Sunday, June 28, 2020

What the pandemic reveals about the male ego

By Nicholas Kristof

The author noted that leaders who bungled the response were mostly a particular type: Authoritarian, vainglorious and blustering.

THE NEW YORK TIMES

15 June, 2020

Are female leaders better at fighting a pandemic?

I compiled death rates from the coronavirus for 21 countries around the world, 13 led by men and eight by women. The male-led countries suffered an average of 214 coronavirus-related deaths per million inhabitants. Those led by women lost only one-fifth as many, 36 per million.

If the United States had the coronavirus death rate of the average female-led country, 102,000 American lives would have been saved out of the 114,000 lost.

“Countries led by women do seem to be particularly successful in fighting the coronavirus,” noted Anne W Rimoin, an epidemiologist at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA).

“New Zealand [4], Denmark [104], Finland [59], Germany [107], Iceland [29], Norway [45] have done so well perhaps due to the leadership and management styles attributed to their female leaders.”

Let’s start by acknowledging that there have been plenty of wretched female leaders over the years.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Trapped abroad, China’s ‘little pinks’ rethink their country

Young and patriotic, Chinese students abroad often defend their nation against its critics. But when many tried to return home during the Covid-19 pandemic, they became targets themselves.
THE NEW YORK TIMES

26 June, 2020


NEW YORK — Mr James Liu has always considered himself a patriot.

With a lump in his throat, he watched a military parade on National Day, China’s birthday, that showed a once backward nation that had become strong and powerful. He got goose bumps watching “Wolf Warrior 2,” a “Rambo”-like Chinese blockbuster featuring a superhero veteran who single-handedly rescues his countrymen trapped abroad.

When China came under attack online, Mr Liu was one of the legions of Chinese students studying abroad who posted in its defense. He condemned the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, which he saw as an effort to split a uniting China.

After US President Donald Trump called the coronavirus the “Chinese virus”, Mr Liu turned to Twitter to correct those who used the term.

“I was a real little pink,” he said, using a somewhat derogatory term for the young, Communist-red Chinese nationalists who use the internet as a patriotic battleground to fight those who disparage China.

GE2020: Political comeback unlikely, says former Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang

By Lianne Chia

By Afifah Ariffin 

27 Jun 2020


SINGAPORE: Former Workers' Party (WP) secretary-general Low Thia Khiang on Friday (Jun 26) said it was unlikely he would make a political comeback in the future.

This follows the announcement made by the party on Thursday that Mr Low would not contest the upcoming General Election.

In an interview with CNA, Mr Low said he was stepping down because he wanted to see a “more resilient” and younger WP team to build on the base formed by the party to “provide Singapore a more balanced political system and safeguard to Singaporeans”.

“If I were to one day offer myself as a candidate, it’s a back step,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to see that, and I believe that it should not happen.”

Monday, June 22, 2020

We are not power crazy, say Pakatan Harapan leaders as they seek a common ground for PM candidate

22 Jun 2020


KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s opposition parties have denied that they are power crazy for their attempt to wrest back control in parliament, adding that Pakatan Harapan (PH) and its allies must work towards a common ground to reclaim electoral mandate.

The statement, jointly issued by Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) president Mohamad Sabu and Democratic Action Party (DAP) secretary-general Lim Guan Eng on Monday (Jun 22), came amid a difference of opinion within PH over the candidates for the prime minister post.

“We have been criticised for not quickly regaining our rightful government and yet when we find the only realistic route left for success we are criticised as power crazy. This is unfair because while we are not afraid to be in opposition, the rakyat (people) voted for us in 2018 to be in government,” the statement read.

PH was voted into Putrajaya in the 2018 general election with Dr Mahathir at the helm, but the administration collapsed in February after Mr Muhyiddin Yassin led Bersatu out of the coalition. Mr Muhyiddin, who is backed by Barisan Nasional and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia, was sworn in as Malaysia’s eighth prime minister leading the Perikatan Nasional (PN) pact.

PH, which finds itself as the opposition coalition again, was strategising its moves to return to federal power but reached a stalemate when component parties and their allies could not agree over the candidacy for premiership.

Uncertain future as Covid-19 infection rate sets global records

22 June, 2020


HONG KONG — Six months into the Covid-19 pandemic and the good news is a number of countries are easing lockdown measures, allowing a semblance of what was normal life to return. The bad news is global infection numbers are surging.

The number of newly infected people set records on multiple days in June, according to data from Johns Hopkins University in the US. The World Health Organisation issued a telling statistic of its own, noting that 85,000 cases were reported in the first two months of the outbreak; in the past two months, it was 6 million. The WHO's grim figures coincided with a new flare-up of the disease in Beijing.

China, where the coronavirus was first identified at the end of last year, had earlier locked down a region of 60 million people and shut its borders to foreigners to control the disease. Even after those stringent measures, the virus surfaced again in the capital.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

China's young spenders say #ditchyourstuff as economy sputters

04 May, 2020

BEIJING - Tang Yue, a 27-year-old teacher from the city of Guilin in southwest China, steam-presses a blue dress and takes dozens of photographs before picking one to clinch her 200th online sale.

For a growing number of Chinese like Tang, hit by job losses, furloughs and salary cuts, the consumer economy has begun to spin in reverse. They are no longer buying - they are selling.

Instead of emerging from the coronavirus epidemic and returning to the shopping habits that helped drive the world's second-largest economy, many young people are offloading possessions and embracing a new-found ethic for hard times: less is more.

Break the China habit? Lobsters, lights and toilets show how hard it is

20 June, 2020

NEW YORK — As the coronavirus pandemic amplifies long-standing concerns over the world’s economic dependence on China, many countries are trying to reduce their exposure to Beijing’s brand of business.

Japan has set aside US$2.2 billion (S$3.06 billion) to help companies shift production out of China. European trade ministers have emphasised the need to diversify supply chains. Several countries, including Australia and Germany, have moved to keep China, among others, from buying businesses weakened by lockdowns. Hawks in the Trump administration also continue to press for an economic “decoupling” from Beijing.

But outside government circles, in the companies where the decisions about manufacturing and sales are actually made, the calculations are more complex.

China is a hard habit to break.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Commentary: Is this the end of China’s peaceful rise?

China’s latest military stand-off with India suggests that it wants to demonstrate its power to the world, says Shashi Tharoor.

By Shashi Tharoor

15 Jun 2020 

A Chinese soldier (left) and an Indian soldier stand guard on the remote Nathu La border
crossing between India and China in July 2008. (AFP/DIPTENDU DUTTA)


A Chinese soldier (left) and an Indian soldier
NEW DELHI: COVID-19 isn’t the only threat that has crossed India’s borders this year.

According to alarming reports from India’s defence ministry, China has deployed a “significant number” of troops across the disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC) along the countries’ Himalayan frontier.

So far, these transgressions have occurred at four points on the world’s longest and most highly disputed border, with thousands of Chinese troops showing up in Sikkim and in parts of the Ladakh region, northeast of the Kashmir Valley.

Neither government disputes the fact that Chinese soldiers have occupied territory that India considers its own.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Covid-19: Less air pollution means thousands fewer die

30 April, 2020

PARIS — There will be 11,000 fewer deaths in European countries under coronavirus lockdown due to a sharp drop in fossil fuel pollution during April, according to research released Friday (April 30).

Measures to halt the spread of coronavirus have slowed the region's economies to a crawl, with coal-generated power falling by nearly 40 per cent, and oil consumption by a third.

"This will result in 11,000 avoided deaths from air pollution," said lead author Lauri Myllyvirta, senior analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA).

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Commentary: China’s removal of GDP targets reveals its new economic strategy

China can now focus on critical economic issues and accommodate the realities of a post-coronavirus world, says Principal Global Investors’ Binay Chandgothia.

By Binay Chandgothia

04 Jun 2020 


SINGAPORE: The removal of a GDP growth target for China is sensible, given the current circumstances, as setting a lower, more feasible target may have sent negative signals to global markets.

