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MANILA, Philippines - Here are Life and Style stories you might have missed from the week of January 21 to 26:
Singapore increases cash gifts for parents of newborn babies
In Singapore, a country where 20% of the population will be at least 65 years old by 2030, the government pays couples to have kids.
Last Monday, January 21, the government announced increased cash bonuses for parents of newborn babies adding a paternity leave into the package aimed at boosting the population and reducing their dependence to a largely foreign workforce.
Lucky parents of children born from August 26, 2012 will receive a cash gift of Sg$ 6,000 (over Php 197,000) for each of their first two children. The amount will rise to Sg$ 8,000 for a couple’s 3rd and 4th babies.
If the cash bonuses aren’t a sweet enough deal, the government has thrown in a one-week paternity leave for fathers of babies born from May 1, 2013. And if that week isn’t enough, fathers can take a second week off by taking a portion of the standard 16-week maternity leave given to their wives.
Couples with at least one child under the age of 16 will also be given priority to buy government-built apartments.
All these incentives compose the government’s beribboned response to the complaint of young couples that the cost of raising a family has become so high in the city state.
The government hopes that with these measures, Singaporean couples can help increase the native population. According to a 2011 survey, Singapore’s birth rate is 1.20 children per woman, a long shot from the 2.1 figure needed to support the country.
19-year-old literary sensation debuts with a dark fantasy novel
Move over J.K. Rowling. Swiss-American author Stefan Bachmann is already luring fantasy lovers into the magical world of his two books, and he’s only 19!
The new literary sensation is the author of “The Peculiar” and “The Whatnot” both set in Victorian England where humans, faeries, and changelings called "peculiars" live uneasily side by side.
The books have enjoyed rosy reviews with Bachmann being compared to Charles Dickens and Fyodor Dostoyevsky aside from the “Harry Potter” author.
Los Angeles Times called him an "unusually gifted young writer.”
He started writing the first book, “The Peculiar” in his bedroom when he was 16. After a year of searching for an interested literary agent, his book became the object of a tug-of-war between many publishers. Finally, it was snapped up by US publishing giant Harper Collins.
Bachmann’s hero is a peculiar named Bartholomew Kettle who lives by the motto, “Don't get yourself noticed and you won't get yourself hanged.” He finds himself in the depths of a mystery that involves the murder of other peculiar children whose insides are drained and skins left floating in the Thames River.
The delicate-looking blonde bespectacled author admits that his books are dark.
He adds, "I'm not sure why. I think I just really liked scary stories when I was a kid. I wanted to write a story that I would like to read," he said.
He takes inspiration for his favorite authors and books which include J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings,” Charles Dickens, and C.S. Lewis’s “The Chronicles of Narnia.”
Comic novel imagining Hitler’s return in the 21st century is German bestseller
On the other side of the world, another book is making headlines. This time, it’s a novel imagining German dictator Adolf Hitler returning to the 21st century.
In “He's Back” (Er Ist Wieder Da), written by 45-year-old journalist Timur Vermes, instead of dying from suicide on April 30, 1945, Hitler wakes up in 2011 without a clue of what has happened in the last 66 years.
He stumbles through Berlin’s streets, astonished by this new world where Germany is ruled by a woman and is home to millions of Turks.
At one point, the Nazi leader asks a group of boys for directions calling them “Ronaldo Hitler youth” because of the football shirts they are wearing.
After Hitler leaves, the boys ask one another, “Who’s the old guy?”
But megalomaniac Hitler contrives to place himself on the seat of power again, only in this century, power is quantified by online influence. So Hitler soon becomes the star of an entertainment show with a Turkish host, amassing power through followers and YouTube hits.
In the 400-page novel, a European newspaper, complains, "He killed millions of people. Today, millions cheer him on YouTube."
A crass comedy for some, a political satire for others, the book is nevertheless performing well in bookstore sales. With 360,000 printed copies in circulation, it has made it to Germany’s best-seller list and will soon be published in English and a dozen other languages.
Vermes emphasizes that the goal of his book is to show the notorious Fuhrer in a new light.
He says, “We too often harbor the negative attitude of those who see Hitler only as a monster to make themselves feel better. I thought it was important to show how he would operate and how he would act in today's world.”
The book sells for 19.33 euros, a number which is significant to Hitler as the year he became chancellor.
Some like it small: Bolivians celebrate miniature festival
It’s a celebration of the small scale in epic proportions as Bolivians gather for the Miniature Festival in La Paz, Bolivia.
During the month-long festival that began last Thursday, January 24, street vendors sell everything in miniature — from houses to clothes to passports.
Called "Alasita" which means “buy me” in the indigenous Aymara language, the festival is a tribute to Ekeko, the god of abudance in fertility and farming.
Harking back to the pre-Columbian period, the purchasing of miniatures is done with the belief that the small things you buy in January will become real during the course of the year.
Newspapers take part in the festivities too by publishing miniature issues with dimensions of 10 by 14 centimeters or 4 by 6 centimeters.
Wild, satirical headlines and stories are written to increase the miniature merriment. Bolivians looking for a laugh can indulge in headlines like "Chile offers 10,000 bottles of salt water to settle maritime dispute."
They can read about news like Bolivian President Evo Morales giving Chilean counterpart Sebastian Pinera “a resounding kick in the privates in a game over the maritime access.”
This Bolivian newspaper tradition can be traced as far back as 1846. In 2011, small newspapers were recognized in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, a list of documentary heritage items.
Samsung beats Apple in 2012 global smartphone sales
More and more people are buying smartphones, as is attested by a study that showed an explosion of smartphone sales in 2012. The report also showed that Samsung was leading in smartphone sales with Apple’s iPhone trailing sadly behind.
Research by the firm Strategy Analytics showed that global smartphone shipments grew 43% to 700 million units. Selling the most smartphones is South Korean brand Samsung which captured 30.4% of the market. Apple lagged behind holding 19.4%.
But according to the report, Samsung and Apple together accounted for half of all smartphones shipped worldwide last year.
Linda Sui explains their lead saying, "Large marketing budgets, extensive distribution channels, and attractive product portfolios have enabled Samsung and Apple to tighten their grip on the smartphone industry."
And while Nokia is still the 3rd largest smartphone seller, its market share fell sharply from 16% to 5%.
Another report by ABI Research showed similar results with Samsung capturing 31% of smartphone shipments and Apple capturing 21%.
ABI Research analyst Michael Morgan declares,"It is clear that the iPhone's hyper growth has ended… Unless Apple is willing to trade iPhone margins for low cost iPhone shipments, Apple's handset market share will become dependent on customer loyalty." - Rappler.com
Who will inherit the throne?
Rappler takes you through the Miss Philippines Earth 2013 competition with these specials: