Feb 28

STREET vendors selling deep-fried insects as snacks are a familiar sight in Bangkok, but a Thai entrepreneur is trying to give edible bugs a more upmarket appeal.

Panitan Tongsiri will launch his “HiSo,” short for high-society, brand of seasoned insect snacks in March and plans to stock them at gourmet food markets in the Thai capital.

Crunchy crickets and worms would be a delicacy available in plain salt, cheese, seaweed and barbecue flavours at 25 baht (77 US cents) per pack, said the 29-year-old businessman.

“I want to elevate its level from what is considered street food into something safe and modern,” Panitan said.

Though many in the West shy away from fried worms and cicadas, the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization has said eating insects has health benefits and they could be a food source for the world’s growing population.

“Insects are a highly nutritious and healthy food source with high fat, protein, vitamin, fiber and mineral content,” the FAO said in a 2013 report.

Bettina Lasbeck, 52, tried the HiSo insect snacks at a tasting session in Bangkok.

“It tastes better than I thought,” she said.

Crickets and worm snacks are sold outside pubs and bars in Thailand and neighboring countries, usually as an accompaniment to beer and whisky.

But the Southeast Asian working-class snack is slowly finding a place in gourmet European cuisine. French culinary arts school Le Cordon Bleu held a seminar on “Edible Insects in a Gastronomic Context” in Bangkok earlier this month.

“It’s been a challenge to overcome our own prejudices about insects,” Christophe Mercier, an instructor at the Paris-based school, said.

The market potential for HiSo delicacies is huge in terms of taste and as food security, said Panitan.

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Feb 13

Companies and financial institutions in Shanghai’s free trade zone are now allowed to borrow from overseas in both Chinese and foreign currencies with greater flexibility, another step toward capital account convertibility in FTZ financial reforms, the Shanghai headquarters of the People’s Bank of China said yesterday.

Companies, banks and brokerages will not need to apply for administrative approval to borrow from overseas under the special free trade account system used in the zone, the Shanghai headquarters said as it released regulations regarding offshore financing and risk management.

They will be allowed to raise up to twice the value of their registered capital but the actual amount of money they can get will depend on the currency, its use and the term of the loan.

For example, companies will not be able to use their full quota if they borrow foreign currency loans on terms shorter than a year, the Shanghai headquarters said.

Previously, non-financial companies were only allowed to borrow yuan from overseas and the amount was restricted to no more than the registered capital of the company.

Banks previously were not allowed to borrow yuan from overseas.

The move is part of the authorities’ efforts to boost the economy by lowering borrowing costs for companies and banks, and is a step toward capital account convertibility as the rules set up a unified management system for offshore fundraising in local and foreign currencies, said Zhang Xin, the Shanghai headquarters’ deputy director.

The new policy could further lift Shanghai’s status as a financial center as the area of the Shanghai free trade zone is planned to quadruple to cover the Lujiazui financial area, Jinqiao development area and Zhangjiang High-Tech Park, Zhang said.

Wang Jianxin, deputy head of Shanghai Pudong Development Bank’s free trade zone branch, said the new rules will enable borrowers to get low-cost foreign currency loans within half an hour, and companies will enjoy greater freedom during cross-border trade and investment.

The annual interest rate for a foreign currency loan could be half that of a one-year loan in yuan, Wang said.

It is the first time foreign currency transactions are being allowed under the free trade account system, and the bank said it will continue to drive financial reforms including capital account convertibility and interest rate liberalization in the zone.

It said offshore fundraising regulations for companies are basically complete after yesterday’s announcement and it will consider opening up individual offshore borrowing.

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Feb 13

The mainland internet regulator will target fraud on dating websites and other online match-making sites, Xinhua news agency reported.

“Fraud on dating websites has become a public nuisance to millions of users, especially young people, who use such services,” Xinhua cited a statement from the Cyberspace Administration of China as saying.

The campaign lists “fraud rings, prostitution and service providers’ fraudulent practices as major targets”, Xinhua said.

“Dating websites must enforce online real-name registration and accounts failing to register with real names must be closed,” it added, providing no further details.

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Feb 13

A decline in jewelry consumption more than offset the growth in demand for gold investment and central bank buying and led to a fall in global gold consumption, the World Gold Council said yesterday.