Released from its GDP target, China can now focus on critical issues facing the economy – such as employment, social stability and national security – and begin to accommodate the realities of a world that has only just started limping back to normality following COVID-19 related disruptions.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Commentary: No country will survive deglobalisation

Building resilience in the current open system does not mean tearing down the entire system and starting over again, says Professor Kenneth Rogoff.
By Kenneth Rogoff

06 Jun 2020


CAMBRIDGE – The post-pandemic world economy seems likely to be a far less globalised economy, with political leaders and publics rejecting openness in a manner unlike anything seen since the tariff wars and competitive devaluations of the 1930s.

And the by-product will be not just slower growth, but a significant fall in national incomes for all but perhaps the largest and most diversified economies.

In his prescient 2001 book The End of Globalization, the Princeton economic historian Harold James showed how an earlier era of global economic and financial integration collapsed under the pressures of unexpected events during the Great Depression of the 1930s, culminating in World War II.

George Floyd 2020

[First, Trevor Noah explains the riots.]


Friday, June 5, 2020

Singapore bank deposits jump as Hong Kong, COVID-19 sow uncertainty

05 Jun 2020

SINGAPORE: A record jump in money flowing into Singapore bank accounts from abroad underlines the country's safe haven appeal during the COVID-19 pandemic and political uncertainty in rival financial centre Hong Kong, analysts say.

Singapore fiercely competes with Hong Kong as Asia's premier wealth centre and generally attracts capital flows during regional turmoil due to its political stability and AAA credit rating.
Deposits from non-residents into Singapore's banks jumped 44 per cent to a record S$62.14 billion (US$44.37 billion) in April from a year earlier, marking the fourth straight monthly rise, central bank data showed.

Deposits have risen in all but one month over the past year, a period marked by escalating political unrest in Hong Kong, a Sino-US trade row and the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Commentary: Could Donald Trump not run for re-election?

With riots in the streets and the COVID-19 death toll rising, Trump doubles down on his 2016 anti-establishment strategy. But the odds are stacked against him, say Steven R Okun and Thurgood Marshall Jr.
By Steven R Okun

By Thurgood Marshall Jr

05 Jun 2020



SINGAPORE: Five months from election day, Donald Trump faces possibly the most daunting challenge ever for a sitting US president running for re-election.

A collapsing economy. Over 100,000 COVID-19 deaths. Riots across the country.

A disapproval rating higher at this stage in a presidency than that of any of his post-World War II predecessors.

Donald Trump had a very narrow path to victory in 2016, but he successfully “threaded the needle” in the electoral college against a historically unpopular opponent while losing the overall vote by nearly 3 million.

There is no chance he wins a majority of the vote this time. In big blue states like California and New York, he could lose by better than two to one. A realistic loss in the popular vote could be by 4 to 5 million votes.

[That was also the conventional wisdom in 2016...]

‘Foreign interference’ in Hong Kong: Understanding China’s own history of doing so

By Dylan M H Loh & Chen Hao

15 November, 2019

A common refrain from Beijing on the ongoing protests, demonstrations and marches regarding the proposed Extradition Bill that have rocked Hong Kong since March 2019 is the claim that “external forces” are driving the protests.

The “black hands” of foreign Western interference, it is purported, are supplying the knowledge, resources and finance to sustain the movement.

Indeed, the passing of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act by the United States’ House of Representatives on Oct 15 certainly gives the mainland government more fodder for this view.

The veracity of these allegations aside, we point to the often-elided historical antecedents of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Hong Kong to understand the frequent references to “foreign interference” in the former British colony: The CCP’s own interventions in British Hong Kong.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Why in a cheap food paradise, some Singaporeans are still going hungry

16 Feb 2020



A cleaner unable to work, a family with a 4-room flat, a single dad in debt – those experiencing food insecurity are more diverse than you think. Here’s what they’re going through, in the first of a 2-part special report.


By Goh Chiew Tong

By Christy Yip

By Corine Tiah


The Food Expiration Dates You Should Actually Follow

The first thing you should know? The dates, as we know them, have nothing to do with safety. J. Kenji López-Alt explains.


Credit...Jonathan Carlson

By J. Kenji López-Alt

April 14, 2020


With most of us quarantined in our homes, chances are you’ve been reacquainting yourself with the forgotten spices and fusty beans from the depths of your pantry. But how fusty is too fusty? When is the right time to throw something out? And what about fresh ingredients? If I’m trying to keep supermarket trips to a minimum, how long can my eggs, dairy and produce keep?

Here’s the first thing you should know: Expiration dates are not expiration dates.

3 reasons why Singapore is the smartest city in the world

14 Nov 2019

Sharmishta Sivaramakrishnan
Community Specialist, 
Young Global Leaders - Asia, World Economic Forum Geneva



It’s official: Singapore is the world’s smartest city. That’s according to a new survey Published by Swiss business school IMD and the Singapore University of Technology and Design - the IMD Smart Cities Index - which looked at how well cities are adopting digital technologies and improving the lives of the people who live there.

What is a smart city?


Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Commentary: Soon you may be competing with talent globally. The Fortitude Budget is a wake-up call

The huge spike in global unemployment and the rising trend of permanent remote working could buck the anti-globalisation shift that was highlighted in the Fortitude Budget, says employment and labour lawyer Amarjit Kaur.


By Amarjit Kaur

02 Jun 2020


SINGAPORE: Prior to COVID-19, few would have imagined that at least 80 per cent of Singapore’s working population, if not more, need not physically be at the office to do their jobs.

Employers – some of whom are my clients - were sceptical about how work could be done remotely, and were resistant to the concept of working from home (WFH).

They have since expressed surprise that employees can be just as productive, if not more, while WFH. Conversely, there are others employers who believe that remote working has led to a loss of efficiency and are waiting with baited breath for employees to return to the office.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Singapore will have to live with Covid-19 for some time, expect ‘recurring waves’: NCID executive director

By Low Youjin

15 May, 2020

SINGAPORE — It is not sustainable for Singapore to remain in its circuit breaker phase to stem the spread of Covid-19, and the nation will have to live with the coronavirus for some time until a vaccine is found, said National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) executive director Leo Yee Sin.

But until then, the country will have to buy itself time to reduce the impact of the virus by having a solid plan in place, said the infectious diseases specialist.

“We are hoping to be able to suppress the transmission (of the virus), but I do not think we can attain complete elimination,” Professor Leo said on Thursday (May 14) evening during the sixth edition of the Covid-19: Updates from Singapore webinar series.

Friday, May 15, 2020

New COVID-19 test developed in Singapore detects past infection within an hour

By Chew Hui Min

15 May 2020


SINGAPORE: A new COVID-19 test that can rapidly assess if a person has been previously infected with the coronavirus is now available to hospitals in Singapore.

Launched on Friday (May 15), the cPass serology test detects antibodies - formed by the body to fight off infections - in the blood or serum of patients.

It is not used to check for active infection. Its main purpose rather, is for contact tracing, detecting asymptomatic cases and assessing herd immunity. Such serological tests have been used in Singapore for contact tracing.

What is different about the new test developed by Singapore’s Duke-NUS Medical School is that it produces results in just an hour instead of days, a world first.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

4 in 10 S’poreans rate political leaders highly in Covid-19 response, a third surprised at ‘poor’ preparations: Survey

By NG JUN SEN

14 May, 2020

SINGAPORE — Around the world, people’s confidence is generally wavering in their national leaders’ handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, an international study released on Wednesday (May 13) has found.

This includes Singapore, where 41 per cent of Singaporeans rated their leaders highly, slightly ahead of the global average of 40 per cent but behind places such as China (86 per cent), Vietnam (82 per cent), New Zealand (67 per cent), Malaysia (59 per cent), Taiwan (52 per cent) and the Philippines (45 per cent).

