The AP on Thai Junta’s Asset Disclosures

The AP reports:

Asset disclosures by members of Thailand’s military-dominated post-coup Cabinet reveal they are quite well-off, a trait shared with the civilian politicians they accused of corruption.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission on Friday released the asset declarations of the 33 Cabinet ministers, 25 of whom are millionaires in dollar terms.

Allegations of corruption and inappropriately gained wealth have played a major role in the country’s fractious politics in the last decade. The current government has made fighting corruption a priority, though its critics believe the policy is being wielded mainly as a weapon against its political rivals, particularly those connected to the elected government it ousted.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who as army commander led a May coup d’etat, listed 128.6 million baht ($3.9 million) in assets and 654,745 baht ($20,000) in liabilities. Under the disclosure laws, assets belonging to spouses and children under 21 must be included. He also reported the transfer of 466.5 million baht ($14.3 million) to other family members.

Before his retirement at the end of September, the general received a 1.4 million baht ($43,000) annual salary as army chief. His assets include a Mercedes Benz S600L car, a BMW 740Li Series sedan, luxury watches, rings and several pistols.

Jim Stewart on Tim Cook’s Coming Out

The New York Times‘s Jim Stewart on Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook, who said in a BloombergBusinessweek essay published last week that he’s gay:

Tim Cook’s declaration on Thursday that “I’m proud to be gay” made him the first publicly gay chief executive of a Fortune 500 company. But Mr. Cook isn’t just any chief executive. And Apple isn’t any company. It’s one of the most profitable companies in the Fortune 500 and ranks No. 1 on the magazine’s annual ranking of the most admired companies.

As Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, put it, “He’s chief executive of the Fortune One. Something has consequences because of who does it, and this is Tim Cook and Apple. This will resonate powerfully.”

Trevor Burgess, the openly gay chief executive of C1 Financial in Florida, and one of the first publicly gay chief executives of a public company, said Tim Cook used “the metaphor of laying a brick on the ‘path towards justice.’ ” But, “This is more like 600 million bricks,” Mr. Burgess said. “He has the most influential voice in global business.”

Worth a read.

Zalora Opens ‘Offline’ Shop in Singapore, and Bhutan Gets Google’s Street View Treatment

Those are the subjects of a couple of stories I wrote last week.

The first:

Amazon may be planning to open a brick and mortar shop in New York City, but Southeast Asia fashion e-commerce startup Zalora has beaten them to the punch in Singapore.

Zalora, which launched in 2012 and says it has served more than 2 million customers throughout the region, late last week unveiled its first physical store, a 4,000-square-foot shop in an upscale Singapore shopping mall.

It’s the first such physical store for an online retailer in the region, according to Zalora’s regional managing director, Tito Costa, who cited clothier Bonobos and subscription beauty-products service Birchbox as having used brick and mortar stores to good effect in the U.S. In China, meanwhile, Internet giant Alibaba has invested in a local department store operator.

And the second:

You can now take in dramatic vistas from the tiny, isolated Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan — via Google.

The tech giant Thursday unveiled Street View images — the Google Maps feature providing 360-degree panoramic images — for some 1,900 miles of roads in the remote country, which sits between India and China and is home to about 700,000 people.

That includes images of the Punakha Dzong administrative headquarters, which is one of Bhutan’s most beautiful buildings. There are also images from the capital, Thimpu, and the towns of Paro and Trongsa, as well as panoramas from a highway and photos of the country’s National Museum.

Google says the effort, which was undertaken with the cooperation of Bhutan’s Ministry of Information and Communications, required snapping more than 200,000 panoramic shots with one of its camera-equipped cars.

It’s Been 5 Years Since We Adopted Our Dog, Ashley

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August marked five years since we adopted Ashely, our beloved shelter dog. Here’s a pic from the day we took her home in Bangkok in 2009. She’s six years old now, as she was a year old when we got her.

As you can see — and as I’ve noted in previous posts — she was was suffering from various medical ailments when some kind people rescued her from the mean streets of Bangkok.

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The big-hearted folks at the now-defunct Soi Cats and Dogs (SCAD) Bangkok had Ash fixed up in no time, though:

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Fast forward five years, and moving to Singapore earlier this year meant 30 days in quarantine upon arrival, but Ash did just fine.

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Here’s a pic from a visit I paid her.

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And here’s A and Ash during another visit.

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Once she was sprung from solitary, Ashley really took to Singapore — and especially its many green spaces. Here she is during some recent outings.

