January 18, 2008
Ridiculous editorial d'jour

Not many bother to read the SCMP's editorials and with good reason. Today's one on speed guns has a couple of gems:

Speeding is not the most serious traffic offence. But as it puts lives at risk, police have to do their utmost to prevent it.
Can the SCMP list for us the seriousness of traffic offences in order? I assume jaywalking is nearer the bottom, driving fast into a crowd near the top, but the order in the middle is vague. Is speeding better or worse than not wearing seat belts? Or broken headlights?
If this means using the latest technology available, so be it. Technology itself cannot prevent reckless driving on our roads, though.
Speed guns don't save people, people do. Nice of the SCMP to concede that using "latest" technology (Wikipedia tells me it was first used in Chicago in 1954, which admittedly is several hundred years after the Gutenberg press)..
Traffic officers have to know how to properly set up and use the equipment that they have been given and to carry out their duties with the utmost care and accuracy.
Dare I say it: point and shoot. Maybe that's confusing.
The case of tycoon Peter Lam Kin-ngok shows why. Mr Lam had originally been charged with driving at 114km/h in a 50km/h zone. But the prosecution amended the charge and accepted his plea of guilty to driving at 79km/h after it emerged that a police officer had failed to follow the correct procedures when using a laser gun to assess the motorist's speed. Mr Lam was fined HK$450.
He was only 29km/h over the limt rather than 64...that's much better. But remember that speeding isn't the worst traffic offence.
Although police are performing a valuable community service in making sure that the road rules are obeyed, they can also do a disservice if speeds are not accurately established and motorists wrongly punished. Mr Lam could have lost his licence if he had not contested the reading. Whereas the majority of motorists would have accepted their fate, he fought the matter in court, hired a senior counsel and had an expert on speed laser equipment flown in from Britain.
He had the money to get off but lots of people can't...and if Mr Lam had lost he could have hired a driver...but
Mr Lam's case was similar to dozens of others in Britain in recent years - where more stringent conditions are attached to the use of laser guns. The expert, Michael Clark, pointed out that laser guns can easily give incorrect readings if not used carefully. As we report today, an academic who checks Hong Kong police speed equipment, has disputed the degree of error in readings. Nonetheless, to prevent further challenges to claimed speeding violations, the police should thoroughly examine training methods and make changes where necessary.

This must be coupled with using the most reputable equipment and a method of double-checking readings. In many other parts of the world, video cameras are used in conjunction with the laser guns to ensure accuracy. Making sure that every safeguard is taken is not just for drivers, after all; it is also in the interests of the police - and the interests of justice.

The bigger scandal is that it took a rich man to fly in the experts to expose this...and while I agree that double checking is a good idea for some things to police do, does that also mean police should be trained to fire twice as many times with their other guns, in the interests of the police - and in the interests of justice?

For this the SCMP want to charge you money.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 16:36
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September 04, 2007
The price is right

The Standard announces it is soon to be free, with the catchy slogan "first past the post"...gettit....which now means at least one of Hong Kong's English language newspapers are priced correctly.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 13:53
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July 20, 2007
Bush and SCMP

This is doing the rounds, from a PR firm promoting SCMP.com:

Bush's source for China revealed

via ESWN

And to the nice man who sent me an email offering 3 months free SCMP.com access, my point remains the same: if you hide your content behind a paywall, it's not going to get linked by me.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 13:53
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April 05, 2007
Nina Wang's billions

A tale of two papers.

The (unlinkable) SCMP: Nina Wang dies leaving HK$32b - but to whom?*

The Standard: Wang's billions split three ways

* Who uses "whom" anymore without sounding pompous, except Harry?

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:29
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March 22, 2007
New, improved but...

It seems curious in the extreme that ex-SCMP editor-in-chief Mark Clifford would choose to leave right about now. In the mail yesterday the SCMP kindly informed me they are revamping their paper and website. Doug has some more info on the changes and Brand Republic repeats most of the SCMP press release:

Leading English-language daily newspaper South China Morning Post (SCMP) is gearing up to unveil a new look on Monday in a bid to bridge its print and online products. The launch comes a week after editor-in-chief Mark Clifford announced he was stepping down from the role amid a series of recent staff departures.

The SCMP, which last redesigned three years ago, will display new typefaces which allow for longer, more detailed headlines, improved infographics to sit alongside news stories and a new colour scheme for each editorial section to identify the respective section.