S$16 billion in COVID-19 support given out as of May: Indranee Rajah

13 May 2020


SINGAPORE: The Government has provided more than S$16 billion worth of assistance to Singaporeans and Singaporean companies so far, as the country crosses the halfway point of its extended "circuit breaker" period, said Second Minister for Finance Indranee Rajah on Wednesday (May 13).

This support was provided between March and May under the Unity, Resilience and Solidarity Budgets, said the minister in a Facebook post.

It includes S$7 billion under the Jobs Support Scheme to help companies retain and pay local workers, said Ms Indranee, adding that another S$4 billion will be paid out in May.

In polarised US, mask-wearing is now a contested declaration of identity

By Frank Bruni

13 May, 2020


I’ve heard of Muslim women in America being taunted for wearing hijabs, I’ve heard of Jewish men being mocked for wearing yarmulkes and now I’ve heard it all: A friend of mine was cursed by a passing stranger the other day for wearing a protective mask.

There is, of course, a rather nasty virus going around, and one way to lessen the chance of its spread, especially from you to someone else, is to cover your nose and mouth. Call it civic responsibility. Call it science.

But science is no match for tribalism in this dysfunctional country. Truth is whatever validates your prejudices, feeds your sense of grievance and fuels your antipathy toward the people you’ve decided are on some other side.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Air Travel Is Going to Be Very Bad, for a Very Long Time

"there are only two things that [would] make people come back... One is a vaccine, so people feel safe going to the airport or sitting with 150 strangers in a plane. The other is people having the wherewithal to travel. Do you have a job? Do you have enough money that you can think of taking your family on a vacation? These are things that control the airlines’ future, and that they cannot do anything about.”


Monday, May 11, 2020

Virus conspiracists in the US elevate a new champion

The rise of Dr Judy Mikovits is the latest twist in the virus disinformation wars, which have swelled throughout the pandemic.

USA Today Network via Reuters

10 May, 2020


NEW YORK — In a video posted to YouTube on Monday (May 4), a woman animatedly described an unsubstantiated secret plot by global elites like Bill Gates and Dr Anthony Fauci to use the coronavirus pandemic to profit and grab political power.

In the 26-minute video, the woman asserted how Dr Fauci, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a leading voice on the coronavirus, had buried her research about how vaccines can damage people’s immune systems. It is those weakened immune systems, she declared, that have made people susceptible to illnesses like Covid-19.

The video, a scene from a longer dubious documentary called “Plandemic,” was quickly seized upon by anti-vaccinators, the conspiracy group QAnon and activists from the Reopen America movement, generating more than 8 million views. And it has turned the woman — Dr Judy Mikovits, 62, a discredited scientist — into a new star of virus disinformation.

[The problem with disinformation is that it distracts from the issue, it diverts attention to debunking such disinformation, it leads people down a clearly false path and ultimately a dead end, it promotes demonstrably wrong and dangerous ideas, it diverts resources to dead end research, and lengthens the process of getting to the right answer. Freedom of Expression will allow a thousand flowers to bloom, but then there must be a process of culling the wheat from the chaff. If the problem calls for a thousand solution, then yes, leave the thousand blooming flowers alone. But if some of the flowers (proposed solutions) have been discredited, debunked, disproof, are clearly wrong, then the avenues of further research should rightly focus on the more promising proposals. Not be distracted, diverted, and diluted.]

Human Writes: We can't really know how many Covid-19 cases Malaysia has

Sunday, 26 Apr 2020

By Mangai Balasegaram


The daily Covid-19 infection numbers in Malaysia dropped to double digits for several days in the week beginning April 20, 2020. That’s encouraging. But Malaysians can’t celebrate just yet.

These numbers must be treated with caution. As I’ll explain, the numbers have unseen layers, just like the disease. You have to peel away the layers to get the full story.

For example, Germany’s high case numbers might just reflect extensive testing – 400,000 tests were done in just one week recently in April 2020, far more than most countries have done in total.

Singapore was seen as a success story mid-April 2020, averaging only 28 new cases a day – until April 21 when it reported over 1,000 cases, mostly among foreign workers. Headlines screamed failure, as it now has the most cases in Asia. But Singapore is vigorously testing and tracing all contacts of cases. The follow-up of patient number 42, a Bangladeshi migrant worker, led authorities to an explosion of cases among foreign workers that might easily have been missed, especially as symptoms were mild.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Predicted To Fall Nearly 8% — Largest Decrease Ever


April 30, 2020

Jennifer Ludden
Jeff Brady

The San Gabriel Mountains are seen under a clear sky beyond downtown Los Angeles. Air quality in the U.S. and elsewhere has been improved by reduced traffic from coronavirus restrictions and weeks of rainstorms.  David McNew/Getty Images


The COVID-19 pandemic is delivering the biggest shock to the global energy system in seven decades, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency.

Global energy demand is expected to fall by 6% this year, seven times the decline brought by the financial crisis 10 years ago. IEA projections show oil and gas being hit hard. But demand for coal could fall by an extraordinary 8% — the largest decline since World War II.

Rise of the Machines, or War of the Worlds.

[So as humans retreat from the cities and towns, nature has abhorred the vacuum and moved in to reclaim or re-occupy her domain. 

At the same time, the Robots are taking over as well.]

Miniature robot car goes on pedestrian paths to remind visitors to adhere to safe distancing rules

By Matthew Loh



Named O-R3, the robot (pictured) has been deployed as a "safe distancing ambassador" at Bedok Reservoir by national water agency PUB since April 23, 2020.

28 April, 2020

SINGAPORE — Joggers at Bedok Reservoir may have noticed a white automated miniature car dutifully plying its route along pedestrian paths, urging visitors to abide by safe distancing requirements and to “stay safe, stay home”.

Named O-R3, the robot has been deployed as a "safe distancing ambassador" at the reservoir by national water agency PUB since April 23.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Fewer meetings, more toilet lids: What workplaces will look like after lockdowns

People should be prepared for a "new normal" when they finally go back to work, say experts.

18 April, 2020

WASHINGTON — Around the world countries are hitting their coronavirus peaks and starting to grapple with questions about when and how to reopen their economies.

But those people fortunate enough to have not lost their jobs should be prepared for a "new normal" when they finally go back to work, say experts.

Here is a preview of what to expect.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

How thousands of Chinese gently mourn a virus whistleblower

THE NEW YORK TIMES

Dr Li Wenliang tried to warn his country but was silenced. Now its traumatised people visit his spirit online, telling his silent social media account about their fears and dreams.

18 April, 2020

NEW YORK — Dr Li Wenliang tried to warn his country but was silenced. Now its traumatised people visit his spirit online, telling his silent social media account about their fears and dreams.

They come to say “good morning” and “good night.” They tell him that spring has arrived and that the cherry blossoms are blooming. They share that they are falling in love, falling out of love or getting divorced. They send him photos of fried chicken drumsticks, his favorite snack.

They whisper that they miss him.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Coronavirus - aftermath (When humans have been wiped out)

So this is not the aftermath of the Covid19 pandemic.

Not yet anyway.

But as humans ceased their activities, withdraw from overt economic activities, and leave streets quiet and empty, nature, who is said to abhor a vacuum, began to reclaim the land.

In Nara, the scared deers have always been well fed by curious and captivated tourists. But there are no tourists in Nara now.

And the deers have been driven by hunger to leave the park and explore the human town of Nara.




Exclusive: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong Speaks Candidly with TIME

[Note: This is a Time interview from 2015, after the passing of Lee Kuan Yew.]


Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addresses the nation about the passing of his father, Singapore's founder Lee Kuan Yew, during a live broadcast on Monday, March 23, 2015, in Singapore
Terence Tan—AP

By Hannah Beech
Zoher Abdoolcarim

July 23, 2015


As Singapore gears up to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its independence, the city-state once dismissed as a “little red dot” at the midpoint of regional maps now serves as the epicenter of Asian-style development. By combining Confucian values with state-sponsored capitalism, Singapore in little more than a generation moved “from third world to first,” as a memoir of founding father Lee Kuan Yew puts it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

He Could Have Seen What Was Coming: Behind Trump’s Failure on the Virus

An examination reveals the president was warned about the potential for a pandemic but that internal divisions, lack of planning and his faith in his own instincts led to a halting response.
“Nobody knew there would be a pandemic or epidemic of this proportion,” President Trump said last month. He has repeatedly said that no one could have seen the effects of the coronavirus coming.

