Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mind your language

Communication major dimensions schemeImage via Wikipedia

John Bittleston, succeed@mediacorp.com.sg

AN EXCELLENT way to destroy a society or an organisation is to drown it in jargon.

Over the past decade, there has been serious murder of the language.

As our technical ability to communicate quickly and efficiently has increased - exponentially in the last few years - so abuse by incompetently and unnecessarily invented language has grown to match it, in all languages. Pick up any official document, any terms and conditions, any contract between two organisations or people and you will see dozens of examples.

Many organisations want to confuse the customer. Did you read the small print on the last insurance or banking contract you signed? I doubt it. Even if you could see the 6-point font in which it was produced, it is unlikely you would have understood more than a fifth of the words. You were probably being urged to sign it quickly while the "special offer" lasted. This is theft, but don't try prosecuting.

You have already signed away your rights to honest dealing, competence, promptness and redress. You have been changed from victim into perpetrator.

Then there is self-aggrandisement. Spouting a lot of words or mnemonics that others don't understand makes some people imagine they are successful and important. They are merely making themselves appear ridiculous and insecure.

A more complex slaughter of the language is caused by the widening gap between the sound-bite and the so-called research paper.

The fact that the world is becoming a more complex place is surely a signal for simpler, clearer communications.

We cannot avoid soundbites, and relevant ones have been with mankind since the dawn of civilisation. The warning grunt of Neanderthal Man alerting others to the arrival of hostile creatures and the sigh of the lovelorn for knowledge they are denied are both useful and expressive soundbites. But a soundbite is to communication what a peanut is to dinner: Titillating but unsatisfying.

At the other extreme is the Research Paper. Deep studies of our world are vital and welcome. They have been the basis of our longevity, our increasingly fulfilled and pain-free lives and our material well-being. Without them, progress would be slow, sporadic and uncertain.

However, truly good papers are well-researched, intelligible, devoid of unnecessary complexity and brief. World War II was won by the Allies because they insisted that all paper submissions be restricted to one page. Long, tortuous documents allowing the author to cover his posterior were forbidden.

It is widely agreed the world is becoming a more complex place. It has certainly been so in my lifetime. This should surely be seen as the signal for simpler, clearer communications, not for increasingly confusing ones. I wish it were practical to impose a word tax; alas, it is not.

Easy and cheap access to communication of every sort offers the possibility of more widespread appreciation of the arts and a deeper understanding of man's true spirituality - the beauty he creates himself with the tools he was given at birth.

Do any of the communications degrees so ardently studied today provide this kind of appreciation? Have these courses contributed to the real quality of life?

But this is what communication is about. Increased years of life are wasted if, at the end, we cannot say that we have had, within the limits imposed by our genes and the environment in which we were raised, a fulfilled life. Any education that does not contribute to all aspects of fulfilment is not education but training. Any communication that fails to enhance the quality of the precious gift we are given at birth is not informing but selling.

A good education and true communication together make life wonderfully fulfilled.

John Bittleston mentors people in business, career and their personal lives at www.TerrificMentors.com.

From TODAY, Business – Monday, 27-Jul-2009

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Modern wind energy plant in rural scenery.Image via Wikipedia

Herders won over by project to meet rising demand and to end blackouts

NAIROBI - One of the hottest places in the world is to become the site of Africa's most ambitious venture in the battle against global warming.

Some 365 giant wind turbines are to be installed in desert around Lake Turkana in northern Kenya, creating the biggest windfarm on the continent.

Windfarms could help meet surging demand for electricity in Kenya

When completed in 2012, the £533 million ($1.24 billion) project will have a capacity of 300MW, a quarter of Kenya's current installed power and one of the highest proportions of wind energy to be fed in a national grid anywhere in the world.

Until now, only north African countries such as Morocco and Egypt have harnessed wind power for commercial purposes. But projects are beginning to bloom south of the Sahara as governments realise that harnessing the vast wind potential can efficiently meet a surging demand for electricity and end blackouts.