Clifford, who is expected to take up a regional role with an NGO after joining the SCMP from The Standard in 2006, was one of the driving forces of the change, according to SCMP director of marketing Amanda Turnbull, who added that Clifford had managed the paper through a tricky period of change which saw the departure of several editors. It was his decision to step down, and although the staff situation in recent months has been unfortunate, operationally he has been very good at helping us look at what we need to do, she said. Editor CK Lau will take on additional responsibilities, and there are no plans to fill Cliffords role.

The revamp, which was led by James de Vries of Deluxe Associates and SCMP production editor Ben ONeill, also includes a number of secondary devices which are aimed at pointing readers to other sections of the newspaper, along with prompts to the SCMPs online property, which itself is expected to relaunch with a new look in May. Its part of an ongoing move to give readers more access points, in conjunction with work that were doing in digital, said Turnbull.

Wouldn't Mr Clifford want to see his baby through? And is this yet another triumph of form over substance? Will changing the paper improve its content? It can't get much worse.

In perhaps one of the better examples of what is wrong with the (unlinkable) SCMP.com, there is no mention of the forthcoming redesign or changes to the online page on their own website.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:40
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March 20, 2007
April's fool

SCMP editor-in-chief Mark Clifford resigned yesterday after a brief tenure in the SCMP hot seat. Over at Asia Sentinel they nicely summarise Clifford's eventful reign at Hong Kong's best fish-wrapper. It seems an odd time to leave, given the pending redesign and new look SCMP.com, which most of Hong Kong doesn't realise is on the way or care about. Mr Clifford is off to join something called the Asia Business Council. There's a nice joke in there somewhere about an editor going back to his ABC.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:45
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February 20, 2007

Kung Hei Faat Choi once again.

I don't often look at the letters/op-ed page of the SCMP as prolonged exposure has been known to lead to insanity and a spouting of the government line. But I've noticed that ex-Standard columnist Stephen Vines is now penning his pieces for the far better paid SCMP pages instead. Which means more wire service op-eds for The Standard...which is not necessarily a bad thing. While on things SCMP, Doug Crets sees hints that changes are afoot at the world's most uselss newspaper website.

Meanwhile our papers are telling us what a world-beating, magnificent fireworks display they had in Victoria Harbour last night. But could anyone see it through the fog?

OK, you can go back to follow Brittney's haircut now.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 11:50
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February 12, 2007
SCMP still doesn't get it

Doug Crets looks at how Asian newspapers are dealing with threats to their business model from the internet and free papers. An excellent read, he discusses in part the SCMP:

In Hong Kong, where broadband penetration is among the highest in Asia (73 percent), if there was a threat of a bloodletting, the dominant English language paper seems unfazed. The South China Morning Post (SCMP) is not turning towards the acquisition of online classifieds sites and management says they havent been threatened by the free dailies which dealt blows to the Chinese daily industry...Meanwhile, SCMPs own online platform, which is subscription-based and offers no free content is likely to undergo a revamp as management looks to target higher monetization. SCMP.com saw revenue contract by 10 percent during 1H 2006 due to a 21 percent drop in content syndication fees and the postponement of a number of advertising campaigns. The sites paid user base remains flat at around 20,000.
It makes a marked contrast with the various other papers discussed in the article, or sites such as Asia Sentinel which also has a piece on Li Ka-shing you wouldn't find in the SCMP.

Meanwhile on the press, the SCMP reports on China's newest efforts to clamp down even while it pretends to be opening up ahead of the Olympics and Austin Ramzy at Time discusses increasing self-censorship in Hong Kong's media.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 11:27
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February 08, 2007
Freedom of information, SCMP edition

I wonder if the SCMP will get around to reporting on the SCMP?

Today's (unlinkable as ever) SCMP prints a good piece by Bjorn Lomborg on climate change titled "Hysteria clouds the global warming debate", reproduced below the jump, which points out the odd priorities of those concerned about climate change. Segueing nicely, Tim Blair catches out another common China journo cliche...the "per capita comparison".

You would have had to be stuck in deepest Mongolia to avoid hearing that the UN's climate panel, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), issued a new report last week. From the dire stories penned about it by journalists, you would have thought global warming was worse than we had imagined. You would have been misinformed. The IPCC has produced a good report - an attempt to summarise what the world's scientists know about global warming. The IPCC squarely tells us that mankind is largely responsible for the planet's recent warming. It refrains from scaremongering, unlike former US vice-president Al Gore, who has travelled the world warning that our cities might soon be under the oceans.

