Thursday, February 11, 2016

Why judges should not be moral arbiters

K.C. Vijayan
Senior Law Correspondent

11 Feb 2016

Issues of social preferences can be expressed only through electoral process, US judge tells Singapore audience

After the United States Supreme Court gave same-sex marriages the green light, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was asked if, in his view, such thorny issues were better decided through politics or in the courts.

In his response to the question, which was posed at a dialogue at the Singapore Management University (SMU) last June, he said of the US ruling that any ban on such unions was unconstitutional: "That is their (the US) system. They will not say that they made a decision on the issue; they will say that they interpreted the Constitution in its true sense and this is what it has always meant.

"Things like abortion, racial discrimination, drugs, all sorts of things go to the Supreme Court."

And that means that the US Congress, made up of those elected by the people, does not have the last word, he highlighted at the SMU's Ho Rih Hwa Leadership in Asia Public Lecture.

That same issue was at the heart of a lecture that Justice Antonin Scalia delivered here late last month.

Singaporeans need to know their legal rights

Kok Xing Hui

11 Feb 2016

The recent suicide of a teenager after he was questioned by the police has spurred debate and calls for public education about rights

When I was 17, I spent a night in the lockup of Tanglin Police Division - the price I paid for using a school senior's identity card to try and get into a club.

I had been curious about a party many of my junior college schoolmates were at, but the door girl saw through my youthful indiscretion and called the police.

In the cold cell they put me in, I was filled with regret, and desperately worried about being kicked out of school.

I needed to call my parents, and at least let them know where I was past 3am that Saturday morning.

At that time, all I knew about police arrests was what I had seen on American TV programmes. So I was under the misguided notion that I would get one phone call and could call my parents and ask them to come and get me.

It was only later that I realised Singapore takes a different approach, and its reasons for doing so.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Was the Apollo moon landing a hoax?

March 31, 2000

Dear Straight Dope:

I was reading an online story about the anniversary of the first Apollo moon landing and it mentioned that a very few folks maintain, nay, obsessively insist, that it never happened. That none of the moon landings ever took place, except for on a movie set or in the Nevada desert. It sounds to me like the talk of someone who has a wee bit too much time on their hands. What's the Straight Dope — did Armstrong and company walk on the moon or no?

— Matt Schutte

An Unhinged Democracy in America

FEB 9, 2016


NEW YORK – Alexis de Tocqueville, a liberal French aristocrat, visited the United States in 1831 ostensibly to write a study of its “enlightened” prison system (locking people up in solitary confinement like penitent monks was the latest modern idea). Out of this trip came de Tocqueville’s masterpiece, Democracy in America, in which he expressed admiration for American civil liberties and compared the world’s first genuine liberal democracy favorably with Old World institutions.

But de Tocqueville had serious reservations, too. The biggest danger to US democracy, he believed, was the tyranny of the majority, the suffocating intellectual conformity of American life, the stifling of minority opinion and dissent. He was convinced that any exercise of unlimited power, be it by an individual despot or a political majority, is bound to end in disaster.

Democracy, in the sense of majority rule, needs restraints, just like any other system of government. That is why the British have mixed the authority of elected politicians with that of aristocratic privilege. And it is why Americans still cherish their Constitution’s separation of governmental powers.

F-35 fighter jet to go on display at Singapore Airshow

As the event nears, analysts weigh in on what the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter can offer for Singapore's air defence and why the country has yet to buy it.

By Loke Kok Fai
09 Feb 2016

SINGAPORE: The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will be on display at this year's Singapore Airshow, which will be held from Feb 16 to Feb 21. There will also be a flight simulator so visitors can get a feel of the fighter jet that Singapore has expressed its interest in buying.

The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) has expressed interest in the F-35 since as early as 2003, when it joined a programme to develop the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). It is the only fifth-generation fighter presently available on the market and observers said it suits Singapore's needs.

The F-35 offers advanced stealth, ground attack and sensing capabilities for reconnaissance and surveillance. Additionally, some versions of the fighter only require a small area for take-off and landing.

"Singapore has such a small amount of territory," said Mr Richard Bitzinger, senior fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies' Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies. "It only has a certain amount of territory for airfields and a certain finite number of airfields, and one of the things you're concerned about is of course enemy air attacks on your airfields that render them useless.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Why few child prodigies grow up to be geniuses

Feb 7, 2016

They don't learn to be original; study shows that setting fewer rules enables kids to be creative
Adam Grant

They learn to read at age two, play Bach at four, breeze through calculus at six, and speak foreign languages fluently by eight. Their classmates shudder with envy; their parents rejoice at winning the lottery. But, to paraphrase T.S. Eliot, their careers tend to end not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Consider the most prestigious award in the US for scientifically gifted high school students, the Westinghouse Science Talent Search, called the Super Bowl of science by one American president. From its inception in 1942 until 1994, the search recognised more than 2,000 precocious teenagers as finalists. But just 1 per cent ended up making the National Academy of Sciences, and just eight have won Nobel Prizes. For every Lisa Randall who revolutionises theoretical physics, there are many dozens who fall far short of their potential.

Child prodigies rarely become adult geniuses who change the world. We assume that they must lack the social and emotional skills to function in society. When you look at the evidence, though, this explanation doesn't suffice: Less than a quarter of gifted children suffer from social and emotional problems. A vast majority are well adjusted - as winning at a cocktail party as in the spelling bee.

What holds them back is that they don't learn to be original. They strive to earn the approval of their parents and the admiration of their teachers. But as they perform in Carnegie Hall and become chess champions, something unexpected happens: Practice makes perfect, but it doesn't make new.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

It's not all rosy for job seekers

Toh Yong Chuan
Manpower Correspondent

Feb 5, 2016,

The Ministry of Manpower said on Thursday that four in 10 job vacancies are for professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs). It went on to say that there were 116 positions for every 100 job seekers last year.

Just last week, it was revealed that, in real terms, citizens saw their median income from work jumped by 7 per cent last year.

Higher salaries, more jobs than job seekers, a choice of professional positions - workers ought to have much to cheer about.

But wait. The picture is not all that rosy, in at least three ways.