Friday, November 27, 2015

Dan Tan case: 'Groundbreaking' judgment raises question about Act

Nov 27, 2015.

Ng Huiwen

Groundbreaking - that is how legal experts and lawyers here have described the decision by Singapore's highest court to declare that alleged match-fixer Dan Tan Seet Eng's detention without trial was unlawful.

They agreed that it showed how the courts were ready to scrutinise the reasons behind the Home Affairs Minister's decision to detain a person under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act (CLTPA), and ensure that the state does not overstep the powers granted by the Act.

But the case has also led to another debate - on whether the CLTPA, first introduced in 1955 to fight secret societies, should be tweaked to take into account the global nature of organised crime today.

On Wednesday, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, delivering the judgment on behalf of a three-judge panel, said the key purpose of the Act was to prevent violence or cases in which witness intimidation made prosecution impossible.

But Tan's alleged match-fixing activities "all took place beyond our shores" in countries such as Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria, said CJ Menon. That meant there was little risk to "public safety, peace and good order" here. He added that no evidence was presented to show that potential witnesses were being intimidated.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Feeling useless at your job is key to success


NOVEMBER 25, 2015

If you want to be successful, the first step is not to know yourself very well. For years the emotional intelligence movement has been telling us the reverse — that self-knowledge is vital to get anywhere at all.

There has never been much evidence to back this up, but it sounds good, and so everyone takes it on trust. However, even the most casual acquaintance with the world of business suggests otherwise. Over the past three decades, I have met large numbers of senior business people, and cannot help noticing that the only thing most of them have in common is that they do not seem to know themselves at all.

Last week, I came across some research that backs up my hunch that self-knowledge is not all it is cracked up to be. Zenger Folkman, a leadership consultancy, has conducted a large piece of research in which it compared what 69,000 leaders think of themselves to what their teams — 750,000 people altogether — think of them. It found little correlation between how managers rate their own abilities and how others rate them, which is precisely what I would have expected.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Pinning down the elusive S'pore identity

Denise Chong

Nov 22, 2015

Try to clutch it and it slips right out of our hands like imported fine beach sand

The year-long self-hug that is the SG50 celebrations is drawing to a close with Tuesday's opening of the National Gallery art museum, and next month's The Future of Us exhibition.

Looking back, in trying to squeeze Singapore's short history for all the jubilee juice we can get, have we created commodified pieces of our identity that feel comforting but are somehow too comfortable to be true?

Some of us haven't got the foggiest idea what the Singapore identity officially is, despite decades of National Day parades-songs-videos. But this year, surely, we got the message, as it was delivered home fiftyfold. Vignettes of Singapore life - from a moment of anguish to hours of waiting around the Padang, from dragon playgrounds to being a playground for the rich - were flashing before our eyes on all sorts of media and in exhibitions. National Day funpacks given to families were filled with nostalgic games, snacks and figurines.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Why the same diet doesn't work for all: What's healthy for one may lead another to gain weight

Nov 20, 2015,

MIAMI (AFP) - A healthy food for one person may lead another to gain weight, according to a study out on Thursday (Nov 19) that suggests a one-size-fits-all approach to dieting is fundamentally wrong.

For instance, one woman in the study repeatedly experienced a spike in blood sugar after eating tomatoes, which would generally be considered a low-fat, nutritious food.

The findings are based a study of 800 people in Israel, and are published in the journal Cell Press.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Western govts’ failure to deliver a reason for gridlock: PM Lee


SINGAPORE — The gridlock common in Western governments is “partly a weakness of the leadership” and also a recognition that the system is not delivering, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a recent interview with a foreign newspaper.

Also, people in these countries do not feel that they have an interest in what the system is doing for them, he said. “You promised, but in the end, you cannot deliver. That is a challenge,” said Mr Lee, adding that political deadlock is particularly a problem in the United States “because of the way their system of government works”.

