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Archive Monthly Archives: March 2018

Suspected bank robber wrote himself a note to ‘act normal’

Thai police captured his picture of Roach at customs.
Image: ROYAL THAI POLICE / HANDOUT

SINGAPORE As more details emerge after the capture of bank robbery suspect David James Roach, police are starting to piece together a picture of a nervous, inexperienced robber who somehow strode away with S$30,000 ($22,317) after slipping the teller a piece of paper.

That’s right, he robbed a bank without any violence or displaying arms.

Roach, a 27-year-old Canadian who reportedly left Canada last August to travel, has been in headlines here after he allegedly robbed a Standard Chartered bank branch a week ago.

A picture of Roach published in the local papers:

Reports say he simply walked into the bank before noon, handed a note over and walked out in minutes. Authorities have not revealed what the note said. But by the time the police came, he was gone.

Thai police caught him three days later in Bangkok, where he had nearly the entire sum of money on him.

He also had a notebook, in which he scribbled some reminders to himself, the head of Thailand’s Interpol unit, Major-General Apichart Suriboonya, has revealed.

“Points to note after carrying out a robbery”

Under the heading “points to note after carrying out a robbery,” Roach had written three points: wear plain clothes, take a taxi, and behave normally.

On another page, he wrote “make money” and listed three cities: Singapore, Chiang Mai (Thailand) and Dubai. This was possibly his escape route, Suriboonya told Shin Min Daily.

Singapore doesn’t have an extradition treaty with Thailand or Canada. Thailand has not announced whether it will send him to Singapore or his home country yet.

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5 insider tricks for a better Facebook experience

In many ways, Facebook has become a parallel universe. Millions of people use the app on their phones. Millions of others never think to log out. Entire businesses are run through Facebook, and some institutions use a Facebook page instead of an actual website. Though there are many methods of instant communication, Facebook users routinely use Messenger to write or call friends all over the world.

Related: How to make money on Facebook.

But Facebook has some minor inconveniences that can waste your time or embarrass you down the road. Here are five hard-to-figure-out tricks for improving your Facebook experience.

More on this…

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How to Make a Living as a Food Blogger – Food & Wine


Food & Wine

How to Make a Living as a Food Blogger
Food & Wine
It's all-too-easy to look at your favorite food blogs and think of them as a hobbies and not the well-oiled and very often moneymaking machines they are. Look no further than Pinch of Yum, however, to see the financial potential behind so many blogs

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Fun with fashion – MyRepublica (satire) (press release) (blog)


MyRepublica (satire) (press release) (blog)

Fun with fashion
MyRepublica (satire) (press release) (blog)
Rhea Pradhan was looking for something to do in her free time post SLC and that's when fashion blogging caught her fancy and she entered the blogging scene. This was back in 2011, and terms like digital influencers and vloggers were not a thing – even

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6 Reasons Movies Suck (That Hollywood Hasn’t Figured Out)

Unlike 2014’s abysmal box office low, 2015 saw one of the most successful summers in Hollywood history. Nice work, everyone! All that’s left to do is churn out a quirky arthouse film about a sad Steve Carell and call it a year, right? Only here’s the thing …

All that sweet blockbuster bank was primarily made by two studios, while everyone else took a beating like Vincent D’Onofrio during the blanket party scene in Full Metal Jacket. In fact, 2015’s success falls squarely on the four top-earning films. Everything else either did the same as 2014 or bombed spectacularly. So what in the world happened? Have Disney and Universal finally hoarded all the marketable franchises to form an unbeatable uber-duo like a corporate Tango and Cash? Or is there some detectable reason so many studios failed this year? If you ask me, it’s not rocket science. And as we’ve pointed out in the past, there are six simple lessons that the non-theme-park-owning studios can learn for 2016 …

#6. We Don’t Need Elaborate Origin Stories Anymore

Despite being the first Mad Max adventure in 30 years, Mad Max: Fury Road treated character backstory like post-apocalyptic gasoline — rationing off very little while assuming that audiences were familiar with the basic concepts of “loss” and “nuclear annihilation.” After all, thanks to every new Terminator film, we’ve been repeatedly walked through the nuclear holocaust like it’s a goddamn team-building mantra.

Somehow, I’m bored by the fiery deaths of millions.

Just how many times do they think we need a movie about stopping Judgment Day before the series can die? Every new Terminator film neurotically fears that the audience has never seen the previous one, spending at least 10 percent of its runtime re-explaining the entire franchise. It’s almost as frustrating as Peter Parker’s doomed life as an eternal teenager, watching his Uncle Ben get murdered and reborn over and over like a wailing Prometheus.

Rumors of a freak encounter with a radioactive spider still swirl!

Superhero films are the worst when it comes to obsessively retelling origin stories. Every new reboot apparently thinks that the audience has somehow forgotten everything about the previous film and will welcome a Nolan-like reimagining. Speaking of Nolan, Batman Begins didn’t succeed because it focused on Bruce Wayne’s parents dying for the third time on film, but because it showed the previously-unseen years between their deaths and his decision to become a tactical crime-fighting giant mouse. But thanks to that film, we now have a Fantastic Four movie that spends two-thirds of its time lumbering through expository sequences wherein its four main characters stand around frowning at each other.

And the actors do the same while off-camera.

Generally speaking, an origin story serves two main purposes: 1) It eases the audience into accepting and understanding the universe of the film, and/or 2) It show us the origin of an iconic character for the purpose of entertainment. The key is knowing what needs an explanation and what doesn’t. For example, Star Wars had faith that audiences would accept “a galaxy far, far away” as enough justification for spaceships, aliens, and some intergalactic war, but it also knew that unique concepts like lightsabers and the Force needed to be slowly introduced along the way. Unlike the prequels’ obsession with the thrilling nuance of trade route taxation disputes, the original films understood that audiences were sophisticated enough to accept a basic “good vs evil” plot. I bring up Star Wars because it was the clear glimmer in the eye of the sibling duo behind this hot sack of crap:

Dog Soldiers II: Byzantine Space Politics

Jupiter Ascending follows the winning Star Wars plot about a complacent rando becoming a space warrior, but noisily shits the bed in assuming it needs to spend its first 40 minutes furiously over-explaining the origins of everything from a complicated dispute between alien dynasties to the bureaucratic process of being registered as space royalty. (Seriously, there’s an extended sequence in the middle of the film in which the main character has to slog through what is essentially a Space DMV.) There’s even a scene of the protagonist being born, as if the filmmakers were afraid that we wouldn’t understand how she came to exist otherwise.

