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LONDON — The former World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) director general said their decision to reinstate Russia’s anti-doping authority was driven by money over principle.

David Howman, Wada director general from 2003 to 2016 and now chair of the Athletics Integrity Unit, gave no evidence to support the assertion, and Wada dismissed it as untrue.

Wada’s decision paves way for Russia to return to the Olympics after its ban from this year’s Winter Games in South Korea.

Russia’s anti-doping agency Rusada were suspended in 2015 after an independent Wada report by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren outlined evidence of widespread, systematic state-backed doping.

After the second part of McLaren’s report was published in December 2016, International Olympic Committee (IOC) instructed their sporting federations not to host championships in Russia until Rusada were in compliance with Wada’s
Anti-Doping Code.

Russia was also banned from last year’s World Athletics Championships.

“It looks like they’ve taken the decision to deviate from a carefully put-together roadmap for entirely pragmatic reasons,” Howman told Britain’s Press Association.

“Wada have gone from being an organisation that cared about clean athletes to one that cares about federations that haven’t been able to stage events in Russia: it’s money over principle.

“That’s a quite a swing, from what Wada once were.”

A Wada spokesman said: “The decision was made by an overwhelming majority of the Executive Committee (made up of equal numbers from governments and sports) following a recommendation from the Compliance Review Committee, an independent and non-political Standing Committee.

“To suggest this recommendation was made to please the Sport Movement or had other reasons completely ignores the process that was followed.

“This process was put in place by Howman himself when he was Wada Director general.”

Wada had repeatedly said Rusada would not be reinstated until they satisfied key criteria on a “roadmap for return”.

That includes recognising the McLaren Report findings and allowing access to stored urine samples at their Moscow lab.

At Thursday’s executive committee meeting in Seychelles, members approved a lesser version of the first point — an acceptance of IOC’s Schmid Report which endorsed core findings of McLaren Report — and set another “clear timeline” for implementation of the second.

Howman said Wada were weakening their own authority.

“Let’s say they rock up there and there are no data or samples, or the Russian police restrict access”, he said.

“What will Wada do then? Will they vote to declare Rusada non-compliant again?”
— Reuters

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Continuing the legacy of Ah Go Go Hokkien Me

GEORGE TOWN — “Ah Go Go” is what people call this Hokkien mee stall located on a narrow lane off Magazine Road.

Back in the 1980s and up to the 1990s, the Hokkien mee stall was so popular that long queues of people would wait patiently for tables so they can eat here.

The stall owner, Ah Hin, could be seen blanching noodles, shaking out the excess water and pouring soup into bowls in such a co-ordinated fluid movement that it would almost seem like he was dancing.

“That was the time when the customers were coming non-stop and Ah Hin would be ‘dancing’ as he cooked and poured,” current stall owner, Sunny Loh, 50, said.

The lanky hawker’s agile “dancing” earned him the nickname “Ah Go Go” and since then, the stall has been called Ah Go Go Hokkien Mee.

Loh said during that period, Ah Hin would have three to four large pots of soup prepared and everything would be sold out by the end of the day.

About four years ago, Ah Hin fell ill but his children did not want to take over the stall. Loh, who is Ah Hin’s friend, decided to take over the business.

“He taught me the recipe, how he made the soup, how he prepared the ingredients, he didn’t have a recipe book so I had to learn it by trial and error while he stood by telling me how much or little to put in,” he said.

Loh only trained under Ah Hin for about 40 days before the older man died at the age of 64 due to a heart attack.

“I went for his wake and funeral, it was quite sudden but fortunately I already knew how to prepare the noodles and the soup,” he said.

Though he had known Ah Hin for many years, Loh cannot remember his friend’s full name but clearly remembers how Ah Hin told him that he learnt the Hokkien mee recipe from a master.

“He was an apprentice to another famous Hokkien mee stall along the road at Hu Yew Seah for a few years,” he said.

Ah Hin only ventured out on his own in 1970 at the narrow alleyway in between two rows of shophouses fronting Magazine Road.

