Saturday, October 31, 2015

Cutting fat isn’t the best way to lose weight

October 30, 2015

NEW YORK — I know what you’re thinking. Another diet headline that will whiplash people trying to lose weight. The debate over the best way to shed pounds never ends. A new study isn’t going to change that.

Dr Deirdre Tobias hopes hers will. A researcher in the division of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, she co-authored a new analysis that finds reducing fat isn’t any more effective for losing weight than other diets. The paper was just published yesterday (Oct 29) in the journal Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

While fat-cutters lost some weight, compared with people who didn’t diet at all, they lost less than carb-cutters in trials that lasted at least one year. No approach was a magic bullet, though. All the dieters in the studies Tobias analysed lost, on average, just six pounds in a year. “That’s not very clinically meaningful,” Dr Tobias said. Such modest weight improvements won’t dent the obesity epidemic that affects 35 per cent of Americans.

Singapore effort to fight haze ‘almost futile’

Neo Chai Chin

October 30, 2015

SINGAPORE — By the time Singapore’s fire-fighting team headed to Indonesia this month, “nothing short of an act of God”, like rain, could have stopped the fires altogether, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli, as he urged early action so that such efforts do not become “almost a futile exercise”.

Despite dousing 50 hotspots in two weeks in Indonesia, the area covered by the Singapore team recently was “miniscule” compared to the total area that had to be tackled, said Mr Masagos to reporters a day after he returned from meeting his Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN) counterparts in Vietnam.

At the meeting, Mr Masagos had pushed for the requesting of international assistance early in the haze season to become standard practice, once an appropriate alert level is reached. The ministers agreed to it.

Earlier this month, after repeated rejections from Indonesia, Singapore’s offer of haze assistance — including a Republic of Singapore Armed Forces Chinook helicopter with a 5,000-litre heli-bucket — was accepted. The Singapore team returned last week after more than 10 days in Palembang.

Friday, October 30, 2015

South China Sea - Control of Air and Sea; China, US

China has already faced difficulty enforcing an air defence identification zone (ADIZ) it set up two years ago covering the islands disputed with Japan in the East China Sea, which is closer to the Chinese mainland. Setting up and maintaining a zone over the much larger South China Sea would be even harder.
“The South China Sea is a completely different beast,” said senior researcher at the Chinese Naval Research Institute in Beijing, Li Jie. “The territorial disputes there involve many more countries, and if you take out a map, the topographic features are much more complex. It’d be more provocative in the eyes of the Americans.”

Feeding Singapore

Farms tap $63m fund to boost yields

They should press on to invest in automation to further strengthen food security: Minister

Oct 30, 2015

Melissa Lin

They used to pick out the bad eggs by hand, but this was not easy as the defects were like hairline cracks.

But from next month, workers at Seng Choon Farm can leave it to a machine that can go through 120,000 eggs an hour, sorting out bad ones more accurately and efficiently.

The machine of more than $2 million was co-funded by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) through a $63 million fund launched last August to help farms here boost yields and increase productivity.

Some 20 local farms from 17 companies have tapped the fund, said Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong yesterday.

"If we continue to ramp up our local production in cost-effective ways, we can become more self-reliant over time," he told some 300 food industry players gathered at Orchard Hotel for an AVA convention.

Putting the brakes on haze financing

OCTOBER 30, 2015

In all the finger-pointing over the transboundary haze, some banks in Singapore have come under the spotlight for allegedly financing the culprits behind Indonesia’s forest fires.

Now the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) has a new set of guidelines for banks to incorporate responsible financing practices into their business model. While the guidelines, announced this month, are not specific to the haze, their announcement is timely and commendable.

Currently, banks typically assess their clients’ creditworthiness solely on financial grounds. By broadening the credit-approval criteria to include the client’s social and environmental impact under the new guidelines, it could help prevent irresponsible business practices such as the land-clearing fires that cause the haze.

With this, Singapore is moving beyond intergovernmental cooperation and legal action against companies responsible for the haze. It is exerting influence through its financial institutions, a significant move given its financial hub status in the region.

U.S. Navy's challenge in South China Sea? Sheer number of Chinese ships

OCTOBER 30, 2015

HONG KONG - When a U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer sailed near one of Beijing's artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea this week, it was operating in a maritime domain bristling with Chinese ships.

While the U.S. Navy is expected to keep its technological edge in Asia for decades, China's potential trump card is sheer weight of numbers, with dozens of naval and coastguard vessels routinely deployed in the South China Sea.

Asian and U.S. naval officers say encounters with Chinese vessels, once relatively rare, are now frequent, even at the outer edges of the controversial nine-dash line Beijing uses to stake its claim to 90 percent of the waterway.

Such encounters will only increase after U.S. officials said the U.S. Navy would conduct regular freedom-of-navigation operations akin to the patrol by the USS Lassen, which penetrated the 12-nautical-mile territorial limit of Subi Reef in the Spratly archipelago on Tuesday.

"They are everywhere ... and are always very keen to let you know they are there," said one U.S. naval officer in Asia, requesting anonymity, referring to the Chinese Navy and coastguard.

"If you're in the South China Sea, you can expect to be shadowed."

In an actual conflict, the U.S. technological advantage could be crucial, but China's numerical superiority had to be taken into account, particularly in any stand-off at sea, security experts said.

Is Singapore’s hawker culture faltering?

Joy Fang

October 29, 2015

SINGAPORE — Everybody in Singapore loves it. Renowned chefs such as Ferran Adria and Gordon Ramsay have raved about it. There is no doubt hawker grub is quintessential Singapore, and any Singaporean worth his or her salt would know where to tuck into the best char kway teow, chicken rice or laksa.

But despite the renewed interest, the street food culture here is in danger of fading into the sunset. Why? Because older hawkers are retiring or passing away, and there is not enough new blood to take their place, said industry observers.

With the Government building 20 new hawker centres over the next 12 years — the first, co-located with Ci Yuan Community Club at Hougang Avenue 9, opened in August after a hiatus in 1985 — it is now more essential than ever to revitalise this tradition and attract a larger number of hawkers to run the stalls.

But, what is holding aspiring hawkers back from entering the trade?

While some may say entering the hawker business seems relatively simple with little capital cost, those in the know say it’s not as easy as it seems.

The biggest hindrance stems from a lack of opportunities for aspiring hawkers to learn how to cook and enter the business. There are no comprehensive and sustained efforts to ensure these continue for the long haul, said Makansutra founder KF Seetoh. “There is not enough information, not enough opportunities or support to ignite the continuation of this heritage food culture for tomorrow,” he noted.

Many younger hawkers also prefer to whip up what they feel is more interesting fare, such as fusion or western cuisine, and few know how to cook authentic dishes such as bak chor mee and char kway teow, he said.