We don’t need any of that stuff. Spend as little time as possible explaining the parts that are absolutely necessary, and let the story tell the rest. This is one of many reasons this new Wachowski film bombed unceremoniously — another being that it was made by the Wachowskis. Which segues perfectly into the next point …

#5. Studios Keep Betting On Actors And Directors Who Never Make Money

After Jupiter Ascending pulled the box office equivalent of drowning in urine, Deadline issued this incredulous crow of a headline:

Yes. How could it be that the makers of Speed Racer, Cloud Atlas, and The Matrix Revolutions created a subpar sci-fi / fantasy film? Oh wait:

Jupiter Ascending was advertised as being from the creators of The Matrix — a 16-year-old movie.

It turns out that the Wachowski siblings have literally never made a beloved or marketable film since The Matrix. And yet, for some unfathomable reason, their last three flops had respective budgets of $176 million, $102 million, and $120 million. It’s almost as if the people giving them money are in some spiraling state of denial about the fact that this duo only had one good story to tell. And they aren’t alone in the shitter, either.

George Clooney is a great and universally fuckable actor, but barely any of his headlining films have broken the $100 million mark:

And the only one to break $200 million killed him off after half an hour.

Yet for some reason, Tomorrowland had a budget over $100 million. Why? Did they think he was finally due? I get that Brad Bird is a director with a bunch of huge hits under his belt, but why wouldn’t they have used a portion of that gigantic budget to hire a lead with mainstream appeal? The same goes for Arnold Schwarzenegger, who hasn’t cracked $100 million solely on his presence in over a decade. This makes the $155 million spent on Terminator Genisys an act of a money-hating terrorism.

I know it sounds callously un-progressive to imply that studios shouldn’t let actors lob a good buzzer beater every now and then, but there’s a difference between cautiously investing in a spunky underdog and going all-in on a rotting dachshund. I’m not saying that the Wachowskis should be purged from Hollywood, but rather that studios should stop dogmatically throwing so much money at every story they conjure about rocket-skating dog people fighting dinosaurs in leather jackets. It’s depressing that I have to even propose that, and that the previous sentence is in no way a joke.

#4. No One Wants To Watch A Movie With Millions Of Villains Packed In It

Quick: Name a good movie with more than two iconic villains in it. And by “iconic villain,” I mean a fully-fleshed-out, single character who made an impact on the audience, and not a cluster of villains like the Baseball Furies from The Warriors or Jurassic Park‘s raptors. Also, the villains have to be in only one film, meaning that stuff like Return Of The Jedi, Return Of The King, or any of the Harry Potters don’t count, because their characters had multiple films in which to be fleshed out.

I know that sounds like I’m arbitrarily making up rules, but what I’m getting at is that in order for a villain like Boba Fett or Bellatrix Lestrange to be memorable, they need a lot of elbow room to become formidable and sexy and scary. And so with a standalone, 90-to-120-minute film, the greater number of bad guys you stick in, the less time you have to make each character memorable in any way. I feel like now is as good of a time as any to point out that Terminator Genisys has four villains in it.

From top to bottom: T-800, T-1000, T-3000, and T-5000. Because if we can’t improve the story, we’ll improve the model numbers.

Four. Two of whom are killed in the first half of the film, while the other two only show up near the end. At no point is a considerable amount of time spent on even one of these killer robots, making none of them remarkable in any way. You could argue that Robot John Connor was supposed to be the main villain, but given that you don’t see him until the halfway point, it’s monumentally challenging to give a shit.

Any first-year film student will tell you that most movies tend to introduce the main antagonist and/or obstacles in the first act of a film. In the first 30 minutes of Age Of Ultron, Furious 7, and Jurassic World, we know exactly who or what the villain is and what problem they’re causing. By its 12-minute mark, Mad Max: Fury Road has given us its main villain, heroes, and the inciting action that sets the rest of the film into motion. This is how action and adventure movies are supposed to work, and why I get full-body mystery pain when I look at the Batman V. Superman cast and see half of DC’s lineup:

The post-credits teaser will feature Jonah Hex, Swamp Thing, Black Canary, and Alley-Kat-Abra.

Maybe I’m a pessimist, but there’s no worldly way to make all those characters compelling with the little amount of introductory screen time they’re getting. That’s why Marvel didn’t start with The Avengers and make individual films later, and why DC isn’t being innovative by doing the opposite. Meanwhile, Pixels had three mini-bosses that came and went, and Jupiter Ascending juggled more half-formed and badly-motivated shifties than a Robin Thicke concert. It sounds so basic, but most of the worst-rated blockbusters films this year seemed to forget that you need to spend time establishing a single villain. And the failure doesn’t even have to be oversaturation; while Fantastic Four only had Dr. Doom to work with, they inexplicably introduced him in the final leg of the film, in what was arguably its only compelling moment.

Relatively speaking.

If you’re wondering why the film didn’t simply start with Dr. Doom rampaging around and blowing up heads, it’s because everyone assumed there would be plenty of time for that in the sequel. Which reminds me …

#3. Movies Need To Stop Assuming They’re Getting Sequels

When attempting to prime audiences for the inevitable disappointment of Fantastic Four, director Josh Trank told a Comic-Con audience that the film “almost works as a prequel” to the theoretical sequel which we now know it will never have. Not only is this the most insane justification ever, but it’s also a perfect representation for how badly Marvel Studios’ success clouds the judgment of every writer and director. Big-budget movies are no longer made as single-serving stories, but under the bold assumption that they are only one installment of a vast network of sequels and spin-offs. And while there’s nothing wrong with planning ahead a little bit, treating your film like its the first act of a three-act play will either take away from the story you’re trying to tell or become flat-out embarrassing if nobody likes it and you never get to make another one. Case in point:

For those of you enjoying this column, here’s the punchline from a joke in my next one,
devoid of all context: “You’re an asshole when you’re drunk, Superman.”