By Eric Lipton, David E. Sanger, Maggie Haberman, Michael D. Shear, Mark Mazzetti and Julian E. Barnes

April 11, 2020

WASHINGTON — “Any way you cut it, this is going to be bad,” a senior medical adviser at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Dr. Carter Mecher, wrote on the night of Jan. 28, in an email to a group of public health experts scattered around the government and universities. “The projected size of the outbreak already seems hard to believe.”

A week after the first coronavirus case had been identified in the United States, and six long weeks before President Trump finally took aggressive action to confront the danger the nation was facing — a pandemic that is now forecast to take tens of thousands of American lives — Dr. Mecher was urging the upper ranks of the nation’s public health bureaucracy to wake up and prepare for the possibility of far more drastic action.

“You guys made fun of me screaming to close the schools,” he wrote to the group, which called itself “Red Dawn,” an inside joke based on the 1984 movie about a band of Americans trying to save the country after a foreign invasion. “Now I’m screaming, close the colleges and universities.”

His was hardly a lone voice. Throughout January, as Mr. Trump repeatedly played down the seriousness of the virus and focused on other issues, an array of figures inside his government — from top White House advisers to experts deep in the cabinet departments and intelligence agencies — identified the threat, sounded alarms and made clear the need for aggressive action.

US sailor from coronavirus-hit aircraft carrier dies after contracting virus



14 April, 2020

WASHINGTON — A US Navy sailor died on Monday (April 13) after contracting the coronavirus aboard the US aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, whose captain was fired after warning his crew would die unnecessarily unless strong action was taken.

The sailor, the first active-duty US servicemember to die from coronavirus complications, was admitted to intensive care on April 9 after being found unresponsive in his quarters. The sailor had tested positive exactly two weeks ago on March 30, the Navy said.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Commentary: The great coronavirus pandemic will lead to another - of unemployment

By Pavlina R Tcherneva

26 Mar 2020


NEW YORK CITY: The fallout from the coronavirus pandemic will be nothing like that of the 2008 financial crisis, nor will a V-shaped recovery be achieved through conventional stimulus – not even through truly massive conventional stimulus.

The world is at war with COVID-19, and in wartime, civilian production grinds to a halt and the only work that is needed is for the war effort itself.

Moreover, a recession is sadly necessary to stop the spread of this virus. In the United States, over 50 per cent of jobs are at risk from layoffs, furloughs, reduced pay, and lost hours.

Virtually every sector of the economy stands to lose a large chunk of its business, household incomes will be devastated, and spending by consumers and firms will rapidly decline.

The manufacturing collapse has already begun; the service economy, which employs 80 per cent of all workers, will be next.

One pandemic thus will lead to another – of unemployment. The avalanche of layoffs will bring a wave of defaults, bankruptcies, and depressed profits.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Coronavirus Singapore: 100 to 1,000 infections in one month. What happened?

Despite the city state’s strict contact-tracing, quarantining and travel restrictions, a second wave of infections from returning residents and local transmissions saw cases spike from 100 to 1,000 in one month
Experts say people need to take social distancing more seriously

Kok Xinghui

3 Apr, 2020


What a difference a month can make. At the beginning of March, Singapore had just over 100 coronavirus infections and countries across the world looked to the Southeast Asian city state for inspiration. Its aggressive contact tracing, strict quarantine procedures and measured travel restrictions received praise, as did its world-leading testing rates (as of March 25 it had carried out 6,800 tests per million people, more than other ‘leaders’ such as South Korea at 6,500 and Taiwan, at 1,000).

Indeed, if anything there may have been a touch of envy overseas at how this small but efficient country was managing to keep infections so low, even while keeping its schools and malls open and enjoying a semblance of normal life.


Fast forward to Wednesday, April 1, when Singapore passed the psychologically significant mark of 1,000 infections, and the picture wasn’t quite so rosy.

Scared but desperate, Thai sex workers forced to the street

Red-light districts from Bangkok to Pattaya have gone quiet with night clubs and massage parlours closed and tourists blocked from entering the country.

05 Apr 2020


BANGKOK: A shutdown to contain the coronavirus has killed Thailand's party scene and forced sex workers like Pim out of bars and onto desolate streets. She's scared but desperately needs customers to pay her rent.

Red-light districts from Bangkok to Pattaya have gone quiet with night clubs and massage parlours closed and tourists blocked from entering the country.
That has left an estimated 300,000 sex workers out of a job, pressing some onto the streets where the risks are sharpened by the pandemic.

"I'm afraid of the virus but I need to find customers so I can pay for my room and food," Pim, a 32-year-old transgender sex worker, told AFP in an area of Bangkok where previously bawdy neon-lit bars and brothels have gone dark.

Since Friday, Thais have been under a 10pm to 4am curfew. Bars and eat-in restaurants closed several days earlier.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Coronavirus could help push us into a greener way of life

By Simon Kuper

26 March, 2020

By the time this horror ends, it might have changed our way of life. Already, the coronavirus has achieved something that government policies and moral awakening couldn’t: It is pushing us into green living.

The nature of work, commuting and shopping changed this month. If that transformation sticks, then one day we’ll have happier and more productive societies, and we’ll look back on December 2019 as the all-time peak in global carbon emissions.

First of all, the pandemic may show that offices are an outdated way to organise work. This is something I have suspected since my three-year office experience in the 1990s.

I was amazed at the inefficiency of the set-up: People spent much of the day distracting each other by gossiping, flirting, complaining about the boss or that morning’s commute. I’ve worked happily alone for 22 years now.

Offices exist largely so that bosses can check whether workers are doing the work (or at least putting in face-time). But nowadays, data can do much of the monitoring. Meanwhile, improved workplace software such as Slack and Zoom lets employees collaborate from home.

The tech may actually outperform real life: A professor who has hurriedly learnt Zoom told me he liked the way the software can instantly create small break-out groups of students to work on a problem.

In an auditorium, everyone has to pack their bags, find a room and grab a coffee on the way.

Now that entire countries are learning to work from their bedrooms, many employers may end up concluding that they can ditch expensive office space.

That wouldn’t merely reduce emissions, and liberate metropolitan workers from ghastly commutes (the daily round trip averages well over an hour in cities such as New York, Chicago and London).

The shift would also reduce urban house prices, as some offices get converted into homes, and some workers are freed to leave the city.

In the next year or two, virtual-reality software will let the boss (or at least the boss’s avatar) step into underlings’ home-offices to root out shirking.

In short, work could follow dating, shopping and game-playing in going virtual. That would make life greener but also more isolated.

To compensate, neighbourhoods will need more communal spaces. Already the death of bricks-and-mortar retail has allowed coffee shops and co-working spaces to take over high streets.

But we’ll also have to build more playgrounds (with some for adults), community centres and parks.

Another benefit: The pandemic may help stop the decades-long rise in business travel.

I discovered this month that each time a trip was cancelled, I mostly felt relief.

I know the benefits of business travel: The two books I’m currently writing both came out of meeting someone while at a conference. So did my previous book.

However, most trips probably cause a net loss of productivity. While you search for the one or two useful people to talk to amid the 300 carbon-emitting duds at a disappointing conference, you’re missing work at home.

Moreover, most conferences feature a lot more wannabe sellers than buyers. Nowadays it’s quicker to find the perfect counterpart on LinkedIn.

As for content, well-made virtual conferences could be as compelling to watch as good TED talks or TV — and more so than the endless panels of executives talking their own books.

As for shopping, even before the coronavirus we were shifting towards a world where the shop comes to you. That movement just accelerated, possibly for ever.

