Monday, August 28, 2023

Musk undue influence over US policy and the Russo-Ukraine war.

 Elon Musk’s Shadow Rule

How the U.S. government came to rely on the tech billionaire—and is now struggling to rein him in.

By Ronan Farrow

Last October, Colin Kahl, then the Under-Secretary of Defense for Policy at the Pentagon, sat in a hotel in Paris and prepared to make a call to avert disaster in Ukraine. A staffer handed him an iPhone—in part to avoid inviting an onslaught of late-night texts and colorful emojis on Kahl’s own phone. Kahl had returned to his room, with its heavy drapery and distant view of the Eiffel Tower, after a day of meetings with officials from the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. A senior defense official told me that Kahl was surprised by whom he was about to contact: “He was, like, ‘Why am I calling Elon Musk?’ ”

The reason soon became apparent. “Even though Musk is not technically a diplomat or statesman, I felt it was important to treat him as such, given the influence he had on this issue,” Kahl told me. SpaceX, Musk’s space-exploration company, had for months been providing Internet access across Ukraine, allowing the country’s forces to plan attacks and to defend themselves. But, in recent days, the forces had found their connectivity severed as they entered territory contested by Russia. More alarmingly, SpaceX had recently given the Pentagon an ultimatum: if it didn’t assume the cost of providing service in Ukraine, which the company calculated at some four hundred million dollars annually, it would cut off access. “We started to get a little panicked,” the senior defense official, one of four who described the standoff to me, recalled. Musk “could turn it off at any given moment. And that would have real operational impact for the Ukrainians.”

Full of beans: scientists use processed coffee grounds to make stronger concrete

Australian engineers say they can make concrete nearly 30% stronger by incorporating processed grounds into the material

Donna Lu

Tue 22 Aug 2023

In an idea that fittingly arose over a cup of coffee, researchers have devised a technique to recycle used coffee grounds to make stronger concrete.

Engineers at RMIT University say they have developed a way to make concrete nearly 30% stronger by incorporating processed coffee grounds into the material.

Samples of unroasted coffee beans, roasted coffee beans, spent ground coffee and the team’s coffee biochar.
Photograph: Carelle Mulawa-Richards, RMIT University

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Remarks by President Biden at a Campaign Reception | Salt Lake City, UT

August 10, 2023

Private Residence
Salt Lake City, Utah

THE PRESIDENT: Please, please sit down. Thank you. Well, first of all, you know, I had forgotten about that incident. It was the time when there was a lot of discussion going on in the administration: would we recognize same-sex marriage.

And I was rai- — I was a lucky man. I was raised by a father who was a — thought everyone was entitled to be treated with dignity. I remember when I was — I hadn’t thought about this a long time. I remember when I was a kid, I — I was a lifeguard at a country club, but I wanted to — I was — got deeply involved in the Civil Rights Movement. And so, I wanted to work in what they called “The Bucket,” which was a public housing complex — a large complex on the east side of Wilmington — and — which was all African American.

And they had the — like all big cities, they had three major swimming pools. One on the east side, which is where they — a thousand African American kids a day would come and swim in this big pool. And I wanted to be a lifeguard there. 

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Commentary: Singapore’s the 25th happiest country in the world — here are some ways to make it a happier place

Ooi Boon Keong/TODAY

Despite being consistently ranked as Asia’s happiest nation, Singapore has not seen a dramatic improvement in either its ranking or the average life evaluation score over the last decade, said the author.


April 18, 2023

Almost every year since 2012, the World Happiness Report (WHR) has been documenting the rankings of national happiness for hundreds of countries worldwide.

In the WHR’s first and landmark report, Denmark was named the happiest country in the world, followed closely by two other Scandinavian countries: Finland and Norway.

Recently, however, Finland has overtaken Denmark as the happiest nation six years in a row.

What about Singapore? Perhaps to many Singaporeans’ surprise, Singapore has not been performing too badly at all as a nation when it comes to being satisfied with one’s life.

Out of over 150 countries in the Gallup World Poll, which is the dataset used to generate the happiness league table in the WHR since its inception in 2012, Singapore ranked 25th globally in 2023. 

Friday, July 28, 2023

In Singapore, loud echoes of Beijing’s positions generate anxiety

President Xi Jinping wants to build influence among ethnic-Chinese communities in Southeast Asia, raising concerns that the Chinese Communist Party is stoking divided loyalties

Waterloo Street, one of the oldest streets in multiracial Singapore, is host to Chinese temples, food centers and
newspaper vendors, alongside a Hindu temple and a synagogue.

By Shibani Mahtani 
Amrita Chandradas

July 24 at 5:00 p.m.

SINGAPORE — As China accelerates efforts to build its global power, President Xi Jinping has laid out an extravagant vision for overseas ethnic-Chinese communities that he hopes will “give shape to a powerful joint force for advancing the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”

Monday, July 3, 2023

The Big Read: With more seniors needing care, is assisted living the answer for S'pore's 'missing middle' and their caregivers?

Experts interviewed by TODAY said that the issue of caregiving options has become even more pronounced in light of
Singapore's rapidly ageing population. 
Ili Nadhirah Mansor/TODAY
  • With Singapore society ageing rapidly, one particular eldercare option has sprung up in recent years — community or assisted living to help seniors with basic daily activities 
  • It is touted as a possible solution for the “missing middle” — seniors who cannot live independently but are not too ill to be cared for in nursing homes
  • But experts, industry players and caregivers pointed to various factors on why assisted living services has not taken off faster, including costs, regulatory ambiguities and manpower shortages
  • At the same time, there are different challenges in expanding other caregiving services such as foreign domestic helpers and day care centres 
  • Experts believe that the right way forward is a shift in approach from reactive to preventive measures in eldercare, and more sustainable public-private partnerships

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

It’s crunch time for the debt ceiling

The main sticking point: government spending.

President Biden and Speaker McCarthy
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

By Neal Freyman

May 22, 2023

It’s understandable if you haven’t been following negotiations around the debt ceiling—it is “negotiations around the debt ceiling,” after all.

But it might be time to start paying attention, considering that the clock for the US defaulting on its debts is getting dangerously close to midnight. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen reiterated yesterday that the US likely wouldn’t be able to pay all of its bills beginning next Thursday, June 1, if Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling from its current $31.4 trillion level by then.