Ethiopia has commissioned a £190 million, 120MW farm in Tigray region, representing 15 per cent of the current electricity capacity, and intends to build several more. In March, South Africa, which relies heavily on coal, became the first African country to announce a feed-in tariff for wind power, whereby customers generating electricity receive cash for selling power to the grid.

Kenya is trying to lead the way. Besides the Turkana project, which is being backed by the African Development Bank, private investors have proposed establishing a second windfarm near the tourist town of Naivasha.

In the Ngong hills near Nairobi, Masai herders and elite long-distance athletes used to braving the frigid winds along the escarpment already have towering company: Six 50-m turbines from the Danish company Vestas that were installed last month and will add 5.1MW to the national grid from August.

Kenya's electricity is already very green by global standards. Nearly 75 per cent of state power company KenGen's capacity comes from hydropower, and a further 11 per cent from geothermal

plants.

Fewer than one in five Kenyans has access to electricity but demand is rising quickly, particularly in rural areas and from businesses. At the same time, increasingly erratic rainfall patterns have affected hydroelectricity output. Within five years, the government wants to drastically reduce the reliance on hydropower by adding 500MW of geothermal power and 800MW of wind energy to the grid.

If the Lake Turkana Wind Power project succeeds, the Dutch consortium estimates that there is the potential for the farm to generate a further 2,700MW of power, some of which could be exported, bringing additional financial advantage to the country. THE GUARDIAN

From TODAY, World – Wednesday, 29-Jul-2009

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:en:Wayne Swan, Treasurer of Australia Source ...Image via Wikipedia

At first I thought that what I saw was a news comment from the US… I was wrong. The treasurer who spoke was speaking for Australia. And rightly so, because the other day (if not this morning), I saw a paper indicating that half, or more than half, of US establishments, have declared that sales have bottomed out. That is something to be reckoned with: an already staggering economy, reeling from the past blows, is once again dealt with a blow, perhaps a heavier one.

As for the Australian treasurer's declaration, read it here. Perhaps migration destination may change… to Australia. But something to watch out for there is the racial discrimination. But in which country is discrimination not happening?

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Still on the fluctuating oil price, it seems that it is playing within the $65 price range, going up, then going down. The pre-conceived recovery... it may not happen, or if it does, not so soon... are we facing another round or a dip in the economy... a second wave of recession?

GMANews.TV - Oil plunges to near $65 on fears recovery may lag - Business - Official Website of GMA News and Public Affairs - Latest Philippine News

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Map of North KoreaImage via Wikipedia

Even with the growing unrest in the countries surronding North Korea, the country still goes on with its missile testing…

Catch the latest news here.

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Physical disasters, as well as financial, here is another cheat, and right at the very center of where the financial activities are.

Read the story here.

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Posted: 02 July 2009 0417 hrs

An attendant fills a car with petrol at a service station.

NEW YORK: Oil prices fell on Wednesday after bouncing above 71 dollars as markets reacted to a mixed report on US petroleum inventories.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for August delivery fell 58 cents from Tuesday's closing price to 69.31 dollars a barrel.

Brent North Sea crude for August delivery lost 51 cents to 68.79 dollars per barrel.

The US Department of Energy said in its weekly report that American crude oil reserves tumbled 3.7 million barrels in the week ending June 26, the fourth weekly drop in a row.

The market had expected a lighter decline of 2.1 million barrels.

But the department also reported growing domestic inventories of key refined products gasoline and distillates.

Gasoline or petrol stocks rose 2.3 million barrels, and distillates, which include diesel and heating duel, increased by 2.9 million barrels last week.

"Product demand is simply awful. Products built more than expected, and the expectations were already bearish," said Hussein Allidina of Morgan Stanley Research.

Prices had dropped Tuesday from eight-month peaks above 73 dollars after new data showed a plunge in American consumer confidence.

