Saturday, November 30, 2013

How China bungled the launch of its air zone

Nov 30, 2013


Finesse and better timing could have helped avert backlash, experts say

By Esther Teo

CHINA'S announcement of its first-ever Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) a week ago sparked strong criticism from neighbours Japan and South Korea to countries farther afield like the United States and Australia.

The Chinese ADIZ not only partially overlaps the zones set up by neighbouring countries, but it also includes a group of disputed East China Sea isles called Diaoyu by China and Senkaku by Japan.

The outrage the new zone has caused prompts the question: Could Beijing have prevented the backlash or at least mitigated it?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Is Fracking worse than Coal? Selected comments from the SDMB.

A partial answer. The US may be on the cusp of an oil boom.

From SDMB.

I have to take issue with Cecil Adams' latest article regarding fracking. In it, he says that fracking and natural gas use are bad, but not as bad as other options like coal. This is flatly untrue. According to a recent Cornell study, up to 8% of the natural gas released by fracking escapes unburnt into the atmosphere, and since natural gas as a greenhouse gas is much more potent than CO2, the resulting emissions make natural gas extraction three times worse for the environment than coal. This isn't to say we should be burning coal instead, but that we should reject false solutions that lock us in to a fossil fuel future. With Vermont Gas Systems trying to ram a gas pipeline extension down the throats of the Vermont public as I write, it's important that we keep scrupulously to the facts on this subject.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Welfare must not undermine value of hard work

Nov 10, 2013

Boost wages of poor to keep them in jobs, and to get the able-bodied to work

By Radha Basu Senior Correspondent

Just 37, Madam N already has eight children and a grandchild. Her third husband, a factory worker, earns $1,400.

The family receives close to $1,400 in monthly cash handouts and vouchers, the bulk of it from the Government.

Factor in medical and education subsidies, and what they get in state aid is considerably more than the money they make from work.

The handouts, the housewife acknowledged, have increased over the years. The state has also exercised flexibility in allowing the large family to live by themselves in a three-room Interim Rental Housing flat, whereas the temporary housing scheme usually requires two families to share a roof.

I chanced upon the former beautician after following her children home one afternoon last month, while wandering along the corridors of their Boon Lay housing block.

Chatting in their cluttered flat as her teenage daughter played on a Samsung tablet, I realised that this family was living proof of the rapid and relatively recent widening of Singapore's social safety nets.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

This economic slump could be permanent


19 Nov 2013

By Paul Krugman

Spend any time around monetary officials and one word you will hear a lot is “normalisation”. Most, though not all, of such officials accept that now is no time to be tight-fisted, that for the time being, credit must be easy and interest rates low.

Still, the men in dark suits look forward eagerly to the day when they can go back to their usual job, snatching away the punch bowl whenever the party gets going.

But what if the world we have been living in for the past five years is the new normal?

What if depression-like conditions are on track to persist, not for another year or two, but for decades?

Refuelling American power

Nov 18, 2013


The shale revolution could shatter predictions of America's demise as a superpower and impact geopolitical dynamics.

By Jonathan Eyal, Europe Correspondent

PREDICTIONS about the United States' inevitable decline as a superpower are banal - even senior American officials are preparing for a world in which Washington no longer acts as the ultimate arbiter.

But what if all such predictions are wrong? What if the US confounds its doomsayers by performing another economic revival miracle that again leaves all competitors trailing behind?

Friday, November 15, 2013

The myth of organic agriculture

By Henry I Miller
14 Nov 2013

Organic products — from food to skincare nostrums to cigarettes — are very much in vogue, with the global market for organic food alone now reportedly exceeding US$60 billion (S$75 billion) annually. The views of organic devotees seem to be shared by the European Commission, whose official view of organic farming and food is: “Good for nature, good for you.”

But there is no persuasive evidence of either.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Why a ‘fat tax’ won’t work in Singapore


12 Nov 2012

By Jeremy Lim

Taxes on sugared drinks and other unhealthy food have been in the media spotlight recently.

Mexico, recently crowned the fattest country in the world with 32.8 per cent obesity among adults, pushed through price increases of 8 per cent for junk food. The Mexicans will also add one peso (about S$0.10) to the price of a litre of sugary drinks.

Over in the United Kingdom, a British Medical Journal paper modelling the effects of taxes on sugary drinks suggested a 20 per cent tax would reduce the number of obese adults by 180,000 and those who are overweight by 285,000.

