Sister slaps Rempit girl


GEORGE TOWN: A 16-year-old schoolgirl was slapped several times by her elder sister at the state police contingent headquarters here for being involved in illegal motorcycle racing.

The girl was among 112 Mat Rempit and pillion riders aged between 13 and 26 who were detained in an operation at Jalan Bukit Gambier in Gelugor from midnight till 3am.

Policemen and reporters were stunned when the elder sister, in her 20s, slapped her younger sister in front of onlookers at about 10.30am.

“You janji you akan bertukar! (you promised you’ll turn over a new leaf),” the sister was heard rebuking the girl.

The angry older sister slapping her sibling at the police headquarters in Penang Saturday.

Later, when the girl tried to salam (greet) her sister, the latter was heard shouting “jangan sentuh aku!” (don’t touch me!).

Earlier, the sister and her mother had pleaded with state public order and traffic chief Supt Wan Aziz Wan Husin to release the younger girl, who was a pillion rider.

She was also heard telling police that the younger girl had played truant from school.

The police also made the group push their machines for about 15km from Jalan Bukit Gambier to the headquarters at Jalan Penang.

The journey started at 4.30am and they took about three and a half hours to reach their destination.

The bikers being escorted by policemen on their 15km walk.

The motorcyclists were allowed to rest briefly after every 2km. Many were seen huffing and puffing and were also drenched in sweat.

Supt Wan Aziz said 74 summonses were issued to the 73 Mat Rempit for various offences.

“We carried out urine tests but none of them tested positive. We will issue letters to their parents informing them of their children’s racing activities,” he said.

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Advance Could Change Modern Electronics

Science News

This image of an asymmetric MIM diode reflects a major advance in materials science that could lead to less costly and higher speed electronic products. (Credit: Image courtesy of Oregon State University)

ScienceDaily (Oct. 31, 2010) — Researchers at Oregon State University have solved a quest in fundamental material science that has eluded scientists since the 1960s, and could form the basis of a new approach to electronics.

The discovery, just reported online in the professional journal Advanced Materials, outlines the creation for the first time of a high-performance “metal-insulator-metal” diode.

“Researchers have been trying to do this for decades, until now without success,” said Douglas Keszler, a distinguished professor of chemistry at OSU. “Diodes made previously with other approaches always had poor yield and performance.

“This is a fundamental change in the way you could produce electronic products, at high speed on a huge scale at very low cost, even less than with conventional methods,” Keszler said. “It’s a basic way to eliminate the current speed limitations of electrons that have to move through materials.”

A patent has been applied for on the new technology, university officials say. New companies, industries and high-tech jobs may ultimately emerge from this advance, they say.

The research was done in the Center for Green Materials Chemistry, and has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Army Research Laboratory and the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute.

Conventional electronics made with silicon-based materials work with transistors that help control the flow of electrons. Although fast and comparatively inexpensive, this approach is still limited by the speed with which electrons can move through these materials. And with the advent of ever-faster computers and more sophisticated products such as liquid crystal displays, current technologies are nearing the limit of what they can do, experts say.

By contrast, a metal-insulator-metal, or MIM diode can be used to perform some of the same functions, but in a fundamentally different way. In this system, the device is like a sandwich, with the insulator in the middle and two layers of metal above and below it. In order to function, the electron doesn’t so much move through the materials as it “tunnels” through the insulator — almost instantaneously appearing on the other side.

“When they first started to develop more sophisticated materials for the display industry, they knew this type of MIM diode was what they needed, but they couldn’t make it work,” Keszler said. “Now we can, and it could probably be used with a range of metals that are inexpensive and easily available, like copper, nickel or aluminum. It’s also much simpler, less costly and easier to fabricate.”

The findings were made by researchers in the OSU Department of Chemistry; School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; and School of Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering.

In the new study, the OSU scientists and engineers describe use of an “amorphous metal contact” as a technology that solves problems that previously plagued MIM diodes. The OSU diodes were made at relatively low temperatures with techniques that would lend themselves to manufacture of devices on a variety of substrates over large areas.