And even if some aspiring hawkers do manage to learn some techniques, nobody teaches them how to market their food or which events to participate in, locally or regionally, to get more exposure, he added.

Seetoh had launched Street Food Pro 360 course last year to train the next generation of hawker entrepreneurs, but found it difficult to sustain. The subsidised programme was meant to give participants an overview of street food business operations, skills training and an understanding of the culture of Singapore’s food heritage.

“I felt the industry needed but ... Then I could not light it up,” he said. “I wish it was done on a larger scale, officially, at the higher level ... Ideally the Government should just take an old school and convert it into a street food academy,” he said.

Executive director of social enterprise Project Dignity Koh Seng Choon agreed. “Many people now want to have more experience before they jump in. They want to learn first,” he noted. “So you must have a structured learning process to train them, that’s what’s missing at the moment.”

While there are a few programmes out there (Fei Siong Food Management launched an entrepreneurship programme, for example); projects to train hawkers are relatively ad hoc and individual in nature, he said.

In 2013, a collaboration between Knight Frank, Business Times, YMCA, National Environment Agency (NEA) and Singapore Workforce Development Agency initiated the hawker master pilot training programme to train aspiring hawkers. It had “master hawkers” such as Thian Boon Hua of Boon Tong Kee Chicken Rice and Sulaiman Abu of D’Authentic Nasi Lemak impart their skills to trainees. While it was launched with much fanfare, the second round never took off in a big way because of a lack of sponsors. Due to the small budget, they are currently running the course for only four people, said Koh.


Another problem, said industry players, is the lack of sufficient spots for aspiring hawkers to set up a stall. This was cast in the spotlight after Douglas Ng, 24, who runs a fishball noodle stall at Golden Mile Food Centre, complained about the selection process of upcoming hawker centre at Bukit Panjang. Ng said the shortlisting method adopted by NTUC Foodfare, which operates the hawker centre, was unfair and lacked transparency.

Foodfare clarified later that they had purposefully introduced a new set of criteria that would not award the stalls based on the highest rental bids. The new evaluation criteria is based on a scorecard with only 40 per cent weightage for tendered rent, while the remaining 60 per cent consists of quality, variety, selling price, operating hours, experience and concept. They had shared with interested tenderers during their briefing that only shortlisted cooked-food stall tenderers with the best scores were required to participate in a food-tasting exercise by a selection panel, said Foodfare.

For new hawker Peter Mok, who opened his stall Noodle Evolution last December, finding an available location at Government-owned hawker centres was his biggest challenge. There are not many options — and not many stalls are available for bidding every month, with most meant for Indian or halal cooked food, he pointed out.

With few stalls available for bidding, Mok, a former quality assurance inspector in the apparel industry, had to bid for a stall at Kopitiam’s Lau Pa Sat instead, where rents are higher. Add maintenance and washing fees, and wages for workers; and it comes up to quite a large sum, he added.

Foodfare said the Bukit Panjang Hawker Centre had received more than 300 bids for six kiosks and 26 cooked-food stalls. An NEA spokesman also said that their cooked-food stalls “are generally well taken up”, with a vacancy rate of 2 per cent. NEA currently manages and regulates 107 markets and hawker centres.

But, observers say this is not reflective of interest from young hawkers. For instance, Seetoh pointed out that the number of bids also includes bids from existing players looking to expand their business. As for existing hawker centres, they are not vacant because many old hawkers refuse to let go of their stalls as they are paying old rental rates, he noted.

The stigma surrounding the hawker culture is another factor inhibiting the industry’s growth. Despite growing interest in hawker fare, fewer young people are interested because it is still seen as “unfashionable”, said Seetoh.

Hawker centres are seen as very hot and dirty, hawkers are not dressed well “and the presentation of food is not as fancy as many would like it to be”, he added.

“The bulk of a newer generation still likes to eat what’s trending online, such as pop-ups, food trucks, or artisanal farmer’s market type of food ... If given a choice, street food isn’t up on their list.”

This disconnect with hawker food among the younger generation also translates to their lack of enthusiasm in taking it up as a form of livelihood, he added.

While some young hawkers have emerged in the headlines recently - such as Ng, prawn noodle seller Li Rui Fang and Japanese teenager Reina Kuribara who is learning the ropes of serving mee pok from her father - this trend is “very sporadic and far and few between”, said Seetoh.

Many old hawkers also do not want their children to take over the reins, and so many types of “authentic food” may disappear, he said, citing Mitzi’s Cantonese Restaurant as an example. “With every falling legend, a chunk of heritage falls off.”

“The youngsters will not work in this kind of environment,” added Mok. “Nobody wants to work so hard because there are other opportunities available. (Old-style) hawkers are dinosaurs, society will evolve and they will no longer be found. The hawker culture will change with the changing tastes of the newer generation.”


Then there are the financial risks of setting up a hawker stall. While these may be less daunting compared to a restaurant or cafe, it can still be considerable; and many face the problem of having enough seed money.

The prospect of having to bid for a stall and compete with more seasoned hawkers is another hurdle they’d have to face, said some observers.

Starting a stall at an old public hawker centre — including equipment, utilities and ingredients — could set a hawker back by some S$18,000 to S$20,000, said Seetoh. At private food courts, that could go up to S$50,000.

The challenge could be in having enough money to set up, as well as to sustain for at least three months, said Mok. “When you first start, your customer base is not established, so you may not be able to break-even, or make a profit, until three months later. You can have partners, borrow from banks, work in a stall and try to build up some cash, or borrow from relatives.

“This is one of the barriers to setting up — the basic finance,” Mok said.

Whether one can earn money from the business also depends on several factors, such as stall location, the number of operating hours, cost per bowl and the quality of the food.

“All these things have to be factored in before one opens a stall, but nobody teaches you that,” said Seetoh.

This is important as take-home profits for a hawker can range between S$2,000 to S$3,000 a month and a five-figure sum “for really good ones”, he noted; while Mok opined that hawkers can earn an average of between S$50 and S$1,000 a day.

NEA said several of their recent policy changes have lowered barriers of entry to the hawker trade. For example, the agency disallowed the practice of sub-letting or assignment of hawker stalls to prevent stallholders who have no intention of operating the stalls themselves from engaging in rent-seeking behaviour which could drive up food prices. It also removed the concept of reserve rent for tendered stalls in 2012, which resulted in some cooked-food stalls getting awarded for as low as S$1 rent per month.

“This has allowed aspiring hawkers to enter the hawker trade without having to pay high rentals,” said the spokesman.

NEA has also invited social enterprises to operate its new hawker centres, to bring new ideas as well as their experience in food and beverage operations, property and lease management, to diversify food options and enhance the dining experience, she added. “NEA will continue to explore suggestions and proposals from all stakeholders to ensure our hawker centre policies and initiatives remain relevant and continue to serve their social objectives.”

