Sunday, January 27, 2019

The ‘Golden Girls’ trend could be a golden opportunity for retirees facing isolation

By Adina Solomon

January 24 2018, Washington Post

Jane Callahan-Moore was living with her daughter and granddaughter in a Chicago suburb, but she felt something missing.

“While I loved being with them and seeing them every day, I found myself getting increasingly depressed because I didn’t have any contact with people my own age,” Callahan-Moore, 69, said.

So, in late 2017, she made a change. Callahan-Moore became housemates with Stefanie Clark, 75, and moved into Clark’s high-rise condo in Edgewater, a lakefront neighborhood in Chicago. Now, the pair share both space and time. They cook each other meals, go out together and provide support.

And neither owns a car. Edgewater is a walkable neighborhood with rail and bus access nearby, plus restaurants and shopping.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

What to make of Singapore’s move to buy F-35 fighter jets



21 JANUARY, 2019

Singapore announced on Friday (Jan 18) that it would buy a "small number" of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters for "a full evaluation of their capabilities and suitability before deciding on a full fleet".

If the sparse 127-word Ministry of Defence (Mindef) statement spread over two paragraphs left you with more questions than answers, you are in good company.

Two key questions remain.

First, is the Lockheed-Martin F-35 — the most advanced warplane that friends of the United States can buy — the chosen one that will replace Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) F-16s?

Can these 35-ton bricks solve renewable energy’s biggest problem?

Fast Company

7 Nov 2018


It’s already cheaper to build a new solar or wind farm than a coal plant. But when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing, renewable electricity can still be fairly expensive to store–even though the cost of batteries is dropping. If the world shifted to 100% renewable electricity right now, we might pay more on electric bills.

A new solution that uses basic physics could cut the cost of storage in half, or by as much as 80% over the total life of the system. It makes it possible for renewable power to be cheaper than fossil fuels all day, every day of the year, everywhere. “Our solution, for the first time, will enable the world to achieve this,” says Robert Piconi, CEO and cofounder of Energy Vault, the startup that developed the new system. Tata Power, the giant Indian electric utility, will be the first customer.

[Image: courtesy Energy Vault]

Denmark's free education policy has created 'eternity students' who never graduate

From Business Insider

Chris Weller 

Nov. 12, 2017 << Note Date>> 

  • Denmark has a term for people who don't graduate in the normal five-year track: eternity students.
  • Because Danish students receive a monthly grant and pay no tuition, some feel compelled to move through their studies without thinking about the future.
  • A 2015 amendment made it easier for universities to push students through, but the trend still exists.

Monday, January 21, 2019

​Focusing on how individuals can help combat climate change may not be the best approach

By Morten Fibieger Byskov


18 January, 2019

What can be done to limit global warming to 1.5°C? A quick internet search offers a deluge of advice on how individuals can change their behaviour.

Take public transport instead of the car or, for longer journeys, the train rather than fly. Eat less meat and more vegetables, pulses and grains, and don’t forget to turn off the light when leaving a room or the water when shampooing.

[And the case for or against vegetarianism (as a solution for climate change? Link here.]
The implication here is that the impetus for addressing climate change is on individual consumers.

But can and should it really be the responsibility of individuals to limit global warming? On the face of it, we all contribute to global warming through the cumulative impact of our actions.

Why I’m (slightly) less pessimistic about global warming

Washington Post


By Robert J. Samuelson

January 20, 2019

On global climate change, I’ve changed my mind — just slightly.

I’ve written about this issue for more than two decades, and my theme has been monotonously consistent. As a starting point, I’ve accepted the prevailing scientific view that man-made greenhouse gases contribute to global warming.

But I’ve been routinely pessimistic and skeptical that we can do much about it. That is, we can’t easily control the forces that worsen global warming.

We have yet to discover or create some low-cost fuel that would replace fossil fuels (oil, natural gas and coal), which provide roughly 80 percent of the world’s energy. Most nations aren’t willing to scrap the energy status quo — the very basis of modern civilization — before having a practical substitute.

Thus, despite the enthusiasm for non-fossil fuels (wind, solar, hydro, nuclear), global greenhouse-gas emissions are higher today than, say, in 1990.