In the second quarter of 2009, oil had jumped dramatically - by 40 percent, or more than 20 dollars - on rising confidence that the global slump is easing.

Barclays Capital said in a report on Wednesday that oil prices cannot be sustained below 70 dollars into the medium term.

"We see prices as being likely to stay largely within the 65-75 dollars range in the current quarter, with brief forays possible either side of that range, and have adjusted price forecasts to reflect that core view," it said.

The market remains concerned by tensions in key crude producer Nigeria.

Nigerian rebels on Monday announced a new raid against a Shell oil facility and said they had killed at least 20 soldiers in a gun battle, a claim denied by the security forces.

While a Shell spokesman confirmed the raid and said it had caused a loss of production, Nigeria's combined police and army joint task force (JTF) denied there had been any clash with the rebels.

The Niger Delta has since 2006 been rocked by violence by armed groups who say they are fighting for a greater share of the region's oil wealth for the local population. - AFP/de

From ChannelNewsAsia.com; see the source article here.

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Posted: 01 July 2009 0803 hrs

North Korean ship, the Kang Nam I, is anchored in Hong Kong waters.

WASHINGTON: A North Korean ship tracked by the US Navy and suspected of transporting weapons or military know-how in violation of UN sanctions has turned around, a Pentagon official said.

The official declined to provide details, including where the Kang Nam 1 ship - reportedly originally bound for Myanmar - could now be headed, but news reports out of South Korea suggested the ship may be returning home two weeks after it set sail June 17.

A diplomatic source speaking on condition of anonymity told the Korea Herald that the ship was "near our waters," which could suggest that sanctions were having an effect on reclusive North Korea.

"If the ship is on its way back, it would mean that Resolution 1874 is taking effect and causing the North to retreat," Kim Tae-woo, vice president of the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, told the newspaper.

The Kang Nam 1 quickly drew the attention of the US military under new UN sanctions designed to punish Pyongyang over its May 25 underground nuclear test.

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, confirmed Sunday that the United States was tracking the cargo ship.

"Obviously we're pursuing and following the progress of that ship very closely," she told the CBS network.

"I'm not going to get into our operational details or what we might actually do on the high seas, if anything, or what allies and partners in the region might do."

UN Security Council Resolution 1874, adopted in response to the May 25 nuclear test, calls for beefed up inspections of air, sea and land shipments going to and from North Korea, and an expanded arms embargo.

But a senior US lawmaker, Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, last week said the resolution had "serious limitations" because it rules out the use of military force to back up the searches.

- AFP/yb

From ChannelNewsAsia.com; see the source article here.

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Posted: 01 July 2009 0453 hrs

Ban Ki-Moon

TOKYO: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday urged communist North Korea to refrain from further steps which may worsen a "very serious situation" after its recent nuclear and missile tests.

"I urge North Korean authorities to refrain from taking any further measures which may deteriorate the already very serious situation," Ban told a joint press event with Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone.

Regional tension spiked after North Korea on May 25 carried out its second nuclear test, followed by missile launches, which resulted in new UN sanctions.

The North has also vowed to build more nuclear bombs and to start a new weapons programme based on uranium enrichment.

Ban called on UN members to implement the resolution passed in response to the nuclear test which authorises tougher inspections of North Korean shipments suspected to contain nuclear- and missile-related materials.

The UN chief urged North Korea "to fully cooperate and fully comply with this resolution" and "member states of the United Nations to fully cooperate so that this resolution should be able to be implemented."

The North's policy has grown notably harder-line this year after leader Kim Jong-Il was widely believed to have suffered a stroke last August.

US and South Korean officials believe the ailing Kim is projecting an image of strength to bolster his authority as he prepares one of his sons for a takeover. - AFP/de

From ChannelNewsAsia.com; see the source article here.

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Posted: 01 July 2009 0607 hrs

A currency exchange worker holds a handful of euro notes in London.