Hawker stalls used to line the narrow alleyway and the nameless alleyway was locally known as “the lorong next to Kimnovak” referring to the corner shop selling school uniforms named Kimnovak.

“Ah Hin was selling at that lorong for 30 to 40 years and just after I took over the stall, we had to relocate to make way for development,” Loh said.

All of the hawker stalls along the alleyway were relocated and Ah Go Go Hokkien Mee moved to Bee Hong Coffee Shop along the same road, just a few hundred metres away.

Loh said he has kept as close to Ah Hin’s recipe as possible to maintain the traditional style no-frills Hokkien mee.

The stall has a choice of Hokkien mee with the normal prawn-based soup, a mix of the soup with lor (a starchy, sticky sauce) or with only lor.

Ah Go Go Hokkien Mee

Bee Hong Coffee Shop

Magazine Road, George Town.

Time: 1pm-9pm

Closed on Sundays.

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Savour the perfect gelato at 8% Ice

TAIPEI — Would ice cream by any other name taste as sweet?

Gelatieri (Italian ice cream makers) would reply in the negative: no, not all ice creams are made equal. In a world populated by sorbets and sherbets, semifreddos and shaved ice, soft serves and frozen yoghurt, the gelato is the (ice) cream that rises to the top.

Gelato, which means “frozen” in Italian, has a very basic recipe of milk, cream, sugar and flavouring. Where it differs from conventional ice cream is in its low butterfat content; typically less than 10 per cent whereas commercial brands can go to almost 20 per cent. Paradoxically, the lower fat content means we taste more of the flavour rather than the dairy.

Yes, a scoop of gelato tastes richer, denser and more intense… because it’s lighter.

I recall my first gelato many years ago in Venice. It was a crisp April morning, very early. The tourist hordes had yet to descend. Yet, almost impossibly, there was a gelateria already open.

A rainbow of flavours beckoned me and my friends: bacio (hazelnut), zabaione (Marsala wine-tinged custard), caffè (coffee), limone (lemon), malaga (rum and raisins), amarena (milk blended with sour cherries) and, of course, the classic trinity of vaniglia (vanilla), cioccolato (chocolate) and fragola (strawberry).

I asked for the stracciatella, basically fior di latte (creamy milk ice cream) studded with veins of chocolate. A safe choice, perhaps, but milk and chocolate had never tasted this good together. Even as I savoured it, I knew this was a memory in the making, a happy one.

Who knew I’d make more happy memories years later in Taipei, a continent away, where I’d taste the instantly recognisable taste of great gelato, simultaneously rich yet light? A gelateria called 8% Ice, tucked away in the busy Yongkang Street, itself a destination for foodies with its abundance of restaurants.

Opened in 2013, the shop derives its name from the eight per cent butterfat content in gelato. Of course, as any Chinese would know, the number eight rings of luck and prosperity too.

The more visual amongst us may consider that the number also resembles two scoops of ice cream, one atop the other. However you choose to see it, it’s a fine name all but guaranteeing good business.

Indeed, the queue can be formidable — a line twisting out the door promising a half-hour wait or longer — when the weather is sweltering.

During cooler seasons, the crowds are smaller though ice cream isn’t a treat reserved for summer days only. There’s something thrilling about relishing a cold, creamy scoop when you can see your own breath.

And when it’s raining and dreary, what better than a gelato made from tropical fruits to remind you of sun, sand and sea?

The most popular flavours are the subtly sweet hojicha (roasted green tea) with honey and their rich matcha made with Kyoto-based Ippodo Tea Co.’s finest offerings.

Other flavours include black sesame, blackcurrant with rose, Earl Grey chocolate, French peach with rose water, espresso coffee and Marco Polo milk tea.

To ensure freshness, the flavours are constantly rotated, often with the inclusion of limited-edition flavours such as smoked chocolate with a trace of whiskey and chestnut pumpkin laced with Madagascar vanilla.