It’s much greener for a supermarket to send an electric van (or a cargo-bike) to 100 homes in a neighbourhood than for all those people to drive to the supermarket. Some could ditch their cars.

Even in the very short term, the green lining to this pandemic is surprisingly large.

Air pollution kills about 1.1 million people in China alone every year.

The fall in pollution during the country’s lockdown in January and February “likely saved 20 times more lives in China than have currently been lost due to infection with the virus in that country”, calculates Marshall Burke of Stanford University’s Department of Earth System Science.

He adds: “The fact that disruption of this magnitude could actually lead to some large (partial) benefits suggests that our normal way of doing things might need disrupting.”

That’s particularly true since climate change makes pandemics more likely. It expands the natural habitat of infectious insects such as mosquitoes, while reducing the habitat of animals, with the effect of pushing both into closer contact with humans.

Governments need to make good use of the current pandemic. Many states are preparing a fiscal stimulus.

United States President Donald Trump wants to bestow much of it on the carbon emitters that could go bust in the incipient recession: airlines, cruise ships, oil producers and his beloved hotel industry (which lives off travellers’ emissions).

Forward-looking governments will instead prioritise green industries, while helping workers who lose their fossil-fuel jobs.

It turns out that developed countries (except possibly the US) can still do collective government-led wartime-style mobilisation. It’s a muscle we’re going to need.

FINANCIAL TIMES


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Simon Kuper is a life and arts columnist for the Financial Times.





Cleaner hands, bluer skies: What has coronavirus done for us?

25 March, 2020

TOKYO — Deaths, economic meltdown and a planet on lockdown. The coronavirus pandemic has brought us waves of bad news, but squint and you might just see a few bright spots.

From better hygiene that has reduced other infectious diseases to people reaching out as they self-isolate, here are some slivers of silver linings during a bleak moment.

WASH YOUR HANDS!

The message from health professionals has been clear from the start of the outbreak: wash your hands.

Everyone from celebrities to politicians has had a go at demonstrating correct technique — including singing "Happy Birthday" twice through to make sure you scrub long enough, and hand sanitiser has flown off the shelves.

All that extra hygiene appears to be paying off, at least in some countries, including Japan, where the number of flu cases appears to be sharply down.

Japan recorded 7.21 million cases by early March — usually around the peak of the flu season that runs until May.

That was far below figures for previous years, including the 21.04 million infections seen during the 2017/18 season.

"We estimate that one of the reasons behind it is that people are now much more aware about the need to wash hands... given the spread of the new coronavirus," Japanese health ministry official Daisha Inoue told AFP.

CARBON CURBS

Factory shutdowns, travel bans and a squeeze on demand spell economic disaster, but it isn't all bad news for the environment.

In the four weeks to March 1, China's CO2 emissions fell 200 million tonnes, or 25 per cent, compared to the same period last year, according to the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.

That's a decline equivalent to annual CO2 emissions from Argentina, Egypt or Vietnam.

The slowdown in China also saw coal consumption at power plants there down 36 per cent, and the use of oil at refineries drop by nearly as much.

Air travel is also grinding to a virtual halt, achieving at least a short-term drop-off in emissions from a highly polluting industry.

And there have been other environmental benefits, including crystal-clear waters in Venice canals usually choked with tourist-laden boats.

Unfortunately, experts say the cleaner air may be short-lived. 

Once the health crisis is over, experts expect countries will double down to try to make up for lost time, with climate change concerns likely to be sidelined in a race to recover economic growth.

SAVE THE PANGOLINS

The source of the coronavirus remains in question, but early tracking focused on a market in China's Wuhan where a variety of live wildlife was on sale for consumption.

A number of animals, including bats and the highly endangered pangolin, have been identified as possible culprits for the virus.

As a result, China in February declared an immediate and "comprehensive" ban on the trade and consumption of wild animals that was welcomed by environmentalists.

Beijing implemented similar measures following the Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak in the early 2000s, but the trade and consumption of wild animals, including bats and snakes, made a comeback.

This time the ban is permanent, raising hopes that it could end the local trade in wildlife.

"I do think the government has seen the toll it takes on national economy and society is much bigger than the benefit that wild-eating business brings," said Mr Jeff He, China director at the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Reports linking the virus to the pangolin have also scared off would-be consumers of the scaly mammals elsewhere, with bushmeat vendors in Gabon reporting a plunge in sales.

APART, TOGETHER

One of the most difficult aspects of the stringent lockdowns imposed to slow the spread of the virus has been loneliness, with families and friends forced to endure weeks or even months apart.

But some people have found the measures are creating a sense of community spirit, and prompting them to make more of an effort to check in with family and reconnect with friends.

In Colombia, where a nearly three-week period of self-isolation is now in place, 43-year-old Andrea Uribe has organised everything from group exercise classes to family talent shows using video messaging programmes including Zoom.

"I have called my parents more often, I have talked to friends that I usually don't talk to... I have organised Zoom meetings with friends in multiple countries," Ms Uribe, who works in development, told AFP.

"It is wonderful to be forced to be there for one another. It has made me more creative. It just shows that we need to be present in people's lives."

AFP

Covid-19: Up to 10% of recovered patients test positive later, say Wuhan doctors

27 March, 2020

HONG KONG — About three to 10 per cent of patients who recovered from Covid-19 tested positive again after being discharged from hospital, doctors in Wuhan have found.

Researchers around the world are trying to determine whether recovered patients can still infect people with the coronavirus that causes the disease and if they have developed antibodies offering them immunity to the disease.

Doctors from Tongji hospital in the city, where the disease was first identified, told state broadcaster CCTV that they have found no evidence that the recovered patients became infectious after recovery, based on close observations of their family members and laboratory tests.

In spite of its relatively small sample size, the Tongji hospital research is especially relevant as China now has far more recovered patients than new confirmed cases.


Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Spit on, yelled at, attacked: Chinese Americans fear for their safety

24 March, 2020

WASHINGTON — Ms Zhu Yuanyuan was walking to her gym in San Francisco on March 9, thinking the workout could be her last for a while, when she noticed that a man was shouting at her. He was yelling an expletive about China. Then a bus passed, she recalled, and he screamed after it, “Run them over.”

She tried to keep her distance, but when the light changed, she was stuck waiting with him at the crosswalk. She could feel him staring at her. And then, suddenly, she felt it: his saliva hitting her face and her favorite sweater.

In shock, Ms Zhu, who is 26 and moved to the United States from China five years ago, hurried the rest of the way to the gym. She found a corner where no one could see her, and she cried quietly.

“That person didn’t look strange or angry or anything, you know?” she said of her tormentor. “He just looked like a normal person.”

SIA will need government aid to survive impact of Covid-19, say analysts

By Janice Lim

24 March, 2020

SINGAPORE — Singapore Airlines (SIA) will need a financial boost from the Government, said analysts, who noted that the same applied to airlines across the globe as the Covid-19 outbreak continues to wreak havoc in the aviation sector.

Demand for international air travel has been obliterated as governments close their borders, but there will be costs that SIA will still be incurring even though it has grounded almost all its flights, they noted.

On Monday (March 23), the national carrier said that it will cut 96 per cent of the capacity that had been originally scheduled up to the end of April, as border controls tighten worldwide due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Later on Monday, SIA announced cost-cutting measures affecting about 10,000 staff including voluntary and compulsory no-pay leave, furloughs, and further pay cuts to senior management staff members. The airline did not place an estimated value on the cuts in a staff memo seen by TODAY.

The announcements came as SIA's share price sank 11 per cent on Monday to S$5.36, its lowest level in more than 15 years.

Singapore’s average sea level now 14cm higher than ‘pre-1970 levels’: Met Service

By Matthew Mohan

23 Mar 2020


SINGAPORE: The average sea level has risen 14cm from “pre-1970 levels” for Singapore, said the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) in its 2019 Annual Climate Assessment Report released on Monday (Mar 23).