Gold consumption worldwide fell 4 percent last year from 2013 to 3,924 tons, the WGC said in a report.

But the year ended strong as demand in the fourth quarter rose 6 percent year on year to 987 tons, helped by demand for jewelry and central bank buying.

The WGC expects China’s gold consumption to rise to between 900 and 1,000 tons this year, with jewelry contributing about 70 percent of the volume.

“2014 was a year of stabilization in the gold market, with annual gold demand down by just 4 percent after the record-breaking buying seen in 2013,” said Marcus Grubb, managing director, investment strategy at the WGC.

“It was a standout year for Indian jewelry, despite government restrictions on gold imports. Meanwhile Chinese gold demand returned to levels last seen in 2011 and 2012.”

Jewelry remained the biggest source of demand — 2,153 tons — for gold last year. But demand “unsurprisingly” fell 10 percent compared with the previous year due to the price-driven demand surge for jewelry in 2013, the WGC said.

India had its strongest year for jewelry demand since the WGC records began in 1995, up 8 percent last year to 662 tons, driven by weddings and festival buying despite government curbs on gold imports for most of the year.

Chinese jewelry demand dimmed 33 percent year on year, but it still represented the second-best year for jewelry demand in China since the WGC records began.

Investment demand rose 2 percent to 905 tons in 2014 from 885 tons in 2013.

Central bank demand climbed 17 percent from a year earlier to 477 tons as gold remained a valuable reserve to hold.

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Feb 04

TOKYO — Japanese police have arrested a man for allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting more than 100 women who believed they were taking part in a medical study, detectives and local media said Tuesday.

Detectives say scores of women responded to advertisements seeking volunteers for “clinical research measuring blood pressure during sleep” over two years to November 2013.

They believe Hideyuki Noguchi, 54, gave the women sedatives after luring them to hotels and hot spring resorts.

Once the women were unconscious, he raped them and filmed each assault, police said.

Footage of the attacks was posted on the Internet or sold to producers of porn films, allegedly netting Noguchi more than 10 million yen, TBS and other broadcasters said.

Noguchi is not known to have any medical training or expertise.

A spokesman for police in Chiba said officers had confirmed at least 39 victims, aged from their teens to their 40s in Tokyo, Chiba, Osaka, Tochigi and Shizuoka.

Detectives believe they are just a fraction of the total number of women whom Noguchi attacked, thought to number well over 100, media reports said.

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Feb 04

POLICE found over 5,000 yuan (US$799) cash in a beggar’s bag when she was caught trying to evade fare at Metro Line 3’s Shilong Road Station.

The woman, in her 20s, entered the station without a ticket on January 25 when she was stopped by Metro staff and asked to pay 84 yuan fine for evading fare.

During the procedure, Metro police found a black bag that she hung on to very tightly drawing suspicion.

They ordered the woman to open the bag, and found 5,000 yuan cash in notes and coins.

The woman confessed that she had been begging along lines 3 and 4 with her mother.

The money was her “earning” of the past few days, she said.

Metro operator Shentong Group has urged commuters not to give money to beggars who disturb public order in the subways. It said beggars will be told to leave the station or fined 50 yuan.

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Feb 04

WITH a personal fortune of US$26 billion, solar power tycoon Li Hejun was yesterday named the richest person on China’s mainland.

According to the Hurun Global Rich List 2015, the boss of Beijing-based renewable energy firm Hanergy overtook Alibaba founder Jack Ma to become the 12th person in 16 years to take the title.

Li was one of 430 billionaires from China’s mainland to make the global ranking. The number was 72 more than last year — mostly due to the stock market boom — and cemented the country’s position as second only to the United States, which secured 537 places on the list.

At the top of the pile was Microsoft founder Bill Gates, whose personal wealth was estimated at US$85 billion.

China also claimed the title for the most “rags to riches” stories, accounting for 61 percent of the self-made billionaires, compared with just 13 percent for the US.

The mean age of the billionaires from China’s mainland was 58, a full six years lower than the global average of 64.

Five Chinese cities, including Hong Kong and Beijing, were among the top 20 “homes” of the super-rich.