This raises the atmospheric concentration levels of those gases, which in turn trap heat above the Earth’s surface. From 1990 to 2018, the concentration level of carbon dioxide rose from 354 parts per million to 409 parts per million.

Chinese economy slows to lowest growth rate in 28 years

By Anna Fifield

January 21 at 6:13 AM

BEIJING — The Chinese economy last year grew at its slowest rate since 1990, adding to the urgency for President Xi Jinping to reach a trade deal with the United States.

Although the trade war is not the main reason for last year’s slowdown, it is not helping.

“The economy is a much bigger problem for Xi Jinping than the trade war. The last thing he wants is a bunch of angry people protesting because they’ve lost their jobs,” said Andrew Collier, managing director of Orient Capital Research, a Hong Kong-based consultancy.

“Slowing economic growth is putting pressure on him to solve as many problems as he can, and the trade war will be top of his list,” Collier said.

Growth in the world’s second largest economy decelerated from 6.8 percent in 2017 to 6.6 percent last year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. The slowdown is the result of cooling demand both at home and abroad.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Entombed! Thai Cave Rescue. Book by Liam Cochrane

ENTOMBED! Twelve schoolboys trapped deep inside a flooding cave in a drama that gripped the world - as relived in new book by reporter who witnessed every moment
  • The Wild Boars football team and their coach were freed from a Thai cave 
  • The Thai football club had been trapped underground for the past two weeks 
  • They were all brought out in a daring rescue mission that ended on July 10, 2018 


11 January 2019

Australian journalist LIAM COCHRANE covered last year’s dramatic cave rescue of schoolboys in Thailand. Here, he reconstructs the gripping events that had the world on the edge of its seat, praying for a miracle to save a dozen soccer-mad boys and their coach from disaster.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Workers' Party to win one-third of seats?

[This is the same speech covered by two newspapers. ]

Workers' Party should aim to win one-third of seats in Parliament: Pritam Singh

14 Jan 2019 

By Aqil Haziq Mahmud

SINGAPORE: The Workers' Party (WP) should aim to contest and win one-third of the seats in Parliament as a "medium-term objective", its secretary-general Pritam Singh has said.

"I say one-third in the medium-term because of the past experience of the Workers’ Party in attracting suitable and qualified candidates who are willing to stand in general elections," Mr Singh said on Sunday (Jan 13), according to a copy of a speech he gave at the WP Members' Forum 2019.

"For a small party like ours, it is a high bar."

Dr Mahathir-Anwar succession plan not being handled well, forum told

15 JANUARY, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR — The leadership succession plan between Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim is not being handled well, despite repeated assurances from both leaders, said political scientist Dr Bridget Welsh.

Dr Welsh, a visiting senior fellow at the private university HELP, said it was clear there was a power struggle between supporters of both factions, as evidenced by the ongoing defections within parties of the Pakatan Harapan coalition.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Majority of applications for CPF funds on medical grounds successful: MOM

ByFann Sim@Fann


15 Jan 2019 

SINGAPORE: In the last three years, about 65 per cent of applications to withdraw money from the Central Provident Fund (CPF) earlier due to medical reasons have been successful said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo in Parliament on Tuesday (Jan 15).

Under the Medical Grounds Scheme, CPF members can withdraw or start their payouts before the stipulated payout age of 65.

Eligibility criteria they have to meet under the scheme include being permanently incapacitated, terminally ill, or having a severely impaired life expectancy due to illness. Such applications have to be accompanied by the relevant doctors’ certification, the minister said.

Mrs Teo was responding to Member of Parliament for Nee Soon GRC Lee Bee Wah on the percentage of successful appeals for an earlier withdrawal of CPF payouts.

The remaining 35 per cent were not successful because applicants did not meet the eligibility conditions and were referred to help avenues for help, such as Workforce Singapore and the Social Services Office, Mrs Teo said.

Monday, January 14, 2019

The case for Vegetarianism?

Commentary: Think twice when considering banning beef

Eating meat is fast becoming as repellent as smoking to many green campaigners but reducing meat won’t make the dent in climate change we need, says Bjorn Lomborg.

