Thursday, September 29, 2016

The first Trump-Clinton presidential debate transcript

By Aaron Blake

September 26

Here are the key moments from the first 2016 presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on Sept. 26. NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt moderated the debate at Hofstra University in New York.  (Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post) 

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump went head-to-head for the first time Monday night in a debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. The debate was moderated by Lester Holt of NBC News and came as polls both nationally and in swing states are increasingly tight. 

The complete transcript of the debate is posted below. 

[Note: Have not read the entire transcript.]

LESTER HOLT: Good evening from Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. I'm Lester Holt, anchor of "NBC Nightly News." I want to welcome you to the first presidential debate.

The participants tonight are Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. This debate is sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. The commission drafted tonight's format, and the rules have been agreed to by the campaigns.

The 90-minute debate is divided into six segments, each 15 minutes long. We'll explore three topic areas tonight: Achieving prosperity; America's direction; and securing America. At the start of each segment, I will ask the same lead-off question to both candidates, and they will each have up to two minutes to respond. From that point until the end of the segment, we'll have an open discussion.

The questions are mine and have not been shared with the commission or the campaigns. The audience here in the room has agreed to remain silent so that we can focus on what the candidates are saying.

I will invite you to applaud, however, at this moment, as we welcome the candidates: Democratic nominee for president of the United States, Hillary Clinton, and Republican nominee for president of the United States, Donald J. Trump.


Singapore economy 'in for a tough period': Tharman

By Patrick John Lim 


28 Sep 2016
SINGAPORE: The Singapore economy is "in for a tough period that will last for a while", said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Wednesday (Sep 28).

Speaking to reporters at the launch of the Wong Fong Industries headquarters in Joo Koon, Mr Tharman noted that for 2016, "we've had some growth at the start but the second half will be weaker; in the lower half of the 1 per cent to 2 per cent range".

Private sector economists surveyed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore have said they expect Singapore's economy to grow by 1.8 per cent this year.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Confused and dejected, stateless persons plead to be called Singaporeans

TODAY finds out what are the challenges for those whose nationality is unknown in S’pore

By Wong Pei Ting

27 Sept 2016

SINGAPORE — As the opening notes of the National Anthem echoes through her primary school, Cindy Lim stands at attention and sings softly as the Singapore flag is raised during the morning assembly.

Unlike her other Singapore-born schoolmates, however, Cindy is not allowed to raise the state flag. She has to pay higher fees if she joins a school camp. And even though she comes from a low-income family, the Primary 5 student is not eligible for financial assistance from the Education Ministry.

Cindy, who scores excellent grades in her studies and has been a school prefect for three years, is not entirely sure why she is treated differently, but she suspects it may have something to do with an unusual entry in her birth certificate that reads: “The child is not a citizen of Singapore at the time of birth.”

Singapore 'disappointed' with 'irresponsible report' by Global Times on NAM Summit: MFA

27 Sep 2016


SINGAPORE: Singapore's Ambassador to China on Monday (Sep 23) expressed the city-state's disappointment at a report by Chinese newspaper Global Times, alleging that Singapore had acted inappropriately at the recent Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit held in Venezuela.

In a letter to the Global Times' editor-in-chief Hu Xijin, Ambassador Stanley Loh refuted the newspaper's report, stating that it "attributed actions and words to Singapore which are false and unfounded".

The report, published online on Sep 21, said Singapore wanted to include Philippines' position on the South China Sea dispute in the NAM Final Document at the last minute, which was met with opposition by many countries.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Scientists published climate research under fake names. Then they were caught.

By Ben Guarino

September 19

The scientists briefly known as Den Volokin and Lark ReLlez thought they had found something big.

It was not data wrung from a clever experiment or a lucky field observation. Instead, the pair had constructed a model, a mathematical argument, for calculating the average surface temperature of a rocky planet. Using just two factors — electromagnetic radiation beamed by the sun into the atmosphere and the atmospheric pressure at a planet’s surface — the scientists could predict a planet’s temperature. The physical principle, they said, was similar to the way that high-pressure air ignites fuel in a diesel engine.

If proved to be the case on Earth, the model would have dramatic implications: Our planet is warming, but the solar radiation and our atmosphere would be to blame, not us.