"The sea level changes described in the (report) are based on tide gauge records available since 1970s at various locations in Singapore. We have therefore considered this time frame as our period of interest,” explained Dr Hindumathi Palanisamy, a senior research scientist with MSS.

Since the 1970s, Sembawang, Sultan Shoal and Raffles Lighthouse have shown sea level rise rates of about 2.12mm per year, about 2.78mm per year and about 3.55mm per year respectively, said MSS, which has led to an average sea level in Singapore today of 140mm above pre-1970 levels.

Monday, March 23, 2020

'How did things end up like this?' America's newly unemployed grapple with coronavirus fallout

20 Mar 2020 

NEW YORK: Across the United States, thousands of waiters, cooks, hotel staff, actors, bartenders and workers in other sectors have suddenly found themselves unemployed as the coronavirus pandemic has scythed through the world's biggest economy.

This abrupt reversal of fortune for the economic victims of the virus happened almost overnight, turning lives upside down as their places of work shuttered or reduced staffing. Dreams of the future have been replaced by worries about the present: "How do I pay my rent" or "How do I pay for food?"

While some ponder returning home to their parents temporarily to help make ends meet, others are too afraid to take this step, worried they might expose older loved ones to the virus. And many are now applying for unemployment benefits for the first time in their lives.

A few hours after ending her shift on Wednesday, Nyiasha Johnson got a call from a co-worker with devastating news: She had lost her job at Philadelphia International Airport, one of hundreds of contract service workers hit by airline company cuts.

"My initial thought process was how am I going to pay my bills. Do I need to contact my landlord now because the rent is two weeks away?" Johnson, 40, told Reuters. "I'm very stressed out emotionally, confused. Just trying to stay positive."

Friday, March 20, 2020

Coronavirus Crisis: The Unexpected Positive Thing That’s Happening In Italy, China & More

By Jasmine Teo

19 March, 2020


A silver lining, perhaps?

Amid all the panic buying, social distancing, toilet paper brawling, vacay cancelling, it turns out that there is an unexpected twist of events that is the Covid-19 crisis. A good one. Yes, really.

Air pollution has drastically declined in countries like Italy and China. Experts have found a direct correlation between mass lockdowns in cities (and the subsequent slowdown in human activity) and improved air quality. It’s a silver lining, albeit a bittersweet one. But in the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic, we’ll take this, thankyouverymuch.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

With no place to stay, some Malaysian workers sleeping rough near Kranji MRT Station

By Nabilah Awang

19 March, 2020

SINGAPORE — Past midnight, Mr Armel Sharil waited until the metal gates of Kranji MRT Station were pulled shut at 1am before he carefully laid a cardboard on the floor to lie down and rest his eyes.

He has just four hours to sleep. “I’ll wake up at about 5am, around the time the station opens,” the 31-year-old warehouse storekeeper said in Malay.

Mr Armel is one of about 20 Malaysian workers spending the night near the station in the early hours of Thursday (March 19). The father-of-two said that his employer is still finding accommodation for him.

Kranji MRT Station is normally bustling around 10pm, with commuters waiting for cross-border bus services to Johor Baru in Malaysia, but it was devoid of any activity and quiet when TODAY arrived at that time.

Covid-19: How many people will die?

The worst case figure for COVID-19 deaths could be in the millions globally.

19 March, 2020

PARIS — Though scientists are still scrambling to understand new coronavirus and its likely impact, experts are warning it could kill millions globally unless widespread and prolonged social distancing measures are adopted.

While models predicting new Covid-19 cases are still operating on several preliminary assumptions — including its mortality and transmissibility — the figures quickly get scary.

A bombshell study from a team of infectious disease experts at Imperial College London this week predicted that without intervention the disease could lead to 510,000 deaths in Britain and 2.2 million in the United States.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Coronavirus vs the human immune system: the brutal microscopic war for survival

15 March, 2020

HONG KONG — When a virus enters the human body, it's in a race against time to hijack cells, reproduce and spread. Its survival depends on it, because once the body's immune system detects the intruder an all-out microscopic war follows.

While the Sars-CoV-2 virus behind the present pandemic has killed thousands and spread fear around the world, the immune system — which has evolved over millions of years of fighting pathogens — shows no such trepidation. It responds with ferocity to obliterate the invader, led by armies of killer T-cells.

That immune system is one reason the human species still exists, but in some cases its fight against viruses can resemble the scorched-earth policy of warfare, where everything in the area of the conflict takes damage, meaning body tissue itself. The immune system takes no prisoners.

But before the war at the cellular level, the virus slips into the body, navigating past defences in the mucus that gathers in noses and throats, on the hunt for cells it can commandeer. At the same time, it's trying to disguise its presence to avoid tripping the chemical alarm system of the immune system — a deadly game of hide-and-seek.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Malaysian Politics - Will Frantic February settle down or are we going to see March Madness?

[If you find yourself getting whiplash trying to follow the political ping-ponging and neck-breaking change of fortunes over in Malaysia in the last week of February, you are a noob.

Or a Malaysian.

As any non-Malaysian with an interest in Malaysia politics should know by now, the trick of following Malaysian politics is to NOT follow it too closely.

I'll admit to not following my own advice. At the start of the last week of February, I got caught up in the breathless (but stupid) drama that is Malaysian politics. Is Dr M trying to betray Anwar again? Will Anwar be able to turn the tables on the old fox. What is Azmin Ali trying to do? Is Bersatu holding the trump cards? Does PKR/DAPPH have a strategic/tactical response? Will Anwar's journey to be PM be thwarted yet again?

Who cares?

Of all the questions above, the most important one, if you are not a Malaysian, is "who cares?"

If you are a Malaysian, my sympathies. In which case the most important question you may have is, "have you consider emigrating?"

But, let's assume that having read all the way down to here, you are still interested, perhaps morbidly, in the explanation for this political drama. Or dramedy. Or farce.

A good analysis and expose of the political machinations by Sarawak Report, lay the fault simply on Azmin Ali.

And if you need a happy ending, the short answer is that Azmin Ali did not get what he wanted. 

But if you are a Malaysian, should you be happy with the outcome? 

And what IS the outcome? Is this done?

Well, it's Malaysian politics. You can resigned after 22 years, and then come back after 15. You can be dropped into prison, and 22 years later be the PM-in-waiting, only to have that snatched away.

So who am I to say this is done? The soap opera that is Malaysia Politics is never ever really done.]

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Malaysia's Meltdown Moment - The INSIDE STORY

The Sarawak Report

24 February 2020


Malaysians have just spent a weekend with heart in mouths thanks to a bunch of desperados who were not prepared to take no for an answer with the announcement on Friday by the ruling coalition that all parties were happy to accept Tun Mahathir as a leader till the end of the year and could leave at his choosing.

There were big smiles at the photo op confirming that designated successor Anwar Ibrahim was supporting his one time mentor to remain in the job. However, one personality had stormed out of the proceedings – his face missing from the line up.

It was Azmin Ali, a man who has never got over the fact that winning the election meant that his boss got let out of jail to take back the leadership he had effectively enjoyed as the powerful (access to money) Selangor Menteri Besar.

Azmin has been jockeying to usurp the position as next prime minister by hook or by crook since day one of this government and the policy of patience by his party leadership had so far enabled him to continue to convince some he could do it.

Expect more mischief by Malaysian political elites unless there is a devolution of power

By Ooi Kee Beng

26 February, 2020

The grab for power attempted over the period of Feb 22 to 24 at Malaysia’s centre of power was a totally elite enterprise. It was a game of numbers among parliamentarians done behind locked doors.

This caught everyone not involved in the plotting by surprise. But of course, this is the nature of such matters.

What deepened the shock for the public in general was the supposition on the part of the coup-makers that the coup would not lead to social violence and economic chaos, and the total disregard for it.

Cynicism runs deep among Malaysians, but this turn of events confounded even them.

How could a coup take place which aimed to replace a whole government but the prime minister?

