18 January 2009

The Messiah

Even after they have tipped the election in President-elect Obama's favour, the MSM continue to worship at his altars. Now the Canadian Governor-General (head of state for Canada) has hailed Mr. Obama as the hope for all humanity. The Messiah indeed!

17 January 2009

OUTRAGE: Congress Whoring out Amerikkka; Buy a House, Get a Green Card!!!

Thanks to Michelle Malkin for this story.

Buy a house, get citizenship?! Yes, it’s true

By Michelle Malkin • January 16, 2009 01:56 PM

A reader sent along a story published in a Bulgarian newspaper about an outrageous-sounding scheme offered to foreigners: Invest in real estate. Win American citizenship. Yes, it’s true. And I’ve told you about it before. More on that in a minute.

From Bulgaria:

Investment in real estate in US guarantees a green card
16:58 Thu 15 Jan 2009 - Nick Iliev

The purchase of a piece of property in America, a single-family house, a PUD (planned unit development) or a condo (flat within a condominium) will guarantee you and your family a green card. This is one of the extreme measures implemented to help stall the meteoric fall of the United States economy in light of the economic crisis, Bulgarian weekly Stroitelstvo Gradut reported on January 15.

Thirty-five accredited investors will have the opportunity to acquire real estate in the south-eastern state of Florida – by purchasing a house – they will be granted a green card for permanent residence and right of employment for the buyer himself and his/her entire family.

Additional conditions are that the prospective buyer must have a clean criminal record, a good credit record, the ability to present and prove a decent monthly income, and no outstanding financial obligations or credit liabilities. The purchase itself can be done either with cash, bank transfer or monthly instalments, but the financial resource must be proven legitimate.

The US government has allocated 10 000 such visas nation-wide for potential investors in real esate, under a programme approved by the US Congress. Florida’s is the first such programme that has actively been given the green light to commence. Specialists in the field argue that this is the best time to invest and purchase property in America, as prices in some states have been slashed by as much as 25 per cent. Experts argue that within three years’ time, however, the market will stabilise and prices will rise.

Would Congress really approve such a money-grubbing and potentially dangerous scheme?

You betcha. I first reported on the EB-5 program eight years ago this month and blogged about it 2 years ago. You will not be surprised to learn who the supporters of the program are. God save us from bipartisanship.

04 January 2009

Koreans Krazed about Plastic Surgery Now Face Economic Woes

The Fairbank Report has extensively covered the plastic surgery craze in Asia since 2005. (See our entry about "Dawn Yang" of Singapore.) It is indeed sad to see so many sheeple whose only source of self-esteem comes from the television set or the pages of air-brushed magazines.

Economy Blunts Korea’s Appetite for Plastic Surgery

Published: January 1, 2009

SEOUL — A grim frugality has settled over this export powerhouse that once burst with optimism — and silicone.

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Seokyong Lee/Penta Press for The New York Times

Park Hyun, a plastic surgeon, offering guidance to a patient at his clinic in Seoul. Fewer people are getting facelifts.

Seokyong Lee/Penta Press for The New York Times

A counselor on the phone with a patient at Park Hyun Plastic Surgery Clinic in Seoul.

Seokyong Lee/Penta Press for The New York Times

Dr. Park, far right, performing plastic surgery.

Cosmetic surgery took off here after South Korea’s spectacular recovery from its currency crisis a decade ago. Rising living standards allowed ever-growing numbers of men and women to get the wider eyes, whiter skin and higher nose bridges that define beauty for many here. Improved looks were even seen as providing an edge in this high-pressure society’s intense competition for jobs, education and marriage partners.

But turmoil coursing through the financial world and then into the global economy has hit South Korea hard, as it has many middle-income countries. The downturn drove down the stock market and the currency by a third or more last year, and the resulting anxiety forced many South Koreans to change their habits.

A particular chill has seeped into the plastic surgery industry, emptying waiting rooms and driving clinics out of business.

“In hard times, people always cut back on luxuries like eating out, jewelry and plastic surgery,” said one plastic surgeon, Park Hyun, who has seen the number of his patients drop sharply. “If this is a normal recession, then these desires will eventually get reignited, and our patients will come back.”

After a pause, Dr. Park added: “If this downturn is like the Great Depression, then we are all going to get killed off.”

It is hard to measure the exact size of the industry here or the extent of the current downturn because no one keeps exact figures. Seoul-based ARA Consulting, which specializes in the plastic surgery industry, said reports from surgeons and local media suggest the number of patient visits each month is down 40 percent since September.