By industry, most of the Chinese billionaires on the list made their fortunes from real estate. The segment was topped by Li Ka-shing from Hong Kong with US$32 billion, followed by Wang Jianlin, chairman of Dalian Wanda Group with US$25 billion, who also placed second overall for the Chinese mainland.

On a global scale, technology, media and telecoms were the key industries, said Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher of the Hurun Report.

The “TMT” group included 297 billionaires from around the world, of which 41 were from China’s mainland. The tech sector was the third-biggest creator of billionaires on the Chinese mainland, after manufacturing, which produced 70.

The high market valuations of China’s technology stocks played a big role in boosting wealth in the sector.

The year’s biggest gainer was Liu Qiangdong of JD.com, who saw his personal wealth quadruple to US$6.7 billion following an initial public offering.

The personal wealth of Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma and his family soared in September following the company’s record-breaking US$25 billion initial public offering in New York.

But their combined fortune of US$24.5 billion was good enough only for third place on the list of the richest people on the Chinese mainland.

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Sep 14

China Watch Blog has learnt that approximately 4.93 million Gmail usernames and passwords were published to a Russian Bitcoin forum on Tuesday, as first reported by Russian website CNews. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that this leak doesn’t seem as massive upon further inspection. First off, we got in touch with Google regarding the issue. The company does not believe this is the result of any sort of security breach on its end.

“The security of our users’ information is a top priority for us,” a Google spokesperson told TNW. “We have no evidence that our systems have been compromised, but whenever we become aware that accounts may have been, we take steps to help those users secure their accounts.”

Next, since the posting, the forum administrators have purged the passwords from the text file in question, leaving only the logins. Furthermore, tvskit, the forum user who published the file, claimed that some 60 percent of the passwords were valid.

A quick analysis of the text file shows it includes mainly English, Spanish, and Russian accounts, but also that it seems to combine older lists accumulated over a longer period of time. There could thus be a link to hacks of sites unrelated to Gmail or any of Google’s services, especially if users are choosing the same usernames and passwords for other accounts, as well as phishing attacks.

As a result, this leak likely affects significantly fewer than 5 million users. Many have likely changed their passwords, and certain entries could be for suspended accounts, duplicates or simply outdated.

If you want to check whether your account is included in the leak, you can head to isleaked.com and input your email address (English translation here). We wouldn’t necessarily recommend doing so, however (email addresses could always be accumulated for later spamming): changing your password regardless of whether you’re on the list or not can’t hurt.

Google has taken steps to help them secure their accounts and given them usual recommendations to protect their devices from malware. The company also recommended enabling 2-step verification.


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Sep 12

China Watch Blog has learnt that as with every year over this transitional period, tens of thousands of recently graduated young people take their first tentative steps into the employment market, swelling the ranks of job seekers. Faced with increased competition and globalised hiring practices, new certificate holders are expected, now more than ever, to guarantee the authenticity of their key means of communication and persuasion: their CV and academic qualifications.

Meanwhile, major universities and other educational institutions are taking charge of their destiny by combating fraud to protect their most valuable assets: the reputation of their education level and the guarantee of excellence of their alumni. To offer a concrete solution to these significant challenges, CVTrust has developed Smart Diploma™, a unique online platform for education professionals, enabling them to design, format, manage and issue digital certificates of all kinds to their communities of graduates, including diplomas, transcripts, badges or even letters of acknowledgement. This solution is in line with the inevitable trend towards digitisation, a turn that has already been taken by telecom companies, banks and public institutions.

This innovative solution delivers outstanding added value to graduates by allowing them to store their academic credential(s) in a highly secure personal encrypted electronic ‘safe’, which remains entirely under their own control at all times. This facility makes it easy to present their invaluable documents to potential employers by downloading them as a PDF, inserting a hyperlink into their CV or directly integrating them onto their social networks.

After first getting some prestigious names in the academic world on board (in Europe and across the Atlantic), including INSEAD (France and Singapore), IMD in Lausanne (Switzerland) and the MIT Sloan School of Management (Massachusetts, USA), Smart Diploma™ has continued to develop abroad, with new renowned players such as HULT (international), Mannheim Business School (Germany), Nyenrode (Netherlands), GMAC (international) and Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management (Belgium).