Lost among the hype is the unexciting fact that this report is actually no more dire than the IPCC's previous one, issued in 2001. The new report reflected the fact that, since 2001, scientists have become more certain that humans are responsible for a large part of global warming. Otherwise, its estimates of temperature increases, heat waves and cold waves are all nearly identical to those produced six years ago.

The report did, however, contain two surprising facts. First, the world's scientists have rejigged their estimates about how much sea levels will rise. In the 1980s, the US Environmental Protection Agency expected oceans to rise by several metres by 2100. In the 1990s, the IPCC was expecting a 67-centimetre rise, and it dropped the estimate to 48.5 centimetres six years ago. This year, the estimated rise is 38.5 centimetres on average.

This is especially interesting since it fundamentally rejects one of the most harrowing scenes from Mr Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth. The movie demonstrates how a 7-metre rise in the sea level would inundate much of Florida, Shanghai and the Netherlands. The IPCC report makes it clear that exaggerations of this magnitude have no basis in science.

The report also revealed the improbability of another Gore scenario: that global warming could make the Gulf Stream shut down, turning Europe into a new Siberia. The IPCC simply and tersely says this scenario is considered "very unlikely".

So why have we been left with a very different impression of the climate panel's report? The IPCC is by statute "politically neutral": it is supposed to tell us just the facts and leave the rest to politicians and the people who elect them.

But scientists and journalists - acting as intermediaries between the report and the public - have engaged in greenhouse activism. The IPCC's director has called elsewhere for immediate and substantial cuts in carbon emissions, and even declared that he hoped the report would "shock people, governments into taking more serious action". It is inappropriate for somebody in such an important and apolitical role to engage in blatant activism.

Climate change is a real and serious issue. But the problem with the recent media frenzy is that some seem to believe no new report or development is enough if it doesn't reveal more serious consequences and more terrifying calamities than before.

This media frenzy has little or no scientific backing. One of Britain's foremost climatologists, Mike Hulme, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, points out that green militancy and megaphone journalism use "catastrophe and chaos as unguided weapons with which forlornly to threaten society into behavioural change". In his words, "we need to take a deep breath and pause". A 38.5-centimetre rise in the ocean's levels is a problem, but it won't bring down civilisation. Last century, sea levels rose by half that amount without most of us even noticing.

The UN tells us that there is virtually nothing we can do that would affect climate change before 2030. So we have to ask the hard question of whether we could do better by focusing on other issues first.

In a recent project called the Copenhagen Consensus, Nobel laureate economists weighed up how to achieve the most good for the world. They found that focusing on HIV/Aids, malaria, malnutrition and trade barriers should all be tackled long before we commit to any dramatic action on climate change.

With the world in a fury about cutting greenhouse gases, it is easy to forget that there are other and better ways to do some good for the planet. Good decisions come from careful consideration: the IPCC report provides that. But the cacophony of screaming that has accompanied it does not help.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 14:15
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January 30, 2007
"F" for maths

The SCMP's front page screams 'F' for HK students in English proficiency stakes...

More than two in four Hong Kong Chinese students granted permanent residency in Australia after graduating from its universities last year did not have competent English language skills, research released yesterday shows.

Data collated from immigration tests carried out when the graduates applied for permanent residency visas showed 42.9 per cent of the Hong Kong students failed the language competency tests, only slightly better than the 43.2 per cent from the mainland who failed it.

Recent maths studies have shown that a proportion of "more than two in four" is above 50%, whereas 42.9% is actually "more than two in five" but significantly less than "two in four". "Two in four" is also handily written as "one in two".

This is Hong Kong's alleged paper of record.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:23
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September 21, 2006
The new new thing

It's the biggest thing since Bus Uncle...yes, the SCMP.com site is due for an overhaul. It will only happen next year, but you get to hear about this exciting development NOW! Even better, all you have to do as a paid-up subscriber is login and update your personal profile. Amongst the compulsary questions are how much you earn and other gross invasions of privacy, but this is Hong Kong's press we're talking about. And what will it get you?