Still, a glaring loophole remains: Hawkers do not come under any ministry, neither does it have any central body that could guide hawkers, pointed out Victor Thya, the Singapore Marine Parade Merchants & Hawkers Association’s honourary secretary. Hawkers are usually members of loosely formed associations within their individual hawker centres, and the amount of help and guidance differs. A large part of their discussions are about logistics, such as which cleaning services to employ.

It would be nice if hawkers could have consultants provide advice and transfer skills, said Thya. “We just go our own right now — we survive on our own.”

Restaurants or small and medium-sized enterprises have associations of their own, hawkers do not, noted Koh. And while hawkers need to be licensed by NEA, they don’t require company registration. Without that and CPF contributions, it will be difficult to access Government grants, said Koh.

With an estimated more than 20,000 hawkers in Singapore, it is strange that this group is not taken care of, he added. “This is like a lost baby that nobody wants to look after. Hawkers have no parents.”

Added Seetoh: “NEA only runs hawker centres, they don’t own food culture. Nobody does. Perhaps the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth should.”

Thursday, October 29, 2015

People Don't Actually Want Equality

They want fairness.


OCT 22, 2015

Bernie Sanders talks about economic inequality all the time, and it’s a message that resonates. You don’t need to be a socialist to worry about the divide between rich and poor in America. Many Americans across the political spectrum claim to be deeply troubled by economic inequality, and many say they support changes that would yield a more equal distribution of income and wealth.

But in his just-published book, On Inequality, the philosopher Harry Frankfurt argues that economic equality has no intrinsic value. This is a moral claim, but it’s also a psychological one: Frankfurt suggests that if people take the time to reflect, they’ll realize that inequality isn’t really what’s bothering them.

People might be troubled by what they see as unjust causes of economic inequality, a perfectly reasonable concern given how much your income and wealth are determined by accidents of birth, including how much money your parents had, your sex, and the color of your skin. We are troubled as well by potential consequences of economic inequality. We may think it corrodes democracy, or increases crime, or diminishes overall happiness. Most of all, people worry about poverty—not that some have less, but rather “that those with less have too little.”

Frankfurt argues, though, that we aren’t really bothered by inequality for its own sake. He points out that few worry about inequalities between the very rich and the very well off, even though these might be greater, both absolutely and proportionately, than inequalities between the moderately well-off and the poor. A world in which everyone suffered from horrible poverty would be a perfectly equal one, he says, but few would prefer that to the world in which we now live. Therefore, “equality” can’t be what we really value.

Election campaign cost: $7.1m

29 Oct 2015

PAP candidates spent $5.3m while the eight opposition parties' expenses totalled $1.8m

Chong Zi Liang
Rachel Au-Yong

Candidates in the general election (GE) held last month spent more than $7.1 million altogether, according to expenses submitted to the Elections Department.

People's Action Party (PAP) candidates spent $5.3 million on the 89 seats the party contested, while the expenses of the eight opposition parties contesting these seats totalled $1.8 million.

The Sept 11 GE saw the ruling party challenged in all seats for the first time since Independence. It won 83 out of 89 seats and 69.9 per cent of the votes.

In all, spending in this general election was about 30 per cent more than the $5.5 million in the 2011 polls. Still, the average spending per voter was below the maximum $4 that candidates were allowed, a sum that was raised this year from $3.50 in 2011.

The PAP spent $2.16 per voter and the opposition parties, 73 cents.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

WHO classifies processed meat as carcinogenic based on 'sufficient evidence'

26 Oct 2015

PARIS (AFP) - Eating sausages, ham and other processed meats causes colon cancer, and red meat “probably” does too, an arm of the World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday (Oct 26).

The findings support “recommendations to limit intake of meat,” said the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which compiled a review of more than 800 studies on the link between a meat diet and cancer.

“In view of the large number of people who consume processed meat, the global impact on cancer incidence is of public health importance,” IARC official Kurt Straif said in a statement.

[The IARC appears to be a agency dedicated to spreading alarm, as this article points out:

...when the IARC makes its decisions, it does not consider whether the substance in question is actually likely to cause cancer in the real world. Its panels do not assess whether a chemical will cause cancer – only if it is capable of causing cancer.
If we use the IARC's panels approach to evaluating danger, we would ban cars because they can cause death.]

For an individual, the risk of getting cancer from eating processed meat was statistically “small", said the agency, but “increases with the amount of meat consumed.”

“Each 50g portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 per cent.” The report was compiled by 22 experts from 10 countries. 

[And that's ridiculous. So you eat 250 g of luncheon meat and you will DEFINITELY get colorectal cancer?]

The evaluation revealed “strong mechanistic evidence supporting a carcinogenic effect” for red meat consumption – mainly for cancer of the colon and rectum, but also the pancreas and prostate, said the agency based in Lyon, France.

Red meat includes beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse and goat.

As for processed meat, including hot dogs, sausages, corned beef, dried meat like beef jerky or South African biltong, canned meat or meat-based sauces, there was “sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer.” Meat can be processed in various ways, through salting, curing, fermentation or smoking.

Given that red meat is an important source of human nutrition, the results should help governments and regulatory agencies balance the risk and benefits of eating meat, said the agency.

It did not make a finding on whether the cooking method of meat affects the cancer risk.

The agency added processed meat to the same category of cancer-causing agents as tobacco smoke and asbestos, but stressed this did not mean it was just as dangerous.

[That's helpful. So WTF does that mean?]

Australia says WHO study linking processed meat to cancer is 'a farce'

Oct 26, 2015

SYDNEY (AFP) - One of the world’s top meat exporters Australia on Tuesday (Oct 27) ridiculed a landmark UN report linking sausages and ham to cancer, saying it was “a farce” to suggest they could be as lethal as cigarettes.

The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) analysed 800 studies from around the world and found that processed meats such as sausages, ham, and hot dogs cause bowel cancer, and red meat “probably” does too.

It placed processed meat into its Group 1 category of carcinogens. Other substances in the group include alcohol, asbestos and tobacco.

“No, it shouldn’t be compared to cigarettes and obviously that makes the whole thing a farce – comparing sausages to cigarettes,” Australian Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce told national radio.

[Well, to be fair, sausages and cigarettes are both cylindrical or tubular...]

“I don’t think that we should get too excited that if you have a sausage you’re going to die of bowel cancer because you’re not. You just don’t want to live on sausages.” The Australian meat industry’s research and development corporation, Meat and Livestock Australia, said “promoting red meat as part of a healthy, balanced diet is important”.

“Red meat such as beef and lamb is a critical, natural source of iron and zinc, vitamin B12 and omega-3 – essential nutrients needed to keep the body and brain functioning well,” it said in a statement.