And so, once again I have to drag out Terminator Genisys, a film that glossed over why Arnold Schwarzenegger was sent back to kick-start an alternate timeline and which ultimately baffled audiences. When asked about this, the director said that the film was written with the intent of being a trilogy, and that a later film would answer a lot of the taunting plot holes in the first one. This is the equivalent of setting a house on fire while you’re building it, and then reassuring everyone that the second floor will have an extinguisher. Tell a complete, sensical story, you franchise cannibal.

If you don’t remember, it was this mindset that almost ruined Age Of Ultron for audiences, as the studio was so obsessed with setting up future films that they stuck in a gibberish cave sequence and almost made Joss Whedon’s beautiful head implode. It’s also partially why we didn’t get to see Edgar Wright make Ant-Man, a film which Marvel considered to be more of a two-hour ad for Phase Four than a standalone story.


Because when else will they have the opportunity to promote future films?

Here’s an interesting fact: The new Mad Max was originally supposed to be two films shot back-to-back, one of which focused on the Furiosa character. Somewhere along the way, it became more sensible to consolidate all of the awesomeness into the single genital-engorging movie now holding a 97 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. When recently asked about the possibility of a sequel, director George Miller compared the question to asking someone who just gave birth when their next baby is due. In other words, he considers Mad Max a work of passion, and not the first hitch on a chain of marketable products … Otherwise known as how storytelling is supposed to work.

But this is merely one of the many reasons Mad Max is currently the highest-rated film of the year …

#2. The Best Movies This Year Knew Exactly Who They Were Made For

The stupid simple reason Mad Max is 2015’s best-rated film on Rotten Tomatoes is that anyone who wouldn’t like the film didn’t go see it in the first place. On opening weekend, 54 percent of Fury Road‘s audience was over the age of 35 and presumably made up of fans of the original film. Meanwhile, Pitch Perfect 2 was cleaning house due to being primarily aimed at young female audiences. Both of these films refused to cast a wide net, and therefore appealed to a specific group guaranteed to fill the seats. Unlike many remakes of and sequels to ’80s action films, Fury Road didn’t downgrade to a PG-13 rating to appeal to younger crowds, because doing so would have alienated its actual audience. Gee, if there was only a recent example which was also based off an R-rated ’80s film I could compare that to …

Begone, spirit! Torment me no longer!

Oh, hello again! Terminator is a franchise that no one under the age of 17 gives a wheezing duck fart about. Its star hasn’t made a memorable film in two decades — which, incidentally, is exactly how long it’s been since there was a good Terminator film. Terminator Genisys‘ best possible hope to succeed would be to appeal to the fans who grew up with the series. But instead of embracing that, the producers of Terminator Genisys opted for a PG-13 rating, even though 65 percent of its audience was over 25. By trying to appeal to everybody, they effectively made a film for nobody. In a way, it’s almost impressive how skillfully the movie dodged every marketable demographic like a ninja flipping through an arrow onslaught. However, Genisys is but a journeyman compared to the superior ranks of the forsaken mighty …

“People keep sharing pictures of wacky mustaches on Facebook, so what if we made an
entire movie about one?” — Someone who gets paid more than me, somehow.

Yeah, remember that piece of shit? Mortdecai made a cringeworthy $10 million in its first weekend, and has since barely made back half of its $60 million budget. But what’s worse is that anyone expected otherwise, as this film about Johnny Depp playing a goofy eccentric clown was inexplicably rated R — as in, it was restricted from the only people who would possibly want to see Jack Sparrow do silly walks on camera. Seriously, who was this movie even for? What fictional demographic were the executives imagining when they released this cinematic enigma?


Although Clooney was clearly high for that photo.

There’s no good reason the aged star of Monuments Men and The Descendants should be the selling point for a carnival kids’ movie. Nor should an Adam Sandler film about ’80s video games be rated anything less than R. I’m not a mystical shaman, but all this requires is a basic knowledge of how time works. If your movie is about something only old people will remember, then make it for old people. If it’s a dino-wrangling sequel to a PG-13 film from the ’90s, you can probably stick Star Lord in there for the kids. And for the love of God, don’t put an indie director whose one success is a low-budget found footage film in charge of your hundred-million-dollar superhero movie.

#1. Stop Giving Budding Indie Directors Multi-Million-Dollar Franchises

Holy shit, guys. Fantastic Four was more drawn out and disheartening than watching a monkey starve to death. It took place exclusively indoors, had the color scheme of Chernobyl, and went on for 40 minutes before the superheroes got their powers. It was the closest thing to an anti-film I’ve yet seen — dwelling in the stark mantle beneath a dying field of happiness, like a cold drainage ditch full of dead children. If you think I’m being dramatic, then you clearly haven’t seen this movie.

“… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you …” — James Cameron

Let’s examine what happened, starting with the fact that Fox decided to go with a director whose only other film was a $12 million found footage movie made popular by darkly subverting the comic book genre.

Who would have thought that the ominous tagline was about Josh Trank all along?

Everything that made Chronicle a success was based around the novelty of grumpy flying teenagers, coupled with its $120 million return against a ridiculously small budget. But when compared to the 2005 Fantastic Four, those numbers are still three times less than Michael Chiklis in a rubber shit-suit. In other words, there’s no reason to think that audiences would want a dark Fantastic Four. Considering how similar Trank’s only two films are, it stands to reason that they’d even make the same amount of money … which they did.

Being essentially the same gritty take on superheroes, both Chronicle and Fantastic Four totaled around $130 million dollars when the dust cleared. But as you might have noticed from the numbers above, only one of these films was made on a micro-budget.

What I’m getting at here is that there’s no smart reason to take a hotshot indie director with one experimental film under his belt and give him $120 million to kick-start a tentpole franchise. Marvel and Universal get away with it because they pick safe directors and micromanage every nuance of the production; something Sony clearly refused to do. But even when the studios are breathing down necks, this modern process of dragging a director straight from indie to blockbuster and skipping over the mid-budget film stage is fucking ludicrous. Not only because it presents a constant gamble on the studio’s behalf, but also because it’s simultaneously preventing us from discovering the next Spielberg or Cameron. Remember these films?