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Overall, Ashley remains somewhat puppy-like, both in appearance — people often ask us how old our “puppy” is — and behavior.

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Her likes remain: running (I often take her along on jogs); chasing small animals; and eating any and all foods, especially fish and meats, rice, and coconut milk.

Dislikes: vacuum cleaners; swimming; and knocks at the door.

Oh, and she also hates the rare occasions when her morning walks are delayed. I have more than once woken up to this somewhat unsettling sight:

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Here’s to the next five years!

Kenny G. Visits Hong Kong Protests


From our China Real Time blog today:

Observers wondering who exactly the ‘foreign influences’ are that Beijing has so darkly accused of helping spur protests in Hong Kong got one possible glimpse — in the shape of American saxophonist Kenny G.

Photos of the curly-maned musician in Hong Kong began surfacing on social media Wednesday afternoon, with Mr. G posing with protesters on the scene, a cardigan tossed around his shoulder, before images of tents pitched across town.

Mr. G’s verified Twitter account appeared to confirm his visit, with the musician posting a smiling selfie backdropped by protest posters, with the accompanying caption: “in Hong Kong at the sight [sic] of the demonstration. I wish everyone a peaceful and positive conclusion to this situation.”

(Mr. G also traveled elsewhere in China earlier last month, performing multiple shows in cities from Chongqing to Shanghai. During that time, he also posted an image of himself in a neon-strung room playing music beside a man who bears a striking resemblance to Hong Kong actor Jackie Chan, with the commentary: “This is what happens when I go to China…My music is super popular there. Look at my Chinese big brother! He can sing.” Mr. Chan couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.)

And:

Queried on the subject at Wednesday’s daily foreign ministry news briefing in Beijing, authorities were distinctly less amused to see the musician pop up in the Chinese territory, which has been rocked by protesters demanding greater democracy in the former British colony. For weeks, party and pro-Beijing media have reiterated their belief that such protesters have been driven by foreign forces bent on undermining Chinese rule.

From the NYT back in May:

There are many things about modern China that defy easy explanation: parents posing their children next to live tigers, the sight of grown women wearing furry cat-ear headbands while shopping, the performance-art-like spectacle of strangers napping together in Ikea display beds.

But no mystery is more confounding than that ofthe 1989 smash-hit instrumental by the American saxophone superstar Kenny G.

For years the tune, in all its seductive woodwind glory, has been a staple of Chinese society. Every day, “Going Home” is piped into shopping malls, schools, train stations and fitness centers as a signal to the public that it is time, indeed, to go home.

The song in question:

NYT’s Roger Cohen, Writing from Singapore, on ‘Asia’s American Angst’

The New York Times‘s Roger Cohen, writing from Singapore, says Asia needs the United States to counter China. And it’s not getting that now.

Further, a new, regionally assertive India under Modi is a long way off:

Outside China, there is a consistent theme in Asia. It is concern that declining American power, credibility and commitment will leave the way open for Beijing to exercise dominance over the region. President Obama’s “pivot to Asia” has been dismissed as hot air. American objectives announced without consequence betray a weak presidency; Asians have drawn their conclusions.

And:

Singapore’s success has depended on its ability to leapfrog geography, but it could only do that because the geography was not hostile. It could depend on the fact that the foreign territorial waters at its door remained open. Japan has been restrained from going nuclear by the assurance of America’s treaty commitment to its defense. From north to south Asia, such assumptions appear a little shakier.

And:

It is all of these things, plus an uneasy general feeling. The “pivot to Asia,” like the Syrian “red line,” like “Assad must go,” betrayed a common theme: words without meaning from an American president, commitments without follow-up, phrases without plans. In Asia as in Europe, these things get noted.

The American idea is still strong in Asia. Look no further than the brave pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong. But ideas require commitment to back them.

Read the whole thing.

Cohen’s column also mentions this May piece by Razeen Sally in the Straits Times. It’s about “global cities”:

Today, there appear to be only five global cities. London and New York are at the top, followed by Hong Kong and Singapore, Asia’s two services hubs. Dubai, the Middle East hub, is the newest and smallest kid on the block. Shanghai has global-city aspirations, but it is held back by China’s economic restrictions – the vestiges of an ex-command economy – and its Leninist political system. Tokyo remains too Japan-centric, a far cry from a global city.

The global city has a relentless market logic. It is where Adam Smith, David Hume, Milton Friedman and F.A. Hayek would feel most at home. It has to be the most open to trade, foreign capital and migrant workers. It must have among the most business-friendly regulatory environments.