Australians are among the biggest consumers of meat in the world. They also have the eighth highest incidence of colorectal cancer globally, according to the World Cancer Research Fund.

[If they are the biggest consumers of meat, then they should have the highest incidence of colorectal cancer. Instead they lead the world in skin cancer. I think red meat causes skin cancer.]

Cancer Council Australia estimates that red and processed meats are associated with around one in six bowel cancers diagnosed in the country.

Back to a cave

Meat producers elsewhere were also sceptical of the report with the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) saying IARC “tortured the data to ensure a specific outcome”.

NAMI vice president Betsy Booren pointed to the high consumption of processed meats as part of the Mediterranean diet, yet “people in countries where the Mediterranean diet is followed, like Spain, Italy and France, have some of the longest lifespans in the world and excellent health”.

In Hong Kong, where bowel cancer is the number two top-killing tumour, the food industry blasted the findings as “too rash” saying they failed to specify what kind of preservatives and additives in processed meat are carcinogenic.

“They should explain if some processed food does not contain these kinds of additives, the risk of causing cancer would be lower,” Simon Wong Ka-wo, chairman of the Chamber of Food and Beverage Industry, told the South China Morning Post.

Australia’s Joyce said “the biggest thing is to make sure you get a balanced diet” as it was impossible for humans to avoid every cancer causing toxin in modern day life.

“If you got everything that the World Health Organization said was carcinogenic and took it out of your daily requirements, well you are kind of heading back to a cave,” he said.

“If you’re going to avoid everything that has any correlation with cancer whatsoever – don’t walk outside, don’t walk down the streets in Sydney, there’s going to be very little in life that you do in the end.”

The IARC evaluation revealed “strong mechanistic evidence supporting a carcinogenic effect” for red meat consumption – mainly for cancer of the colon and rectum, but also the pancreas and prostate, said the agency based in Lyon, France.

As for processed meat, including hot dogs, sausages, corned beef, dried meat like beef jerky or South African biltong, canned meat or meat-based sauces, there was “sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer.”

[Ok. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, as the name explicitly spells out, exists to find cancer-causing agents. Meat and Livestock Australia exists to sell meat.

Should you be surprised that one sees carcinogen in almost everything, and the other is upset about a study that finds meat causes cancer?

My take on it is very simple. Meat causes cancer the way roads cause tyres to wear out. 

We aren't meant to live forever. Nor is the purpose of life to die with a pristine body. Life is to be spent, not to be saved.

The fear of death does not keep us from dying. It only keeps us from living.

If you are a vegan, take comfort in the IARC's finding. 

If you love bacon (or meat), feel free to reject the IARC's message. Unless you want to live forever.]

Haze -- smoking people

[A range of articles on Indonesia's haze problem.

First, a plea for prevention instead of ineffective cure.
Second, it's going to take time and money. Maybe 10 years for the Haze to be completely stopped.
Third, the extent and extension of the fires and the haze.
And finally two articles on the global and local impact of the haze and why it is in the interests of Indonesia to stop the forest fires. ]

Beijing's restrained response won't make a difference

Teo Cheng Wee
China Correspondent

28 Oct 2015

US 'freedom of navigation' exercises may go on and China unlikely to alter island-building plans
China's restrained response to a US warship entering territorial waters it claims as its own in the South China Sea yesterday reflects Beijing's unwillingness to risk confrontation in the region, analysts say.

But the episode is unlikely to alter Beijing's island-building plans or Washington's determination to conduct more "freedom of navigation" exercises, which means a continued escalation of tensions is almost certain, they told The Straits Times.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Catholic paper on family is hailed by all sides, raising fears of disputes


OCTOBER 26, 2015

VATICAN CITY — Any good compromise allows everyone to claim victory. And that is exactly what the document on family matters approved late Saturday by 270 bishops from around the world did.

But the conflicting interpretations — witnessed in headlines and Catholic blogs in Italy and elsewhere on Sunday — underscored the contention and confusion that remains on issues like divorce, homosexuality and cohabitation for Catholics.

Both conservative and liberal commentators and news outlets, deliberately or not, seemed to interpret the passages in a way that reinforced their views, raising the question of whether what the bishops billed as a consensus document may widen divisions over critical issues, rather than bridge them.

The bishops’ final report to Pope Francis amounts to their recommendations. Deliberately uncontroversial in controversial areas, the synod “achieved consensus through ambiguity,” the Rev Thomas Reese wrote on Saturday in The National Catholic Reporter.

That ambiguity served to reassure bishops who feared change to Catholic doctrine that there would be no change at all, while giving those who wanted change the hope that the pope could act freely to liberalise the church should he want to.

Hepatitis C probe under way: Panel

OCT 21, 2015

The independent review committee looking into the hepatitis C cluster at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) said yesterday its work is under way and that it has met three times since its appointment on Oct 6.

Investigation work has begun. This includes ward visits, interviews and reviewing the movement and care of the patients, andSGH records.

The panel members have been split into three teams - epidemiology, quality assurance and infection control, and case review - to undertake the review more efficiently and effectively.

Two international experts were brought in yesterday to provide advice on analyses, interpretation and report of findings.

Relax, this column is gluten-free

OCTOBER 26, 2015

I was in Venice a few weeks ago and friends reported seeing a restaurant menu with the following important message emblazoned it: “We do NOT serve gluten-free food.”

It was easy to imagine an exasperated Italian proprietor, driven to frenzy by repeated requests from Americans for gluten-free pasta, finally deciding to cut short such exchanges with this blunt pre-emptive blow.

Rough translation: My way or the highway. If you don’t like my pasta the way la Mamma has always made it, try someplace else.

Why don’t we eat rabbits?

October 23, 2015

Dear Cecil:

I’ve heard rabbit meat was once thought of much how we think of chicken today, and I’m curious why things have changed. Rabbits reproduce quickly, and they’re tasty. Have I just solved the hunger crisis?

— Bunny Biased

Cecil replies:

The other day I trekked over to my local high-end grocer to examine the leporine options, hoping to gin up a little anecdotal evidence. I found five rabbits — fresh, not frozen, which would seem to indicate that someone’s eating them once in a while, at least among the Whole Foods set. In fact, in summer 2014 Whole Foods launched a rabbit-meat pilot program in select stores, recognizing the bunny’s potential to be a next big thing in proteins. As you demonstrate, the case isn’t hard to make: the meat is low-fat, the animals are famous for breeding prodigiously, and rabbit husbandry is far better for the environment than many of the extant options.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

City Harvest Church trial

[I was a little surprised to find out that there is a website which is tracking and compiling views against the City Harvest Church. And other churches. And linking them all together. Note tho, that the people (or person) responsible for Churchwatch, are Christians who are concerned about the rise of cults or cult-like "churches" with questionable values or motives. So they are not against Churches or Christianity per se (that is, they are not atheists or anti-Christianity or anti-church or anti-religion). As such, Christians may be able to find their views more acceptable and in line with their beliefs and values. 