That would be a huge setback to this once fast-growing industry. From a luxury limited to the wealthy a decade ago, according to ARA, plastic surgery has become so common that an estimated 30 percent of Korean women aged 20 to 50, or some 2.4 million women, had surgical or nonsurgical cosmetic procedures last year, with many having more than one procedure.

That compares with 11.7 million cosmetic procedures performed last year in the United States, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, meaning that the number of procedures in America is 4.9 times the number in South Korea, though the United States population is more than six times larger.

“As South Korea became wealthier, it was just one more thing that women desire,” said Yoon Sung-min, ARA’s chief executive. He said many doctors were drawn to plastic surgery because payment is outside of the national health care system’s price controls, allowing bigger profits.

Nowhere has the boom, and the currently unfolding bust, been more apparent than Seoul’s fashionable shopping neighborhood of Apgujeong.

More than half of South Korea’s 627 registered cosmetic surgery clinics are here — their names, including Dr. For You and Ivy Plastic, visible among the fashion boutiques and wine bars.

But their once-crowded waiting rooms are empty. For sale signs have begun appearing on clinic doors for the first time in memory, and some 20 clinics have already closed.

Dr. Park, the plastic surgeon, predicts a third of Apgujeong’s clinics could close by spring.

“This is the Mecca of plastic surgery in Asia,” said Dr. Park, who sat in his lavishly decorated wood-paneled clinic overlooking the neighborhood. “But even a Mecca can fall on hard times.”

Dr. Park said December would normally have been his peak season because high school seniors finish South Korea’s grueling university entrance exams and prepare for winter graduation. He said the exhausted students — and their equally stressed mothers — often celebrated by getting cosmetic surgery.

Not last December. Though he would not disclose specific numbers, Dr. Park said his patient load was down by half, leading him to lay off three of his seven nurses and office workers.

Sung Myung-soon can sympathize.

Like millions of South Koreans who recently emerged into the middle class, Ms. Sung, a 54-year-old homemaker, enjoyed a lifestyle of shopping at malls and lounging by her health club’s pool, and — until a few months ago — regularly visiting the plastic surgeon, where she maintained her youthful appearance.

But the financial crisis in the fall has brought fears that South Korea’s good times may be over, or at least on indefinite suspension, and Ms. Sung has cut back by making fewer visits to her plastic surgeon and bargaining hard for discounts when she does visit. She refuses to give up her plastic surgery altogether.

“Even at times like these, women still want their plastic surgery,” said Ms. Sung, who recently rounded her eyes and smoothed wrinkles on her forehead.

Typical of South Korea’s more frugal patients, she chose less expensive procedures, like Botox injections to remove wrinkles, instead of her usual surgery. She also said she would reduce her number of visits to once a year, from twice.

Still, surgeons say the continued desire of women like Ms. Sung to look beautiful will keep the industry alive, although it may shrink greatly.

But Dr. Park and other plastic surgeons said the country’s decline has brought one silver lining: South Korea’s currency has fallen so far that procedures here are now cheap when calculated in dollars and other currencies. This has led to growing numbers of Japanese, Chinese and Korean Americans coming to Seoul for relatively inexpensive cosmetic procedures.

Some clinics said 20 to 30 percent of patients are now foreigners, up from 10 percent last year. A few larger clinics are even taking the opportunity of a downturn at home to open branches in China, the country seen as the industry’s next big growth market.

Other plastic surgeons have left the Apgujeong area to escape the intense competition. One, Jang Yeon-jae, recently moved to a small clinic in the nondescript middle-class neighborhood of Nokbeon, in northern Seoul, in hopes of drawing new customers. He said business had been slow so far at the clinic, whose tiny waiting room has a peach-colored sofa and a television playing footage of Korean pop concerts.

The lower volume of patients, as well as the national plastic surgery downturn, has led Dr. Jang to change some of his habits too. “Before, I focused on profitable procedures” like breast enlargement, he said. “Now, I take every little procedure, even just removing a single mole.”

Some companies in the industry are adapting in other ways. Hyumedi, a firm that sells and leases medical equipment, has been buying used equipment from liquidated clinics at fire sale prices.

Jeon Jin-wook, the company’s chief executive, said he had bought so many machines that he rented a second warehouse just to store them all. He said he expected demand for second-hand equipment to pick up as clinics can no longer afford expensive new machines.

“It is a good time to stock up,” Mr. Jeon said. “We have to change with the times.”

Su Hyun Lee contributed reporting.