Besides gelato, 8% Ice also offers fruity sherbets (flavours such as lychee and pomelo are particular hits), fruit yoghurt popsicles and handmade soft-serve ice cream.

Much care goes into the preparation of each ingredient. For the black sesame gelato, the sesame seeds are toasted right before being ground. The result is a purer flavour, buttery and nutty without the acrid odour typical of products that aren’t fresh.

After getting our scoops, we have a choice of heading out again or to climb upstairs, where the classy interior features plenty of chic black furnishing. The décor is further bolstered by comfortable seating and shelves of cook books, most revolving around Italian cuisine. Perhaps a nod to the gelato’s country of origin.

Here’s a chance to linger with our gelato, perhaps a strong shot of espresso, and get lost between the pages of a book. There’s bound to be one that will return me to the gondolas and gelaterias of Venice.

The perfect gelato exists only when you are enjoying it, every lick a discovery. Till it’s all gone and only a memory to evoke over and over… till your next scoop, that is.

8% Ice

No. 6, Lane 13, Yongkang Street, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan

Open daily 12pm-10pm

Tel: +886 2 2395 6583

www.facebook.com/8.percent.ice

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Fancy a pair of custom-made shoes? Just call Karina Ng

KUALA LUMPUR — She may not be as well known as Jimmy Choo but Karina Ng’s shoes
have been worn by the First Lady of the United States, Melania Trump and even the late American actress Farah Fawcett.

In fact her shoes are made right in the heart of Kuala Lumpur… in a “hidden” workshop just off Jalan Galloway.

It all began in 1991 when Karina joined her husband Michael Chen in his family’s shoe making business. “I love to design and draw,” she explained.

She came armed with a fine arts and graphics degree from the Malaysian Institute of Art and an overseas stint at Central Saint Martins in London.

Her husband had inherited the business in 1988 after his father’s death. At that time, they were making shoes for mass production and exporting to Italy and Hong Kong. Locally, they supplied to department stores like Mun Loong and the local brand Marie Claire.

In 1997, when the China market opened, the shoe industry in Malaysia faced a crisis. Unable to compete with China’s low production costs, the business went through an upheaval.

Karina suggested to her husband that it was time for a paradigm shift. “I told him….why don’t you offer custom-made shoes as it’s a trend?”

This was inspired by famed shoemakers such as Salvatore Ferragamo, Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo who happens to be a family friend.

What Karina noticed was people in Malaysia would dress up for weddings and special occasions but “they tend to have the same style, same pattern for their shoes, bag and dress.”

With this in mind, she felt there was a niche market to tap into by offering custom-made shoes.

She also explains that custom-made does not mean bespoke. “For instance, a customer comes to tell us that they love a pair of shoes that Meghan Markle wore but they’re too tall, so we’ll customise it to their size or height,” she explained. Custom-made shoes still follow the regular sizing for shoes.

Bespoke or made-to-measure is a different service completely. “I really measure and give you fitting sessions until it is made to fit you. People don’t understand that it costs a bomb for this.”

This will also entail making a “last” or shoe mould that is tailor made to the person’s foot.

The company run by Karina and her husband operates from two separate sites. The Jalan Sin Chew Kee place focuses on custom-made shoes. In Cheras, there’s a bigger facility operated by Karina’s husband that mass produces shoes for local brands.

In addition to her own brand, Ling-n (after her Chinese name) Couture, she also set up Jacquelee which is under her protege, Jackson Lee. Targeted for the online crowd, Jacquelee made its debut at KL Fashion Week back in 2016.

Jackson who is a qualified psychologist took an interest in shoe making when he used to help around with the business as his family is close to Karina’s.

He even set up their website as his hobby is computing and graphics. Nowadays, he runs the day-to-day operations as Karina is semi-retired.

For the annual Fashion Week, they will be approached by various designers like Zang Toi, Datuk Bernard Chandran and Khoon Hooi to design and make shoes for the catwalk. The brand is sought after for their design and manufacturing expertise in high heels.