NEW YORK: The US dollar gained against its main rivals on Tuesday as financial market jitters stemming from weak economic data sent investors flocking to the world's main safe-haven currency.

The euro dipped to 1.4032 dollars at 2100 GMT compared to 1.4088 dollars late on Monday.

The dollar meanwhile rose to 96.30 yen compared to 96.04 yen on Monday.

The Conference Board, a business research group, said US consumer confidence sank in June as households worried about the prolonged recession and vanishing jobs.

The index retreated to 49.3 points in June from a revised 54.8 in May, an eight-month high.

Most analysts expected a much stronger reading of 55.3 points in the 100-point index.

As a result of the disappointing data, dealers on currency markets moved away from currencies considered risky like the euro and bought up ones seen as safer like the dollar, the yen and the Swiss franc, analysts said.

Stocks fell and the dollar rose on the report, which dented hopes for a quick recovery from the recession.

The data showed Americans appear to be having a harder time finding employment, said David Rosenberg, chief economist and strategist at Gluskin Sheff.

This "portends yet another month of rising unemployment when Thursday's data roll out," he added.

Some said the dollar benefited from inflows ahead of the Independence Day holiday weekend, which begins on Friday.

"Judging from the price action, it appears that the consumer confidence report provided players with an opportunity to take profit on short dollar positions as the greenback had clearly become oversold amidst illiquid, pre-holiday trading conditions," said Michael Woolfolk at Bank of New York Mellon.

Investors were also awaiting new reports from the European Central Bank meeting on Thursday and the release of US monthly employment data the same day.

The ECB is expected to keep interest rates at a record low of 1.0 percent despite an appeal from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development to lower the main rate even further to nearly zero.

In late New York trade, the dollar stood at 1.0858 Swiss francs after 1.0823 on Monday.

The pound was at 1.6459 dollars after 1.6568. - AFP/de

From ChannelNewsAsia.com; see the source article here.

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Posted: 01 July 2009 0558 hrs

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

NEW YORK: Wall Street shares ended the second quarter in a slump on Tuesday after a surprise fall in consumer confidence dented hopes that spending will lead the country out of recession.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 82.38 points (0.97 percent) to close at 8,447.00.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq dropped 9.02 points (0.49 percent) to 1,835.04 and the broad-market Standard & Poor's 500 retreated 7.91 points (0.85 percent) to finish at 919.32.

"The main culprit is an unexpected drop in consumer confidence, ending a two-month winning streak in that index," Charles Schwab & Co. analysts said in a client note.

The Conference Board, a business research group, said its consumer confidence index retreated to 49.3 points in June from a revised 54.8 in May.

Most analysts expected a much stronger reading of 55.3 points in the 100-point index.

Stocks turned sharply lower as investors digested the surprising decline in confidence which suggested recession-weary consumers were not ready to open their wallets to boost the spending that drives two-thirds of US economic activity.

"This latest setback in consumer sentiment does not auger well for any near-term revival in consumer spending," said Brian Bethune of IHS Global Insight.

Bethune warned that the government's massive economic stimulus efforts may "run the risk of engineering the biggest fiscal stimulus 'dud in post-World War II history."

"Despite the huge cash incentives being dangled in front of consumers to purchase homes - and prospectively to trade in gas-guzzling auto clunkers - households are not going for the bait," he said.

Still, the major indices ended the second quarter with robust gains. The blue-chip Dow jumped 11 percent in the past three months, the Nasdaq surged 20 percent and the S&P 500 advanced 15 percent.

Investors digested a raft of data in the holiday-shortened week, with the market closed on Friday for the July 4 Independence Day celebration.

The S&P/Case-Shiller index showed the decline in housing prices in the 20 top US cities slowed in April, to a drop of 18.1 percent, from a year ago.

Retail sales at chain stores rose in the past by the strongest gain since late January, the International Council of Shopping Centers reported.