OSU researchers have been leaders in a number of important material science advances in recent years, including the field of transparent electronics. University scientists will do some initial work with the new technology in electronic displays, but many applications are possible, they say.

High speed computers and electronics that don’t depend on transistors are possibilities. Also on the horizon are “energy harvesting” technologies such as the nighttime capture of re-radiated solar energy, a way to produce energy from the Earth as it cools during the night.

“For a long time, everyone has wanted something that takes us beyond silicon,” Keszler said. “This could be a way to simply print electronics on a huge size scale even less expensively than we can now. And when the products begin to emerge the increase in speed of operation could be enormous.”

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The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Oregon State University.

Journal Reference:

  1. E. William Cowell, Nasir Alimardani, Christopher C. Knutson, John F. Conley, Douglas A. Keszler, Brady J. Gibbons, John F. Wager. Advancing MIM Electronics: Amorphous Metal Electrodes. Advanced Materials, 2010; DOI: 10.1002/adma.201002678
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How to make CCTV hear as well as see?

New CCTV technology senses aggression from sound

By Dave Lee BBC World Service

CCTV cameras near the O2 Arena, London
Special software knows if certain loud noises pose a threat to security

On CCTV, no-one can hear you scream.

But technology from a UK company now means cameras can tell if you’re being aggressive or calling for help – and will alert security guards straight away.

Cambridge firm Audio Analytic has produced software which it said can analyse the pitch, tone and intonation of noises and work out if they pose a threat.

“A lot of incidents just can’t be picked up by video only systems,” said Chris Mitchell, Audio Analytic’s boss, on BBC World Service’s Digital Planet.

Listen to the full story on Digital Planet

“For example in a hospital where somebody, or a nurse, is being threatened early hours in the morning – that’s a very difficult thing for CCTV guards who monitor hundreds of channels worth of video signals on 20 screens or so to pick up.”

The software goes beyond simply placing microphones onto cameras and listening in. By feeding hundreds of sample sounds into the system, the software can distinguish different threats from various sounds – and not just based on volume.

“We don’t work with volume at all in the system because it’s so related to how far somebody is from the microphone that it’s not a useful metric.

“Our system picks out the most salient characteristics. These are things related to pitch, tone, intonation.”

Coffee fury

Essentially, Mr Mitchell explained, the software contains hundreds of audio fingerprints, and as soon as a sound resembles a stored sample, the alarm is raised.

However, like any software early in its development, it does not always get it exactly right.

“At a test site we did, someone got annoyed at the coffee cup machine because it swallowed their coffee cup money.

“From our point of view that’s a true positive – we really detected them getting genuinely aggressive at a coffee cup machine – but from the security point of view, it’s not a genuine detection.”

These mishaps aside, the Mr Mitchell’s team is confident the technology is ready to get out into the market.

“The false positive rates you get out of a system like ours are very low.

“Now, in security systems like a smoke detector we might have in our house, we know it has false positives – it goes off when you burn the toast.

“A certain number of false positives are beneficial so long as you have the security bandwidth to cope with them because you’d rather know about things that you think were an incident than just miss things you failed to be alerted to.”

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LCD TV companies see falling prices as demand down

By JESSICA MINTZ , AP Technology Writer

Companies that make huge flat-screen televisions and their LCD panel components are alerting investors that demand is dropping in the U.S. and other developed markets.

The forecasts trickled out as Asian reported earnings for the most recent fiscal quarter.

On Thursday, . of Japan slashed its earnings forecast for the fiscal year, which ends in March, saying it had to adjust its production of LCD panels in the most recent quarter to respond to a sharp decline in demand for the large-size panels.

Also Thursday, South Korea’s LG Electronics Inc. said strong sales of , particularly in emerging markets, helped push its home entertainment segment revenue up 9 percent – but its operating income sank by about 52 percent. The company said it expects price erosion in its TV business will eat into earnings in the fourth quarter.

Corp. of Japan reported Friday that LCD TV prices fell in the quarter that ended in September. The company cut its operating income forecast for the segment that sells the flat-screen televisions, citing deterioration in the North American market.

South Korea-based Co. said Friday it also expects prices for LCD panels to decline.