ST Global Outlook Forum 2015: Malaysia PM Najib's position secure, says Ong Keng Yong

Nov 20, 2015.

Bhagyashree Garekar
Deputy Foreign Editor

SINGAPORE - When it comes to developments in Malaysia, it pays to look beyond the headlines.

"What you see is not what you get," said Mr Ong Keng Yong, Singapore's Ambassador-at-Large and deputy chairman at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at the Nanyang Technological University.

He was referring to reports that have highlighted Prime Minister Razak Najib's supposedly precarious position in the face of financial scandals that have dominated headlines from Malaysia.

"In spite of all the scandals, the situation is not so dire to make us all worry about the economy and  business situation," said Mr Ong, Singapore's former high commissioner to Malaysia.

China's Unwilling Consumers

China’s Unwilling Consumers

Project Syndicate

LONDON – For several years, Chinese leaders have been pursuing economic “rebalancing.” The country’s longstanding growth model, based on investment and exports, is to be replaced by one based on services and domestic consumption. It’s a necessary transition for China. Unfortunately, consumption-led growth remains a distant prospect.

Yes, the contribution of domestic consumption to GDP has risen slightly over the last few years. But that mainly reflects weak investment demand, not strong consumption growth. In fact, wealth accumulation remains the primary objective of Chinese households. And, given China’s economic structure, under-developed financial market, and weak welfare state, high levels of precautionary saving will persist for the foreseeable future.

Indeed, one key factor impeding consumption is the imperative faced by China’s older workers to save for retirement. In the past, the Confucian tradition of filial piety meant that children supported their parents in their dotage. But, after more than three decades of the one-child policy, retirees cannot reasonably expect nearly as much support, and China lacks a strong pension system to pick up the slack.

The realities of social media’s impact on GE2015


NOVEMBER 19, 2015

Two hours after polling closed, as sample vote counts were released to the public, it became evident that the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) was the runaway winner in the 2015 General Election. While some wondered what went wrong and others asked what went right, for many, the reaction was: “What happened to social media?”

The expectations held by many concerning social media’s ability to mobilise political support were largely because of the online buzz that tilted towards opposition parties and personalities such as the Workers’ Party and Dr Chee Soon Juan.

Photographs and videos of people thronging opposition party rallies were also circulated widely on social media, encouraging the perception that the Opposition would garner more votes than in 2011. Instead, more voters chose the PAP this time and it improved its score from 2011 with a vote share of 69.9 per cent.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Finding peace within the holy texts

David Brooks

Nov 18, 2015

It's easy to think that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is some sort of evil, mediaeval cancer that somehow has resurfaced in the modern world. The rest of us are pursuing happiness, and here comes this fundamentalist anachronism, spreading death.

But in his book Not In God's Name: Confronting Religious Violence, the brilliant philosopher Rabbi Jonathan Sacks argues that ISIS is in fact typical of what we will see in the decades ahead.

The 21st century will not be a century of secularism, he writes. It will be an age of desecularisation and religious conflicts.

Part of this is demographic. Religious communities produce lots of babies and swell their ranks, while secular communities do not. The researcher Michael Blume looked back as far as ancient India and Greece and concluded that every non-religious population in history has experienced demographic decline.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Internet Makes You Think You’re Smarter Than You Are: An Interview with Matthew Fisher

by Scott Berinato


The research: Yale doctoral candidate Matthew Fisher and his colleagues Mariel Goddu and Frank Keil asked people a series of questions that seemed answerable but were actually difficult. The questions concerned things people assume they know but actually don’t—such as why there are phases of the moon and how glass is made. Some people were allowed to look up the answers on the internet, while others were not. Then the researchers asked a second set of questions on unrelated topics.

In comparison with the other subjects, the people who’d been allowed to do online searches vastly overestimated their ability to answer the new questions correctly.

