Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Water War in Asia?


NOV 27, 2016 7

ERLIN – Tensions over water are rising in Asia – and not only because of conflicting maritime claims. While territorial disputes, such as in the South China Sea, attract the most attention – after all, they threaten the safety of sea lanes and freedom of navigation, which affects outside powers as well – the strategic ramifications of competition over transnationally shared freshwater resources are just as ominous.

Asia has less fresh water per capita than any other continent, and it is already facing a water crisis that, according to an MIT study, will continue to intensify, with severe water shortages expected by 2050. At a time of widespread geopolitical discord, competition over freshwater resources could emerge as a serious threat to long-term peace and stability in Asia.

Already, the battle is underway, with China as the main aggressor. Indeed, China’s territorial grab in the South China Sea has been accompanied by a quieter grab of resources in transnational river basins. Reengineering cross-border riparian flows is integral to China’s strategy to assert greater control and influence over Asia.

Trump, the Dragon, and the Minotaur

NOV 28, 2016

ATHENS – If Donald Trump understands anything, it is the value of bankruptcy and financial recycling. He knows all about success via strategic defaults, followed by massive debt write-offs and the creation of assets from liabilities. But does he grasp the profound difference between a developer’s debt and the debt of a large economy? And does he understand that China’s private debt bubble is a powder keg under the global economy? Much hinges on whether he does.

The age of disruption

Vivian Balakrishnan

Nov 30, 2016

In a keynote address at The Straits Times Global Outlook Forum yesterday, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan described 2016 as a year of the unexpected, highlighting events such as Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as the United States president. Other themes dominated in the year, such as a rising China and the expansion of activities by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria that appear to target the South-east Asian region. He painted a picture of the world at the beginning of a new age of revolution, where technology - not trade - is the great disrupter; where anxieties over jobs and ways of life are rising at a time when the world is becoming more interconnected. Below is an edited excerpt.

Monday, November 28, 2016

China lodges protest with Singapore over Terrex vehicles seized in Hong Kong

NOVEMBER 28, 2016

BEIJING — China said on Monday (Nov 28) it had lodged a protest with Singapore after Singaporean armoured troop carriers were seized by Hong Kong customs en route back from Taiwan, as a state-owned newspaper warned against Singapore's "hypocrisy".

The nine troop carriers were impounded in Hong Kong last week, sparking a rebuke to Singapore from China's foreign ministry about maintaining military ties with self-ruled Taiwan, which China considers a breakaway province.

"China has already made representations over this to the Singapore side," Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular press briefing on Monday.

China had also "demanded" that Singapore abide by Hong Kong's relevant laws and cooperate with the Hong Kong government to handle relevant follow-up work, he added.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

China always opposes countries which have relations with China also having "any form of official exchanges with the Taiwan region, including military exchanges and cooperation", Mr Geng said.

When reality bites in a 'post-truth' world

Thinking Aloud

Warren Fernandez

NOV 27, 2016

Spread of fake news, shorter attention span and lack of engagement leave young vulnerable to being misled online

It used to be that black was black, and white was white.

Then came fifty shades of grey.

Next, someone insisted that it was actually a deep blue, or perhaps a murky green.

Beyond a point, it began to seem that the colour was whatever you said it was, provided you shouted loud enough or repeated it over and again. Eventually, people might believe you.

This, we are told, is the new "post-truth" world, where things are not always what they seem, and you neither have to mean what you say nor say what you mean.

In this new world, politicians have been busy reassuring the President-elect of the United States Donald Trump that no one really thought he would do as he pledged on the stump, and fewer still would mind if he simply forgot what he had said during the campaign.

The reason for this is simple: The alternative of him doing as he promised is just too scary to contemplate, so isn't it better if we let it slide, and all just get along?

That way, we might conclude that climate change is not a "hoax invented by China", as Mr Trump once claimed, and instead "keep an open mind, to study the issue very hard", as he now purports.

Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say

By Craig Timberg 

November 24

The flood of “fake news” this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, say independent researchers who tracked the operation.

Russia’s increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery — including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human “trolls,” and networks of websites and social-media accounts — echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers. The effort also sought to heighten the appearance of international tensions and promote fear of looming hostilities with nuclear-armed Russia.

Two teams of independent researchers found that the Russians exploited American-made technology platforms to attack U.S. democracy at a particularly vulnerable moment, as an insurgent candidate harnessed a wide range of grievances to claim the White House. The sophistication of the Russian tactics may complicate efforts by Facebook and Google to crack down on “fake news,” as they have vowed to do after widespread complaints about the problem.

There is no way to know whether the Russian campaign proved decisive in electing Trump, but researchers portray it as part of a broadly effective strategy of sowing distrust in U.S. democracy and its leaders. The tactics included penetrating the computers of election officials in several states and releasing troves of hacked emails that embarrassed Clinton in the final months of her campaign.

“They want to essentially erode faith in the U.S. government or U.S. government interests,” said Clint Watts, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute who along with two other researchers has tracked Russian propaganda since 2014. “This was their standard mode during the Cold War. The problem is that this was hard to do before social media.”