That meshes with a recent report from iSuppli Corp., which tracks shipments of LCD panels and flat-screen televisions. The research group reported that the number of LCD panels for TVs shipped in the April-June quarter outstripped the number of TVs that were shipped; LCD panel buyers cut orders in July, iSuppli said, making the glut even worse and pushing prices for LCD TVs down in the early fall.

©2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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LCD/Plasma Display Mounts – Ergonomic Mounting Systems for LCD/ Plsama Displays!-Singapore Supplier –

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Space Tourism’s Rubbery Rockets May Spur Climate Change

Suborbital spaceflights that rely on rubber-based rocket fuel could shrink icecaps, alter the ozone layer and affect global temperatures, according to a new study.

Yet the study authors’ assumptions about the number of rocket launches per year and the chemistry of rocket exhaust have raised questions about their conclusions among space-tourism companies and climatologists not involved in the study.

Atmospheric scientists who performed the research probed the effects of belching ultrafine soot high into the stratosphere, where — unlike the troposphere below it — there isn’t rain and wind to quickly filter soot out of the air. Rubber-based rocket fuel burned with nitrous oxide is the preferred propellant of the burgeoning space-tourism industry, and chemists suspect such hybrid engines emit sooty black carbon. Closer to Earth, the stuff has been shown to soak up extra radiation from the sun and contribute to climate change.

“This study was a natural extension of the climate-research community gaining a greater and greater appreciation of black carbon in terms of global radiative forcing,” said Martin Ross, an atmospheric scientist at The Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, California, and leader of the research funded in part by his employer. “Soot is a very large issue in the troposphere,” Ross said, but its behavior isn’t well-understood at higher altitudes.

To model the effects of space tourist launches on the Earth’s atmosphere, Ross and his colleagues used the open-source Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model Version 3, or WACCM3, one of the most-advanced computer models available to study impacts to global climate.

They ran two supercomputer-powered simulations for two weeks, one as a control and another modeling the impact of 1,000 suborbital flights per year for the next four decades. That many flights, according to the study, would annually deposit more than 1.3 million pounds of soot into the stratosphere.

“We looked at the stated business plans from corporations that are planning to build vehicles for space tourism,” Ross said. “If you go to their websites, they’ll say things like, ‘we plan to launch once per day.’ We found 1,000 per year is well within stated objectives of the industry.”

On average, according to the simulation, the soot pushed polar ocean temperatures up by 1.8 Fahrenheit degrees, melted 5 to 15 percent of sea ice and depleted 1 percent of tropical ozone (while boosting polar ozone by 6 percent).

“We’re not making any particular prediction about any system, just taking reasonable guesses at what soot from a hybrid rocket engine looks like and what the launch industry will do in the future,” Ross said. “When we put that into a gold-standard model, the effect on the Earth is surprisingly large. In short, we think black-particle carbon from rockets is something that deserves attention.”

Their assumptions may not be perfect, said Gerald North, an atmospheric scientist at Texas A&M University who was not involved in the study, but the measured effect is significant enough to warrant further investigation.

While they make assumptions about some unknowns, such as the behavior of soot at high altitudes, North said, “they’re careful in expressing this is not the last word” and are “inviting others to take a look.”

Ross and Michael Mills, an atmospheric chemist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado and a co-author of the study, said that’s precisely what the research team sees as the next step. In particular, getting a handle on what’s in the emissions of different types of rocket plumes.

“There are few direct high-altitude measurements of rocket plumes. We really need to get aircraft in those and get measurements of soot and other particles,” Mills said. “Until then, the sophistication of our models is limited.”

To do just that, Ross said The Aerospace Corporation is planning a workshop to bring together under one tent all the stakeholders in science, rocket engineering, space-tourism companies and the government agencies.

“We need to get these players together and exchanging ideas, then ask the policy people to figure out what to do, if anything, with the information,” Ross said.

“I think we and others in the industry welcome the opportunity to talk about all of these issues,” said George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic, a space-tourism company that’s planning to use hybrid rocket engines. Whitesides wasn’t without reservations about the study and its conclusions, however.

“Frankly, I have to admit I wished they talked to us before putting out a paper, but that’s OK. Climate issues are deeply important to Virgin, and we take them very seriously,” Whitesides said.