The challenge: Does the internet make us overconfident? Are we unable to distinguish
between what’s stored in our own heads and what’s in the cloud? Mr. Fisher, defend your

Fisher: We’ve zeroed in on access to this massive online database of information as the
cause of an illusion of understanding. Even when people did searches and got irrelevant or
no results, they were far more confident that they’d know the answers to unrelated followup

Monday, November 16, 2015

Don't let hawker fare disappear

Han Fook Kwang


Nov 15, 2015

The odds are stacked against hawkers - the hours are long, prices of ingredients are high and the public won't pay more

Did you notice how blue the sky was last week when the haze disappeared?

The air seemed fresher, and even the birds sounded chirpier.

It is true - you don't appreciate the little pleasures of life until they are taken away from you.

Then you miss them like the earth and begin to understand what they mean.

What else do we take for granted that might disappear one day?

Here is one that tops my list - good old hawker food as we know it.

If present trends continue, they will disappear in 10 to 15 years.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Divining election voting behaviour

11 Nov 2015

The General Election 2015 survey by the Institute of Policy Studies offered some useful clues to voter attitudes, after the outcome took many by surprise. The study posits that the vote swing of almost 10 percentage points to the People's Action Party was due to a pronounced conservative twitch defined by relative "support of the political status quo", and qualified by the observation that this cluster's "political attitudes are changing with each survey". IPS did similar surveys after the 2006 and 2011 elections. The attitudinal tilt was inferred by responses to a "mix of political ideals, materialist and practical concerns".

Students don't perform better with tech use in school: OECD

11 Nov 2015

Finding also applies to Singapore, whose top ranking in digital skills is attributed to maths and science foundation

Sandra Davie
Senior Education Correspondent

Singapore students aced global benchmarking tests conducted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2012, including the test on digital skills.

But Singapore's top-rate performance may have little to do with the use of technology in schools. Computers may harm grades instead.

The OECD released a study recently that found that computers and classroom technology do not improve student performance.

Overall, the study's results also showed "no appreciable improvements" in reading, mathematics or science in countries that invested heavily in information technology.

In fact, the frequent use of computers in school is more likely to be associated with lower marks, OECD officials said.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The great Hong Kong versus Singapore debate: China Daily

Nov 9, 2015

Asia's financial centers offer distinct advantages, but decades-old competition is not going away.
By Thomas Zhang

China Daily/Asia News Network

In the midst of the global financial crisis in 2009, investment banks in London were shedding thousands of jobs.

A Chinese friend of mine in the United Kingdom fell victim to the cuts and was considering a move back to Asia.

"Where do you think I should go?" he asked. "Singapore or Hong Kong?"

As someone who had spent a lot of his professional life in the UK, I was of little help.

Both are prominent regional financial centers and were being touted as a refuge for bankers looking for opportunities away from Western markets during the financial crisis.

This is a dilemma facing every banker who wants to work and settle in Asia. If you are a banker in North America, you probably wouldn't hesitate too much where to work before heading to New York, and London still has the biggest draw among financial centers in Europe.

But in Asia, Singapore or Hong Kong is a less obvious choice, because these two de facto financial centres in Asia (ex-Japan) have long been competing to be the preeminent financial hub in the region.

After moving to Singapore a little less than a year ago, I realised that the appeal of these two cities largely depends on your personal status.

Monday, November 9, 2015

What does it take to domesticate an animal?

November 6, 2015

Dear Cecil:

How long does it take to "officially" domesticate an animal? What is the last wild animal humans have domesticated? If we tried long enough, could we end up with domesticated koalas or beavers?

— Dane Coffey, Bella Vista, Arkansas

Saturday, November 7, 2015

News organisations increasingly turning off online comments due to excessive nastiness

7 Nov 2015

Washington (AFP) - The Internet was supposed to facilitate better exchange between the public and news media. But vile and hateful comments changed all that.

In the face of rising vitriol - attacks, bigotry and general nastiness - news organisations are increasingly throwing in the towel on online comments.

Last month, Vice Media's Motherboard news site turned off reader comments, saying "the scorched earth nature of comments sections just stifles real conversation".

