing mobile games, offering developers help at going global with smartphone or tablet titles in exchange for a share of revenue. The leading social network announced a Facebook Mobile Games Publishing pilot program in which it will work with small or medium-sized developers and promote their works in the online community. “There are many developers with awesome mobile games who don’t yet have the upfront resources for a paid strategy, and we want to help them find a path to success,” Facebook software engineer Victor Medeiros said in a blog post. “We are using our unique reach and targeting capabilities to help games in our program find and engage a valuable audience of the right users.” More than 800 million members of the social network use Facebook mobile applications, and 260 million of those people play games on Facebook, according to Medeiros. Facebook has made a priority of following its more than one billion members onto smart phones and tablets, and of finding ways to make money from visits by users on mobile devices. Along with mobile ads in the form

of “promoted” posts, Facebook makes commissions for getting members to install applications made by outside developers. Facebook shares have climbed to new highs since the California-based company last week reported quarterly earnings showing surging mobile revenues that some saw as a turning point for the social networking giant. The shares were up again on Tuesday, hitting $37.18 in late trades. Facebook shares fell sharply after the highly anticipated IPO in May of last year and have yet to get back to the offering price of $38. Analysts have been keen for Facebook to prove it can profit from members increasingly opting for smart phones or tablets instead of desktop computers to get online. “This program is designed to reach people who already play games on Facebook with new games that may interest them,” Medeiros said of mobile games publishing. “We’ll also be sharing analytics tools and the expertise we’ve gained from helping games grow on our platform for more than six years.”

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August 1-15, 2013 Georgia Asian Times

August Horoscope Snake (2013 2001 1989 1977 1965 1953 1941 1929 1917 1905) Being compassionate by nature, you find it difficult to stand back while others are struggling. Discuss the difficulties they are facing if you must, but resist the temptation to offer financial aid or advice. This could confuse matters and soon could lead to complex misunderstanding or give them false hope. Often a problem as such is best dealt with logically. You will analyze the situation, then list the pros and cons. Presently, you are better off trusting your intuition. While you may not be able to justify this way of making decisions to them, deep down you know it is for the best.

Pig (2007 1995 1983 1971 1959 1947 1935 1923 1911) You would rather make plans and stick with them. There is a difference between analyzing the various situations you are dealing with and over-thinking them. You could be at risk because the actual circumstances are changing. Understand that and you will focus on other matters until things are calmer. However with the world around you changing and your priorities shifting regularly, it is better if plans are flexible. You will soon be convinced this is the best approach to organizing your life.

Horse (2002 1990 1978 1966 1954 1942 1930 1918 1906) Tempting, as it is to fight to keep certain arrangements going; you may regret it at some stage. Deep down you know that these changes are inevitable and perhaps in your best interests too. Yet you rather like things as they are. Still the longer you put off those changes; the more difficult it will be to make them. Unsettling as these seemed at the time, you are only now recognizing these are allowing you to break free of habits that are holding you back. Obviously you would not feel comfortable since the changes make you feel out of your comfort zone.

Rat (2008 1996 1984 1972 1960 1948 1936 1924 1912) There is a fine line between allowing your mind to drift or wander from various plans or ideas and actual daydreaming. While usually the latter is about drifting off into the realms of the impossible, it would appear that some of what you come up with could turn into worthwhile and in some cases lasting arrangements. Perhaps the trick is to capture those visions for long enough to figure out ways to make them a part of your life or career progress. You never know this could eventually lead to greater success and more importantly maintain a positive attitude.

Sheep (2003 1991 1979 1967 1955 1943 1931 1919 1907) There is a difference between responding swiftly to events, which is one of your strengths and being skilled at knowing when to adopt a more measured pace. The ability to discern when fast action is best and when to take your time may not come naturally to you. But it is worth learning about now. Regard it as an investment in your future, as it will be crucial in what you are currently facing but be even more significant over the coming weeks. Monkey (2004 1992 1980 1968 1956 1944 1932 1920 1908) Not too long ago, you were sure of your long-range ambitions or goals and what would be necessary to achieve them. However, recent ideas or encounters or offers are getting so exciting that you are perhaps being forced to reconsider most of the things. Disruptive as this could be, treat these as once in a lifetime opportunities but not forgetting that it may have a sting in its tail. Take more time if necessary to evaluate all foreseeable scenarios and leave the rest to faith and destiny. Rooster (2005 1993 1981 1969 1957 1945 1933 1921 1909) Exciting as recent ideas or offers were, the far-reaching changes they would have involved, worried you then and still do. Hopefully, these concerns did not keep you from taking things further. If so, there is still time to say yes. You should not regret it and even complicated issues could be ironed out but with some complication. Hence if things are looking to become more complex as you step into the arena, always have a backup plan to allow you to maneuver out of harm’s way. Dog (2006 1994 1982 1970 1958 1946 1934 1922 1910) Few things annoy you more than those who nurture resentments. While you have had your share of clashes in the past, once you have talked or discussed over issues, you usually put them to rest. Now that you are wrestling with such matters, you have a better understanding of the struggles others encounter. While you are perfectly happy to talk over others’ concerns, you dread discussions that are lengthy or which become over-emotional.

Ox (2009 1997 1985 1973 1961 1949 1937 1925 1913) Do not allow recent disappointing discussions or acrimonious conversations to make you think there is no point raising vital issues. When you last talked these over, circumstances were in transition and others were also preoccupied. Now that the atmosphere is calmer, it will be easier to tackle and deal with the matters in a more mature fashion. No doubt there are going to be other teething issues that could require another session of discussions. But at least the chance of reconciliation has been improved. Do not consider the huddle ahead as a battlefield but just another intricate challenge. Tiger (2010 1998 1986 1974 1962 1950 1938 1926 1914) The term ‘brainstorming’ is often used to describe an exchange of ideas among those who share an objective or vision. Yet those you are dealing with are looking after their own interests. The minute you stop fooling yourself about their motivations, everything else will make sense and you should be able to view things from a new viewpoint. After reflecting on the situation, you are finally realizing the developments you welcomed least were actually most productive or profitable. While you had to make changes, you were also forced to explore options that you would never have considered. Rabbit (2011 1999 1987 1975 1963 1951 1939 1927 1915 1903) If things do not go as anticipated, you can be hard on yourself. Deep and persistent as this habit is, try to break it. Do so and you will stop worrying about whether your plans go as anticipated. Others may complain you are not prepared to commit to far-reaching plans. Between the current changes in circumstances and your own shifting priorities, this is no time to formulate a single plan. Ideally, you will keep arrangements loose. Better yet, you will start taking chances on ideas you would otherwise have regarded as too risky. Dragon (2012 2000 1988 1976 1964 1952 1940 1928 1916 1904) Few things annoy you more than those who assume that just because they see promise in a plan or business idea that you should adopt it. This irritates you so much that sometimes you will say no simply to make a point. Do that now, however you could bypass something wonderful. Once you actually begin to investigate who and what is involved, you will discover just how much potential the ideas or ventures in question hold. After that, those feelings of irritation will gradually disappear.

Georgia Asian Times August 1-15, 2013  

Georgia Asian Times covers the multicultural Asian American community in metro Atlanta and Georgia.