ByBjorn Lomborg

30 Nov 2018

COPENHAGEN: Christiana Figueres, the former United Nations official responsible for the 2015 Paris climate agreement, has a startling vision for restaurants of the future: Anyone who wants a steak should be banished.

“How about restaurants in 10 to 15 years start treating carnivores the same way that smokers are treated?” Figueres suggested during a recent conference. “If they want to eat meat, they can do it outside the restaurant.”


In case you have missed this development: Eating meat is fast becoming as repellent as smoking to many green campaigners. It is behaviour to be discouraged or even banned.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Politics Malaysia, Democracy Malaysia

[Two articles on Politics and Democracy in Malaysia.]

Five things to watch out for in 2019 on Malaysia’s political front

By Adrian Tan
09 January, 2019

2018 was a year of dramatic change for Malaysia. At the General Elections in May 2018 (GE14), Barisan Nasional (BN) was defeated by Pakatan Harapan (PH) after 61 years in power. Malaysia saw the return of Mahathir Mohamad as Prime Minister.

His one-time nemesis Anwar Ibrahim was released from prison, received a royal pardon and is now back in Parliament. Najib Razak was slapped with multiple charges linked to the 1MDB scandal while investigations into allegations against other United Malays National Organisation (Umno) leaders are ongoing.

However, as Malaysia begins 2019, it is increasingly clear that for PH, moving the country forward and keeping it together while carrying out promised reforms may be more challenging than removing BN from power. Here are five issues we should monitor in 2019.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Singapore supplies additional treated water to Malaysia at Johor's request


6 Jan 2019

SINGAPORE: Singapore's water agency PUB said on Sunday (Jan 6) that it supplied additional treated water to Malaysia this week after pollution disrupted production at Johor's water plants.

"Production at Johor's water plants was disrupted recently by pollution to the river catchment. PUB's Johor River Waterworks was not affected by the incident," said PUB in a statement.

"At Johor’s request, PUB helped to tide Johor residents over the water supply disruption by turning on PUB’s Pasir Gudang offtake and supplying an additional 6 million of gallons per day (mgd) of treated water between 2 and 4 January 2019.

"This was on top of the 16 mgd that we usually supply Johor," it added.

Singapore is required to supply Johor with 5 mgd of treated water, said PUB, citing the 1962 Water Agreement.

"In practice, we have been supplying 16 mgd of treated water to Johor at their request. On top of this, between 2 and 4 January 2019, we have supplied a further 6 mgd of treated water (above the 16 mgd of treated water) to Johor when it needed more water because its water plants experienced pollution.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Over RM13b needed to reduce NRW — SPAN

[This is an old article (note the date) which I looked up for another story about Johor requesting water from SG. And how the water supply system in MY is so bad that the Non-Revenue Water (NRW) or water lost to leakage or theft, is more than 25%!]

Kamarul Anwar

The Edge Financial Daily

July 26, 2016

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily,on July 26, 2016.

CYBERJAYA: The regulator of Malaysia’s water industry estimates that more than RM13 billion worth of investment in water distribution systems is needed to achieve its non-revenue water (NRW) target of 25% by 2020.

It, however, remains to be seen when the investment can be put into place. More than 10 years after the federal government put into law that it will be the sole custodian of water assets in an effort to cool down the country’s escalating costs to supply treated water, only seven states have handed over their assets to Putrajaya.

Meth and Philosophy - A clash of values?

[So a Humanities Lecturer at Hwa Ching Institution became known as the "Meth Teacher". I don't blame him. He's 65. Still working as a lecturer. Teaching "humanities". To Hwa Chong students. In Singapore. And he's British!

It's enough to drive one to drugs. 

At 65, you would think he should be retired. 

But no. 

He has to come all this way to Singapore for his post-65 work. ]

Hwa Chong Institution teacher faces drug charges, including taking meth
04 January, 2019

SINGAPORE — A Hwa Chong Institution teacher faces drug-related charges, including taking methamphetamine, trying to procure the drug and having drug paraphernalia.

British citizen Christopher David Burge, 65, was charged in September last year and returned to court on Friday (Jan 4), where his defence lawyer said it would take four more weeks for a psychiatric report to be issued.

Burge, who is a Humanities lecturer at the school, is accused of taking methamphetamine sometime before late September last year.

