How could Munce know he'd win?
In sentencing Christopher Munce last week, the judge said the champion Australian jockey tipped horses he rode in 36 races - of which 18 won and eight were placed ('Munce jailed 21/2 years for tips for bets', March 2). It is one thing to hold a horse back, but quite another to make it win. We can rule out drugs assisting the winner, because the Jockey Club tests for these and no positive results were found. If all the other horses in each race were honestly ridden to the best of their ability, then how could Munce have been so confident he would win?
Let us suppose, to be generous, that each of Munce's horses had a 25 per cent chance of winning an honest race. That's equivalent to payout odds of 3.28-1, after taking off the 18 per cent club takeout and betting duty. In fact, the reported odds in this case ranged as high as 13-1.
At 25 per cent, the probability of winning 18 or more races out of 36 would be about one in 936. It is even less likely that Munce would place in the top three in a further eight of the races, as the judge said he did.
If we take a more conservative 20 per cent probability of winning, then the odds of coming first in 18 or more races lengthen to one in 17,967.
So, from a statistical analysis of the reported facts, it is highly unlikely that Munce would have had such a high win rate - unless one or more of the other jockeys were holding back their horses. Munce was highly unlikely to be acting alone. Is the Jockey Club aware of these odds, and if so, what has its investigation found, if anything?
DAVID M. WEBB, Mid-Levels
Geriatric lesson to us all
Judy Allinson's powerful letter 'Uneven sentences unbalance the scales of justice' (March 1) points to gross inequities in recent judgments. She is rightly angry at the sentence handed down to a negligent truck driver. Eight months for two deaths is scandalous, indeed.
By way of contrast, she refers to the case of former judge Miles Jackson-Lipkin and his wife, Lucille, personal friends and former patients of mine whose combined age is 163 and whose health is correspondingly poor.
After proceedings lasting nearly two years, during which time they were treated by many as outcasts and hounded by the press, both were sent to prison for 11 months in January. They are thus separated from one another in their old age, and can see five other visitors for 15 minutes through bars twice a month.
Hong Kong's most dangerous geriatrics will doubtless tread round the periphery of our excellent welfare system with greater care in what remains of their future - along with the other 663 or so younger people said to have engaged in welfare fraud last year, who hopefully will learn their lesson by proxy.
As Mrs Allinson reminds us, the Jackson-Lipkins have already paid back the missing sum of HK$50,000 each. This is indeed fortunate in view of the parlous state of the economy - headline news in the same issue of the South China Morning Post ('Tang's HK$20b tax giveaway').
One might also add that this sentence seems pretty fair in the light of the punishing 200 hours of community service handed down to a university lecturer recently for relieving the exchequer of a mere 30 times as much as each of the Jackson-Lipkins did.
I am reluctantly forced to conclude that the law in Hong Kong is not so much an ass, as Mrs Allinson writes, as a large, spiteful hole into which any of us may easily fall if we don't tread ever so carefully in our old age.
DR DAVID C. ANDERSON, Central
World view distorted
While I agree wholeheartedly with Sanjay Varma that Americans display little geographical knowledge ('Where in the world is HK?', March 3), we have to face the fact that such ignorance is universal - it's just the blind spots that vary. I've had far too many of my students at an international school tell me that Africa is one country, that India lacks technology or that African Americans are prone to commit crimes.
I lay a large slice of the blame for their warped ideas of the world on a news media that is increasingly fact-light and opinion-heavy. As a social studies teacher, I seem to spend as much time correcting stereotyped, false information and baseless opinions as I do imparting facts.
When the Indian Ocean tsunami tragically struck, our local media told us that the entire island of Phuket had been 'devastated'. The affected areas probably represented less than 1 per cent of the island's actual land mass.
It seems to me that we are witnessing the growth of a new and increasingly paranoid view of the world - one that is being driven by the short-term news value of distorted video clips and juicy sound bites.
PAULINE BUNCE, Chai Wan
I'm off to Macau
Thank you, Henry Tang Ying-yen, for making my mind up for me: I will soon be moving my company's office from Hong Kong to Macau. Your budget, which dishes out lots of candy to salary earners but none to companies like mine, was the final straw.
When I recently found out how much more proactive Macau's equivalent of InvestHK is in attracting foreign investment - and how practically helpful - I nearly jumped the waters. But it took the far-sightedness of your budget to finally clinch Macau's win: the other special administrative region has a 15 per cent tax rate, and is rolling out the welcome mat to foreign investors like never before.
ANTHONY LAWRANCE, Discovery Bay
Trust the generals
I refer to the opinion piece 'Now, Asia must tackle Myanmar' (March 1) and Harn Yawnghwe's letter of the same day 'Blame the generals'. First, I would like to point out that the authors of the opinion piece, Ian Holliday and Diana Tsui, misunderstand Myanmar and its government because they ignore recent political and economic developments. I am sure that they have been deceived by neocolonialists.
Second, I would like Harn Yawnghwe to know that Myanmar's generals have been striving their best for the country and people. They are also very kind-hearted and optimistic in dealing even with dissidents. Harn Yawnghwe needs to study Myanmar's history and recent developments thoroughly, instead of blaming the generals.
Finally, I would like to advise all three writers not to call the kettle black and to assure them that we will handle ourselves.
YE ZAW AYE, Myanmar consulate in Hong Kong