Part of the reason the company chose the hybrid rocket design for its SpaceShipTwo was “because of its significantly lower environmental impact than other designs.” Whitesides also said 1,000 space tourist launches per year is “guesswork,” because the industry is privatized and young.

“I think as we look at this more, we’ll find the impact will be far smaller than that set out in the paper,” he said. “In any case, I welcome the conversation.”

Whether or not peaceable collaborations ensue, both Ross and Mills expressed that carbon soot is something the nascent space tourism industry can’t ignore.

“This shows that a new kind and level of emission being deposited directly into the stratosphere could have a significant effect,” Mills said. “Companies need to proceed with developing their systems with full knowledge of consequences on the planet.”

Images: 1) Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo (center) attached to WhiteKnightTwo. Flickr/Jeff Foust. 2) The average predicted changes after one decade in the ozone layer (top) and regional temperatures (bottom) caused by 1,000 hybrid rocket launches per year for 40 years. Ross et al. 3) Average seasonal soot deposition, in grams per square meter, in the stratosphere predicted by Ross et al.’s simulation. Ross et al.

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A campaign to educate credit card issuers & users

Users are not the only ones who should be responsible about credit cards – issuers must be too


IT is interesting to note that the National Cards Group – a grouping of Malaysian credit card issuers, mainly banks – has launched a campaign to inculcate responsible credit card usage among consumers.

They have called the campaign Swipe Smart with 6E, 6E being the so-called six enablers – educate yourself, exercise caution, enhance your lifestyle, enjoy the benefits, eliminate debt and engage with your card issuer.

Well and good. One should not pour cold water on such a noble deed by the card issuers to ensure that their customers are educated and know how to use the card responsibly without getting themselves – and in the longer run the issuers – into trouble.

It was good to see too that there were representatives from Bank Negara, the Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations (Fomca), the Association of Banks and others there.

The only thing that was lacking was a similar campaign for card issuers, yes, you read right, the card issuers. You see, the credit card problem is a double-edged sword – both the behaviour of issuers and users contributes to delinquency. Eventually, if things really get bad, both sides will suffer – the users may become bankrupt and the banks may be saddled by high bad debts.

Both parties have to be responsible and there has to be a balance of profit with responsibility. There is a need to educate the card issuers too to, using the words of the National Cards Group but applied to itself this time, to inculcate responsible credit card issuance among card issuers.

We will even call the campaign by the same name – Swipe Smart with 6E – with its own six enablers. We hope, Fomca, who was present there, will take the cudgels up on behalf of the consumers, call the issuers and launch this campaign.

Here is our proposed 6E campaign directed at card issuers:

1. Eliminate profiteering such as late payment charges. We have written about this before. The effective interest rates on this are extortionate and exorbitant. If you are late by one day on an outstanding balance of RM100 (even if your credit limit is RM100,000!) the charge is RM50. That’s 50% a day or 18,250% a year! Now what entitles the bank or issuer to charge you such an interest rate when your credit limit is RM100,000 and you have an unutilised portion of this of RM99,900? If that is not profiteering, what is?

2. Ease up on your interest rates. Most of us pay 18% a year on balances outstanding when the fixed deposit rate is not even nudging 3%. They take your money at 3% or less, then lend it back to you for 18%! Housing loans are at 6%, why is the credit card interest rate three times that at 18%, a rate that only licensed money lenders charge?

3. Exercise restraint in your marketing. These days, have one credit card and other issuers deluge you with cards and offers. Sometimes they send a card to you that you don’t want and then three months later bill you for service charges! Then I have to call them – it takes ages to get through with a robot asking you whether you want to do this or that before you finally get through – and demand they withdraw their statement. And then they offer credit cards to all manner of people who don’t know how to use them or abuse the credit lines, so long as they have a regular salary – civil servants are great targets. And because they have a salary, the banks can get their money back – with huge penalties to boot.

4. Engage with your customer. Before they send us all that unwanted promotional material, the issuers should ask us if we want them. They should remind us – constantly – that outstanding balances cost us 18% a year, the highest rate of any bank facility, and if I am not mistaken, the highest possible legal lending rate.