He also allegedly tried to obtain five packets containing crystalline substances that were found to contain 3.6g of meth.

Drug paraphernalia was allegedly found in his possession, including three glass pipes and a glass apparatus with a straw and glass pipe attached.

He is also accused of having a packet of vegetable matter that contained synthetic cannabis.

Burge is out on bail of S$10,000 and will return to court next month.

If found guilty of consuming meth, he can be jailed for up to 10 years, fined S$20,000, or both.

Channel NewsAsia has reached out to Hwa Chong Institution for more information. 


[Then there is the Philosophy student. From the US. He means well. At least, I will give him the benefit of the doubt. But I can see why he needs philosophy. My psychology professor told us that he has a hypothesis - that we are drawn to subjects that we are poor in or lack development in.

He is drawn to Philosophy. Hmmm...

(Full disclosure, I took Evolutionary Psychology as my Honours thesis. What that says about me or my lack, who knows?)

He describes his "evolution" - from carefree US student, to US student immersed in a competitive and "hothouse" society and going native, and then to US student re-discovering the purpose of life, and re-learning his roots, and values, and then to US student presuming to convert the heathen native savages to a more civilised way of living.

Hey, you might say. I thought you said he means well, and you were giving him the benefit of the doubt. 

I am. All those missionaries who came to the exotic lands to bring the good news to the heathen natives did so with good intentions and were well meaning. And you know about roads paved with good intentions.

So in his youth (mid-20s, perhaps?) he has had an epiphany, and would like to share it with us. 

He will have a few more.]

Gen Y Speaks: How living in Singapore almost changed my attitude towards studies
By Harrison Linder

07 January, 2019

As an American who has been studying in Singapore for over a year now, I can say that the attitudes surrounding academic achievement are very different here compared to my hometown. Recently, I took some time to reflect on how my time in Singapore has affected my own attitudes towards studies.

While I was in high school, whenever my dad felt like I was not studying hard enough, he would say: “You know, kids in other countries are working twice as hard as you. If you want to be competitive in the global economy, you are going to have to start working a lot harder.”

While my dad likes to tease me about the highly connected and competitive global future and wants me to succeed, he is clear that that success has to come because I want it. He has never forced me to do something that he thought was valuable but I thought was not.

During my high school years, I was not so anxious about what globalisation meant for my career opportunities, nor did I believe that working so much harder on school work was truly worth it.
I was getting good grades at the best public school in San Francisco, Lowell High School. While I was not going to make it into the Ivy League, I was on track to get into a good university, and I was satisfied with that.

In San Francisco, I witnessed a great range of parenting styles. I met parents who let their kids throw parties every weekend, parents who micromanaged their kids’ time from kindergarten up till high school, and many variations in between these two extremes.

All these different parenting styles reflected different value systems. And most of the time, they passed their values on to their kids.

While studying for the past three semesters in Singapore, I have come across people from a much smaller range on this value spectrum.

Most of my classmates are very concerned with academic achievement, success and economic security.

Not long after arriving in Singapore, my own values began to shift.
I constantly heard people talking about elite education institutions and prestigious entry-level jobs, and for the first time in my life, I too decided that those were what I needed.

[So apparently, he is quite suggestible. Might suggest a lack of well grounded values. It is similar to Singaporean children who go overseas for studies and then adopt the values of the west and find themselves unable to return to Singapore society.]
So I made up my mind to work as hard as I could, cutting down on what I thought were unnecessary things like socialising and playing music.

It took me a while to figure out that this attitude would leave me perpetually unsatisfied and chronically unhappy.

[So... not very smart?]
A wonderful book, Lost Connections, made me realise that I was viewing happiness and satisfaction in the wrong way.

Life is not all about achieving success, reaching a certain status and having loads of money.

It is also about making meaningful connections and doing things that I would do regardless of whether or not someone would think I am cool or pay me for doing them.

[Good that he got all that from a book. Good thing he found that book. What would have happened if he didn't? He might have become... *gasp!* Singaporean!]
I no longer view relaxation and communication with friends as unnecessary luxuries that hold me back from my “full potential”, but rather things that are necessary for my mental health. Things that I might even need to sacrifice achievement for.