There are three general views about this incident one may have: 1) CHC are being persecuted in the grand tradition of state persecuting churches. 2) CHC is a false church, or CHC leaders are false leaders. And 3) All religions, all churches are scams, swindles, con jobs, and prey on the weak-willed. CHC is evidence of this.

And of course within each of these broad views they maybe variations and subtle nuances. For example, someone might believe that CHC is a True, Good Church, but that over time, the leaders were brought astray by hubris, or temptation or mammon, And so for their human failings they should be punished but it does not mean that they are actually evil or bad.

Actually on second thought, only the followers of CHC will have cognitive dissonance and need to resolve that dissonance in themselves.

Anyway, the point is, the Churchwatch website is pretty fair in terms of the factual presentation and secular criticism of CHC. As for it's religious, spiritual, and theological criticism of CHC, I leave that to others to consider and comment. I have no expertise in that.

So the trial is over, verdict has been rendered. The accused are considering whether they should appeal. Sentencing is set for 20 Nov.

Here are the reports on the judgement.] 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Low interest rates are here to stay

Noah Smith

22 Oct 2015

Why are interest rates so low? For macroeconomists, this is one of the Big Questions in the world today.

Government bond rates are at or near record lows. So are corporate bond rates, including junk bonds. Even the cost of equity capital is at or near an all-time low for most businesses. Whether you're a government, a big corporation or a tiny start-up, it has never been cheaper to obtain capital.

Interest rates have been in decline since the early 1980s. For a while, that looked like a simple regression to the mean. The early 1980s saw central banks tighten a lot, driving up rates in an effort to rein in inflation. But the decline during the past 15 years or so - and especially since the financial crisis - goes way beyond a simple normalisation. Something unusual is happening.

That's worrying for macroeconomists, because it means old theories may be wrong. It's also worrying for central bankers because it constrains their actions (nominal interest rates can't be pushed below zero) even as it increases the uncertainty under which they are forced to make their decisions.

So why are rates so bizarrely low? Interest rates are set in markets, where borrowers meet lenders (broadly defined). Any explanation for falling rates must involve an increased desire to lend, a decreased desire to borrow, or both. One common theory is that central banks are responsible. This makes sense to most people, since we all hear that the US Federal Reserve, or the Bank of Japan, has a policy of holding interest rates near zero. But just because central banks are setting their rate targets at zero doesn't mean they have to work very hard to achieve that target.

Why a strong Sing$ matters

Goh Eng Yeow
Senior Correspondent

OCT 21, 2015,

Here's why it is a good move by MAS to catch the bears on the wrong foot and opt for a token easing
To investors, the strength of a country's currency often mirrors the virility of its economy.

For a top international financial centre like Singapore, maintaining a strong currency is doubly important. It boosts foreign investors' confidence in the banking system and enhances the city state's bankability as a major financial hub.

It means an investor will enjoy a return simply by keeping their money here because of the gradually appreciating currency. This is a big selling point - not lost on foreign investors - and it helps to enhance our attractiveness as an international financial centre.

And because of the high standing of Singapore as one of the world's top banking centres, the financial sector is also a big employer. An estimated 190,000 people work in the sector, about three-quarters of whom are Singaporeans.

The financial sector is also a big engine of growth for the Singapore economy: While the economy grew only 1.8 per cent from April to June, the finance and insurance sector expanded by 7.1 per cent for the quarter, helping to make up for the slack in other segments of the economy.

Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) manages the Singdollar's value through what is known as the nominal effective exchange rate (NEER) as it buys and sells the Singdollar against a basket of other currencies.

Lee Kuan Yew: Why Singapore's Extraordinary Leader Will Be Missed

MAR 23, 2015

Steve Forbes

LEE KUAN YEW was one of the great statesmen of the post-WWII era. He made Singapore an economic powerhouse, demonstrating that so-called natural resources aren’t necessary for prosperity, that the key is creating an environment in which human ingenuity can thrive. He didn’t tolerate corruption; to eliminate the temptation and attract capable people, Lee paid government officials high salaries. He kept a tight grip on spending and pushed down taxes; the top rate on personal incomes is all of 20%. He knew the folly of weak money; the Singapore dollar looks like the Rock of Gibraltar compared with most currencies—including the U.S. dollar, most of the time.

Lee simultaneously demonstrated that sound finance can coexist with soundly thought out social programs. He pursued a vigorous housing program that enabled people who didn’t earn high incomes to buy their homes; his was a model for how subsidies need not lead to the housing-related disasters that have plagued the U.S. Singapore’s health care system has provided comprehensive coverage to its people without the rationing, high costs and dicey care that characterize so many others. Singapore’s pension system avoided the pay-as-you-go trap that is hurtling those in other countries toward insolvency.

Boycotts alone won't stop the haze

Peter Mandelson

Oct 21, 2015

I returned to Britain last month after another of my regular trips to Singapore, with fond memories of another great F1, but glad to see the back of the haze. For the Singapore Government, always aspiring to meet the highest standards in everything it does, it is easy to understand the anger brought about by a crisis rooted in causes seemingly outside its control.

Since leaving the British government in 2010, I have travelled to Asean more than to any other part of the world. The trip that left the strongest impressions on me was when I saw the damage being done by deforestation in Indonesia. That was in 2011. I had travelled out to Riau at the invitation of Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) to visit one of the company's concessions. Back then, APP made regular appearances in the headlines - much like today.

This is not the first time APP products have been boycotted. When I visited Riau, the company was the target of a relentless NGO campaign that had brought about an effective consumer boycott across Europe and North America.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Imaginary Threat of Short-Termism

OCT 20, 2015

Project Syndicate

CAMBRIDGE – The idea that financial markets are too focused on the short term is gaining ground in the media and among academics. And now it is attracting political attention in the United States.

Investors’ obsession with short-term returns, according to the new conventional wisdom, compels corporate boards of directors and managers to seek impressive quarterly earnings at the expense of strong long-term investments. Research and development suffers, as does long-term investment in plant and equipment. Similarly, short-term thinking leads major companies to buy back their stock, thereby sapping them of the cash they need for future investments.

None of this is good news for the economy – at least, it wouldn’t be, if it were real. Upon closer inspection, the supposed negative consequences of investor short-termism appear not to be happening at all.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Few takers so far for crowd-sourcing transport service Beeline

The Government-initiated trial has been expanded to 21 routes and 11 buses and users say it has saved them time and money, but each bus currently averages just two to three passengers per commute. 