5. Educate yourself on social and ethical responsibilities. Yes, we know profits are all important and yes we know there are a lot of ignorant people out there from whom money can be made. But don’t financial institutions have a social and financial responsibility to their customers, especially people, and to inform them fully of how they make money from them? If issuers want to educate the public on the dangers of credit cards, they should educate themselves on immoral behaviour and how the drive to profit stops them from truly educating the general public.

6. Explain all your charges and actions fully. I have not yet found an issuer who advertises that the penalty charge for late payment is as high as nearly 20,000% a year. Perhaps they should print this on the envelopes they mail to customers. And how many people know that many credit cards issuers impose a service charge on overseas spending, have unfavourable exchange rates for transactions, and have service fees for interest-free instalment payments? Can they tell us why they are not pushing debit cards (no interest here, the funds are transferred directly from your bank account) equally hard? The list goes on. It is time, if the issuers wanted to educate the public, for them to take huge full-page advertisements to fully disclose all their charges in the simplest possible language. If they can’t find anybody to write the copy for them in simple language, I volunteer to do it for free.

Well, that’s our 6E Campaign aimed at educating our banks and other card issuers in brief. We hope somewhere out there some consumer organisation will take up this case and that the authorities will sit up and take notice and realise that issuers too contribute to the credit card problem.

Managing editor P Gunasegaram notes with some trepidation the following figures for credit card usage in Malaysia: there are 9 million cards and the average transaction through cards is RM211mil a day or RM77bil a year. That’s a lot of potential for some to make a lot of money and a lot of others to lose some.

Other related stories:
Importance of keeping a good credit record
Having a reasonable amount of debt is generally okay

Saturday November 6, 2010

Comments by A wary reader

Of educating credit card issuers and users

P. Gunasegaram’s article entitled “A campaign to educate credit card issuers” is interesting.But another important interest charge also needs to be highlighted. Do you know that if you do not make full payment on or before the due date, you lose the 20 days credit free period for both the current and new transactions posted on the statement?

In addition to the RM50 late payment charge, the finance charge is even higher.

For example: You receive the September statement on Oct 5 and the outstanding charge is RM1,200 and you need to settle it by Oct 20.

Say for some reason or the other, you overlook the matter and do not settle the outstanding in full by Oct 20. How much is your finance charge?

Let’s assume you settle the full outstanding of RM1,200 on Nov 5. You’d expect the bank to charge a finance charge of 17.5% pa based on daily calculation from Oct 20 to Nov 5, right?

Wrong. The bank will compute the interest outstanding from the transactions posted date till Nov 5.

In addition, all the new transactions will also attract interest charge. In short, the bank is penalising you twice on the old and new transactions.

If you do not settle the outstanding in full before due date, you lose the 20 days interest free period.

As such, the campaign should also educate the public to settle the full outstanding amount by due date. Banks, of course, will not highlight this point to the public. It’s one of their main revenue streams.

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Rejuvenating George Town, Penang

Three sound recommendations for Penang to break out of the middle income trap


EVERY time I open my window, I see paradise – not heaven, but a neon sign for Paradise hotel in Penang island or more precisely, George Town, Pulau Pinang.

Situated at the entrance to the Malacca Straits, directly opposite Kedah Peak, the city was founded by Sir Francis Light in 1786 as the first English bridgehead to East Asia.

Since then, George Town has been a melting pot for Armenians, Arabs, Malays, Indians, Chinese and European travellers passing through the Far East.

At its height at the end of the 19th century, the city boasted the earliest bank branches in the country with key trading ties to Sumatra, Burma, Southern Thailand and Northern Malaya.

Like people and countries, cities have their ups and downs. When I first set eyes on Penang, my first impression was green rice-fields from the airport to a tree-lined city with a lovely, relaxed colonial feel.

George Town boasted the oldest and arguably best schools in the Far East. After duty-free status was removed and Sumatra and Southern Thailand went through a period of relative decline, the Penang economy had to reinvent itself, initially with the electronics industry.

But by the turn of the 21st century, even the electronics industry felt under threat as Penang talent left for richer shores.