Hint: They both starred hulking blocks of thoughtless murder muscle.

Both of these were made for less than $10 million. Afterwards, both directors went on to make drastically different films about the same subject, called Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and Aliens. Those films cost around $20 million to make. From there, both directors continued to slowly increase their budgets. Jim Cameron spent $70 million on The Abyss, while Spielberg spent a combined $100 million to make E.T. and the first three Indiana Jones films. Cameron didn’t get a $100 million budget until Terminator 2, and Spielberg didn’t spend that much money on a single film until fucking 2002, when he made Minority Report. And when you think about it, this is exactly how the system should work.

When Jim Cameron asks for $200 million to do Dances With Ferngully, it’s because he’s earned that trust, dammit.

If you’re a first-week cashier at a Hardee’s, you aren’t expected to run the meth lab in the back by week two. Similarly, if you just made a film called “Elite Squad” for $16 million, you wouldn’t expect to be making a Robocop reboot for $130 million. That’s a stupid and reckless gamble every time.

And the saddest part isn’t that it’s ruining the films, but rather the directors who might have otherwise gone on to make great films of their own (to be rebooted 20 years later by a whole new crop of directors). Chronicle was a strong concept that, if followed with a mid-budget film instead of a bloated superhero franchise, might have started a good career instead of imploding it. Gambling with new directors also means gambling with those directors’ careers. Consequently, a guy like Alan Taylor might successfully go from TV shows to Thor: The Dark World, but can still ruin Terminator Genisys due to his lack of experience. Gareth Edwards went from a $500,000 indie film to a fucking $160 million Godzilla film in four years, and is now making the next Star Wars movie, even though he only has two previous credits to his name, both of which are giant monster movies.

Beware: This movie is 90 percent aimless wandering.

It’s like the studio executives are frantically running around tossing various directors on random projects like they’re on a Nickelodeon game show, all while competing for who can blindly eat the largest wad of money. Because for some ungodly reason, Hollywood has forgotten how to make a modestly-budgeted film.

And that’s why I’m so bummed out by headlines like this

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Part II: This programmer turned online exam coach mints Rs 50K working from home – onmanorama

Part II: This programmer turned online exam coach mints Rs 50K working from home
onmanorama
Like any other student, Easwar too was fond of dabbling on the Internet, but never thought that it could bring him his pocket money. When he saw a neighbor making money online, he realized that the Internet was not just a place to spend money by buying

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Cowboys 2018 free agency: Linebacker Joe Thomas to visit the Cowboys – Blogging The Boys (blog)


Blogging The Boys (blog)

Cowboys 2018 free agency: Linebacker Joe Thomas to visit the Cowboys
Blogging The Boys (blog)
The Cowboys are finally hosting a free agent who isn't a wide receiver or an offensive lineman. By Dave Halprin Mar 21, 2018, 4:45pm CDT. Share Tweet Share. Share Cowboys 2018 free agency: Linebacker Joe Thomas to visit the Cowboys. tweet share Reddit

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The U.K.’s $86 Billion Pension Problem Is About to Solve Itself

For U.K. Plc, the sting of Brexit comes with an unexpected bonus.

With no effort on their part, the biggest British businesses may see pension deficits that have burdened them for years be practically wiped out if long-term bond yields rise 50 basis in the next year and they budget for slowing gains in life expectancy, according to estimates of New York-based consultancy Mercer. The Bank of England is expected to raise interest rates by that amount by November 2018 and it remains to be seen if that affects long-term bonds.

That will give executives one less thing to worry about as they prepare contingency plans in case Britain can’t strike a deal on splitting with the European Union. Companies like BT Group Plc and Marks & Spencer Group Plc, whose liabilities are almost double their market value, will also remove a stigma that has contributed to years of under-performance in their shares.

“If you bought a basket of these stocks you would probably make money from here,” said Andrew Millington, the acting head of U.K. equities at Aberdeen Standard Investments, which owns shares in firms with big pension liabilities like Tui AG, BAE Systems Plc and AA Plc that he expects will benefit.

The idea that corporate Britain could fill holes in staff retirement budgets without slashing dividends would have been unthinkable even a year ago. The shortfalls of FTSE 350 companies had soared to a record 165 billion pounds ($217 billion) as the BOE cut rates to spur the economy after the Brexit vote, throttling pension income that relies on higher bond yields.

But companies have been “climbing out of a pit” since then, according to Glyn Bradley, principal of U.K. wealth at Mercer. The gap dropped to an 18-month low of 65 billion pounds in September, partly because pension fund managers made more on their equity investments as the FTSE 100 rallied 8 percent in the past year.

Not all investors have noticed the U-turn. The 14 firms with the biggest liabilities relative to market value have trailed the FTSE 350 by 10 percentage points since Brexit, according to data compiled by Bloomberg and RBC Capital Markets.

The game changer will be if BOE Governor Mark Carney raises interest rates to contain inflation triggered by the pound’s post-Brexit decline. Traders see him hiking rates by 50 basis points in the next 12 months, possibly starting as early as the BOE’s Nov. 2 meeting. If the long-term yield on corporate bonds moves by the same amount, that could potentially bring the pension deficit down to about 12 billion pounds, according to Mercer estimates based on current conditions.

Earlier Death

What’s left of the shortfall, meanwhile, could be eliminated if listed companies used the latest longevity forecasts from Continuous Mortality Investigation Ltd. in their retirement budgets. Last year, CMI cut projected lifespans for people aged 65 versus the 2013 figures many companies still plug into their models.

“We may well start to see the aggregated deficits across the defined-benefit universe disappearing, perhaps even moving to a small surplus over the next year or so,” Bradley said from Manchester.

Adopting the newer longevity statistics helped Tesco Plc more than halve its deficit between February and August. If BT were to switch, it could knock 1.3 billion pounds from its almost 10 billion-pound deficit, according to Gordon Aitken, a London-based analyst and actuary at RBC. He says BT and Marks & Spencer will benefit most from the revision in longevity.

“Money that gets paid to pension schemes is cash, so it’s money that could go to dividends," Aitken said.

A BT spokesman declined to speculate on potential changes to the company’s pension scheme, citing an ongoing triennial review by trustees. A spokeswoman for Marks & Spencer didn’t respond to messages.