By Olivia Siong, Channel NewsAsia

19 Oct 2015 20:50

SINGAPORE: It has been over a month since crowd sourcing transport app Beeline was launched.

It allows people to pre-book express private bus rides, choosing from routes determined by crowd sourced suggestions. The Government-initiated trial started with just four routes and four buses in August, but has since been scaled up to 21 routes and 11 buses.

With an e-ticket, commuters using the Beeline app can track when the private bus they're booked on is arriving. Fewer than five stops are made in the vicinity to pick up passengers, before the bus makes a beeline to their destination, typically in the Central Business District.

Do countries ever voluntarily give up territory?

October 16, 2015

Dear Cecil:

It seems like an ironclad rule of geopolitics that countries never give up territory except under some form of pressure. In the last 100 years or so, when have countries actually gone out of their way to rid themselves of territory? The only example I'm aware of is Malaysia expelling Singapore from its federation.

— Chris S., Tallinn, Estonia

Sunday, October 18, 2015

GMOs and Junk Science

Sept 24, 2015

STANFORD – In today’s media landscape, where unfounded opinions, hype, and rumors are rife, the scientific method – the means by which we determine, based on empirical and measurable evidence, what is true – should serve as a touchstone of reality. Science enables us to gauge what we think we know and to identify what we do not. Most important, it discredits false claims made for personal or political reasons – at least it should.

But scientists occasionally “go rogue,” forsaking the scientific method – often for notoriety or economic gain – to produce propaganda and to sow fear in a public that lacks expertise but is hungry for information. This abuse of scientific authority is especially widespread in the “organic” and “natural” food industries, which capitalize on people’s fear of synthetic or “unnatural” products.

How Safe Substances Become Dangerous

AUG 19, 2015

PALO ALTO – Since the development of the science of toxicology in the sixteenth century, its guiding principle has been that “the dose makes the poison.” It is a rule that applies to the medicines used by patients worldwide many billions of times a day. The right dose of aspirin can be a therapeutic godsend, but consuming too much can be lethal. The principle even applies to foods: Large amounts of nutmeg or licorice are notoriously toxic.

The risk that a substance poses broadly depends on two factors: its inherent capacity to cause harm and one’s exposure to it. It is a simple idea, but even some presumptive professionals seem unable to grasp it – as evidenced by the decision by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a component of the World Health Organization, to classify the commonly used herbicide 2,4-D as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

Saturday, October 17, 2015

US response - retrospectives (from Sep 2012)

Did the U.S. Overreact to the 9/11 Attacks?

By John Horgan

September 10, 2012

Last year, on the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks by Al Qaeda on the United States, I posted a column arguing that the U.S. overreacted to these horrific acts of terrorism. Today, on the eve of 9/11, I'm posting an edited version of that column, the gist of which remains all too relevant.

My conclusion that the U.S. overreacted to 9/11 is based in part on risk-benefit analyses by John Mueller, a political scientist at Ohio State University (and key source for my book The End of War), and Mark Stewart, a civil engineer and authority on risk assessment at University of Newcastle in Australia. In a paper published last year in Homeland Security Affairs, Mueller and Stewart noted that after 9/11, U.S. officials had warned that we could expect many more such attacks, and that terrorism represented an "existential" threat, as the former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff put it.

Drug from TCM, TCM researcher wins Nobel Prize, TCM advocates claim victory.

Dr Tu conducted research in the 1970s, at the height of China's Cultural Revolution, that led to the discovery of artemisinin, a treatment based on traditional medicine - a herb called sweet wormwood or Artemisia annua. This is now a treatment for malaria and she won the Nobel Prize (well half of the prize) for Medicine. 

Advocates of TCM immediately claimed a victory and validation of TCM.

Well, they would like to think that it is.

Friday, October 16, 2015

What Do We Really Know About Osama bin Laden’s Death?

The history of Obama’s most important foreign-policy victory is still being written.


OCT. 15, 2015

Mark Bowden was watching a ballgame — the Phillies versus the Mets — on the night of May 1, 2011, when the network cut away to President Obama in the East Room of the White House. “Tonight,” the president said, ‘‘I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women and children.’’

Five minutes or so after the president wrapped up his brief remarks, as thousands of Americans gathered in front of the White House and at ground zero chanting ‘‘U-S-A! U-S-A!’’ Bowden’s cellphone rang. It was Mike Stenson, the president of Jerry Bruckheimer Films. Bowden had worked with Bruckheimer on the film adaptation of his 1999 best seller, ‘‘Black Hawk Down.’’

‘‘Mike said, ‘Look, Mark, Jerry wants to make a movie about this bin Laden thing, and he wants to put together all of the people who made ‘Black Hawk Down,’ ’’ Bowden told me over lunch recently. ‘‘ ‘He wants to know: Would you be willing to write the script?’ ’’

Angry Birds: Falling afoul of early success

OCTOBER 16, 2015

Angry Birds once had grand ambitions.

For a while, the mobile game in which irate cartoon birds do battle with egg-stealing green pigs seemed to be everywhere — on T-shirts, kids’ backpacks, and even plastered on Sentosa’s cable cars.

Released in 2009 and chalking up more than 2.5 billion downloads, the first Angry Birds and its offshoots spawned a pop culture phenomenon, especially in Asia where it even challenged perennial favourite Hello Kitty.

Just a few years ago, Rovio executives were spouting ambitious plans to make Angry Birds a global digital entertainment franchise with theme parks, educational programmes and other spin-offs.

Now, it seems the furious fowl have had their wings clipped.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

US Politics - Views of Republicans and Democrats

[Two articles. One, a critique of the Republican party by an annoyed or disillusioned Republican... and one an editorial on the Democratic Presidential Candidate debate.]

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

12-year schooling plan irks not just Filipino students

Aquino meets stiff resistance as he works to empower impoverished communities through education

OCTOBER 14, 2015

QUEZON CITY (Philippines) — Micaella Serrano, 16, stood in a crowd of students outside the imposing gates of Batasan Hills National High School, tossed her textbooks onto the pavement, and began to shout.

“Thieves!” she said, while punching the air with her fist. “Dictatorship!”

In the packed hallways of Batasan Hills, Micaella was known as an obedient student who turned her homework in early and spent afternoons refining her English accent.

But now she was helping to lead a political fight. She was devoting nights and weekends to a campaign to block one of the most significant changes to education in the history of the Philippines: A plan to extend the basic education system by two years, creating, for the first time, grades 11 and 12.

The policy, a pillar of President Benigno Aquino’s agenda, was imagined as a way of helping impoverished communities by giving students the skills they need to land high-paying jobs in fields such as technology and finance. But it has inspired a wave of protests and legal challenges. Students worry about a lack of classroom space.