Investors were focused on Thursday's unemployment report, which is widely expected to show the jobless rate climbed to 9.6 percent in June, up from 9.4 percent in May.

"The heavy burden of all of the people who have no jobs will bring down consumer spending and retail revenue, adding to this government's obligations as it struggles more and more with its growing debt load which will be compounded by falling tax revenue," said Douglas McIntyre of 24/7WallSt.com.

Among stocks in focus, United Technologies dropped 0.97 percent to 51.96 dollars and Caterpillar skidded 4.89 percent to 33.04 dollars.

ExxonMobil shed 0.95 percent to 69.91 dollars and Chevron slid 0.94 percent to 66.25 dollars as crude oil prices headed lower.

Walt Disney dipped 1.39 percent to 23.33 dollars after the entertainment giant and the Hong Kong government on Tuesday reached an agreement to expand the city's beleaguered Disneyland amusement park.

The bond market weakened. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury bond rose to 3.523 percent from 3.492 percent on Monday and that on the 30-year bond advanced to 4.311 percent from 4.307 percent. Bond yields and prices move in opposite directions. - AFP/de

From ChannelNewsAsia.com; see the source article here.

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Posted: 01 July 2009 0408 hrs

A driver transfers gasoline into an underground tank at a gas station in San Anselmo, California.

NEW YORK: Oil prices sank from eight-month peaks on Tuesday after new data signalled a plunge in consumer confidence in the United States, the world's largest energy consumer.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in August, tumbled 1.60 dollars from Monday's closing price to 69.89 dollars per barrel, after earlier touching 73.38 - a level unseen since October.

London's Brent North Sea crude for August delivery fell 1.69 dollars to 69.30 dollars a barrel, having earlier surged as high as 73.50.

Consumer confidence in the United States - the world's biggest energy consuming nation - sank in June as households worried about the prolonged recession and vanishing jobs, the Conference Board said on Tuesday.

The news pushed the dollar higher against the euro on currency markets as investors flocked to buy the world's main safe-haven currency and moved away from risky currencies.

A stronger US currency makes dollar-priced oil more expensive for buyers holding weaker currencies, which in turn tends to dampen demand and pull the market lower.

"The rising dollar affected the crude oil prices," said Mike Fitzpatrick of MF Global.

Oil prices have increased dramatically - by 40 percent or more than 20 dollars - in the second quarter on gaining confidence that the global slump is easing. It had closed at 49.66 dollars on March 31, which was the last day of the first quarter.

The Conference Board, a US business research group, said on Tuesday its consumer confidence index retreated to 49.3 points in June from a revised 54.8 in May, an eight-month high. Most analysts expected a much stronger reading of 55.3 points.

This dashed hopes for a recovery soon from the recession that began in December 2007.

"Once again we've seen the green shoots arguments shot down," said analyst David Fineberg at financial spread-betting firm CMC Markets in London.

"This shift in outlook is also hammering oil prices - crude is back below 70 dollars a barrel - so in summary, falling consumer demand is painting a rather bleak picture."

Traders also digested data showing that Britain's recession-battered economy shrank at its fastest pace in more than 50 years during the first quarter of 2009 amid the worst global slowdown in decades.

British gross domestic product contracted 2.4 percent in the first three months of the year compared to the final quarter of 2008.

Oil had plunged from record peaks of more than 147 dollars in July 2008 to 32 dollars in December as a global downturn slashed energy demand, but the market has clawed back ground on hopes of "green shoots" of recovery.

The continuing turmoil in Nigeria is also weighing on the oil market, traders said.

On Monday, Nigerian rebels had announced a new raid against a Shell oil facility and said they had killed at least 20 soldiers in a gun battle, a claim denied by the security forces.

The raid was just the latest in a series that have targeted Shell facilities this month and which have continued despite last Thursday's offer from President Umaru Yar'Adua of an amnesty for the militants. - AFP/de

From ChannelNewsAsia.com; see the source article here.

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