What India and China can take away from Singapore’s water story


By Peter Brabeck-Letmathe & Asit K Biswas

13 Nov 2013

Water will be an important critical-resource issue for the social and economic development of the world in this century. Increasing demand for water and poor management practices over decades have already caused significant damage to the environment and the long-term development prospects of most countries.

Take India. The country’s pollution watchdog noted last month that water from half of the its 445 rivers is unfit for human consumption because nearly all major Indian cities discharge domestic wastewater, mostly without treatment.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Biggest leap in social assistance help was in short-term payouts, which grew to $24.5m

Oct 20, 2013

Handouts for the poor top $100m mark

By Radha Basu Senior Correspondent

Social assistance payments to the poor crossed the $100 million mark for the first time to reach $102.4million in the last financial year ending in March.

That was a nearly 45 per cent jump from the previous year and more than double the $44.5million given out five years ago.

Singapore poverty in the spotlight

Al Jazeera

The island's rich get richer while its poor get poorer, prompting calls for an official poverty line to be set.

Tom Benner

Singapore - Begging is illegal here, under the island-nation's Destitute Persons Act, carrying a fine of up to $3,000 or imprisonment for up to two years for repeat offenders.

But Singapore's poor still can be found, often selling packets of tissues outside food centres. Or spending the night on benches near their jobs to save the transport fare home - they are commonly called "sleepers". Or collecting empty soft drink cans out of trash bins.

The poor have no place in Singapore's vaunted success story, but there are growing calls for one of the wealthiest countries in the world to acknowledge rapidly rising income inequality by setting an official poverty line. Hong Kong's recent decision to set a poverty line as a way to better identify and assist its poor has prompted a similar debate in Singapore's parliament.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Seven pillars of Singapore's soft power

Nov 09, 2013

Singapore has many strengths, including a unique ability to bring the East and West together in a way that provides hope to those who worry that such competing civilisations may be incompatible.

By Kishore Mahbubani, For The Straits Times

Can Shanghai learn anything from Singapore’s soft power?

This was the question posed to me for my opening keynote address for the Shanghai Mayor’s International Business Leadership Advisory Council (Iblac) meeting in Shanghai on Oct 27.

I was tempted to go to the podium and say: “Nothing”. It would have been my shortest speech ever.

China: Too big to breathe?

By Thomas L Friedman

07 November


I arrived here in Shanghai on Oct 19 and was greeted with this news: A combination of cold weather, lack of wind, coal-powered heating and farmers burning off post-harvest debris had created a perfect storm of pollution in the north-eastern industrial city of Harbin, home to 10 million people.

It was so bad that bus drivers were getting lost because the smog-enveloped roads would only permit them to see a few yards ahead. Harbin’s official website reportedly warned that “cars with headlights turned on were moving no faster than pedestrians”.

A matter of individual choice, not communal right

By Mohamed Imran Mohamed Taib -

8 Nov 2013


Several people have asked why I’ve not weighed in on the ‘hijab issue’. To be frank, the only reason why I’m apprehensive about commenting on the matter is because of the way the issue has been crafted and the utter lack of civility, divisive attitude and extremely patriarchal and bigoted nature of some of its major proponents who are dominating the various social media platforms, particularly on the Malay online sites.

Friday, November 8, 2013

China will be old before it’s rich


8 Nov 2013

David Pilling

As the leaders of China’s Standing Committee (average age 65) prepare for one of the Chinese Communist Party’s most important occasions, one issue will be hidden in plain view: The country is rapidly growing old.

President Xi Jinping, a sprightly 60, is only up to the third plenum of his leadership, an event at which he is expected to set out long-term plans for the country. But the nation as a whole is fast approaching the sixth Age of Man.

Humans, AI won't be replacing you... yet

Nov 07, 2013

By Andy Ho, Senior Writer

CIRCA 2045, argues author Ray Kurzweil, machines will become smarter than people.

In his popular 2005 book, The Singularity Is Near, the moment when this happens is called the "singularity". The bedrock idea is that machines with artificial intelligence (AI) that matches the human level can be built in the lifetime of those of us who are alive right now.

With greater and faster processing power, such a machine would be able to reprogram itself into one more intelligent than itself. As this machine would be more intelligent than the most intelligent one people can make, it would have superhuman intelligence.