[I don't know what to make of this report/study. On the one hand, it seems to suggest non-anthropogenic climate change. But there is a critque at the end of this article by a NASA researcher. So not definitive.]

It's the Economy, Stupid

[DPM tries to talk up market sentiment and the economy. 

Despite clear signals that pessimism is more appropriate. 

Oh well. He has to do what he has to do. ]

In Asia’s eyes, world economy not in a funk, says Tharman

Siau Ming En
September 17, 2016

Friday, September 16, 2016

Of sunbirds, hornbills and Singapore ecotourism

Audrey Tan

SEP 15, 2016

The planned wildlife parks in Mandai raise issues of balancing development and conservation.
The Lion City has embarked on an ambitious ecotourism project that involves developing five wildlife parks in Mandai by 2023.

This is ecotourism the Singapore way, though, for it involves clearing forests in the island's north which are home to native birds and mammals to build parks to house - you guessed it - birds and mammals, including those from far-off lands.

A new Rainforest Park, and the Bird Park which will be relocated from Jurong, will be built on secondary forests on two plots of land next to Mandai Lake Road. They will join the existing trio of attractions in Mandai: the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Safari.

Tourism experts have welcomed the development as one that can help Singapore attract a growing number of ecotourists. But whether such a development meets the International Ecotourism Society's definition of ecotourism, a key component of which refers to "responsible travel to natural areas which conserves the environment", is debatable.

S’pore investors have unrealistic expectations of returns: Schroders

September 15, 2016

SINGAPORE — Singapore investors are unrealistic in their expectations of investment returns, with this over-optimism particularly pronounced among millennials than those approaching their 40s, asset management firm Schroders found in a Global Investor Survey.

The average investor in Singapore, according to the survey, expects a minimum return of 9.2 per cent per year. This is in stark contrast to the current average stock market yield of 3.8 per cent. Millennials were the most optimistic, expecting a 9.6 per cent return on their investment per year, compared with 8.9 per cent for investors aged 36 and above.

[Even the GIC is projecting lower returns over the next 10 years. Their latest report is a 4% return. And these are full-time investors with time to analyse data and trends. And the best they can do is 4%. Of course they will have critics who sneer at their "low performance". These critics are precisely the "CPF bloggers" type who think that they can get 9.2% returns per year.]

“In today’s low interest rate environment, Singapore investors’ return projections are extremely high. In order to minimise income shortfall, investors need to actively consider their investment needs and align their risk-adjusted return profile in light of current market conditions,” said Ms Susan Soh, country head of Schroders Singapore.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Who Has Space for Renewables?

SEP 14, 2016

Project Syndicate

Adair Turner

LONDON – This summer, an electrical power auction in Chile attracted successful bids by wind generators willing to provide electricity at $0.04 per kilowatt hour and solar generators at $0.03 per kwh, easily beating fossil-fuel competitors. That success reflects dramatic cost reductions over the last six years, with the cost of solar power falling about 70% and wind-power costs down more than 30%. Further reductions are inevitable.

Of course, the sun doesn’t always shine, and the wind doesn’t always blow, but intermittency problems are increasingly solvable as the cost of battery and other energy storage falls, and as smart meters and control systems make it possible to shift the timing of some electricity demand. It is now certain that, within 20 years, many countries could get most of their electricity from renewable sources at an easily affordable price.

To be sure, solar and wind farms require large land areas. But at the global level, there is plenty of space.

The 2008 Financial Crisis (Sub-prime boom goes bust) - the Politics

A summary of the Republican position on the 2008 Sub-prime crisis:
It's important to remember that Republicans don't think the financial crisis was a case of bankers blowing up the global economy because that was what maximized their year-end bonuses, but rather the government pushing bankers to blow up the global economy out of a misguided attempt to help poor people buy homes. Never mind that it was Wall Street banks, and not Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, that were behind the subprime boom. Or that even a conservative former Federal Reserve official says there's no evidence that the Community Reinvestment Act, which outlaws redlining, "contributed in any substantive way" to the housing bubble's bad lending.
Just a short entry on an interesting observation on the GOP's perspective.

How Johor’s growing water woes could affect Singapore

Jackson Ewing
Karissa Domondon

September 15, 2016


Since its founding, Singapore has depended on water imports from neighbouring catchments in Johor, Malaysia, through agreements reached in 1961 and 1962.