Final Salaries

Given how pervasive pension shortfalls have been this decade, some investors may wait for confirmation that deficits can narrow further before jumping in.

A lot could go wrong, after all. Stalled Brexit talks might put pressure on an economy facing the slowest growth since 2012, which would hinder the BOE’s ability to raise interest rates. If inflation keeps accelerating from five-year highs, that would eat into the pension income. And many factors beyond interest rates move bond prices.

But any evidence that pension deficits are sliding could also ease political pressure on business executives to stop prioritizing shareholders over pensioners — a practice that’s come under greater scrutiny since retailer BHS Group Ltd., and more recently Monarch Airlines Ltd., collapsed and left their pensioners uncertain about the integrity of their policies.

Defined-benefit schemes, which typically guarantee retiring Brits a percentage of their final salary, became untenable for some firms during the era of ultra-low interest rates that followed the global financial crisis. While most companies scrapped them in favor of less-onerous defined-contribution pensions, millions of legacy policies continue to weigh on corporate balance sheets.

While Millington of Aberdeen Standard Investments has been buying shares of life insurers like Aviva Plc and Just Group Plc that win from slowing improvements in mortality, he said the most pension-ridden companies would naturally be slower to lure money managers.

“Investors are just starting to see this trend in U.K. longevity, but many aren’t yet willing to believe it will continue,” he said.

(Corrects reference to Bank of England interest rates and bond yields in second paragraph of story published Oct. 19.)

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    Vietnamese boat people: living to tell the tale

    None of these people would be alive if, in October 1978, a Scottish cargo ship hadnt stopped in the South China Sea to rescue 346 refugees from a stricken fishing boat. Chris McGreal tells a remarkable story

    If it hadnt been for his father, Craig Holmes might never have returned the graduation ring given to him 30 years earlier by a teenage girl he helped rescue from the South China Sea. Holmes was training to be a navigator on board a British ship hauling a cargo of millet to Taiwan in the autumn of 1978. Off the Vietnamese coast, the hulking steel vessel crossed paths with a small, crowded and leaking wooden fishing boat holding Luisa Van Nu and 345 other people fleeing the communist takeover of their country.

    The refugees were into their fourth day at sea and hope for a new life had given way to despair as it seemed inevitable the boat would sink. Mothers pulled their children close. Fathers spilled regrets at taking their families to their deaths. Then the MV Wellpark, run by a Scottish shipping company, appeared out of the storm. The difficult and dramatic rescue earned its captain, Hector Connell, an MBE. But that recognition came only after the destitute refugees found themselves caught up in an international political wrangle over who would take them in. In the end, the then Labour government agreed to bring them to London despite the alarmist cries of Britain being full and warnings that it would open the door to floods of refugees.

    Holmes gave up his cabin for Van Nus family. As she left the ship for London and a country she knew nothing about, the 19-year-old seaman handed her a keepsake. I had a necklace Id bought in Peru, Holmes recalled. It was silver. A nautical wheel with a crucifix in the middle. I gave that to her and said: Remember us from the Wellpark. She took off one of those pinky rings, her high school graduation ring, and gave it to me.

    Holmes said he viewed the rescue as little more than a bit of adventure to break up a long sea voyage and it quickly slipped into history. He went on to captain his own ships before settling as a maritime pilot in New Zealand. My dad had the ring for a while because, being older perhaps, he realised more what wed done than I did, really. He used to wear it around his neck on a chain. If he hadnt kept it, it might just have got lost, showing how vacuous I was at the time. When he died I got it back again and it sort of meant a bit more then.

    Holmes stuck the ring in his wifes jewellery box where it sat until word reached him that the Vietnamese rescued by the Wellpark were planning a 30th-anniversary reunion in California, where some had settled.

    Safe
    Safe haven: the rescued people look through donated clothing on the deck of the Wellpark. Photograph: Mike Newton

    When I went to the reunion, I thought Ill take it and give it back to Luisa. She was quite emotional about getting it back after all those years, he said. To me the rescue was just a night of adventure. What wed actually done didnt come home to me until I went to the reunion. There were a couple of boys, about four or five, and I suddenly thought: Fuck me, this is another generation. These kids wouldnt be here if their mum hadnt been dragged on board the Wellpark. I realised then that what was a night of adventure for me was life or death to them.

    In October 1978, 346 people crammed into the three decks of the 60ft fishing boat to join one of the great migrations by sea of modern times. Around 800,000 boat people, as they became widely known, are believed to have fled Vietnam by sea. Many others drowned or were captured, raped and killed by pirates, particularly from Thailand.

    As the boat entered the Mekong Delta it damaged its rudder and lost its steering. The refugees headed out to sea with no idea where they were going. Among them was nine-year old Diep Quan, whose family had two strikes against it when South Vietnam fell to the communists because her father was a businessman and her parents were of Chinese ethnicity. On the day they left, her mother announced a family holiday. My uncle came round with a truck because he was a goods driver. I was a city girl and all I remember is trees, jungle, mud. Whats this about? This is a weird place for a holiday, she said. Then she saw the fishing boat moored on the Mekong River and understood she might never see Vietnam again.

    Sitting in a London coffee shop, swinging between tears and laughter as she recalled a journey and a life that was very nearly cut short, Quan described the first day at sea as a paradise of infinite ocean and flying fish. Then the boat hit the wake of Typhoon Lola and started to fill with water. A chain of young men bailed out with buckets, but they could only delay the inevitable.

    The refugees spotted ships and fired flares, but either they were not seen or the crews ignored them. The captain told his passengers the boat could not struggle on much longer. I heard someone say: This is it now, the waters coming in and the boat will go down, said Quan. My dad had been up on deck. He decided, if this is it then hes going to come and sit with his family. All the menfolk came and sat with their families.

    Quan wiped away a tear as she recounted, years later, asking her mother if her father ever regretted the decision to get on the boat. She said, Of course he did. When everyone had said, Right thats it, were going to sink, he was talking to my uncle and they were saying: We really shouldnt have done this. Weve taken everyone to their deaths, she said.