I stopped treating time with friends and hobbies as escapes from “more important” responsibilities, and instead treated them as important projects in themselves.

I took a more sincere interest in the lives of my friends, and as a result created more honest and supportive relationships with them.

[Wow! Epiphany! In time to come he will realise that he doesn't really want a career. He just needs the pay check. ]
From my conversations with some of my Singaporean classmates, I believe it will not be easy for them to change their own attitudes on academic achievements. 

[And in time to come, he will learn that his own growth does not depend on believing others cannot grow as he did because he is somehow better than them. So this is what he got from his "more honest and supportive relationship" with his friends? Oh he meant his American friends! Silly me. ]  
Just look at the way parents push their young kids to excel in the Primary School Leaving Examinations.

Once they get older, students start to set own unhealthy standards for themselves.

In an article I did for my school’s newspaper, an alumnus of Raffles Girls School told me: “Many of my classmates seem to develop mental illnesses during secondary school. People glorify not eating and not sleeping, and everyone is comparing with one another in a way that make us all feel bad.”

Much has already been said of the unhealthy focus on grades in Singapore. Why, then, does it persist?

Founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew used to say that Singapore’s route to success lay in “developing Singapore’s only available natural resource, its people”.

And indeed, its current success would likely be impossible if it were not for the incredible work ethic and achievements of its people.

But there is a fine line between working hard to achieve one’s goals and being obsessed with succeeding at all cost.

[Yes. One is called "trying", and the other is called "doing". At least according to Yoda.]
In the United Nations’ most recent Global Happiness Index Report, Singapore ranks first for the accumulation of six indicators that the report has found to positively correlate with happiness: GDP per capita, life expectancy, perceived social support, perceived freedom, generosity and perceived corruption.

Despite this, Singaporeans’ actual happiness is ranked only 34th on the UN happiness index, nestled between Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, whose GDP per capita is nearly six times lower than that of Singapore.

The UN report seems to suggest that while Singapore’s success is laudable, its people may not feel nearly as good. Perhaps the same can be said for nearly any high-achieving community.
[So obvious why he is a Philosophy student. He takes two different studies with different metrics and methodology, and assumes the words used in one means the same for the other, draws invalid conclusions, and then extrapolates his observation to "nearly any high-achieving community". 


Don't drop out of your philosophy course.]

A case in point is how a “happiness class” at Yale University is the most subscribed course in its 316-year history.

The students enrolled in that class are all high achievers, but they still are not happy, with a 2013 report by the Yale College Council finding that more than half of undergraduates have sought mental health care from the university.

[So... happiness is found in a "happiness class". Wow. So simple. We should have that. I'm sure we will ace the class. We good at that.]
So where does that leave us?

For one, instead of working towards something that would make you look good, work towards something that you enjoy regardless of its prestige.

[All the above just for him to hawk the trite "follow your passion" con?

Instead of neglecting friends and family in pursuit of your career, spend time with them even if it means delaying a promotion.

Doing this made me much happier, and it may do the same for you.

[You mean, you have delayed a promotion just to be happy? How does one do that in College?]

Harrison Linder is a second-year philosophy, politics and economics major at Yale NUS College.

[Well, he is likely to be on-track to be a 65-year old humanities lecturer and meth teacher. I wonder what Meth Teacher has to say about the Philosopher's letter.]

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Ten worst climate-linked disasters of 2018 caused S$117 billion in damage

30 December, 2018

LONDON — From floods to extreme heat, 10 of the worst climate-linked disasters in 2018 caused at least US$84.8 billion (S$117 billion) worth of damage, said a study released by the charity Christian Aid on Thursday (Dec 27).

Extreme weather driven by climate change hit every populated continent this year, the British relief organisation said, warning urgent action was needed to combat global warming.

"This report shows that for many people, climate change is having devastating impacts on their lives and livelihoods right now," said Dr Kat Kramer, who heads Christian Aid's work on climate issues, in a statement.

Experts say a warming world will lead to sweltering heatwaves, more extreme rainfall, shrinking harvests and worsening water shortages, causing both monetary losses and human misery.

Almost 200 nations are aiming to limit the rise in average world temperatures under the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement, though some warn progress to meet targets has been slow.