As a valued subscriber of scmp.com, you are among the earliest to be told of this good news. Early next year we will be unveiling a revamped scmp.com — with more powerful features and services, extended news content, greater flexibility and enhanced navigation.
It could hardly be worse than the existing site, where the idea of an "update" is to paste two or three stories, often from wire services on the page so long as it is between 10am and 4pm on a weekday. Not to mention the inability to link to stories on the website, the crowded layout, difficult navigation and incredibly annoying flashing advertisements.

Meanwhile the competition at The Standard continues to slip at an worrying pace. The paper has reverted to mimicking the Chinese press, plastering drab financial news articles, again typically pasted from news wires, on to the front pages and burying the good Metro section (you know, what actually happens in the city) 15 pages back. They at least had the good sense to put the sport on the back, but does anyone really care so much about American baseball and football so that it dominates that section? Finally the sub-editors need to work on their spell checkers...."Mitsubishi" department store isn't closing down, but Mitsukoshi is (in the first paragraph).

It's a shame because until Mark Clifford left The Standard was starting to rival the SCMP. Now Clifford's at the SCMP and both of them are seemingly slipping backwards.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:53
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August 22, 2006
SCMP reporting

Barclay Crawford is an investigative reporter at the SCMP, with recent efforts including his exploration of alleged-coke selling hookers at Fenwicks. Back on August 12th he reported on a domestic helper who claimed she had been abondoned by her employers. This was followed up by an August 14th article with comments from the employer denying the accusation and a rehash of the original article. Both articles are reproduced below the jump.

Without passing judgement or comment as to the truth of these allegations, I have received an email from a source with knowledge of the case:

His [Crawford's] story of an abandoned helper left without food or "essentials" or housekey is fabricated. The unit the helper works/lives in has a property caretaker named Mr. K his telehone number is XXXX-XXXX. Barclay never interviewed him now even knew of his existence. Mr. K lives on the premises at issue.

Mr. K works directly for the landlord who owns all units including [a PR executive's] home. Mr. K can verify the utilities not being turned off. Even the Helper's personal A/C was not affected. Mr. K can vouch that no utilities were off for the Helper's unit except 4 hours on 7/31 electricity and water another day for 4 hours both were area wide by Hong Kong government. Watson's bottled water service for the Helper's unit was delivered weekly without interuption. All this can be verified not just by Mr. K but the utilities and Watson's bottle water. Barclay Crawford did not verify - why?

Food. A police report filed on August 13 the day the employer's returned # 3501 will show the police arrived called by the employer, the house fully furnished with food and in fact the Helper to have been consuming. Barclay Crawford never set foot into the Helper's unit. Barclay alleges this Helper was left without food showing an empty fridge. That fridge is not the same fridge as in the Helper's unit. Look at photo on August 14. The same police report shows the Helper refusing to sign her own resignation that she had typed up that gave the employer's 30 day notice to September 14. Police report #06003542 on August 14 shows the Helper refusing to leave forcing the police to threaten forcible removal. The Helper was terminated by the employer paying wages in lieu of notice, wage, plane ticket. The Helper insisted on staying to Sept. 14.

In reality the Helper had been terminated once before during visa processing. Helpers in Hong Kong must leave Hong Kong under preterm contracts unless death of employer, financial hardship or abuse. This helper could not do the first 2 so abuse was her only option. See Hong Kong Immigration Department Foreign Domestic Helpers Section reference file 27274/04 dated July 3rd notifying her that she has to leave if these employer's dropped processing.

2 charities donated food to this helper. NONE set a foot into the helper's unit to validate the helper's false claim. One charity organization Helpers for Domestic Helpers made an impromptu stop on August 14 and at the employer's invitation was shown the Helper's accommodations and food situation.

Property camera's can show employer's bought no food when they return as their flight on Gulf Air landed at 3:30pm August 14. The police report was taken 4:30pm August 14 within 15 minutes of their arrival home.

No housekey. There is a helper agency the helper visited twice in Central. A Mr. T of ZZZ agency can verify this. Easier, Mr. K on the property can verify this Helper's exits as well as the camera film on the property.

Barclay wrote this Helper was left without a key to leave to even buy food. Helper left without money to buy food. Helper was left on top of a full fridge, bottled water and 3 paid Holidays $150.00 [sic]. Helper used this to buy chicken and fruits receipt from Wellcome.

What is interesting is that Barclay can write any fiction about anything. Completely unaccountable. Without basic inquiry.

What is more interesting is his relationship with [a PR executive], the PR firm head of YYYYYYY in Hong Kong. This is not a big story but [PR executive] must have influence over Barclay, hence SCMP.