    Im
    Im one of Thatchers children: Diep Quan, now an IT trainer, at Morgan Stanley in Canary Wharf, London. Photograph: Suki Dhanda for the Observer

    Two brothers, Hung and Huy Nguyen, were on board with their other siblings and parents, who owned a cinema chain in Saigon before it was seized by the new communist government. Hung was 18 and chose to leave even though he had won a prized place at medical school. There was no question about whether I should go or not. As a medical student you are cream of the crop, but youre also government property, he said. Growing up at that time, it really bothered me because of the freedom thing. They can stop you on the street and cut your hair if your hair is too long. When you talk, you have to watch your mouth.

    As the passengers grew more fearful, Hungs mother called for him and 15-year-old Huy to sit with her. She called all the kids over so she could see us. We didnt really understand, but now we know, said Huy.

    One of their uncles, who Huy thinks may have been autistic, leapt over the side into the sea, saying he was going to swim back to Vietnam. Acceptance of what seemed like the inevitable was broken by someone shouting that they had spotted a ship. The captain fired a flare. It was seen by an officer on the Wellparks bridge.

    We thought it was a battleship, said Huy. In the night, it was lit up with all these cranes which looked like cannons. Captain Connell sent a lifeboat to investigate. Waiting anxiously on the fishing boat deck was Stephen Ngo, just 13 years old and the only child travelling on his own. Ngo had gone down to the boat to see off his older brothers, but his father sent him off instead at the last minute. He gave me a tube of toothpaste. Inside that toothpaste was a $100 bill. He said: Take this with you and Ill see you later. Ngo would not see his father for years.

    The crew of the lifeboat struggled for hours, rowing through the heavy swell to make two trips picking up a few dozen refugees. Captain Connell decided to bring the ship alongside the fishing boat and take the refugees off directly. It was a remarkable act of seamanship.

    I was leaning over the side with a heaving line, said Holmes. Someone tied it to a bag. I shouted down: No. No baggage. Well get baggage later. A guy on the boat opened the bag and there was a kid inside it. That was the end of the no-baggage policy. I lifted this kid up and that was the start of what turned out to be a good way to get the kids on board. Any kids that would fit into this red Adidas bag. I lost count of how many I brought up in that.

    At just four, Paul Tran was too small to climb. He was pulled up in a net. My head banged on the ship as I was hauled up. Woke me up, he said.

    For
    For us, the crew were heroes: Diep Quan, middle row far right, with her sister. They are pictured on the Wellpark after being rescued. Photograph: Mike Newton

    Most of the refugees were packed on to the decks in a makeshift village under tarpaulins strung over the hatch covers. They just looked like poverty-stricken vagrants, really, said Holmes. Some of the kids were just in vests and nothing on the bottom at all.

    The Wellpark sailed on to Taiwan, where the government was sympathetic, sending food and clothes to the ship, but insisted they would not be allowed to leave the ship until the UK agreed to take them in. After two weeks of pictures of the destitute refugees on the news, the British government said it would bring them to London. This is when we realised who we had on board, said Holmes. Doctors and nurses. A couple of lawyers. We had a whole typing pool. There were typewriters banging away, doing all the paperwork.

    The refugees were not universally pleased at being told they were going to Britain. Some were keener on the US, a country they knew more about. Back in Vietnam we had a very bad impression about the British, said Huy Nguyen. We thought the British were very snobby. That they wore top hats and used their gloves to slap peoples faces.

    The 346 were flown to Stansted airport and taken by coach to Kensington army barracks. We arrived in the middle of the night, said Huy. It was foggy and it was cold and it was really depressing. But when we got to the barracks people were waiting for us, to give us soup. They put flowers on our beds. Roses or coronations. I got a carnation. White. I was really happy.

    Gifts poured into the barracks. A circus visited, complete with an elephant for rides. Woolworths laid on a Christmas party for the children. The reception in the press was generally welcoming, even among tabloids as hostile to immigration then as they are now, perhaps because the Vietnamese were fleeing communism. The Daily Mail wrote: Because we have closed the door to mass immigration and rightly so it does not mean we need be deaf to the knocking of some of those whose claim to help requires no passport or birth certificate to establish its piteous authenticity.

    But official hostility was rising. Within a few months Margaret Thatcher was prime minister, confronted with four more British ships rescuing hundreds of boat people. She was strongly against taking them in, ostensibly on the grounds of being fearful of UK public opinion, even though the UK had accepted only a tiny fraction compared to the 250,000 Vietnamese refugees admitted by the US and 60,000 by France. A Home Office memo warned that accepting more would be seen as leading to an influx of immigrants which we could not control. Thatcher eventually relented over the ships already carrying boat people, but demanded a cast-iron position in legal and political terms which would enable the UK to hold out against admitting refugees. She also wanted Britain to withdraw from the 1951 refugee convention.

    All of this went largely unnoticed by those rescued by the Wellpark as they sought to map out a future in a strange land. Quans father applied to emigrate to the US, but then the mayor of Peterborough turned up at the barracks offering homes to 10 families on a new estate. Three months later Quan moved north. Then came school, English lessons and cultural adjustments.

    I remember going down the corridor with one of the girls, chattering away in Cantonese. The deputy head I was petrified of her stopped us and said: No, no, no, you should be speaking English in school. My dad found a job at a textile company owned by a Greek family. He would open up the factory first thing in the morning. At one point he spoke English with a Greek accent. Quan speaks with an unmistakable London accent.

    The Nguyen brothers have retained a Vietnamese inflection to their English as well as a disposition for finding humour in even the most difficult circumstances. Hung Nguyen was sent off to a school near Kensington barracks where he remembers a teacher called Elizabeth. She taught us to use a fork. Wed never seen one. It looked dangerous. Why would you stick it in your mouth? So we used spoons. After that they hid all the spoons. We stuck the knives in our mouths quite happily, but not forks. He described his school as very rough and said: We had to learn English and we also learned maths because it was the only thing we could do without fluent English.

    This was the 1970s, when the National Front and casual racism loomed large in Britain. We had all the usual taunts walking to school racist names, said Quan. Id hear stories from my mum all the time. The adults themselves felt it more keenly. They found it really hard.

    Others among the Wellpark refugees said they regularly found themselves in fights with racists at school or on the streets of the council estates where they lived. Some of the adults struggled with a new language and found only irregular work far below the professional positions they had once held. But, in time, their children thrived.

