Easy ways to check out colleges' claims
I applaud your editorial ('Bogus credentials must not be tolerated', August 12). Students and parents considering tertiary study should apply only to accredited institutions so that they earn and receive the lifelong rewards of higher education through a legitimately earned degree.
In the United States nearly all colleges and universities participate in a voluntary process of accreditation to establish their academic bona fides. Accreditation, a process of peer review, is generally seen as the key in determining whether a degree programme is legitimate and meets generally recognised academic standards.
In the US accreditors are private non-governmental organisations created for the specific purpose of reviewing higher education institutions and programmes for quality. It is accepted practice that institutions cite their accreditation, and the bodies that accorded it, on all of their marketing material. Absence of accreditation notice should alert prospective applicants to possible fraud and diploma-mill problems.
As the St Regis story illustrates ('It looks good but it's worthless', August 12), US state and federal authorities can and will prosecute businesses and individuals who commit fraud by selling diplomas with no real academic programme. Accreditation certifies by peer review that an institution's programmes are legitimate and meet widely recognised academic standards.
There is a simple way to check accreditation of institutions around the world. Visit a database maintained by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation at http://www.chea.org/intdb/quality-assurance.asp . This database contains information about quality assurance and accreditation organisations from 48 countries, including the US, and information about contacting each organisation.
Inquiries may also be directed to the EducationUSA advising centre at the Institute of International Education in Hong Kong (www.iiehongkong.org ). EducationUSA centres worldwide are authorised by the US Department of State and provide accurate, comprehensive, current and unbiased information about study in the US, how to choose schools and how to make study there affordable. Additional information can be seen at the EducationUSA website at http:www.education  usa.state.gov.
The information we provide is impartial, free and only on accredited US colleges, universities and boarding schools. We welcome inquiries by students, parents and others, and our professional advisers can counsel those interested in pursuing higher education in the US.
Ann White, director, China-Hong Kong, Institute of International Education
Masking the grim reality
Visually, I was as impressed by the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics as Patsy Leung, who claims that the extravaganza 'affirmed China as an emerging world power and a modern, affluent country with fast developing technology in which all Chinese people take great pride' ('A tribute to China and the Olympic spirit', August 15).
Yet, a truly modern and affluent society would not have allowed a large portion of its population to live in abject poverty.
While Beijing is being lit up by fireworks, those less fortunate in poorer regions are bereft of basic necessities and even clean water for daily consumption. This is revealed by television programmes that appeal for donations produced by various volunteer groups. Had a portion of the expenses spent on the opening ceremony been diverted to those poorer regions, a lot of hardship could have been alleviated, with perhaps lives saved.
Viewed in this context, the opening ceremony was little more than a propagandistic cover-up of the many ills that beset our country. Indeed, such a grand show may do China more harm than good if people like Ms Leung are bewitched by the superficial glamour and ignore the many problems in society that need to be addressed.
Calvin Lee, North Point
TVB served double fault
I cannot believe the appalling coverage from TVB of the fantastic men's singles tennis final in the Olympics between Rafael Nadal and Fernando Gonzalez on August 17.
Not only was the commentary some of the worst I have ever heard, but at the most critical point in the match, the channel switched to the news. For heaven's sake, why? Couldn't the news have been postponed?
We then got bits of news interspersed with bits of tennis until, mercifully for all concerned, Nadal won. But what a shambolic way to show this epic match. It was a disgrace.
Wendy Allen, Stanley
Modified hotel still a bad idea
I refer to the report ('Hopewell to unveil new tower proposal', August 9) regarding the controversial Mega Tower project and possible revision by Hopewell Holdings.
As we know, Hong Kong has a lot of high-rise buildings. In the past even a plan such as this, for the city's biggest hotel with 93 storeys, would have barely raised an eyebrow.
However, what was considered okay a decade ago is no longer acceptable. The community now regards the quality of life, aesthetics and the environment as valuable.
The company is considering lowering the density by about 5 per cent; that means the hotel would shed four to five floors. I agree with Wan Chai district councillor Peggy Lee Pik-yee who said that a 5 per cent reduction 'does not make much difference'. It will still increase traffic, obscure views, cut airflows and reduce the amount of greenery in the area. It will affect the living standards of residents in Wan Chai.
The report said that sources had said 'Hopewell might sue the government for blocking the long-delayed project', which was originally approved in 1994.
It should be the government's duty to do its best to improve people's living standards and maintain a clean and green environment.
Wong Mei-ling, Kwai Chung
Regarding recent reports on the drink-driving law, what is most important is that people with impaired reaction reflexes are not driving.
At present, the police test for alcohol, but drug testing is not only more expensive but is not comprehensive and never will be.
If Hong Kong's inventors could come up with an inexpensive, simple and accurate way to test driver reaction times at the road side (the old fashioned walking the line would nowadays get them run over), then this would catch druggies as well as drunks and make us all safer.
Unfortunately, a new law would be required and not a few sober drivers would likely fail too, judging by driving standards.
Guy Shirra, Sai Kung
I was surprised to read the letter by Cheng Shun-yin ('MTR congestion a real problem', August 6). In Hong Kong we are fortunate to have one of the best transport systems in the world.
Although at times manners leave a lot to be desired, trains run frequently. The longest I have had to wait is five minutes and even when there is a delay the MTR does a great job of keeping passengers informed, which is much more than you find in some other countries.
Well done MTR, for running an efficient service.
Jessica Yuen, Sha Tin