The year that will be 2009


More than for George W Bush, having a shoe thrown in his face is ominous for the Chinese Premier.

Popularised by the Iraqi journalist now seeking asylum for fear of persecution, shoe-throwing has become the preferred manner of displaying political opposition. Bush showed much agility, dodging the offending footwear better than he has his other critics. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao didn't quite get a chance to match that, since the sneaker missed him by more than an arm's length.

Risky high risers


This September, the Burj will be completed in the United Arab Emirates, making it the world's tallest building. Yet it seems everytime a record-breaking skyscraper goes up, the financial market in the country goes down. measures the Curse of the Skyscraper Index.

What is the likelihood that Shanghai will be hit by a recession next year?

Hong Kong's infallible stock market index


They call it Adam Cheng.

The Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, the European Central Bank, the numerous high-flying hedge fund managers and investors in the West may have been caught by the current sub-prime market meltdown, but Hong Kongers had known a big fall in equity prices was coming weeks before it happened.

A weighty issue


Hong Kong women are popping thousands of slimming pills a day, despite the danger to their health.

In 2004 the Hong Kong Association of Obesity made an interesting discovery: it found that the men in Hong Kong had been getting fatter since the early 1990s, while the women had been getting slimmer. Three years later it finally discovered why. It seems that Hong Kong women are addicted to popping pills to lose weight and some have carried it to a dangerous extent.

Vegan? Here, have some leaves


Does eating a special diet mean that you have to take your kitchen with you in a cabin bag? It is time for people with specific food requirements to stand up and be counted.

Recently, I took a luxury cruise where I spent almost every day going hungry, and later, a cooking class where I ate like a prince and learnt something about being on a special diet while travelling.

Older than Bond, James Bond


The art of stealth has deep roots in the Indian, Chinese and Japanese cultures.

Espionage is said to be the second-oldest profession in the world, (presumably driven by a demand from wives whose husbands were busy being supplied by the first) and some ancient Asian civilisations were particularly good at it. In fact, many spying techniques that were used in ancient China, India and Japan may have predated modern intelligence methods by several centuries.

A malaria-free future?


It prevails in 105 countries and kills more people than AIDS and tuberculosis combined. Its victims include both old and young, and nearly half of those infected are in Asia. As another year dawns, are we any closer to eliminating malaria at last?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), malaria is responsible for nearly 3 million deaths worldwide each year. It remains the most important and widespread tropical disease, and its treatment and control have become more difficult with the spread of drug-resistant strains of parasites and insecticide-resistant strains of mosquito vectors.

Brave old world


Robots straight out of Star Wars are helping the elderly in Japan go about their daily activities.

Japan, land of anime, kinky vending machines and intelligent toilets, is using robots to help its elderly. The robots come in all shapes and sizes – humanoid figures, mechanical jackets, furry seals – and do everything from keeping the aged company to helping them harvest radishes. The Great Robot Exhibition held recently in Tokyo drew huge, admiring crowds. Japan is facing what demographers call a "super-aging" population, with a sharply decreasing number of workers to support retirees, and is looking to technology for help.

Bugged by the heat


As earth warms up, new species of insects have begun to establish themselves all across Europe, sparking concerns about biodiversity and public health.

Castiglione de Cervia, a village of 2,000 in northern Italy, was celebrating Ferragosto – a summer festival marked by collective rites, eating, drinking and sexual excesses – when one after another fell ill with weeks of high fever, exhaustion and excruciating bone pain.

Maid in China


In just one generation, affluent Chinese may start speaking English with a Filipino accent.

Filipino maids are now the rage among the wealthy Chinese, who hire them not only to do household chores, but also to teach their children English.