    Within a few weeks of arriving at Kensington barracks, Hung Nguyen landed a job with a project distributing second-hand books to developing countries. It was run by Lady Ranfurly, later famed for her extraordinary wartime diaries, To War With Whitaker. She offered to help Hung resume his medical studies. She was an older lady, he said, Classy. I was cocky. I turned it down because I wanted to do it on my own.

    The British Council for Refugees gave Hung a scholarship to study English in Saffron Walden. In the holidays he went on a trip with his mother to visit relatives in America. They encouraged him to apply for medical school there and he was accepted. So I stayed, he said. I became a foreign student from England, he added, laughing at the thought. After his medical degree, he studied for an MBA and in time did well out of the considerable overlap between medicine and business in the US.

    Today, Hung Nguyen owns an entire block in an area southeast of Los Angeles known as Little Saigon, home to the largest gathering of Vietnamese outside their home country. It holds his medical practice, a dentists office and a chemist. His company is named Wellpark Inc and, outside, he is building a memorial to the ship that rescued him. Hung also hosts a weekly medical phone-in on local radio in Vietnamese.

    Sometimes I talk about the Wellpark. I say: There are people who helped us who some of them forget. They dont even remember. They dont realise how much impact what they did had. But we remember and we might never be able to pay them back, but we can pay it forward. We can help other people in their honour.

    A decade after he moved to California his parents followed and opened a launderette. About a dozen of the Wellpark families settled in the US. The bulk remained in Britain, including Huy. He took a degree in civil engineering after calling the University of Manchester and asking to be put through to the engineering department.

    They said: What engineering? I said: I dont know, give me any. So they connected me to civil engineering. They said: You sure you know what civil engineering is? I didnt know, but I didnt want to admit it. So I said: Yeah, I know. I ended up doing civil engineering. I love it. Huy is now a consultant for Transport for London, modelling how to manage the citys traffic overground, underground and on the river.

    Diep Quan studied for a degree in business and accounts. Im one of Thatchers children. Business. Got to go make money. Still didnt know what I wanted to do. I just knew that was the stepping stone to get to where the money is. Today, she works as an IT trainer on contract to Morgan Stanley.

    Over the years Hung Nguyen wondered what had become of the Wellparks crew and his fellow refugees. He helped organise a 30th- anniversary reunion in 2008 in Little Saigon. Captain Connell went. So did Holmes, returning the ring to Luisa Van Nu.

    Hung took his four children, then aged 10 to 16. I told them: If it wasnt for these people you wouldnt be here. None of us would be here.

    We were lucky. We should be dead now. There were 346 people on that boat. Now weve multiplied to the thousands. We had kids and our kids had kids. Looking at the pictures from the ship, sometimes I cry, by myself so people dont see.

    Back
    Back to business: Dr Hung Nguyen, who now lives and works in Los Angeles, with his family. Photograph: Barry J Holmes for the Observer

    After the success of the California reunion, Quan organised a follow-up in London five years later. Growing up in Peterborough Id often wonder where the crew were now, she said. It was a very emotional event to meet all these people at last. For us, they were heroes. We wanted to show them our children. We wanted to say: Look, they wouldnt be here if you hadnt been there for us. It was a huge thing that they did. They could have chosen to turn a blind eye like the other ships. But they didnt and they risked a lot to rescue us.

    Holmes said he was uncomfortable at the outpouring of emotion from the survivors. The MBE didnt sit comfortably at all with Hector Connell, he said. He didnt think of himself as a hero. None of us did. The reunion was at a restaurant in Little Saigon. They presented me with a glass with a map of the South China Sea: In appreciation of your heroic and humane act for giving 346 people a second chance in life. I told them anyone would have done the same thing. We just happened to be there at the time. But they wouldnt hear it.

    The reunion was also a chance for the Wellpark refugees to compare the different paths their lives had taken since the rescue. A consensus emerged that the US was the place to end up if you wanted to make money, but that Americans spent too much time working. Hung Nguyen, who has become a millionaire and drives a Mercedes-Benz, said he sometimes envied his brother Huys lifestyle in London. Life there is much better. Here in America we work very hard. He has long vacations, goes on holiday to the Philippines with his wife. It kills me.

    Huy has no regrets about staying in London. The British gave me everything its now my time to pay back, he said, speaking after a day of jury duty at Croydon Crown Court. When I pay tax I dont complain.

    Few of the people rescued by the Wellpark imagined ever returning to Vietnam, but in recent years the country has opened up and many of the thousands who fled have visited their homeland. They recount similar experiences of being stunned by the scale of change and the difficulty of finding former homes.

    Hung Nguyen has gone back to Vietnam twice. Theyre not communists any more. Theyre capitalists! We call them red capitalists. Lots of rich people. Filthy rich. Lots of poor people.

    I went to visit my friends from high school. They all looked a lot older than I do. Were the same age, but its a harder life there for them.

    Paul Tran was four years old when he was rescued by the Wellpark and had no memory of Vietnam. But he has returned repeatedly and developed a close attachment to the country he was born in. My parents left the country because of that regime. Yet Im going back of my own choice to understand my roots a bit better and meet guys about the same age as me and hear their stories and histories. I keep going back because I like our culture. I like our country. Ive had thoughts about whether it would have been better if my family had stayed. But Im comfortable in my own skin here. I could have been a right dickhead over there. I could have been a spoilt kid, I could have been a gangster. Now Im well British, but with a Vietnamese culture.

    Quan organised an extended family holiday to her birthplace in 2012. Eighteen people, including her husband and their daughter, who had never been to Vietnam, travelled around the city she knew as Saigon in a minibus. She said that by the time the visit was over she knew she belonged in London more than Vietnam, even if that was her history. But she suspected her father felt differently.

    I think my dad never wanted to leave, said Quan. He lost everything. I think it broke him in lots of ways. I dont think he ever recovered from it. Not just from a money perspective. I think it broke him as a person.

    My sisters say: Were the age our dad was when he left. What if I now had to lock my front door and get on the boat and head down the estuary? Dont know where Im going, but I cant stay here. What would make you so afraid? What would scare you so much that you would do that? You lose everything. Its quite hard for someone to imagine that.