Hepatitus C at SGH

4 dead after 22 infected in SGH hepatitis C outbreak
Here is a timeline of how events unfolded.April 17 to May 14: Five cases of Hepatitis C infections detected
May 15: SGH conducted internal investigations on dialysis centre
May 25 to 27: 6th and 7th cases detected
May 29: Dialysis centre cleared as potential source of infection
May 30: 8th case detected
June 2: Infection control team activated; 9th case detected
June 10: Renal ward stop using multi-dose vials
June 11 to 16: 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th cases detected
June 23: Use of multi-dose vials stopped hospital-wide; 15th case detected
June 25 to 26: 16th, 17th and 18th cases detected
July 7 to 15: 19th and 20th cases detected
Aug 11: 21st case detected
Late August: SGH informs Ministry of Health (MOH) of “unusually large cluster” of Hepatitis C patients
Sept 18: 22nd case detected
Late September: SGH submits final report to MOH
Oct 6: SGH makes public the infections, says it will start contacting staff and more than 400 patients who had gone to the ward, to ask them to go for screening. The MOH announces setting up of independent review committee.

Malaysia’s troubles just beginning

September 16, 2015

As it tussles with multiple crises of political legitimacy and governance, Malaysia has reached a decisive point in its more than half-century history as an independent nation. What started as a shocking but not exceptional scandal has turned into a political crisis of unprecedented proportions. This was underlined by the Bersih 4 protests on Aug 29 and 30 in Kuala Lumpur, attended by an estimated 250,000 yellow-T-shirted Malaysians.

First, it was discovered that a state investment firm, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), set up by Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2009, was in debt to the tune of RM42 billion (S$13.7 billion). Where, it was asked, did this vast sum of money go? What mismanagement or corrupt practices led to such a meltdown?

First National Day Rally

The impact of our multiracial experiment

SEP 20, 2015

In election campaigns, in Parliament, and in National Day Rally speeches, first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew thrived on the challenge of winning people over on hard policies. One such policy was the decision to build a future for newly independent Singapore that involved an integrated society. This, and facing the reality of the sudden expulsion from Malaysia the year before, were the themes of the late Mr Lee's first-ever National Day Rally speech at the National Theatre on Aug 8, 1966. The speech is reprinted below from a new book, Vintage Lee: Landmark Speeches Since 1955, published by Straits Times Press. Vintage Lee consists of 33 hard-hitting speeches from thousands given by Singapore's founding father. The 33 were selected by the book's editor, Lydia Lim, who is The Straits Times' Associate Opinion Editor, in consultation with Singapore Press Holdings editors past and present.

Chinese Envoy and his remarks at Petaling Street

Malaysia to summon China ambassador over perceived interference in domestic affairs 

26 Sep 2015

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia is expected to summon China's ambassador on Monday (Sept 28) over his statements seen as interference in domestic affairs.

Dr Huang Huikang was quoted by the local media as saying that China was against those who resort to violence to disrupt public order, an obvious reference to the threat by a group to hold demonstration in Petaling Street, where Chinatown is located.

"The Chinese government opposes terrorism and any form of discrimination against races and any form of extremism," he told reporters.

Hawker slams tender for stalls at Bukit Panjang


Fishball noodle stall owner says bidders should have had an opportunity to showcase their culinary skills.

By Siau Ming En,

09 Oct 2015

SINGAPORE: The upcoming hawker centre at Bukit Panjang has received more than 300 bids for its stalls and kiosks and more than 50 applicants have been shortlisted, said the operator, NTUC Foodfare.

One hawker who missed out on making the cut, however, has cried foul over the selection process.

Mr Douglas Ng, who had complained about NTUC Foodfare’s imposition of price caps for dishes at the hawker centre, which is scheduled to open by the end of this year, said the shortlisting method was unfair and lacked transparency.

During the tender briefings, NTUC Foodfare had said it would evaluate bids on a scorecard with 40 per cent weightage for the tendered rent, and 60 per cent for factors including the quality, variety and selling price of food; the intended opening hours; a bidder’s experience; as well as concept.

In response to TODAY’s queries, NTUC Foodfare said these criteria do not discriminate against younger bidders, adding that individuals with the best ideas and passion for food can stand a fair chance.

But Mr Ng, 24, who runs a fishball noodle stall at Golden Mile Food Centre, thinks it would have been fairer if bidders had a chance to showcase their culinary skills.

British and homegrown firms submit lowest prices to run Loyang bus package

OCTOBER 12, 2015

SINGAPORE — Eight firms are still in the running to clinch the Loyang bus package — the second put up for tender by the Government to date — after two bidders dropped out of the running for failing to meet the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) quality criteria. 

LTA today (Oct 12) released the prices which the eight bidders are seeking to operate the package for five years. Britain-based The Go-Ahead Group has the lowest asking price by some margin at S$497.7 million, 6.5 per cent lower than homegrown Woodlands Transport Holdings’ second-lowest bid of S$532.5 million.

The ones with the highest asking price are Australia’s Busways Group (S$631.4 million) and France’s RATP Dev Transdev Asia (S$603.7 million). Public bus operators SMRT and SBS Transit had the third- and fifth-highest asking price, at S$598.1 million and S$545.9 million, respectively.

Comment on Malaysian Politics

[Amendments & Edit

Ambassador-at-large Bilahari Kausikan's commentary 'Singapore is not an island', published on Tuesday, has drawn responses from across the Causeway. The piece discussed the systemic change Malaysia is on the cusp of and the possibility of an overwhelmingly Malay-dominant government and a Chinese opposition led by the Democratic Action Party (DAP), and the consequences for Singapore. 

On 8 Oct, Malaysia's DAP Tony Pua responded to the article below. His response is appended below after Bilahari's article.

On 9 Oct, Straits Times publised excerpts of Pua's response as well as another DAP MP, Ong Kian Ming, and then asked Bilahari for a reaction. Ong's response and Bilahari's second reaction are appended at the end.

13 Oct: Added report on Lim Kit Siang's comments/remarks, and Bilahari's response.]

Monday, October 12, 2015

Recycling - Making sense and cents of saving the world

[I do recycle - glass, cans, plastic, paper, but I have been suspicious of it. Especially when taken to extreme and without regard for the circumstances of Singapore. 

Some recycling does not make sense to me. Like the so-called "eco-friendly" bio-degradable Corn ware - disposable plates made from corn also called Polylactic Acid or PLA "plastic". They are quite sturdy, but for them to biodegrade quickly, they need to be treated in a special oven, and be fed to microbes, not simply tossed into a landfill.

And in Singapore, where all our garbage are incinerated, PLA will probably take more energy to burn than a regular styrofoam packaging. And that's not helping.