“We are the only ones who can make a pair of six-inch stiletto heels that are very stable for the runaway. You can run in them, play football in them… it’s so stable. It’s not easy as you’re talking about the technical side.”

Assisting her on the manufacturing side are her brothers-in-law who grew up working in their late father’s shoe business. Karina emphasises that as they know how to design and make shoes from scratch, they can customise shoes too.

When it comes to design, Karina’s inspiration is from everywhere. “It can come from anything… like when you sit in a park or even visit a beach,” she explained. Personally, Karina loves her heels and she can parade around in five-inch ones.

For their customers, they will come out with various collections to suit different needs. This ranges from classic styles, bridal, party wear and even wilder items like thigh length boots, just like what Julia Roberts wore in Pretty Woman.

About 80 per cent of the time, they also follow colour trends as it’s what their customers look for to be in style at the moment.

The shoemaking process starts with drafting out what their customer wants after they sit down and discuss. Once the design is confirmed, they will source for the material. Usually, they can make a pair of custom shoes within seven days.

If you are interested to learn how to design and make shoes, you can also sign up for a shoe designing course conducted by Karina. She’ll conduct classes, if there are at least four participants.

Spanning about seven sessions, one per week, you will graduate from the course with a certificate and the ability to make and design a pair of wearable shoes.

A reward for all her hard work… is how her customers’ faces light up with joy when they get their shoes. “Sometimes you’re so happy for the client when they are grateful and appreciate your work.”

One time, she was commissioned to recreate the iconic lobster shoes worn by singer Lady Gaga. This was literally wearable art — sculpted and made to fit the person’s size 13 feet.

“The way the person jumped, laughed and smiled over the pair of shoes was just like a baby has been born,” she said.

Straightaway, the happy customer wanted to parade the seven-inch lobster shoes all over KLCC!

Another of her more memorable requests was one for sexy stilettos to be worn when having sex! Karina took the order with a totally straight face and immediately set to tackling the technical side of the design… maybe straps on the shoes to secure it? Luckily, her customer was happy with the service.

But she admits not every request can be met. She recalls how an engaged couple approached her to customise the bride’s shoes as she had one foot shorter than the other.

Even after she wore the custom-made shoes, the bride still limped. The groom was disappointed as he had expected it to be the miracle cure.

Nevertheless, he insisted that his bride wear the shoes to “eliminate” the limp even though she was struggling.

Luckily, the outcome is happier with most of her other customers. So if you are hankering for those fringed Oscar de la Renta gladiator sandals you saw on some of the Spring 2019 fashion spreads, this is your chance to get ahead of the trend here in KL.

ling-n Couture by Karina Ng/Jacquelee

17, Jalan Sin Chew Kee

Off Jalan Galloway

Kuala Lumpur

Tel:03-2143 2868

Website: http://www.ling-n.com and https://www.jacquelee.com

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Kaobahn: Thai flavours of a home away from home

BANGKOK — My favourite Thai dish is pad krapao, a quick stir-fry of minced pork with Thai holy basil and chillies served with hot steamed jasmine rice. It’s so popular you can find ready-to-go versions from convenience stores and cooked to order at many roadside stalls.

Easily available, yes, yet so many don’t taste quite right. Too salty, too sweet. Not spicy enough, not aromatic enough. So when we found a place that made it just right, every time, we knew we had struck gold.

Kaobahn, which literally means “food from home”, was started two years ago by 38-year-old Prame Srirungthum. We first came across Kaobahn’s home-cooked delights at Some Time Blue, a café along the same soi run by his younger sister Sutida, the National Thailand Brewer’s Cup 2016 Champion.

We wanted some food to go with her award-winning coffee, and she called for delivery from nearby Kaobahn.

One taste was all it took to get us hooked.

Her elder brother, who also runs a cyber security consulting firm, recalls, “My mum would always cook and bring food to Some Time Blue as a lunch box. So we start to share our lunch boxes with everyone there. All our friends liked her food and asked us to open a restaurant.”