    Which is why the flow of refugees from Syria to Europe has resonance for the former boat people. I cried when I saw the news about Germany taking all those refugees, said Huy. I was quite surprised they were that open to that many people. I was really moved by what the Germans did. I think the British could have done more.

    Quan is frustrated by what she describes as a lack of compassion for the Syrians, even if she understands it is at least in part driven by fear of terrorism.

    Tran said he saw himself in the pictures of Syrians marching across Europe. When I saw the footage, I put myself in their position because I was in that sort of position. I started having all these questions. Were they forced to leave? Were they kicked out? And then I thought, were we forced to leave? No. It was our choice to leave. And I thought, Maybe for some it was their choice to leave and maybe others had no choice because of war, he said. What do I feel? Its like what most humans would do. Theyre very desperate people to want to leave. Like our families were.

    Vietnam: the exodus
    Two million people fled Vietnam between the end of the war in 1975 and the opening up of the country in the mid-1990s. Almost 800,000 left by sea, most headed for Hong Kong, Malaysia or Indonesia. Widely known as boat people, the majority left in the late 1970s, often not surviving the treacherous journey because their boats sank or were attacked by pirates. Those people who reached land usually found themselves in refugee camps, as other countries in southeast Asia were reluctant to accept them. The majority were eventually taken in by the US, though Australia and Canada also welcomed substantial numbers. Although the boat people never expected to return to Vietnam, at least while the communist government was in power, many have since visited their homeland. Katie Forster

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    Goodbye things, hello minimalism: can living with less make you happier?

    Fumio Sasaki owns a roll-up mattress, three shirts and four pairs of socks. After deciding to scorn possessions, he began feeling happier. He explains why

    Let me tell you a bit about myself. Im 35 years old, male, single, never been married. I work as an editor at a publishing company. I recently moved from the Nakameguro neighbourhood in Tokyo, where I lived for a decade, to a neighbourhood called Fudomae in a different part of town. The rent is cheaper, but the move pretty much wiped out my savings.

    Some of you may think that Im a loser: an unmarried adult with not much money. The old me would have been way too embarrassed to admit all this. I was filled with useless pride. But I honestly dont care about things like that any more. The reason is very simple: Im perfectly happy just as I am.

    The reason? I got rid of most of my material possessions.

    Minimalism is a lifestyle in which you reduce your possessions to the least possible. Living with only the bare essentials has not only provided superficial benefits such as the pleasure of a tidy room or the simple ease of cleaning, it has also led to a more fundamental shift. Its given me a chance to think about what it really means to be happy.

    We think that the more we have, the happier we will be. We never know what tomorrow might bring, so we collect and save as much as we can. This means we need a lot of money, so we gradually start judging people by how much money they have. You convince yourself that you need to make a lot of money so you dont miss out on success. And for you to make money, you need everyone else to spend their money. And so it goes.

    So I said goodbye to a lot of things, many of which Id had for years. And yet now I live each day with a happier spirit. I feel more content now than I ever did in the past.

    Heres
    Heres a look in my closet, from a down jacket to a suit, some white shirts, and the few pairs of trousers that match in a simple style. I am aiming to create my own uniform with a signature style like Steve Jobs had

    I wasnt always a minimalist. I used to buy a lot of things, believing that all those possessions would increase my self-worth and lead to a happier life. I loved collecting a lot of useless stuff, and I couldnt throw anything away. I was a natural hoarder of knickknacks that I thought made me an interesting person.

    At the same time, though, I was always comparing myself with other people who had more or better things, which often made me miserable. I couldnt focus on anything, and I was always wasting time. Alcohol was my escape, and I didnt treat women fairly. I didnt try to change; I thought this was all just part of who I was, and I deserved to be unhappy.

    My apartment wasnt horribly messy; if my girlfriend was coming over for the weekend, I could do enough tidying up to make it look presentable. On a usual day, however, there were books stacked everywhere because there wasnt enough room on my bookshelves. Most I had thumbed through once or twice, thinking that I would read them when I had the time.

    Fumio
    I was miserable, and I made other people miserable, too Fumio Sasaki

    The closet was crammed with what used to be my favourite clothes,most of which Id only worn a few times. The room was filled with all the things Id taken up as hobbies and then gotten tired of. A guitar and amplifier, covered with dust. Conversational English workbooks Id planned to study once I had more free time. Even a fabulous antique camera, which of course I had never once put a roll of film in.

    Meanwhile, I kept comparing myself with others. A friend from college lived in a posh condo on newly developed land in Tokyo. It had a glitzy entrance and stylish Scandinavian furniture. When I visited, I found myself calculating his rent in my head as he graciously invited me in. He worked for a big company, earned a good salary, married his gorgeous girlfriend, and theyd had a beautiful baby, all dressed up in fashionable babywear. Wed been kind of alike back in college. What had happened, I thought? How did our lives drift so far apart?

    Or Id see a pristine white Ferrari convertible speeding by, showing off, probably worth twice the value of my apartment. Id gaze dumbly at the car as it disappeared from view, one foot on the pedal of my secondhand bicycle.

    I bought lottery tickets, hoping I could catch up in a flash. I broke up with my girlfriend, telling her I couldnt see a future for us in my sad financial state. All the while, I carefully hid my inferiority complex and acted as though there was nothing wrong with my life. But I was miserable, and I made other people miserable, too.

    It may sound as if Im exaggerating when I say I started to become a new person. Someone said to me: All you did is throw things away, which is true. But by having fewer things around, Ive started feeling happier each day. Im slowly beginning to understand what happiness is.

    If you are anything like I used to be miserable, constantly comparing yourself with others, or just believing your life sucks I think you should try saying goodbye to some of your things. Yes, there are certainly people who havent ever been attached to material objects, or those rare geniuses who can thrive amid the chaos of their possessions. But I want to think about the ways that ordinary people like you and me can find the real pleasures in life. Everyone wants to be happy. But trying to buy happiness only makes us happy for a little while. We are lost when it comes to true happiness.

    After what Ive been through, I think saying goodbye to your things is more than an exercise in tidying up. I think its an exercise in learning about true happiness.

    Maybe that sounds grandiose. But I seriously think its true.

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