“At a time when we are witnessing an unbundling of the value chain in the education sector and the democratisation of access to teaching, and when continuous training is increasingly becoming the norm, Smart Diploma™ is much more than just a secure repository for credentials. This platform is a digital passport, a true integrity label, allowing communities of graduates to value their most precious assets and ultimately opening doors to promising career opportunities”, stresses David Goldenberg, co-founder and CEO of CVTrust. “In other words, Smart Diploma™ is positioned as the critical missing link in the educator/pupil/recruiter ecosystem.” 

CVTrust has recently been awarded a contract in an open tender process from the Paris-Île-de-France Chamber of Commerce and Industry, gaining access to twenty schools facing similar challenges in terms of administration, prestige and sustainable relationships with their alumni. This achievement now puts the company at the head of the pack to provide these schools with a dynamic, intelligent and user-friendly credentials management tool that has already won over eminent references on the French market, including HEC Paris, Science Po Paris, Institut Mines-Télécom, Novancia Business School, INSEEC, Studialis.

At the same time, CVTrust has launched a pilot project with a number of high schools in Paris’ region to support them in digitising their baccalaureate qualifications. This means that CVTrust is diversifying its position across numerous sectors of the educational market, reaffirming once again the universality of its solution, be it in terms of implementation (in SaaS or integrated mode), markets, issuers of qualifications (initial and continuing educational institutions) or compliance with privacy regulations (European and American markets).

In addition to being an ingenious service to kick-start your working life and pursue your career under optimal conditions, Smart Diploma™ constitutes a valuable promotional tool for graduates to demonstrate their acquired qualifications as well as for institutions to enhance their visibility and reputation. Indeed, it is possible to endorse the diploma[1] with a banner (Smart Ads™) that redirects visitors to the website of the issuing institution, if desired by the latter. This provides the best possible exposure via the qualifications of the institution’s ultimate and most loyal ambassadors, setting in motion a real relationship of trust between the institution and its alumni.

CVTrust has also carved out a position as the ideal partner for MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and LMS (Learning Management Systems) by integrating Smart Diploma™ into their e-learning platform so that they can provide certificates to their thousands of subscribers in the most convenient, transparent and secure way. In addition, a recent collaboration with a renowned professional social network allows alumni (Smart Diploma™ holders) to post their official digital credentials in the appropriate slot on their personal profile, without tedious manipulation and in a completely safe manner, allowing recruiters to verify the integrity of the uploaded documents beforehand and in a single click.

“According to our calculation, the fraud of one’s expertise costs European companies an average of 8 billion Euro a year, while American companies face a loss of 7.7 billion dollars. Consequences can be tragic, be it on the operational level for the employer or in terms of reputation and therefore professional future for the ‘cheater’”, concludes Pierre-David Dewaele, co-founder and CTO of CVTrust. “Smart  Diploma™ constitutes a true shield against falsification, re-establishes confidence in the work sector and allows for an good return on investment for our clients as they can easily and rapidly save money on administration, logistic, printing and communication cost items.”

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Sep 02

China Watch Blog has learnt that flight 370 conspiracy theories are everywhere on the internet, almost six months since it went missing without a trace. The southern Indian Ocean is being called the Boeing 777’s “final resting place”, but no evidence has been found.

One conspiracy theory suggests the plane was shot down by military ops, specifically US-Thai strike fighters, by mistake.

Another theory is that the plane was taken to the highly secretive Diego Garcia Island as part of a US military plan. There is enough room to land such a large plane, but could there have been something on board the US military wanted? A dismantled drone with sensitive information was on board, according to some reports.

Some theories point to a hijacking, for the plane to be used for a greater plan at a later time. How did it fly off radar? By “hiding behind” another aircraft, such as Singapore Airlines’ Flight 68 if the planes were within a thousand metres of each other, through Indian and Afghanistan airspace.

Other conspiracy theories include a life insurance scam, the “Asian Bermuda Triangle” and alien abduction. However, the pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, remains the prime suspect for many. Could he have had a breakdown, killing everyone on board, re-pressurizing the cabin and flying for four hours to the middle of nowhere?

The Inquisitr / The Mirror UK / The Telegraph

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