Barack Obama


PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 October, 2009, 12:00am

List is good news for HK universities

While I do agree with John Hone that there may be an English language bias in the compilation of the Times Higher Education QS World University Rankings, it is inaccurate for him to claim that the rankings are 'largely based on published research in the English language' ('College list is not representative', October 10).

According to the QS Top Universities website, the rankings are compiled from six indicators - academic peer review; employer review; faculty student ratio; research citations per faculty; proportion of international faculty and the proportion of international students. Had language alone played a decisive part in the weighting of these indicators, there would not have been so many Japanese universities making the list and attaining high positions.

Anyway, such league tables are always controversial and never ideal, let alone one done on a global scale. Yet, like it or not, the Times QS List is one of the most frequently cited in the world. I find it heartening to see a record five local universities making the list this year, with four of them gaining further ground, which can surely bolster the international profiles of these institutions. And if this can lead to more academic and student exchanges, it is already a good thing, irrespective of whether or not the list itself is completely fair or accurate.

Jennifer Wong, Kowloon Tong

Clarifying procedure

I refer to the report ('Sacked assistant vows to seek justice', October 10).

You reported that the proposal to empower the standing committee on members' interests to investigate the complaints concerning Kam Nai-wai was opposed by the Civic Party and others because it was thought to be 'too informal and could be abused by political rivals'. This is not correct.

The reason why it is not appropriate for the standing committee on members' interests to undertake the investigations is because the alleged misconduct in this case has nothing to do with 'members' interests' (as defined in the standing committee's terms of reference) and is therefore outside the remit of that committee.

The only existing mechanism that is available for inquiring into the complaint against a member's misconduct is that provided under Rule 49B of Legco's Rules of Procedure for Disqualification of Member from Office. The procedure requires the allegation of misconduct to be clearly put, subjected to investigation, open debate on its outcome and decision by voting in full council.

The allegation of misconduct against a member of Legco is always a serious matter affecting Legco's credibility and it must be fairly and effectively dealt with by due process. An ad hoc arrangement to expand the powers of a committee that is established for a totally different purpose would not be a principled way of proceeding. That is why it is so inappropriate.

Margaret Ng, Legislative Councillor

Nobel award inappropriate

US President Barack Obama has made efforts to pursue peaceful diplomacy which have ushered in a new spirit of international co-operation and hope.

Yet awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to him only 10 months into his presidency is a serious mistake. If indeed US policy has reversed and rhetoric changed, substantive results have yet to materialise.

Real progress is still wanting in North Korea or Iran; troops are still fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, and foreign adversaries are still foes.

The announcement of the award initiated a new wave of criticism from the leadership of the Republican Party.

In reality - not in symbolism - the peace prize does more harm than good.

Would it be acceptable to a sceptical international audience for a Nobel peace laureate to start wars, threaten sanctions or order assassinations?

Any action Mr Obama now makes is subject to international scrutiny benchmarked not by the reasonable and proportionate response of a president of the United States, but by a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Nobel Committee, in its attempt to make both a symbolic gesture for peace and actively partake in global peace-making, does neither - and jeopardises the real change Mr Obama is anticipated to bring for the world.

Tony Chow, Kowloon Tong

Worthy winner of top prize

US President Barack Obama has received a lot of criticism - particularly from Americans - over being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The prize is first and foremost an award given by Europeans. Unlike the US, Europe has suffered from more than 1,000 years of almost continual wars. They do not wish to see these historical tragedies repeated, which is why the European Union is so extraordinarily successful. For many Americans the prize was possibly too early or perhaps not well deserved, as Mr Obama himself acknowledges. But from a European and world perspective he has already done a huge amount in the interests of peace by reaching out and talking - and meaning what he says.

The prize has given him - and America - enormous kudos with the rest of the world, along with the retrieval of the massive international support for America that was frittered away by the previous US administration.

It represents a U-turn from George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, who were aggressive from day one with their 'axis of evil' diatribes. Anyone who has watched his speeches should agree that Mr Obama is no fool.

He believes in the 'walk softly and carry a big stick' approach. So he can engage the likes of Iran and North Korea in direct talks knowing that, come what may, he retains the ability to whack those who would seriously endanger people everywhere. If all the talk and diplomacy fails, then before he takes a military option he can honestly look the world in the eye and say, 'We tried everything.' And I will believe him, just as I believe him to be a true messenger of peace.

Peter Sherwood, Discovery Bay

Railings only on part of road

I lived on Hatton Road before and after they erected protective railings on the steepest slopes of the path leading up to The Peak in the past decade.

This is comparable to the proposal for Old Peak Road. Without the railings on the steep parts, the usable width of the trail was narrowed because no sane person would choose to walk close to the edge of the sheer drop-off. There were often loose dogs or children about, meaning that you had to take care not to be pushed to the edge.

After the railings were installed, I noticed that I was less stressed when walking the trail because I no longer had any fear of being pushed to the edge and falling down the hill and was no longer, unconsciously, hugging the uphill side of the trail. The railings proposed on Old Peak Road are only for the steep bits, not the whole length of the road.

I believe that railings should be installed so the entire width of the trail can be used without concern, and for people like me whose poor knees prevent me from enjoying the downhill part of the trail without a railing to hold on to.

Annelise Connell, Stanley

Flat buyers need to be alert

I think the decision to have stricter requirements on developers' sales brochures is a good initiative ('Guidelines on misleading flat sales brochures tightened', October 8). Potential buyers will be given a clearer picture of what a planned estate will actually look like. They will also now be told about features in the area which may prove to be unpopular.

I think this will prevent allegations that flat purchasers are being misled. However, potential buyers also have to accept responsibility. It is up to them to do their homework and get more information about the estate.

If a developer does know about future developments in an area, that should be included in the sales brochure.

R. Hau, Kowloon Bay

Too many bans

Most people could see the sense in a smoking ban in public places. However, everything has a price. In this case it will be a 30 to 40 per cent reduction in trade for the restaurant and bar business, and related job losses. But where does it end?

The self-appointed and unelected protectors of my health are unlikely to stop at the smoking ban. Next they will try to ban drinking alcohol, eating fatty foods, gambling and driving.

In Britain, the health lobby has already managed to ban happy hours in bars in Scotland and is now working on bringing in a minimum price for units of alcohol. Fast food restaurants are banned from setting up near schools - just two examples of where all this is heading.

While I don't deny the dangers of excess in the list above, there is just as much danger in the excessiveness of banning everything just because it represents a health risk to those who cannot exercise self-control. Life is a risk and it should not matter how long you live, but more about your quality of life.

We need to encourage people towards moderation through education, not through extremist bans on everything that we may occasionally enjoy.

Scott Davies, Shanghai

Wasteful link

There have been various reports in your paper and responses from your readers on the proposed cross-border express rail link. I think this project should be reconsidered. The cost is too high and the benefits will be minimal.

I would like to know if there is an organisation that has been set up which is opposed to this link, so that people can come together and stop this waste.

Tony Chan, Sha Tin