As for products that are compostable (as opposed to biodegradable), in land scarce Singapore, that is not very helpful at all.

The problem arises when environmentalist take solutions from elsewhere and transplant them to Singapore. That is not very smart and not very environmentally intelligent.

So here are two critiques of recycling (actually just one from one writer) and a rear guard action from a passionate recycler.]

Saturday, October 10, 2015

GE2015 through HK eyes

Li Xueying

Hong Kong Correspondent

Oct 10, 2015,

Standing among a crowd of supporters in white at a People's Action Party (PAP) election rally in Tampines last month was an overseas visitor.

Mr Raymond Chan, a pro-democracy legislator from Hong Kong, listened intently as Tampines GRC candidate Baey Yam Keng spoke of how he would continue to push the Singapore Government towards freer use of dialects.

"He was advocating on the people's behalf and sounded like he was from the opposition instead of from the ruling party," recounts Mr Chan, who wore a yellow sleeveless T-shirt, the colour adopted by Hong Kong's Occupy activists last year. That, he argues, is something that Hong Kong's pro-establishment politicians should learn from - and "not just obey" directives from the top.

Mr Chan was in Singapore to observe its 17th General Election. He also attended rallies by the Workers' Party and Singapore Democratic Party and spoke to Hong Kongers living in Singapore.

What 18-year-olds tell us about Singapore's future

Eddie Teo

10 Oct 2015

As chairman of the Public Service Commission (PSC), Mr Eddie Teo interviews 350 young people vying for scholarships each year. In this excerpt of a speech at an Overseas Singaporean Unit event in Melbourne, Australia, on Sept 24, he outlines the strengths and weaknesses of these teenagers, as gleaned from their essays and interviews.

KL, Beijing need to play their part for bilateral ties

Teo Cheng Wee

China Correspondent

Oct 9, 2015

BEIJING • China's Ambassador to Malaysia donned a bright red batik shirt when he toured Kuala Lumpur's Chinatown for Mid-Autumn festivities, but the mood that followed his walkabout was anything but cheery.

Dr Huang Huikang's comments sparked a diplomatic spat which divided Malaysian politicians and the public, highlighting the clout that China wields in the country and the risks this could bring for Malaysia and the region.

To recap, Dr Huang visited Chinatown, or Petaling Street, on Sept 25, just over a week after a pro-Malay "red-shirt" rally rife with anti-Chinese rhetoric was held nearby. Another red-shirt demonstration was due the following day.

At the walkabout, the ambassador told journalists that China opposes "any form of discrimination against races and any form of extremism". While China pursues a policy of non-interference, it "would not stand idly by" when its citizens' interests or Malaysia-China relations are infringed.

Given China's increasing economic and military muscle, accompanied by shows of assertiveness in recent years, Dr Huang's blunt comments alarmed officials in Malaysia and the region, alerting them to potential Chinese interventionist notions.

The fallout was swift but convoluted, exposing divisions within Malaysia's government.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Sorry, America, but it looks like Joe Biden is your next president

Plus: Bloomberg, Kissinger and me; Hillary Clinton’s Peronist path to power

Niall Ferguson

10 October 2015

I have a sinking feeling that Joe Biden might be the next president of the United States. In a brilliant essay published by the American Spectator in 2010, Angelo Codevilla of Boston University foresaw a popular revolt against ‘America’s ruling class’. What he calls ‘the Country party’ repudiates the co-option of the mainstream Republican party by the bureaucratic behemoth that is Washington, DC.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Dingoes Ate My Baby

In Australia, do dingoes really eat babies?

September 22, 2000

Dear Cecil:

In her best Australian accent Elaine Benes in Seinfeld once suggested to a stranger, "Maybe a dingo ate your baby." Then, of course, Oz from Buffy the Vampire Slayer has a band called Dingoes Ate My Baby. It all seemed to me an innocent evocation of the classic Australian wild-dog infanticide motif, a folk archetype that has probably existed for centuries (or however long dingoes roamed the outback). Recently, however, I saw the movie A Cry in the Dark with Sam Neill and Meryl Streep, about the apparently famous mid-80s Australian case of a mother accused of murdering her baby, while she contended that dingoes carried her infant daughter off in the night and devoured her. The movie shows that in fact it was probably the dingoes who did it. Did this court case establish the idea of baby-eating dingoes, or has this horror story been around for a long time and the case merely brought it out of Australia?

— Mike Richichi, Green Brook, New Jersey

Becoming a ‘car-lite’ society

Much effort has already gone into enhancing the attractiveness of public transport. Commuters, especially car owners, need to be convinced that public transport can be a fast, reliable and comfortable alternative to private vehicles. 

October 6, 2015

Singapore has focused on liveability and sustainability way before these words became fashionable in urban planning. A key part of this is urban mobility.

The city-state’s overall urban development strategy has been guided by an integrated approach to transport and land-use planning. The 1971 Concept Plan provided a fundamental framework for physical development to cater to the needs of a population that was projected to reach 4 million by 1992.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Get set for job disruption

OCT 4, 2015,

A key challenge for Singapore is how to ensure good jobs for people amid slowing growth, technological changes

Lydia Lim
Associate Opinion Editor

Mr Khaw Boon Wan is the man of the moment for having taken on the troubled transport portfolio in the new Cabinet line-up and well deserves the admiration heaped on him.

There is, however, another mobility issue as deserving of attention - social mobility. As economic growth slows, inequality sets in and breakthroughs in technology disrupt an ever-growing spectrum of jobs, a key challenge for Singapore is how to ensure good jobs for people of different ages, abilities and needs.

As a born and bred Singaporean, I have long known unemployment as a concept but not concrete reality.

I have not experienced difficulties in getting a job. My parents have always been employed. My father, who is 75 years old, still works.

Private Memorial for LKY at NYC - two Speeches

Two speeches on Lee Kuan Yew at the private memorial held for him at New York City, held in late Sept 2015

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Who will be the next PM after 2020? I hope by then, it won't matter so much

Chua Mui Hoong
Opinion Editor

3 Oct 2015

The past week has been rife with speculation as people waited to see who would be appointed to the new Cabinet, and to what portfolios.

When Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the new Cabinet line-up on Monday (Sept 28), the news spread quickly through social media. Swift on its heels came analyses aplenty.

I followed the reports from a haze - literally, as the Pollutant Standards Index rose. I coughed - not only from the haze - when I read the startling analysis that said PM Lee was sidelining his two deputy PMs by stripping them of their portfolios (he elevated them to coordinating roles and handed over their Home Affairs and Finance portfolios to younger ministers).

I took part in many pleasant, speculative sessions with friends and work associates, discussing this minister, that minister; who said what, when; as we marinaded ourselves in that mix of information, insight, and gossip that makes for political conversation over dinner.