Entering Kaobahn is, appropriately enough, more like entering a home rather than a restaurant. The sunny interior — thanks to a skylight — is decorated like an indoor garden with plenty of lush greenery. Even the bicycle feels at home, allowing creepers to adorn it!

They say to ready your stomach for a good meal, you should start with a hot soup. At Kaobahn, we gleefully prepare with their tom yum goong nam sai, a clear broth version of the classic hot and sour Thai soup, chockful of seafood. Equally comforting is their tom kha gai (chicken coconut soup), the acidity of the lime juice giving the creamy coconut milk a refreshing note.

Thai curries tend to be of the green or red persuasion. The yellow curry, gaaeng leuuang saai buaa, from southern Thailand is not as common, which is a pity. Fresh turmeric gives the curry its brilliant yellow — the ochre-tinged lotus stems a signature feature — while tamarind offers sour to go with its heat.

Might this be too spicy for some? Srirungthum notes that their flavours are influenced by Thai-Chinese cuisine and lean towards spicy. He says, “Customers drop by Kaobahn tend to be busy working people living in the city who miss home-cooked food, the way their mothers would make it.”

It’s easy to see what draws them here. For meat lovers, the moo grob (crispy pork) has a very addictive “you can’t stop at one pop” quality. Kaobahn’s peek gai tod gluea (fried chicken wings) uses mid-joint wings instead of drumettes so they’re succulent rather than dry; they taste good even without the accompanying sriracha sauce.

Fans of liver will love pad phrik tub, fried with plenty of chillies, onion and garlic. Similarly, expect some heat when savouring goong pad phrik hang: stir-fried shrimp with dried chillies balanced with pungent nam pla (fish sauce).

The garlic theme continues with pla muek tod krathiam, albeit levelled up a hundredfold with the crunchy aromatic bits smothering the bouncy squid. If you don’t fancy so much fried garlic (but why wouldn’t you?), the humk pad kai kem glazes the stir-fried squid with salted egg yolk for a silky finish.

If this sounds like one dish too many, fret not. According to Srirungthum, Kaobahn’s dishes are served in small portions so customers can order a variety: “Mum goes shopping for the ingredients at the local market. She chooses what goes on the menu so there are daily specials on top of the standard items.”

Taking up the challenge, we try four to five new dishes every time we dine here. Larger groups order even more and it can be educational to observe Thai culture at the dining table. Traditional etiquette means the youngest will serve the others who are more senior. It’s heart-warming.

No Thai meal would be complete without a bowl of fluffy jasmine rice or kao. Those looking for more of a bite can try the kao niow dahm, a long grain glutinous rice. Purplish black in colour, it is chewier than normal rice but not as sticky as glutinous rice. Its hue alone could whet your appetite.

Let’s not forget to get some greens. The simple ka lum plee pad nam pla benefits from plenty of fiery wok hei, charring the cabbage leaves just so. Slippery strands of translucent wun sen (glass noodles) add texture to a vegetable and seafood stir-fry. The dish, called pad wun sen has Hainanese origins and the Chinese influence is also seen in moo sub pad numleab where morning glory is stir-fried with minced pork and Chinese black olives.

The best part of every meal, for many, is the egg dish, and there’s nothing quite like a Thai-style omelette or khai jiao. Crisped up edges adorning layers upon layers of custard within, go for broke by asking for one studded with naman moo (crispy pork lard); you won’t regret it.

Or go even more basic: a single perfectly fried egg (khai dao), its runny centre waiting to be pierced and to spill, atop my aforementioned favourite pad krapao. Pad krapao is the quintessential Thai one-meal dish, beloved of children across the country, and once you’ve had it, it’s easy to understand why.

At Kaobahn, the pad krapao tastes like your childhood, even if you’ve never had this as a kid: it tastes of home, of a mother’s cooking.

Kaobahn

128/10, Soi Phahonyothin 2, Samsen Nai, Bangkok, Thailand

Open daily 11am-9pm

Tel: +66 81 442 7777

www.facebook.com/kaobahn/

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Is PJ Thum the last Malayan?