Over time, Singapore improved its domestic catchment management, created more efficient water-use systems, and brought desalination capacity online. Meanwhile, Johor has transformed itself into a bustling hub second in many ways only to Malaysia’s capital region. These developments have created a new water calculus between Singapore and Malaysia.

Since early 2015, drought, pollution and large discharges to combat salinity have depleted water levels in Johor River dams to historic lows, forcing Johor to seek additional potable water supplies from Singapore on three occasions in 2015 and 2016 and to impose water rations for 
85,000 residents and industrial users in April this year .

This shock to the system is spurring a re-evaluation of cross-border water relations, and reveals Johor’s vulnerability to the resource impacts of its own development and the changing climate.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Brexit paves way for China-dominated East Asia


SEPTEMBER 13, 2016

While the immediate geopolitical impact of Brexit on East Asia will be insignificant, there could be long-term strategic consequences on the East Asian great game, said Singapore’s Ambassador-at-Large Bilahari Kausikan. In a speech in London last week, he noted that a European Union without Britain could well turn protectionist, in turn infecting the United States and making room for the rise of a China-dominated East Asia. Below is an excerpt from the speech Mr Kausikan delivered at Policy Exchange, a United Kingdom think tank.

Sugar industry bought off scientists, skewed dietary guidelines for decades

Harvard researchers got hefty sums to downplay role of sweets in heart disease.
Beth Mole, Ars Technica 


Back in the 1960s, a sugar industry executive wrote fat checks to a group of Harvard researchers so that they’d downplay the links between sugar and heart disease in a prominent medical journal—and the researchers did it, according to historical documents reported Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

One of those Harvard researchers went on to become the head of nutrition at the United States Department of Agriculture, where he set the stage for the federal government’s current dietary guidelines. All in all, the corrupted researchers and skewed scientific literature successfully helped draw attention away from the health risks of sweets and shift the blame solely to fats—for nearly five decades. The low-fat, high-sugar diets that health experts subsequently encouraged are now seen as a main driver of the current obesity epidemic.

Government to review CPF Investment Scheme: Tharman

By Nicole Tan

13 Sep 2016


SINGAPORE: The Singapore Government will be reviewing the CPF Investment Scheme (CPFIS), said Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Tuesday (Sep 13), adding that the scheme was "not fit for purpose".

Mr Tharman was speaking at the Economic Society of Singapore's dinner on Tuesday.

He said that over the last 10 years, more than 80 per cent of those who invested through the scheme would have been better off leaving their money in the CPF Ordinary Account.

The Ordinary Account provides returns of 2.5 per cent for amounts above S$20,000.

Forty-five per cent of investors made losses through the scheme, and Mr Tharman said the main reasons for underperformance were behavioural biases in investment as well as higher fees.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

F-16 pilot was ready to give her life on Sept. 11

Penney was prepared to give her life on Sept. 11 when she was ordered to down the hijacked planes — even knowing that the pilot for one of them could have been her father.
By Steve Hendrix

Washington Post

September 8, 2011

[Note the date of this story]

WASHINGTON — Late in the morning of the Tuesday that changed everything,   Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney was on a runway at Andrews Air Force Base and ready to fly. She had her hand on the throttle of an F-16 and she had her orders: Bring down United Airlines Flight 93. The day’s fourth hijacked airliner seemed to be hurtling toward Washington. Penney, one of the first two combat pilots in the air that morning, was told to stop it.

The one thing she didn’t have as she roared into the crystalline sky was live ammunition. Or missiles. Or anything at all to throw at a hostile aircraft. 

Except her own plane. So that was the plan.

Because the surprise attacks were unfolding, in that innocent age, faster than they could arm war planes, Penney and her commanding officer went up to fly their jets straight into a Boeing 757.

“We wouldn’t be shooting it down. We’d be ramming the aircraft,” Penney recalls of her charge that day. “I would essentially be a kamikaze pilot.”

For years, Penney, one of the first generation of female combat pilots in the country, gave no interviews about her experiences on Sept. 11 (which included, eventually, escorting Air Force One back into Washington’s suddenly highly restricted airspace).

But 10 years later, she is reflecting on one of the lesser-told tales of that endlessly examined morning: how the first counterpunch the U.S. military prepared to throw at the attackers was effectively a suicide mission.