Friday, February 28, 2020

China Cancels Plans for Two Nuclear-Powered Super Aircraft Carriers

Too expensive? Seems so.

by Sebastien Roblin

Dec 7 2019

The National Interest


China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy takes many of its cues from the U.S. Navy as it develops its carrier aviation branch. It is seeking similar flat-deck carriers to its U.S. counterpart, and has developed airborne early warning planes andelectronic attack jets comparable to American E-2D Hawkeyes and EA-18 Growlers.

But that tendency may have backfired for once. That’s because the U.S. Navy has been beset by major cost overruns and delays in deploying its new generation Gerald Ford-class supercarriers due to persistent flaws in their catapults, arresting gear, radars and weapons elevators. You can read more about these many problems in an earlier article.

Similar problems apparently are affecting China’s carrier program. On November 28, Minnie Chan of the South China Morning Post reported that Beijing was scrapping plans for a fifth and sixth nuclear-powered carrier, once it finished construction of two new steam-powered vessels.

The reason? “Technical challenges and high costs,” including issues particularly linked to development of the latter two vessel’s electromagnetic launch systems—the same system bedeviling the U.S. Navy.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Commentary: COVID-19 may be a mild illness for most people


But it is too early to conclude on the death rate and infectivity of COVID-19 as its transmission is still unpredictable, say Professor Paul Ananth Tambyah and Dr Jyoti Somani.

By Paul Tambyah

By Jyoti Somani

26 Feb 2020

SINGAPORE: The novel coronavirus, which the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) now calls SARS-CoV-2 as of Feb 11, causes the disease COVID-19. The World Health Organization announced the name of this new disease on the same day.

The virus SARS-CoV-2 is from the same family as SARS (Severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome).

Malaysia's Mahathir moots grand coalition of fierce foes, but Umno and PAS decline

Malaysia's Mahathir Mohamad proposed the idea of a grand coalition to leaders of the major political parties he met.
Malaysia's Mahathir Mohamad proposed the idea of a grand coalition to 
leaders of the major political parties he met. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's interim Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has sought to lead an ambitious grand coalition across the political divide a day after his shock resignation as premier and the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.

The Straits Times understands that Dr Mahathir proposed the idea to Malaysia’s main political leaders on Tuesday morning (Feb 25), before the King began a process of interviewing individual MPs over whether they supported the 94-year-old statesman, who has been named by most parties as their choice to lead the country.

“The idea is to step away from extreme race and religious politics and to try politics of national unity,” a source familiar with the talks told ST.

But the plan has already taken a blow, as the two largest Malay Muslim parties Umno and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) have set a condition that it cannot include PH component Democratic Action Party (DAP), which they accuse of being anti-Malay and anti-Islam.

“If the unity government includes DAP, we are unanimous in that we will not join the government,” Umno secretary-general Annuar Musa said on Tuesday evening.

He was speaking at a press conference held by Umno, PAS, the Malaysian Chinese Association, Malaysian Indian Congress, and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS).

Malaysia's political machinations: What happens next?

25 February, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia's government has collapsed after the resignation of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, which followed a failed bid by rivals to form a new coalition aimed at stopping leader-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim from succeeding him.

Dr Mahathir, 94, the world's oldest leader, has been appointed interim leader while intense political jockeying is underway to form a new government.

Here are some details about the political crisis and what could happen next:

HOW DID EVENTS UNFOLD?

The ruling "Pact of Hope" coalition, an uneasy alliance cobbled together to unseat a corrupt government at 2018 polls, had long been riven by bitter infighting over who would succeed Dr Mahathir.

Mr Anwar, a former opposition icon previously jailed for years on questionable charges, had been named as leader-in-waiting, but a rival faction in his own party was pushing a different candidate, Mr Azmin Ali.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Mahathir resigns as Malaysia's Prime Minister

Malay Mail

24 February, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR ― Dr Mahathir Mohamad resigned as Malaysia’s prime minister on Monday (Feb 24), local media reported, after two days of intense speculation that he would lead his political party, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), to exit the ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition and form a new government with new coalition partners.

In a brief two-line statement on Monday afternoon, the Prime Minister’s Office announced that Dr Mahathir sent his resignation letter to Malaysia’s King at 1pm.

Dr Mahathir, 94, has been prime minister of Malaysia twice in the nation's history.

This will be the second time he has quit the post. With this resignation, Dr Mahathir will have the distinction of being both Malaysia's longest-serving and shortest-serving prime minister.

Mahathir's new coalition ousts Anwar from Malaysia PM race


Leader has support of lawmakers to stay on until 2023

By P PREM KUMAR, Nikkei staff writer

February 24, 2020


KUALA LUMPUR -- Some 130 Malaysian lawmakers, mostly from the opposition parties, have declared their support for Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to complete his five-year term, denying Anwar Ibrahim his chance at becoming prime minister.

Malaysians were shocked on Sunday afternoon to learn of talks of a new political coalition with the opposition parties, with Mahathir's Malaysian United Indigenous Party (Bersatu) rumored to be leaving the remaining partners in the Alliance of Hope, including the Anwar-led People's Justice Party -- two days after the 94-year-old Mahathir said his retirement date is up to him.

Leaders of opposition parties United Malays National Organization (UMNO), Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) and Anwar deputy-turned-critic Azmin Ali met with Malaysian King Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin on Sunday evening to submit their statutory declaration to Mahathir. Azmin is also expected to exit the party together with a dozen lawmakers who want Mahathir to stay in power.

New coalition replacing Pakatan Harapan to be announced, says Malaysian assemblyman

According to state constituency assemblyman Chong Fat Full, a new coalition will replace the current Pakatan Harapan.

Malay Mail

23 February, 2020

PETALING JAYA — An assemblyman from Malaysia's People's Justice Party (PKR) aligned to the party’s deputy president Azmin Ali said a new coalition would likely be announced on Sunday (Feb 23).

According to Chong Fat Full, a state constituency assemblyman under the federal Johor parliamentary constituency, this new coalition will replace the current Pakatan Harapan (PH)

“This is not the first time discussions took place regarding the new coalition. It has been discussed for quite some time.

“The new coalition will be named Perikatan Nasional, and would include several leaders from DAP, Amanah (Parti Amanah Negara), GPS (Gabungan Parti Sarawak), Umno and PAS,” said Mr Chong when met by reporters at the Sheraton Hotel in Kuala Lumpur before entering a meeting with several other PKR members aligned to Azmin.

New Malaysian government likely with sufficient seats, says party source

A political realignment involving the formation of a new government is expected to take place soon following the support of more than adequate Parliamentary seats garnered by Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

via New Straits Times

23 February, 2020

PETALING JAYA — A political realignment involving the formation of a new government is expected to take place soon following the support of more than adequate Parliamentary seats garnered by Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

It is learnt that the number of seats said to be backing the Prime Minister now stands at 130.

Sources informed the New Straits Times that the 130 figure was reached through a collective agreement involving five political parties comprising Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), UMNO, PKR splinter faction, PAS and Amanah.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Commentary: In Hong Kong, the COVID-19 outbreak sent shockwaves but could reinvigorate protests

All eyes remain on the Hong Kong government, as frustration over Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s management risks opening another front in the Hong Kong protests, says Doris Lam.


By Doris Lam

21 Feb 2020


HONG KONG: It is almost ironic to think that face masks, an item banned in Hong Kong just a few months ago has become the most sought-after item in the city.

In a sea of masked faces, people who remain bare-faced stands out like a sore thumb.

After Hong Kong’s first COVID-19 death earlier this month on Feb 4, citizens went into full panic mode, clearing out all masks, cleaning supplies, toilet paper and alcohol sprays from supermarkets and drugstores, hoping to regain some sense of safety inside the city.

Hong Kong has seen more than 60 cases, with a few in critical condition.

These days, shopping malls, public transport and indoor spaces are emptied and avoided as much as possible.

Schools reopened on Monday (Feb 17) after being closed since the Chinese New Year holiday, but saw many international students flocking home before that, worried that their countries would issue a travel ban.

