31 October, 2005

land-mine detecting plant

AsiaPundit is amazed by this latest piece of bio-technology news, while not specifically Asia related, this could have great applications in Cambodia and, eventually, in a unified Korea…. a plant that can detect landmines.:

IMG_0475Danish scientists have made a scientific discovery with significant humanitarian and environmental potential. They have shown that it is possible to produce plants which change colour in the presence of specific compounds within the soil, opening the way for the first bomb and land-mine detection plant.

Danish Company Aresa Biodetection has been working on the plant for several years but has now developed the plant to the stage where it is a becoming commercially viable biodetection system and can change colour from green to red within 3-5 weeks of growth.

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by @ 10:09 pm. Filed under Cambodia, Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia

wanted: executioner

Singapore is set to execute an Australian drug trafficker who was caught in transit at Changi Airport. The man who will perform the job has been revealed and profiled in the Australian newspaper (via Omeka Na Huria).:

Executioner.2The hangman who will execute Australian drug trafficker Van Tuong Nguyen in Singapore has been revealed as a semi-retired 73-year-old grandfather.

In a matter of weeks, Darshan Singh will place a rope around the 25-year-old’s neck and say the words he has spoken to more than 850 condemned prisoners during his 46 years as Singapore’s chief executioner.

"I am going to send you to a better place than this. God bless you."

Nguyen’s hopes of escaping the gallows receded further yesterday when the Singaporean Government confirmed that it would not make an exception for the Australian.

Mr Singh has officially retired from the prison service but is called upon to carry out executions, for which he receives a fee of $S400 (Au$312).

Until now, his indentity has been a closely guarded secret in Singapore.

Officials rarely comment on capital punishment, which is carried out without publicity behind the walls of Changi prison.

But The Australian can reveal today that the 73-year-old grandfather, who lives in a modest, government-owned apartment near the border with Malaysia, has been asked to execute Nguyen unless the Singapore Government gives an unprecedented last-minute reprieve.

Mr Singh told The Australian yesterday that under the Official Secrets Act he was forbidden from speaking about his work.

A colleague and close friend, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told The Australian that Mr Singh wanted to give up his hangman’s responsibilities and live quietly in retirement but the authorities were having trouble finding anyone to replace him.

"He tried to train two would-be hangmen to replace him, a Malaysian and a Chinese, both in the prison service," the colleague said.

"But when it came to pulling the lever for the real thing, they both froze and could not do it.

"The Chinese guy, a prison officer, became so distraught he walked out immediately and resigned from the prison service altogether."

If the city state needs another executioner to replace Mr Singh, I would recommend raising the salary to above US$236 per execution. Better still, abolish the position.

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by @ 8:53 pm. Filed under Singapore, Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia


Kidnapping for profit is not something you associate with China, especially not Shanghai. That’s something for smaller economies and with smaller criminal classes. Via China Law Prof blog, a Forbes item on the dangers of doing business in China. Entrepreneur David Ji alleges that he was held hostage, had his life threatened and was forced to sign over his multi-million dollar business to a state-owned supplier.:

DavidjiThe video is dull and grainy, but it shows a real-life drama: A comeuppance for David Ji, a celebrated U.S.-bred entrepreneur who built a billion-dollar business importing dirt-cheap DVD players from a booming China, where he was born, and selling them at Wal-Mart and Circuit City stores in the U.S., his adopted home for two decades. As the camera rolled last December, Ji–a U.S. citizen held against his will in Shanghai by the authorities–glumly says he has signed over control of his company, Apex Digital, to a government-owned supplier that has accused him of a massive fraud.

In the video (an exclusive copy of which can be viewed by clicking here), Ji, age 53, is surrounded by his accusers in a spare condominium owned by the supplier, Sichuan Changhong Electric. A Changhong representative helpfully prods him along. The supplier insists Ji has waffled on paying $470 million for millions of U.S.-bound DVD units and TV sets it shipped to Apex, further charging that he kited $85 million in bogus checks.

What the video doesn’t show is this:The day before, an uncooperative Ji, flanked by guards, was taken to see Changhong’s senior management, Ji’s lawyer says. Inexplicably, agents snipped the buttons off of Ji’s shirt and pants, and as he stood there, humiliated and barefoot and holding on to his trousers so they wouldn’t fall down, a Changhong senior executive told him: “I decide whether you live or die.”

A Forbes report including video of the incident is here. There were obviously missteps on the part of Ji. However, the question of whether he was involved in fraud should be decided in the courts, not (if he is to be believed) through extortion.

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by @ 7:21 pm. Filed under China, Asia, East Asia, Economy, Northeast Asia

manila halloween round-up

The Inquirer headlines Palace paranoia concerning the President’s praetorian guard, while the Palace also says they’re “steadfastly loyal”. The Manila Times perceives it as a symptom of a deeper unease between the President, former President Ramos, and the USA. The Manila Standard-Today has a curious story: Lotto winners kidnap swindler who duped them.

In the punditocracy, my column for today is Remembrance of books past. The Inquirer editorial takes a cue from Edwin Lacierda’s view that the disappearance of a Department of Agriculture undersecretary (accused of funneling fertilizer funds to the President’s campaign) is a black eye for Rotary International: add to this the view of online columnist Billy Esposo, that de la Salle University’s athletics woes represents the perils of a “win at all cost” mentality, and we really do have a crisis in all our institutions, as I pointed out abroad.

Dan Mariano points out the recent conviction of terrorists was done without the benefit of an anti-terror law.

Marichu Villanueva says the Secretary of Finance is having nightmares about the VAT; Fel Maragay wonders if the law can’t be softened a bit.Today, of course, is the last day of life as we know it, or before the implementation of the VAT increases that begins tomorrow. And as for Fidel V. Ramos planning (or having planned) a coup, Patricio Diaz says it’s madness.

In the blogosphere, Newsstand is irked by the President’s not-so-subtle declaration of war on ABS-CBN, using Inquirer columnist Mon Tulfo (in the words of a colleague) as her guided torpedo: Philippine Commentary is a little more skeptical about everyone’s motives (the media included); journalist Ellen Tordesillas has been blogging for some days now (hoorah!); The Unlawyer has returned (and is no longer anonymous); PCIJ delves into the Reform Agenda of the Black & White Movement (full disclosure: I am one of the convenors of B&W); Newsboy complains that the opposition simply isn’t helping (who? what? when? where? why?); Ricky Carandang, after pointing out the problem of the country is that we have a low-trust society, delves into the reasons behind our not having trust: our dependence on servants (to which reader Manuel Buencamino cleverly replies that having servants teaches management skills, and I agree); reports on an effort by young radicals to set up some Google bombs, by linking the phrase “pekeng pangulo” to the President’s website (see? that was easy). Incidentally, my favorite Communist blogger has penned an eloquent justification of why she’s a Communist

by @ 5:34 pm. Filed under Philippines

blacklisted again

From tests using Shanghai- and Beijing-based trace route servers, it seems China has again extended its censoring of TypePad blogs to those that are hosted on ‘name.typepad.com’ sites and on domain-mapped sites such as this one. Typepad blogs hosted as "blogs.com" sites have been blocked since earlier this year.

The blocking of blogger/blogspot services has also been restored.


Just in time for next week’s bloggercon in Shanghai.

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by @ 2:00 pm. Filed under Blogs, China, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Media, Web/Tech, Weblogs, Censorship

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