Friday, September 9, 2016

South China Sea: Did the ruling sink the rule of law?

Tan Keng Tat For The Straits Times

AUG 31, 2016

Eight reasons why the tribunal ruling was troubling, especially the decision that turned Taiping Island into a "rock" devoid of its own exclusive economic zone.

On July 12, an arbitral tribunal, constituted under Annex VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), ruled in favour of the Philippines at the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague (PCA).

The tribunal made a landmark decision that, as between the Philippines and China, there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources, in excess of the rights provided for by Unclos, within the "nine-dash" line map that China has been using to assert its claims of sovereignty over territories in the South China Sea.

The tribunal also ruled, inter alia, that China had infringed on the Philippines' rights to fish stocks and resources within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

China rejected the tribunal's ruling as null and void on substantive and procedural grounds.

Professor Myron Nordquist, of the University of Virginia School of Law, has opined that the ruling was a "huge mistake" and should be "criticised severely".

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Peter Thiel: Trump has taught us this year’s most important political lesson

By Peter Thiel, for The Washington Post

September 6

The writer is an entrepreneur and investor. 

Our government used to get things done. The Manhattan Project coordinated the work of more than 130,000 people in over a dozen states. It was difficult, unprecedented — and successful. Less than four years after President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave the go-ahead, the United States detonated the world’s first atomic bomb.

Today our government finds it hard just to make a website. Our newest fighter jet has already been under development for more than 15 years  and it costs more than 15 times as much as the Manhattan Project (adjusted for inflation), but last year it lost a dogfight to a plane from the 1970s. 

Similar dysfunction is everywhere, at every level. One of the most dramatic examples is in the nation’s capital: Metro was a marvel when it opened in 1976, and today it’s an embarrassing safety hazard. Ticket machines don’t work; escalators are broken; the trains sometimes don’t even stay on the tracks.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Picking the next Prime Minister

Who will lead Singapore next? 

Sep 4, 2016,

The best-laid plans for succession planning can go awry, as two Cabinet members' health scares this year showed
Charissa Yong

When Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced his new Cabinet line-up soon after last September's general election, he made it clear that planning for leadership succession was a key priority.

Younger ministers and new office-holders were given a range of responsibilities to expose them to new areas of work.

The key assignments given to Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat - such as chairing the Committee on the Future Economy - led some observers to conclude he was the clear frontrunner among the fourth-generation leadership.

So when Mr Heng suffered a stroke during a Cabinet meeting in May, undergoing emergency surgery the same day, many were worried that Singapore's leadership succession plans might be disrupted.

Then, two Sundays ago, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong caused hearts to pound when three hours into his televised National Day Rally speech - moments before he was to announce a recovered Mr Heng's return to Cabinet - he faltered on stage and had to take a break.

PM Lee rested for about an hour before returning to complete his address.

Announcing Mr Heng's return, and talking about leadership succession, he quipped: "After what happened, I think it's even more important that we talk about it now."

Monday, September 5, 2016

Why are there so many crazy theories about negative blood types?

September 2, 2016

Dear Cecil:

My blood type is A negative. I've heard this can cause pregnancy issues, so I Googled "Rh-negative blood" and ran across a bunch of weirdo sites with "theories" about the origin of negative blood types and some online communities with seriously racist undertones. Where did all this crazy mythology surrounding blood types come from?

— Katrina

[There are conspiracy theories about everything. Here's a fun one.]

Changes to Elected Presidency not meant to keep out 'difficult' people

Valerie Koh

September 4, 2016

SINGAPORE – Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong rejected suggestions that the changes to the Elected Presidency (EP) were meant to keep out individuals whom the Government would find it hard to work with, as he noted that no system can be guaranteed to keep out “difficult” people.

Nevertheless, he reiterated his criticism of the losing candidates in the 2011 Presidential Election (PE) for making unrealistic promises during their campaigns.

“Even if I raise the standards, I cannot guarantee that nobody who is going to be difficult will become president,” said Mr Lee in an interview with Mediacorp which was aired on Sunday (Sept 4).

“Wherever you cut off, there will be somebody, even a former minister or a former judge or somebody who may have run a very big company (who) may have his views and may clash with the Government.”