Facebook expat groups are filled with people discussing whether they should flee the city with their children until things get better.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia

Its financial markets may be even more dangerous than its wildlife markets.

By Walter Russell Mead

Feb. 3, 2020


A Chinese woman wears a protective mask in Beijing, Feb. 3.Photo: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

The mighty Chinese juggernaut has been humbled this week, apparently by a species-hopping bat virus. While Chinese authorities struggle to control the epidemic and restart their economy, a world that has grown accustomed to contemplating China’s inexorable rise was reminded that nothing, not even Beijing’s power, can be taken for granted.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Commentary: How much damage will COVID-19 inflict on China’s economy?

The key factor in assessing the economic impact of the coronavirus will not be the outbreak's range or severity, but rather its duration, says an observer.
By Zhang Jun

15 Feb 2020 


SHANGHAI: Just five days before the Chinese New Year, the authorities in Beijing finally declared the coronavirus epidemic that originated in Wuhan to be a major public health emergency.

Because Wuhan’s municipal government had initially withheld information and failed to control the virus effectively, about 5 million residents and temporary workers left the city for the Lunar New Year holidays before the city was officially closed off on Jan 23.

As a result, the virus spread rapidly throughout China and beyond, leading to the current high-profile international health emergency.

Unsurprisingly, China’s economy is slowing down. The services sector, which includes retail, tourism, hotels, and transportation, and accounts for more than half of the country’s GDP, is suffering severely.

Disruption in this sector will in turn affect manufacturing. And growing international concern at the continued spread of the virus might further strain trade and limit the movement of people.

But the key question is whether we believe it will last longer.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

By 2050, 90 countries will have an ageing population. Here’s why such demographic figures matter

By Joseph Chamie

12 February, 2020

Governments, businesses and investors find regular demographic reviews of the world population to be useful as considerable variations exist across regions – rich and poor, young and old, good health care or not, secure climates or not – that create enormous push-pull forces behind increased international migration flows.

An understanding of world population levels, trends and projections constitutes an essential ingredient in strategic planning, policy development and programme implementation for addressing global challenges and emerging issues.

The world population now stands at 7.8 billion inhabitants, having reached the 7 billion milestone in 2011.

Demographers expect the 8 billion milestone in 2023, with global population projected to reach 9 billion by 2037 and 10 billion by 2056. This growth is slightly faster than projections from just a few years ago.


Airbus unveils 'blended wing body' plane design after secret flight tests

A view of models of Airbus' MAVERIC and E-Fan X aircraft at the Singapore Airshow in Singapore. Photo: Reuters

11 February, 2020

SINGAPORE - Airbus on Tuesday unveiled a curvaceous aircraft design that blends wing and body, designed to slash carbon emissions by some 20%.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Commentary: Novel coronavirus outbreak weighs heavily on global economy

The novel coronavirus is testing the robustness of global supply chains, says the Financial Times’ Chris Giles.
By Chris Giles

10 Feb 2020

LONDON: Two weeks after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake in Japan, carmakers began to halt production lines on every continent as they ran short of a specialised paint pigment that allowed their cars to glisten.

It was manufactured in just one factory near the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant.

Companies in complex manufacturing industries vowed never to be so geographically exposed again.

But a week after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency, the robustness of global supply chains is once more being tested.

Fiat Chrysler warned this week that one of its European plants could be forced to halt production within a fortnight and Chinese copper traders have delayed imports of the commodity from Chile to Nigeria, highlighting how the economic consequences of the outbreak are extending worldwide.

The Coronavirus and Xi Jinping’s Worldview

Feb 8, 2020 

Kevin Rudd
No matter how bad the coronavirus epidemic gets, the crisis will not change how China is governed under President Xi Jinping. Since coming to power in 2012, Xi has strengthened the Communist Party's hold on power and developed a comprehensive national agenda from which all else – including domestic crisis management – must follow.

MUNICH – The coronavirus crisis represents the single biggest challenge for Xi Jinping since he became general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 2012. Individuals and families across China are living in fear. Multiple Chinese provinces are under virtual lockdown. The virus has brought significant parts of the economy to a grinding halt, as firms instruct their employees to work from home. Politically, the blame game bounces between local authorities in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, and the central government in Beijing, with both sides mindful of the eternal principle of Chinese politics: When disaster strikes, someone must be seen to pay the price.


Saturday, January 25, 2020

Commentary: Wuhan virus compounds challenges facing China

The Year of the Rat looks set to get off on a rocky start, says the Financial Times' James Kynge.
By James Kynge 

23 Jan 2020

HONG KONG: The “year of the pig” has gone from bad to worse for the Chinese Communist party and China’s President Xi Jinping.

Months of vituperative protests in Hong Kong and a landslide election in Taiwan have been followed by the scourge of a deadly SARS-like virus.

So far, there is little cause to expect the year of the rat, which starts on Saturday (Jan 25), will turn out any better.

The outbreak of viral pneumonia, which has spread from mainland China to Japan, Macau, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the US, might seem like mere bad luck.

But allegations of official incompetence and cover-ups are threatening to besmirch the Communist party’s image.

Monday, January 20, 2020

DPM Heng fields questions on GST, foreigners and Pofma from public, opposition members at IPS conference

By NG JUN SEN

20 January, 2020

SINGAPORE — Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Monday (Jan 20) took on about 20 questions from a packed audience of policy researchers, public servants, students and civil society, with topics spanning immigration, the impending goods and services tax (GST) increases, the new fake-news law as well as the Singapore Together movement.

The question-and-answer session — lasting more than an hour — saw Mr Heng responding to three questions from invited opposition party members at the Singapore Perspectives 2020: Politics event, at Marina Bay Sands, which was organised by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS).

In November last year, Mr Heng had a highly scrutinised parliamentary exchange with Workers’ Party (WP) chairman Sylvia Lim on the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council saga. WP members were also invited to the annual conference but decided against attending it.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

5 firms punished under harsher regime against discriminatory hiring practices

By Justin Ong

Of the five companies that have been taken to task under the enhanced penalties for discriminatory hiring practices, one of them, Ti2 Logistics Pte Ltd, has been charged.

15 January, 2020

SINGAPORE — One company put up a job application specifically hiring males, another falsely declared that it had interviewed Singaporean job applicants when it had already selected a foreign candidate.

In total, five companies have faced stiffer penalties for discriminatory hiring practices under the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM’s) updated Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) unveiled on Tuesday (Jan 14).

Welcoming the “more robust and resolute” measures, the National Trades Union Congress' assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay said in a Facebook post that the enhanced framework serves to level the playing field for Singaporean professionals, managers and executives.

“The harsher penalties will send a deterrent effect to would-be and recalcitrant employers and businesses,” he wrote.

“The blacklisting and highlighting of specific companies is a positive move to send a strong signal to the errant company, the sector/industry and to the labour market as a whole.”

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Why Mahathir is antagonistic towards S’pore

Residual issues from his first stint as Malaysia prime minister from 1981 to 2003.
Belmont Lay

February 10, 2019


Nikkei Asian Review, a venerable weekly business journal in Japan, on Feb. 6 attempted to explain Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad’s antagonism towards Singapore.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Happily married for 60 years. Then Alzheimer’s. And a gun.

01 January, 2020

NEW YORK — It began almost playfully, like tiny hiccups in her mind. She would forget she had already changed the sheets and change them again, or repeat a thought in the same breath.

Then the illness amplified.

She grew confused by everyday tasks. Later, she became convinced her parents were still alive and insisted upon a visit. At social gatherings, she was anxious and fearful. She forgot how to sew and cross-stitch. She forgot the faces of her children.

She did remember her name. Alma Shaver. But not her age. Eighty.

And sometimes, she did not know her husband.

He was Mr Richard Shaver, a man whose wife of 60 years had been found by dementia, that thief that robs the minds of 50 million people worldwide. So common, yet so personally cruel — it comes with no road map for those tending to the afflicted.