THUM PING TJIN aka PJ Thum, an increasingly prominent Singaporean historian, believes Singapore is part of Malaya.

He is almost certainly right. This is a historical and geographic fact. It has (in-itself) nothing to do with politics and modern Malaysia which is also part of the broader Malaya but not equal to it.

There are parts of Thailand, Myanmar and Indonesia that are clearly part of Malaya.

Where the boundaries of this (long defunct) entity should be drawn or what the term means is open to debate by scholars and historians (like Thum) but no matter how you draw the boundaries, Singapore would probably be in it.

Still despite this clear win on the history front, I’m not sure Thum is well served by pushing this Malaya narrative.

The rather impressive historian (he entered Harvard at 16, then decided to get another degree from Oxford and followed this up with a doctorate, also from Oxford, all while being a national swimmer — he would even go on to be the first Singaporean to swim the English Channel) has made quite a name for himself.

His outspoken historical opinions on matters like Singapore’s position within Malaya and apparent sympathy for those detained by the Singapore government’s anti-communist crackdowns in the 60s has put him at odds with the establishment.

His fractious relationship with the government came to a head in March when he was grilled by a parliamentary select committee over a paper he wrote on Operation Coldstone (a major 1963 anti-communist drive).

Some were sympathetic towards Thum after the grilling. People were asking themselves just why the government was going out of its way to question historians.

To some, it seemed, Thum represented a promising strain of opposition in Singapore — young, educated presentable. A walking contradiction to the narrative that Singapore is just too small to have an effective government and a competent opposition.

But Thum’s attachment to his Malayan narrative appears to be holding him back.

His interest in a greater and historical Malaya may be valid but it just provides ammunition for critics and in general makes him seem a bit of a disconnected geek rather than a powerful voice of constrictive criticism.

He was criticised for being disloyal to Singapore when he put up a Facebook post asking Singaporeans to celebrate Malaysia’s Independence Day.

Perhaps Thum’s objective was to make people aware of an important moment in both our nations’ histories, but obviously this can easily be misconstrued as disloyalty.

As expected, Thum was criticised by MPs and various other online commenters for the post.

This perception of Thum as being too close to Malaysia was only furthered after his now infamous Aug 30 meeting with Malaysia Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Thum urged Mahathir to “take leadership in South-east Asia for the promotion of democracy, human rights, freedom of expression, and freedom of information.”

Inevitably, once again, he was attacked. This time for inviting foreign leaders to interfere in our affairs.

Now I don’t believe Thum has any interest in foreign interference but why go see the prime minister at all? It is just poor optics and seems to be politically immature.

Now I’m not saying that Thum has political ambitions; I have no idea if he does or does not, but he certainly does seem to have an interest in increasing the space for debate and discussion in Singapore (which is a good thing).

I just don’t see how this case is helped by hanging out with a foreign leader who in the past certainly wasn’t too well disposed towards Singapore.

It looks a lot like Thum and his coterie got excited by the chance to the meet Dr Mahathir (okay, yes, I can see how this is legitimately exciting) and started posting over-excitedly on social media.

Not the behaviour one would hope for from leaders of the charge towards a more open Singapore. Maybe he has no interest in being a political leader at all, but he needs to be clear.

He needs to either be an activist or a historian — he should not try to be both at the same or he’ll end up becoming a propagandist. The one thing he seems to be most opposed to.

in brief

Hitler runs for mayor despite threat from Lennin

LIMA — In Peru, Hitler hopes to return to power in a small town in the Andes, despite a threat from a detractor named Lennin. Campaign slogans reading “Hitler returns” and “Hitler with the people” have appeared around the highland town of Yungar, where local politician Hitler Alba is seeking a new term as mayor. “I’m the good Hitler,” Alba said on local broadcaster RPP. Stressing that he rejects what Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler stood for, Alba said he wants to oversee a fair and transparent government in Yungar, a farming town in Peru’s central Andes. But Alba’s campaign this year came under attack by Lennin Vladimir Rodriguez Valverde, a resident of a neighbouring district who tried to block Alba’s inscription as a candidate. Electoral authorities rejected the request last week, allowing Hitler to appear on voting cards for the Oct 7 elections. — Reuters