Neymar 4-0 Japan

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Just very briefly: Yes, we were at the game here in Singapore last night to see Neymar single handedly demolish Japan and overtake Bebeto to become the Selecao’s fifth leading scorer of all time — at the age of just 22:

Neymar scored all four goals as Brazil eased to a 4-0 friendly win over Japan in Singapore.
The 22-year-old has now taken his tally to 40 in 58 internationals.
He rounded Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima and slotted in for the first, before adding a second from a pass by Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho.
The Barcelona forward, who helped Brazil to victory against Argentina on Saturday, swept in to make it 3-0 and headed the fourth from Kaka’s cross.
Neymar also went close with a free-kick that hit the post, while Kaka’s header was pushed on to the bar by Kawashima.

The pitch was poor.

Japan were in disarray.

The rest of the Brazil side were less than scintilating.

But Neymar. His quickness, his control, his creativity, his pinpoint finishing.

Yes, he’s that good.

Here’s a video I shot of his third goal, though it’s not great footage:

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Neymar bags his third, a real poacher's goal, against Japan here in Singapore tonight. Brazil 4-0 Japan.

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And here’s a video of all his goals:

Spectacular.

Worth Reading: An In-Depth NYT Travel Story on Cuenca, Ecuador and the Country’s Southern Coast

Long-time Newley.com readers will recall that about a decade ago I spent a year living and working in the fascinating, staggeringly picturesque city Cuenca, Ecuador, which is situated some 8,000 feet high in the Andean foothills.

I loved my time there, met some great people who remain my close friends, and think of the country often.

Indeed, I still keep an eye on international news about Ecuador, and came across this recent New York Times travel story by Michelle Higgins, headlined “Three Sides of Ecuador“:

On our nine-day trip in July we focused on three of these offerings — beaches, mountains and colonial charm. The plan was to head north along the Pacific coast, then head east into the Andean highlands for high-altitude trails before spending time with family in the beautiful colonial city of Cuenca, where my mother was born. (We ended up doing it all, but not in that order, given our detour.)

Many travel pieces about the country focus, understandably, on other places: destinations in the north (the capital, Quito), the east (the Amazon jungle), and/or the far west (the Galapagos).

But this story, I was delighted to find, is not just about Cuenca, but about other areas I know well, like Cajas National Park and towns along the country’s southern coast coast, such as Puerto Lopez.

The food, the people, the insane driving conditions, and even the whale watching: there’s lots of good stuff here. And there’s a slideshow of photos by Meridith Kohut.

7 Links

  1. The Kitchen Network: America’s underground Chinese restaurant workersThe New Yorker
  2. Finding the Dinosaur: A ‘Step Brothers’ AppreciationRolling Stone
  3. You Call This Thai Food? The Robotic Taster Will Be the JudgeThe New York Times
  4. 15 Lessons from 15 Years of Blogging — Anil Dash
  5. The Woman Who Walked 10,000 Miles (No Exaggeration) in Three YearsThe New York Times Magazine
  6. Which China expert are you? — China Daily Show
  7. Embedded above: Science Cat on Twitter.

(Previous link round-ups are available via the links tag.)

David De Gea’s Goalkeeping Masterclass Against Everton

As I Tweeted on Sunday, Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea was absolutely incredible in his team’s 2-1 victory over Everton.

It was the kind of goalkeeping performance you only see once ever few years: The variety of saves, many late in the game, combined with the importance of securing all three points at home as Manchester United, a team in transition, struggle to succeed.

As the Vine below illustrates, there was the Spaniard’s fantastic penalty save — De Gea guessed correctly, diving to his right and parrying the shot well away from danger. And then there was the instinctive save late in the game, sprawling to his right again, followed by the last minute wonder-save, to his left, which is drawing most of the plaudits.

Here’s another look at that last one:

The final save, as I also Tweeted, was reminiscent of this classic stop by Fabien Barthez for the Red Devils years ago:

But there was another save that appeared to be routine that also stood out to me because of the agility it took for De Gea to get down quickly to his right and catch the ball just outside his right foot. Always difficult, and he did it perfectly:

As Eric Steele — the goalkeeping coach when Man U bought De Gea — noted on the BBC yesterday, De Gea not only has all the physical tools, but he’s also extremely even-keeled.

All in all, not bad for a 23-year-old — much less one who many pundits and fans said, after he’d made several errors after his debut, wouldn’t be good enough.

Just think where he’ll be in a a decade, when he’s in his prime.