August 12th - Helper claims she's been abandoned

A domestic helper from Sri Lanka says she has been abandoned for nearly two weeks in her employer's multi-million-dollar mansion without any food, money, gas for cooking or a key with which to leave the residence.

Saroja Priyangani Jayasekara Vithanage, 36, has been relying on food handouts
from neighbours and the charity Helpers for Domestic Helpers while her employer and his family take a holiday in Egypt.

Ms Vithanage's employer, her second since arriving in Hong Kong in 2004, is a
top banker in the city. He cannot be named for legal reasons.

Two charities, Christian Action and Helpers for Domestic Helpers, confirmed
they had contacted Ms Vithanage and organised for food to be brought to her.

A spokeswoman for Helpers said the charity would write to the Immigration
Department about the case and had notified the police. 'She doesn't have anything and she is scared to leave the house because she
doesn't have a key,' the spokeswoman said.

Speaking next to two late-model German-made cars in the garage of her
employer's luxury, multilevel home in Chung Hom Kok, Ms Vithanage held a copy of her contract, which showed that she was paid HK$3,400 a month - the minimum wage for a domestic helper in Hong Kong.

The contract also has a clause stating that she should be given HK$300 a month
if she is not provided with food, but Ms Vithanage said she had yet to receive
this sum.

The instructions left by her employer warn her that she is 'on probation'
because they are unhappy with her performance since she began working on July 18. The instructions also state that she can leave the house only on August 8.

'It's so hard for me because I have a family and three children at home whom I
support by working in Hong Kong,' she said. 'But I have to resign from here, I
cannot take it any more.'

A tearful Ms Vithanage said she had to keep her clothes and food in the garage
since arriving. 'I can't take it any more; I'm going to hand in my notice when they get back to Hong Kong,' she said.

A source close to Ms Vithanage's employer and his wife said that the family
had hired and fired several maids in the past year. 'They all cry and are very unhappy with the madam, who just shouts and blames the girls for everything,' the source said.

Ms Vithanage's employer's secretary at the European investment bank at which
he works said her boss was on holiday but could be contacted by e-mail, which he checked regularly.

Ms Vithanage's employer did not return any e-mails requesting a response to
her allegations.

The case follows a report last month by the New York-based Human Rights Watch, which praised Hong Kong for protecting domestic workers' rights.

August 14th - Employers deny leaving helper with no food or door key

The employers of a domestic helper who claimed she was abandoned without food, money, gas or a key to their exclusive residence for almost two weeks said yesterday they were the real victims.

Saroja Priyangani Jayasekara Vithanage, 36, said last week she had to appeal
to charities and neighbours for food because her employers had left her nothing. Police were called to the residence yesterday by the employer, a top Hong Kong banker, who had returned from holiday. His wife, who agreed to talk to the Post as long as she was not named, said Ms Vithanage may be trying to make a claim against them through the courts.

She said there had been no need for the helper to appeal to charities or
neighbours for food because there was plenty of food in the house and they had
given her $150 to live on while they were away on holiday. A key was available at all times for the maid, she said.

Two charities, Christian Action and Helpers for Domestic Helpers, confirmed
last week they had contacted Ms Vithanage and organised for food to be taken to her.

'Why would we not want her to eat the food here?' the wife said, pointing to
fruit in bowls and in the refrigerator. 'It is only going to go off if it is not
eaten. I have never told her that she cannot eat anything in this house. We even
have emergency supplies in case of a typhoon and water delivered every week.'

The family said they had had a legal problem with a previous helper who had
stolen from them. The Labour Tribunal ruled in their favour, forcing the helper
to pay them back HK$200, she said.

Ms Vithanage offered a resignation letter yesterday, giving them 30 days'
notice. But the wife said they would not sign off on it without advice from the
Labour Department.

'We don't want to sign something until we know what it means. She could be
planning to make a bigger claim because she thinks we are wealthy,' she said.
'But all we have is our reputation. We have four children to support and our
reputation is our way of earning our living. If she really doesn't like us that
much, she can just go now, but she is now saying she will stay and work.'

Ms Vithanage last week showed the Post a copy of her contract, which specified
her pay as HK$3,400 a month, the minimum wage for a domestic helper. It also has a clause saying she should be given HK$300 a month if she is not provided with food, but Ms Vithanage said she had not received the sum.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:56
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