What should Penang do?

A recent joint study by the World Bank and Khazanah Nasional Bhd brings forth a timely and well-researched book, “Cities, People and the Economy – a study on Positioning Penang” to discuss how Penang can escape the middle income trap.

Drawing on empirical studies by a team of internationally-renowned researchers, the book examines how the State of Penang needs to re-invent itself.

Having been successful in becoming industrialised through cheap labour, subsidised infrastructure and available land for low-tech manufacturing, Penang must now focus on developing industries which bring new competitiveness against the growing giants of India and China and other middle-income countries that are eating into Penang’s traditional strengths.

The editors of the book comprise three eminent economists who are clearly concerned about the need for Penang to reinvent itself.

Homi Kharas was formerly the chief economist for East Asia for the World Bank and currently at the Brookings Institution and a member of the National Economic Advisory Council.

Dr Albert Zeufack is a Cameroon national, formerly with the World Bank and currently working for Khazanah. Hamdan Majeed is the energetic head of the Penang office of Khazanah and deeply committed to Penang’s revival.

The central thesis of the book is that the three elements of Penang’s growth – its cities, people and economy – are not developing in tandem and that their cycles of development must be synchronised to turn Penang around.

Fortunately, following George Town’s world heritage designation, the urban cycle is starting to enter a recovery phase. But the challenge is that the people cycle is still in a deficit phase, with new graduates choosing to leave the area, while the economy is caught in a slump.

The authors carefully argue that a new development strategy must be articulated that can guide Penang to better wages, jobs and prospects for the next generation.

Penang must move from the old “sweatshop” assembly model to become a “smartshop” for sustainable products. Restoring lustre to the “Pearl of the Orient” does not have a simple engineering fix.

Instead, Penang must do different things and do them differently. Given its strong track record of economic success, Penang must set a new multidimensional agenda to become the most vibrant economic hub for its economic geographic advantages – the northern Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, Southern Thailand and through good air and telecommunications, South, North and Southeast Asia.

Given its strong base of human talent, with affinity for community harmony and creativity, particularly in the culinary and service area, Penang offers the best opportunity to break out through innovation and change.

The book offers three sound recommendations to break out of the middle income trap. The first is to exploit economies of scale through specialisation, focusing on a few products where it is possible to achieve global excellence.

The six focus areas identified are technology-based manufacturing, biotechnology/life sciences, business process outsourcing (BPO), logistics, tourism and agribusiness.

Secondly, Penang must build density on the basis of an integrated land use plan while also ensuring efficient connectivity with the capital city.

Thirdly, Penang needs to increase its “liveability” factor, which is the key factor determining competition for top global talent.

Underlying the strategic concept is the premise on what the Government can do to facilitate sustained development in a middle income region.

Penang’s experience will provide valuable lessons for other states in Malaysia. What makes this book valuable is that it offers a development strategy that can be applied not just for Penang but also Malaysia as a whole.

It recognises that a city (and a nation) has to understand its place in the global economy and in regional supply chains.

Penang, and by extension Malaysia, can become an advanced economy by 2020 if it becomes globally connected, regionally oriented and locally centred.

But it can only do so if all parts of the nation, city and rural areas work together through efficient connectivity. What comes through the book is that Penang’s development is not a stand-alone objective.

Put simply, Malaysia’s targets of the New Economic Model cannot be achieved without successful development in Penang. Greater density of economic activity in the Northern Corridor will benefit all states and accelerate the reduction of poverty in Malaysia.

Thus, if the Northern Corridor can escape the middle income trap, then, so can Malaysia. This is a timely and relevant book as it comes out at the same time as the 10th Malaysia Plan.

The book will be useful for policy makers and those interested in the rejuvenation of cities as engines of economic development. It will also help interested citizens to understand how cities can change. George Town has always been a jewel in the Orient, which is why I live here.

Tan Sri Andrew Sheng is adjunct professor at Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, and Tsinghua University, Beijing. He has served in key positions at Bank Negara, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission, and is currently a member of Malaysia’s National Economic Advisory Council. He is the author of the bookFrom Asian to Global Financial Crisis”.

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