Thursday, March 27, 2008

Singapore's New Welfarism

ST March 22, 2008
WELFARE spending: Is it just about money?

Senior Political Correspondent -

A yawning income gap combined with what appears to be swelling government coffers
have turned the spotlight on whether Singapore is doing enough to help its poor and needy. In an Asia Research Institute seminar on Tuesday, three panellists debated the whys and wherefores of welfare policy.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

M'sia PM says 'big mistake' to ignore cyber-campaign

March 25, 2008

KUALA LUMPUR - MALAYSIA'S premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said on Tuesday his 'biggest mistake' in disastrous elections was to ignore cyber-campaigning on the Internet which was seized by the opposition.

The powerful Barisan Nasional coalition suffered its worst-ever results in March 8 polls that left five states and a third of parliamentary seats in opposition hands.

The opposition, which was largely ignored by government-linked mainstream media, instead waged an enormously successful online campaign using blogs, news websites and SMS text messages.

'We certainly lost the Internet war, the cyber-war,' Mr Abdullah said in in a speech to an investment conference.

'It was a serious misjudgement. We made the biggest mistake in thinking that it was not important,' he said.

'We thought that the newspapers, the print media, the television was supposed to be important, but the young people were looking at SMS and blogs.'

The comments are a major about-face for the government, which had vilified bloggers, calling them liars and threatening them with detention without trial under draconian internal security laws.

In line with promises to reform after the humiliating election results, Mr Abdullah said the government would 'respond effectively' and move to empower young Malaysians.

'It was painful ... but it came at the right time, not too late,' he said.

Malaysia's mainstream media are mostly part-owned by parties in the ruling coalition, and what was seen as biased coverage in the run-up to last month's vote alienated voters and boosted demand for alternative news sources.

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders ranks Malaysia 124 out of 169 on its worldwide press freedom index. It says mainstream media are 'often compelled to ignore or to play down' opposition events. -- AFP

[Comment: After the tsunami sea change of politics in Malaysia, some asked if it were possible in Singapore. This is one reason why it would not. Singapore laws on internet campaigning is stricter. On this, the powers that be seemed to have anticipated the internet influence much better than the Malaysian leaders.]

Monday, March 24, 2008

Muslim baptised by Pope says life in danger

March 24, 2008

VATICAN CITY - A MUSLIM author and critic of Islamic fundamentalism who was baptised a Catholic by Pope Benedict said Islam is 'physiologically violent' and he is now in great danger because of his conversion.

Call for 'anti-hopping' Act

March 24, 2008

MALAYSIA is considering making it illegal for lawmakers to switch sides amid reports that the opposition is trying to get ruling party members to defect.

No fury like Rafidah

March 20, 2008

NEWS that Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz had not been reappointed a minister was followed by high drama in the Wanita Umno wing as the senior ladies lamented their lack of representation in the Cabinet.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Doing dull chores could improve sex life

March 7, 2008

WASHINGTON - AMERICAN men have doubled the amount of housework they do, spend three times more time with their kids than they did 50 years ago, and have happier wives and more solid marriages because of it, a report published on Thursday said.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Expensive sugar pills work better than cheap ones

March 5, 2008

WASHINGTON - WANT a sugar pill to work really well? Charge more for it.

A study published on Tuesday shows the well-known 'placebo effect' works even better if the dummy pill costs more.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Coming soon to Japan: remote control with a wink

March 3, 2008

TOKYO - DON'T read to much into someone winking at you in Japan - a researcher says he has developed a system that will soon let people run their iPods with the flick of an eye.

The system, comprising a single-chip computer and a couple of infrared sensors, monitors movements of the temple and is so tiny that it can be built into the side of a pair of eyeglasses.

Closing both eyes for one second starts an iPod, while blinking again stops the machine. A wink with the right eye makes the machine skip to the next tune while with a wink of the left eye it goes back.

As a person does not have to move either hand, the system can serve as 'a third hand' for caregivers, rock-climbers, motorbike drivers and astronauts, as well as people with disabilities.

'You don't have to worry about the system moving incorrectly as the system picks up signals when you close your eyes firmly. You can use this when you're eating or chatting with someone,' said the device's developer, Kazuhiro Taniguchi.

The system - dubbed 'Kome Kami Switch,' or 'Temple Switch' - can easily differentiate a deliberate one-second wink from natural blinking, said Mr Taniguchi, a researcher at state-run Osaka University's Graduate School of Engineering Science.

'Normally you blink in an energy-saving manner, very quickly and lightly, but you would close your eyes more firmly to operate a device,' he said.

'There are some people who are incapable of winking on one eye. For those, we can programme the system to give a command when they blink twice in a fast sequence,' he said.

The Kome Kami Switch is also capable of operating television sets, air conditioners, room lighting and other household electronics.

Mr Taniguchi hopes the system can eventually be adapted to run cellphones, wheelchairs and robots as 'an ultimate remote control' used in everyday life.

A previous system using blinking to run devices had an obstructive sensor just in front of the user's eye, Mr Taniguchi said.

The research team want to launch a venture in two to three years to commercialise the switch.

The new switch is a variation of a system, which Mr Taniguchi is still working on, that operates when wearers clench their teeth. -- AFP

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Soft power, hard truth

March 2, 2008

This abridged essay is taken from Shashi Tharoor's latest book, The Elephant, The Tiger And The Cell Phone. The writer, a former United Nations undersecretary-general and the author of several books, gave a speech on the same subject at the Nanyang Technological University last Tuesday

By Shashi Tharoor