Archive for March 3rd, 2011

March 3, 2011

World’s hairiest girl is a knock out!

Mail Online reports that 11-year-old Supatra Sasuphan from Thailand is now the world’s hairiest girl according to Guinnes World Records.  However her new-found fame is making the girl an unlikely knock-out with her school mates. It seems that for her and her new-found friends, being hairy is not as ‘hair raising’ as they had thought and she is now very popular.

Supatra suffers from hypertrichosis which is a damaged gene syndrome that causes hair to grow long not only on the head and in pubic areas but also the entire body. No cosmetic procedures, including permanent hair removal with lasers have been successful in divesting the teen of her unwanted curls. Her disease is very rare  – only 50 cases of genetical hypertrichosis have been recorded since the Middle Ages, and there is no cure as such, although some medicines that reduce the level of male hormones in blood are currently in test mode.

However, excessive hair has turned out to be not  that much of a problem for Supatra  as she is now a world-class celebrity and  as such is no longer shunned by her schoolfriends because of her condition. She says: I’m very happy to be in the Guinness World Records! A lot of people have to do a lot to get in’. She is now focusing on her love for maths and intends to become a teacher. Well, becoming  a world celebrity at the age of eleven for starters  is not a bad beginning  in ones’ teaching career, is it?

[International news contributor]

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March 3, 2011

Russia’s IPO market in 2011 – imploding reality for oligarchs

INSTITUTIONAL INVESTOR  reports on the amazing vanishing Russian IPO phenomenon in 2011.

Russia‘s IPO market fuelled by rising oil prices,  is ‘potato hot’ as borne out by the Russian Trading System‘s index going up 11 percent this year when other emergent markets were trailing behind. However, all is not well it seems as three Russian IPO’s went awry this year when they were unexpectedly removed from the London Stock Exchange in February.

So what is going on? According to Institutional Investor, analysts are saying that  this is due to the companies’ oligarch owners’ skyrocketing price expectations which have been encouraged by too many investors going after a relatively small amount of business in the Russian IPO market. Aton Investment Group is an investment broker based in Russia. According to its board member, Bernard Sucher:  “The pricing process is not very well grounded on planet earth”.

The three pull-backs, Koks,  Chelpipe and Nord Gold did not do well from the start and there was disappointment all-round in Russia. That was because the Russian company, Renaissance Capital, had said that private Russian companies would achieve $20 billion in equity sales in 2011 market offerings during 2011 whilst state sell-offs would get $10 billion and possibly more bringing the total figures close to the boom days in 2007.

Sadly as the 2007 boom day companies did not do as well as predicted, investors seem to be understandably cautious. The 2007 investments saw shares in the state-owned oil company, Rosneft, go just above their starting price. Furthermore, state bank VTB has gone down more than 40% since it went public and there are really no dramatic success stories of the 2007 boom days for investors to take comfort from as such.

The ‘pull-outs’, Nord Gold, Chelpipe and Koks (who are active in the energy and precious metal industries), said market conditions had made their decision necessary. But it seems clear, as far as analysts are concerned, that the pull-out happened because of investors’ worries about Russian IPOs notwithstanding strong market interest in the country as an interesting newcomer to the IPO market.

Chelpipe’s chairman, Sergei Moiseyev, told the FT.com: “We are in a market that feels jittery towards Russia”. According to FT.com, Roland Nash, chief strategist at Verno Capital’s chief strategist: “There’s been quite a bit of scepticism towards new companies coming to the market because Russian companies haven’t performed so well in the past … The current IPOs are paying for the mistakes of [their predecessors].” However, Tom Mundy, chief strategist at Otkritie Financial says: “Every company says they are pulling it because they are worried about market volatility or market conditions. It’s the perennial excuse…companies are forced to pull because the market “doesn’t like the structure or the valuation”.

So, its down to earth with a bump for the oligarchs and more sensible prices all round for the next time it would seem.

March 3, 2011

Justice denied – the expected demise of Magistrate Tiyani Behanzi

Is the Government of Dominica at war with its magistrates?

In December last year, there was the unexplained and hitherto uninvestigated  fire-bombing of the house of former Chief Magistrate, G.O.N. Emanuel after he had brought charges against the country’s prime minister’s lawyer, Stephen Isidore, over the theft of some $6 million whilst the lawyer was a partner of Mr. Emanuel’s firm.

Now, despite the current dramatic shortage of magistrates on the island, a widely popular and talented magistrate, Tiyani Behanzi, has had his contract terminated for no reason and is being denied admission to the Dominica bar.

Mr. Behanzi was voted personality of the month in February this year by a local newspaper. He gained 62% of the newspaper reader’s votes.  He is a graduate of the University of Concordia (BS in political science) and has an LLM from Nottingham University. He was called to the Bar of England and Wales in 2006.  Although generally respected and liked throughout the island, his straightforward approach to justice had got him into trouble with the establishment in the past with his decisions as a magistrate regarding serious criminals and corrupt police officers being compromised.

So why is he being let go? Surely Dominica needs more, not less, principled justices like Mr. Behanzi? Puzzled? Well, here is a clue. Cakafete Family newspaper reports in 2010 that Mr. Behanzi at a lecture on the topic: ‘New Perspectives on the legacy of Rosie Douglas’ at the University of the West Indies School of Continuing  Studies in Roseau, had called out for dramatic changes to the country’s political system as a legacy to his father’s strong views regarding integrity in public office. Mr Behanzi (previously ‘Robert Douglas’), is the son of a former prime minister of Dominica – Roosevelt Douglas – who had died in office in 2010.  Mr. Douglas was well-known for his humanitarian and socialist views which led him to being imprisoned in Canada as part of a protest group in his days as a student in that country.

At the lecture, Mr. Behanzi was critical of the lax laws that exist to ensure integrity in public office. For example, he said, those stealing state assets are not sufficiently deterred as according to Section 43 of the Integrity in Public Office Act, “Any person who commits an offence under this Part is liable (a) on conviction on indictment to a fine of twenty-five thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a term of ten years or to both such fine and imprisonment and (b) on summary conviction, to a fine of five thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a term of two years or both such fine and imprisonment.” However, he said the penalties for drug offences under the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse)(Amendment) Act 1993 are far more onerous: “..for drugs you can pay millions, thousands of dollars, but for stealing state assets  you pay $5000”. He had proposed for a Truth Commission, headed by the Bishop of Roseau and established by the Integrity Commission, which would offer immunity to ‘whistle blowers’ on the “big cats”.

So it seems that the magistrate’s political charm together with his somewhat naive attack on the establishment may have well stirred the ‘big cats’ into action against this principled ‘mouse’.  A government now in trouble over the unexplained and sudden riches of its prime minister and its plans to have all Dominicans singing the Chinese National Anthem in a short while, clearly does not need anything like the kind of trouble Mr. B’s presence on the island can bring to it. So, sadly, his departure puts another nail in the coffin of the future of Dominica’s democracy and rule of law it appears.

March 3, 2011

And finally, a cure for HIV?

According to Mail Online,  HIV, tuberculosis, hepatitis and a number of other most deadly infections will probably be in the past soon! That is because, despite what  doctors have made us think over years that the answer to the problem is in weakening the bugs, it seems that the correct answer is to tune our immune system so that it does not go crazy at the onset of a bug invasion.

A series of recent experiments have shown that the immune system is capable not only of keeping the infected body alive, but also of killing the virus completely so that not a trace of it is being left!  AND – how can it be done?.. Not so much by stopping smoking and jogging every day,  just by switching off a gene in our DNA.

[Health & Medicine Contributor]