It instead began taking "letters to the editor" to be screened by staff.

Vox Media's online news site The Verge said in July it was "turning off comments for a bit", noting that the tone was "getting a little too aggressive and negative".

Blogging platform Medium this past week allowed its users to hide reader comments, acknowledging that "sometimes you may not want to get in a discussion".

The Big Read: After the high of GE2011, a reality check for the Workers’ Party

Some answers have emerged as the Workers' Party continues to examine where it could have done better
Kelly Ng

Saturday, 07 November 2015

SINGAPORE — Four years after the capture of Aljunied Group Representation Constituency — a first GRC win for the Opposition — ushered a “Workers’ Party fever”, the WP was brought back to earth with a thud following the results of the recent General Election (GE).

Attendances at its open houses — held at its Syed Alwi Road headquarters — have thinned significantly in contrast to the weeks following the 2011 GE.

At the first open house after the elections four years ago, about 150 people turned up. This time, fewer than 20 members of the public showed up at the first session after the Sept 11 polls, a party volunteer said. When TODAY visited a session two weeks ago, there was just a handful of members of the public, and they were outnumbered by party members and volunteers.

In the immediate aftermath of the recent GE, many of the party members and supporters were at a loss to explain its showing: It retained its Hougang stronghold with a smaller winning margin, and scraped a victory in Aljunied GRC, which had to go through a recount. The party lost the Punggol East single-seat ward, just two years after wresting it from the People’s Action Party (PAP). Overall, WP’s share of votes in the wards it contested slipped 6.8 points to 39.8 per cent, compared with the 2011 GE.

The party is in soul-searching mode, and some answers have emerged as it continues to examine where it could have done better.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Singapore-China ties: 7 things to know about 25 years of diplomatic relations

4 Nov 2015

Chew Hui Min

SINGAPORE - Singapore and China mark 25 years of diplomatic relations this year.

On Friday (Nov 6), President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan will make their first state visit to Singapore.

In many ways, the ties between Singapore, a city-state of 5.6 million, and China, a behemoth with 1.3 billion people, have been unique.

Here are seven things about the two countries' relationship.

Red tape, bureaucracy put brakes on SMEs in China

Dan Levin

4 Nov 2015

BEIJING — With the blessing of local officials, Mr Amir Porat, an Israeli entrepreneur, set up a surgical supply factory in 2013 in China’s coastal Jiangsu province, training workers and taking orders. All he needed to start production was US$250,000 (S$349,471) of specially designed moulding equipment from Israel.

More than two years and US$1 million in costs later, he is still waiting for the shipment. Chinese customs officials have demanded a permit for importing medical devices, although Mr Porat insisted the equipment was ordinary manufacturing machinery. Last year, he decided to close the factory before it ever opened.

“We had to pay salaries and rent,” Mr Porat said by telephone from Israel. “We’re not a big company and we just couldn’t afford to lose and lose.”

At a time of slowing economic growth, Beijing has sought to assure foreign companies that China is a welcoming place to do business. In a speech to United States business leaders in September, China’s president, Xi Jinping, pledged to protect the rights of overseas investors and to provide “a level playing field”.

But the plight of Mr Porat and other overseas entrepreneurs underscores some of the challenges small and mid-sized businesses face once they arrive. While China beckons with opportunity, cheaper labour and a huge market, it often frustrates with bewildering bureaucracy, entrenched corruption and a byzantine legal system, experts say.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Robin Williams was 'disintegrating' before suicide, widow says

NOV 4, 2015,

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Comedian Robin Williams had been planning to undergo neurological testing the week before he committed suicide last year, and likely only had three years to live, his widow said on Tuesday (Nov 3).

In her first interview since Williams hanged himself with a belt at their California home, Ms Susan Williams described how the Good Morning, Vietnam Oscar winner was "just disintegrating" physically and mentally in the months before his death.

The actor died in August 2014 at age 63; he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease three months prior.

