Digital, Journalist, Multi-media, Online, Reporting, Social, Writing

Online Concierge Service Helps Men Find Gifts for Their Partners

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This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition in Sept. 2014.

Dating is a serious business in Hong Kong. In an era of online dating and mobile matchmaking apps, every day thousands of single men and women in the city are busy searching for prospective partners through dating services. But what about those who have found true love and want to keep hold of it?

Enter the Butlur – an online gift-giving concierge service that describes itself as “helping discerning men delight women who have everything”.

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Digital, Journalist, Multi-media, Online, Reporting, Social, Writing

Have You Ever Wondered Why East Asians Spontaneously Make V-Signs in Photos?

Originally published on TIME.com

Spend a few minutes browsing social media, or watch groups of travelers posing in front of a popular tourist attraction, and you’re bound to come across it: attractive young Asians flashing smiles and making the V-for-Victory sign (or peace sign). The raised index and middle fingers, with palm facing outward, are as much a part of Asian portraiture as saying cheese is to English speakers. But why?

To non-Asians, the gesture seems so intrinsically woven into the popular culture of Beijing, Osaka or Taipei as to make it seem that it was forever thus — but, in fact, its earliest origins date back no further than the late 1960s, and the gesture didn’t really find widespread acceptance until the late 1980s.

Some say it began with Janet Lynn. The American figure skater was favored to take home gold in the 1972 Olympics in Japan. But the 18-year-old’s dream came crashing down when she fell during her performance. The gold medal was gone. She knew it, and Japan knew it.

But instead of grimacing, the shaggy-haired blonde simply smiled. Lynn’s behavior ran charmingly counter to the Japanese norm of saving face, and in doing so earned her legions of Japanese fans.

“They could not understand how I could smile knowing that I could not win anything,” said Lynn, who eventually went home with a bronze, in a telephone interview. “I couldn’t go anywhere the next day without mobs of people. It was like I was a rock star, people giving me things, trying to shake my hands.” Continue reading

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(Anding District, Gansu Province, CHINA) - Students in class in a school that parents believe was hit by a food poisoning outbreak.  ©Stephanie Burnett
Digital, Journalist, Multi-media, Online, Reporting, Uncategorized, Writing

In China, suspected school food poisoning case swept under the rug

A  version of this story was published by Journalists for Transparency for a special series titled ‘SPOILED: Corruption from Farm to Table’.

LANZHOU, China—There were so many students in the hospital that morning that Li had trouble finding her own daughter.

“They put four to five children to a single bed. They just didn’t have enough beds to fit all of them,” says Li, who requested only her surname be used.

Her second-grade daughter was one of 244 primary school students in the central Chinese province of Gansu that fell ill in April 2013 after eating a government-subsidized school breakfast. The students, from five different schools in Gansu’s poor, remote Anding District, were stricken with severe diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pains.

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Writing

Did you use protection, Mom?

The sex talk.Unexpectedly, I found myself illustrating precautionary measures before she walked out the door.

“Let me know when you’re home and be safe.”

“I will, don’t worry! I love you,” she assured me – a genuine attempt to appease my anxiety.

Like most parents, I swallowed mixed emotions that brew when a daughter goes on a first date: proud of how beautiful and independent she’s become, but restlessly suspicious of the man she’s with.

But I wasn’t a parent. She was my divorcee mother, and I, her overprotective daughter.

Signing as witness at my mother's wedding ceremony in 2013.

Signing as witness at my mother’s wedding ceremony in 2013.

In the last decade, the traditional parent-child relationship with my mother has been upturned, embellished with anecdotes that rival cumbersome remakes of Freaky Friday.

It’s not because I’m habitually controlling. It’s because of the real dangers facing dating divorcees: sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have more than doubled amongst middle-aged and senior adults from 2002 to 2012, according to the medical journal BMJ.

Thankfully, mother waited years until after her divorce to start dating. She was a selfless, devout Catholic committed to her children, providing any additional comfort when she could to me and my brother. So when non-biblical male names suddenly dropped in conversation while I was in college – my deeply furrowed eyebrows fashioned stern gazes of concern and distrust.

It was time to have ‘the talk.’

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Germany’s Reichert wins Hong Kong’s safe and clean harbour swim race

Reporting by Stephanie Burnett

Christian Reichert of Germany won Hong Kong’s cross-harbour swim race yesterday in a meet that event staff and swimmers called the safest and cleanest yet.

Reichert outshined his teammate and race favourite, Thomas Lurz, in the 1.5-kilometre open water race to become champion. It was the first time both swimmers took part in the Hong Kong meet.

“The race was great – it was perfect,” said Reichert.

2013 World Cup marathon champion Lurz attributed his fourth place result to a stomach virus he developed in China last week.

At 33 years old, Lurz is now considering retiring from professional swimming and expects to make a final decision in December, he said.

Clean and safe water

This year’s finishing line was moved from Sai Wan Ho to Quarry Bay to achieve better swimming conditions and to avoid pollution and injuries, according to several staff members.

This is the third time the cross-harbour race was held since 2011, after a 33-year hiatus. The annual swimming competition was suspended in 1979 due to excessive pollution.

Grace Fong, a 59-year-old local competitor, said the water in this year’s race was the cleanest yet. She was 17 when she completed her first cross-harbour swim meet, but said the experience was marred by pollutants in the water.  “[When I was 17] there was lots of oil in the water. When I finished I had black oil all over my body. Now you can see it’s much better here,” she said.

A flexible pontoon dock was built by the Hong Kong Sea School to prevent injury to swimmers climbing ashore at the finish line, said Will Wong, maritime study instructor of the Hong Kong Sea School.

Last year, approximately 80 swimmers suffered abrasions as they climbed onto the rocky shore, according to Ma Chun Wah, member of the Auxiliary Medical Services attending to the event.

Male swimmers cautious while swimming with women

However not all swimmers thought the race set-up was ideal. Some male swimmers criticised the simultaneous mixed-sex racing format because they felt energy had to be spent on being overcautious.

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Journalist, Online, Social, Writing

What we can learn from Venezuela and Kenya

It didn’t come as a surprise.

This year’s elections around the world were often marred by allegations of election fraud, including vote buying, intimidation and physical violence. But what is new is the shift in how such claims are being reported in the digital age – and taken seriously.

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Communications consultant, Writing

Aid robbed in Uganda: What can be done?

Written by: Stephanie Burnett for Transparency International

Recent Ugandan headlines of corruption are ubiquitous: leading donor agencies such as the British government’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Irish government are suspending aid to Uganda following highly publicised corruption scandals.

In August external auditors from the Office of the Auditor General revealed that approximately €12 millionin aid from Scandinavian countries and Ireland were allegedly funnelled to the private bank accounts of officials from the Ugandan Prime Minister’s office. As the fraud investigation wore on, Ireland, Denmark and Norway suspended aid to Uganda. The Ugandan government has pledged to return the money.

In light of the scandal, DFID has indefinitely suspended the remaining £11.1 million (US$17.6 million) allocated this year to further Ugandan development.

The poor lose the most

The decision to pull funding is not surprising, but the impact on the poor can be devastating. Continue reading

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