 

Canada hosts first women foreign ministers meeting

MONTREAL — Women foreign ministers from around the world kicked off a first-of-its-kind meeting on Friday, bringing together more than half of the world’s top women diplomats in Montreal.Women are “key to finding solutions to the political, economic and social challenges facing our societies,” Canada’s top diplomat Chrystia Freeland said at the opening of the two-day summit. The meeting will centre on four topics: women in politics and positions of leadership; strengthening democracy; promoting peace and security and eliminating gender-based violence. “I will always promote equal representation and respect for the rights of women and girls,” Freeland said. — AFP

 

Escobar museum in Colombia closed down

BOGOTA — A museum dedicated to late and notorious Colombian drug baron Pablo Escobar has been shut down in Medellin, according to local authorities. The museum, owned by Escobar’s brother Roberto, was popular on the tourist trail and exposed the eccentric life of the “King of Cocaine”. It was closed on Wednesday following a joint operation by the mayor’s office, vice-ministry of tourism and Colombian migration. Medellin’s mayor’s office said it had not been granted the necessary authorisation to offer tourism services or conduct commercial activities. The unofficial museum in the exclusive Las Palmas neighbourhood showed off classic cars and motorcycles that belonged to the cartel crime lord, as well as a false wall he once hid in. — AFP

Facebook Dating launches in Colombia

BOGOTA — Facebook said a dating service it teased early this year is being rolled out in Colombia.

The social media giant chose the Latin American country as its test lab because Colombians are particularly avid fans of using social networks and websites to find partners.

The new feature, rolled out in Colombia this week, allows users to create a separate “dating” profile not visible to their network of friends, with potential matches recommended based on preferences and common interests.

The service is programmed not to link up people who are already connected as family or friends, and users of Facebook Dating will also be able to block people if they wish.

A basic chat service will be available, and the site will bar strangers from sending photos, videos or links.

Some 21 million people log in to Facebook every day in Colombia, a country of 50 million people, according to the company.

“We view this as an incredible opportunity to continue helping people build relationships in meaningful ways on Facebook,” said Facebook Dating product manager Nathan Sharp.

Facebook’s chief Mark Zuckerberg in May announced plans for the new dating feature at the world’s leading online social network — while vowing to make privacy protection its top priority in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Zuckerberg was emphatic that the focus would be on helping people find partners, not flings.

“This is going to be for building real, long-term relationships, not just hookups,” Zuckerberg said in presenting the new feature.

He said the dating offer was built with privacy and safety in mind.

Facebook faced intense global scrutiny over the mass harvesting of personal data by Cambridge Analytica, a British political consultancy that worked for Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign.

The company has admitted up to 87 million users may have had their data hijacked in the scandal. — AFP

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Barbados appoints Rihanna ambassador

NEW YORK — Rihanna is now Ambassador Rihanna, after her home country tasked her with promoting investment and tourism.

Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley said that Rihanna — real name Robyn Rihanna Fenty — has been conferred the title of ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary.

While the singer will not be formally accredited to another country, Mottley said that Rihanna — whose more colourful songs include B*tch Better Have My Money — would be in charge of bringing investment as well as encouraging education and tourism.

“I couldn’t be more proud to take on such a prestigious title in my home country. Every Barbadian is going to have to play their role in this current effort, and I’m ready and excited to take on the responsibility,” Rihanna said in a statement dated Thursday.

Rihanna, 30, grew up in a troubled home in Barbados and was propelled to fame after visiting US producer Evan Rogers recognised her talents.

The singer, who since achieving stardom has lived primarily in Los Angeles and New York, has scored 14 number-one singles on the US Billboard chart, more than any artist except The Beatles, Elvis Presley and Mariah Carey. — AFP

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