He was showing symptoms including stiffness, slumping gait and confusion, she told ABC television's Good Morning America.

GE2015: Post-mortem and Analysis

Institute of Policy Studies Post-Election Conference was held on 4 Nov 2015. Results of a survey of 2015 Singaporeans two weeks after the polls was presented. The results found that there was a dip in “pluralists” — those who support greater political pluralism and changes in the electoral system, relative to other respondents — among the youngest group of voters, and a spike in “conservatives” — who support the political status quo — within the oldest group.

“While Singaporeans still want some diverse voices in Parliament, the electorate has voted more conservatively this time because some elements they thought were unsatisfactory and caused them to vote for the Opposition (in 2011) have now been addressed,”

Investor sues DBS over option advice

4 Nov 2015

She claims bank misled her into buying 'useless' options to protect margin positions

Selina Lum

SINGAPORE - A Singapore businesswoman, who lost US$6 million (S$8.4 million) in forex trades, has sued DBS Bank, seeking to restore her accounts to their levels before the bank closed out her trading positions.

Ms Florence Suryawan, 53, alleges that the bank had misled her into buying options meant to protect her against volatile forex markets.

These options, which work like insurance, turned out to be "useless" for hedging her investments.

In September 2011, the falling Australian dollar caused Ms Suryawan, who was acquiring the currency through structured products known as accumulators, to suffer massive losses.

After DBS closed out her positions, the total balance of her accounts with the bank fell from US$6.2 million to about US$410,000.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Will things fall apart in the Malaysian federation?

NOVEMBER 3, 2015

The Irish poet WB Yeats was not thinking about South-east Asia when he wrote “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold”, but his words may accurately describe the situation in Malaysia. The monarchy governing the state of Johor is rattling the federation agreement and talking of secession. Sarawak wants significant devolution. And Sabah is gearing up for the same demand.

So is secession a real possibility? And why has the issue of federalism suddenly emerged after half a century of relative calm?

Secession is not realistic for Johor, or even for Sabah or Sarawak. Advocating secession constitutes the crime of sedition in Malaysia, making it difficult to create momentum behind a secession movement. The Johor princes have said that secession is possible and is a right of the Johor “nation”, only if the federal government does not honour the federation agreement.

That agreement involves guaranteeing Islam as the state religion, non-interference by the federation in the Johor Constitution and maintenance of the state’s armed forces. But all of these aspects of the agreement are being met. So by the princes’ own reckoning, there is no case for Johor’s secession.

The legacy of Mr Lee, Dr Goh and Mr Rajaratnam

3 Nov 2015

The idealism of Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his comrades Goh Keng Swee and S. Rajaratnam was rooted in hard-headed understanding of power, Ambassador-at-large Bilahari Kausikan said at a conference on The Legacy of Lee Kuan Yew and the Future of Singapore, organised by Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge.

The most valuable thing they imparted to us was a cast of mind.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Retirement savings and the SRS

Two news articles on retirement and the SRS.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Malaysia’s ‘Islam’ has negative impact on Singapore, says lecturer


From The Malaysian Insider

by Hasnoor Hussain, 

October 31, 2015. 

Malaysia’s brand of Islam has a negative impact on its neighbour across the causeway, a Singaporean academic said today.

Dr Nawab Osman, from Nanyang Technology University, said a puritanical mindset and intolerance has begun to seep into Singapore and Malaysia was one of the contributing factors.

“Singapore is where Malaysia was about 10 years ago. The impact of Malaysia’s Islam is real.

“When (well-known Malaysian preacher) Ustaz Azhar Idrus came to Singapore, 10,000 people went to his talk,” he said at the “Maqasid Shariah in a Constitutional Democracy” forum in Penang organised by G25 and think tank Penang Institute today.

Speaking on Islamic revivalism and its socio-political impact, Nawab cited incidents in the island republic such as the issue of Muslim women wearing headscarves, as an indication of the shift of Islam in Singapore.