Lai See

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 11:10pm

Give us shelter from reign of departmental nonsense

We hear of more Buildings Department/illegal structure nonsense. Some years when Swire was developing Taikoo Place, some footbridges were built to connect nearby buildings. It was decided to erect a canvas structure on one to provide protection from the rain. This resulted in a letter from the department complaining that this was a fixed structure. The footbridge would become a covered floor area under the general building plan and would therefore increase the floor area, breaching the lease conditions on plot ratio. The developer wrote back to say the structure wasn't fixed as it was a canvas cover. Back came the response: 'If it's not fixed, it should be possible to take it down.' The developer replied that he could take it down anytime. The department replied: 'OK, take it down and take a photograph of it and send us the photograph.' It cost the developers HK$1 million to dismantle the structure, photograph it and replace the canvas cover. Hardly best practice on the part of the Buildings Department.

A stroke of cool irony

The government's done it again. Last week, it noted that the Observatory had issued a hot weather warning advising us to wear broad-brimmed hats and drink water, and so. But it didn't think of warning us against a more deadly threat - the very high levels of roadside pollution. Yesterday, there was another hot weather warning and the Labour Department got in on the act, urging employers to protect their employees from heatstroke. The irony is that we are all aware of the weather and the heat, but we don't see the pollution. There are two possible reasons for this. First, the government doesn't want to draw too much attention to its dirty problem. Second, there's a bureaucratic problem. The Environmental Protection Department just measures emissions and has no remit for health. Public health is dealt with by the Department of Health but it doesn't study emissions.

Palm trees in Antarctica

There's been an interesting study in the journal Nature that proves that palm trees once grew in Antarctica. The proof comes from drilling deep into the edge of the modern continent. A drilling rig was dropped through four kilometres of water off Antarctica and then drilled through one kilometre of sediment to get to samples from the Eocene epoch. Analyses of the drill cores show pollen and spores and the remains of tiny creatures that give a climatic picture of the of the early Eocene period about 53 million years ago, the BBC reports. The study by an international team of scientists suggests that Antarctica winter temperatures exceeded 10 degrees Celsius, while summer may have reached 25 degrees. The early Eocene period was characterised by atmospheric CO2 concentrations considerably higher than today's levels of 390 parts per millimetre (ppm), reaching between 600 ppm and 1125 ppm. Of course, in those days there hadn't been an industrial revolution and there weren't any cars or power stations. How alarming is that?

Leaping into heated conspiracy

China's internet users were quick to come up with a reason for former champion hurdler Liu Xiang's fall in the heats at the London Olympics. It's all the fault of the British, they say, as they had Liu run in the sixth heat and in lane 4. The fourth of the sixth? This of course is June 4, the day on which the killings occurred in Tiananmen Square. If you think that's contrived, it's hard to imagine that after his misfortune at the Beijing Olympics, Liu would have an outcome like this in London.

Pay the price of failure

Sanford Bernstein analyst Brad Hintz says the recent difficulties of Knight Capital illustrate why the biggest Wall Street banks shouldn't be broken up, Bloomberg reports. As an independent broker-dealer, it does not have access to Fed rescue funds. It has been argued that banks such as JPMorgan, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch and Citigroup would be more valuable if their securities divisions operated separately, and thus avoid bank capital and proprietary trading restrictions. Hintz says this would sharply increase their wholesale funding and contingent liquidity risk. And quite rightly, say we. Recent history has shown the finance industry cannot be trusted to look after itself. It has been encouraged to take ridiculous risks knowing that if it screws up it will get bailed out on account of being too big to fail. Riskier operations should pay more for capital and operate in the knowledge that if they fail they will be allowed to go bust. This madness where countries and their financial systems are put at the mercy of financial institutions has gone on for too long.



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