Teachable moments from HK’s seizure of SAF vehicles

NOVEMBER 28, 2016

Without a shot fired, the Singapore Army lost possession of nine Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles (ICVs) after Hong Kong Customs impounded the armoured vehicles as they were transiting through the port.

This episode has many teachable moments for followers of statecraft, and must be played out carefully as the concluding act has yet to take centre stage.

Any diplomatic gaffes or missteps by any party could result in misgivings that linger long after the fate of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) war machines has been decided upon.

This would have unfortunate consequences for the parties concerned if what could be ascribed to routine/rigorous customs checks is given another spin.

News of this episode — the largest-ever seizure of SAF war machines — emerged last Thursday, courtesy of Hong Kong news portal, FactWire.

It had reported that up to 12 Terrex ICVs were seized at the container terminal as they were en route from the Taiwanese port of Kaohsiung to Singapore.

Within days, the topic of SAF training in Taiwan has come under the spotlight, with many theories postulated.

At one end of the spectrum, some theorised an administrative gaffe as the culprit.

More complex interpretations blamed strategic topics du jour such as the South China Sea dispute, the city-state’s leanings towards the United States, and military training in Taiwan as possible irritants to China-Singapore ties that could have prompted Hong Kong Customs officials to impound the Terrex ICVs.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Aviation Hub - Singapore on 4 of 10 busiest routes. But...

Singapore is on one end of 4 of the busiest air routes (see table below)

So grief-stricken, I had to be sedated: Woman breaks silence 35 years after son killed by infamous murderer Adrian Lim

Nov 25 2016

One of Singapore’s most infamous killers, Adrian Lim, was hanged 28 years ago today along with his two accomplices. They killed two children in 1981. For the first time in 35 years, a mother of one of the victims opens up to the media.

Shaffiq Alkhatib

SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - For some people, time heals.

Not so, for Madam Daliah Aim, 66.

Though more than 35 years have passed since her eldest child was murdered, the mother of three still cannot talk about him without crying.

In fact, she was so devastated that this is her first interview since the murder in 1981.

She broke down several times during her interview with The New Paper, still deep in grief.

How long before the white working class realizes Trump was just scamming them?

Paul Waldman
November 23 

Washington Post

While we’re still analyzing the election results and debating the importance of different factors to the final outcome, everyone agrees that white working class voters played a key part in Donald Trump’s victory, in some cases by switching their votes and in some cases by turning out when they had been nonvoters before.

And now that he’s about to take office, he’s ready to deliver on what he promised them, right? Well, maybe not so much:

President-elect Donald Trump abruptly abandoned some of his most tendentious campaign promises Tuesday, saying he does not plan to prosecute Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email system or the dealings of her family foundation, has an “open mind” about a climate-change accord from which he vowed to withdraw the United States and is no longer certain that torturing terrorism suspects is a good idea.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

This S$143b Chinese-made city in Johor 'scares the hell out of everybody'

NOVEMBER 22, 2016

JOHOR BARU — The landscaped lawns and flowering shrubs of Country Garden Holdings’ huge property showroom in southern Malaysia end abruptly at a small wire fence. Beyond, a desert of dirt stretches into the distance, filled with cranes and piling towers that the Chinese developer is using to build a US$100 billion (S$143 billion) city in the sea.

While Chinese home buyers have sent prices soaring from Vancouver to Sydney, in this corner of South-east Asia it is China’s developers that are swamping the market, pushing prices lower with a glut of hundreds of thousands of new homes. They are betting that the city of Johor Baru, bordering Singapore, will eventually become the next Shenzhen.

“These Chinese players build by the thousands at one go, and they scare the hell out of everybody,” said Mr Siva Shanker, head of investments at Axis-REIT Managers Bhd and a former president of the Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents. “God only knows who is going to buy all these units, and when it’s completed, the bigger question is, who is going to stay in them?”

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

For the ‘new yellow journalists,’ opportunity comes in clicks and bucks

Terrence McCoy
November 20 2016

LONG BEACH, Calif. — Fewer than 2,000 readers are on his website when Paris Wade, 26, awakens from a nap, reaches for his laptop and thinks he needs to, as he puts it, “feed” his audience. “Man, no one is covering this TPP thing,” he says after seeing an article suggesting that President Obama wants to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership before he leaves office. Wade, a modern-day digital opportunist, sees an opportunity. He begins typing a story.

“CAN’T TRUST OBAMA,” he writes as the headline, then pauses. His audience hates Obama and loves President-elect Donald Trump, and he wants to capture that disgust and cast it as a drama between good and evil. He resumes typing: “Look At Sick Thing He Just Did To STAB Trump In The Back… .”

Ten minutes and nearly 200 words later, he is done with a story that is all opinion, innuendo and rumor. He types at the bottom, “Comment ‘DOWN WITH THE GLOBALISTS!’ below if you love this country,” publishes the story to his website,, and then pulls up the Facebook page he uses to promote the site, which in six months has collected 805,000 followers and brought in tens of millions of page views. “WE CANNOT LET THIS HAPPEN!” he writes, posting the article. “#SHARE this 1 million times, patriots!” Then he looks at a nearby monitor that shows the site’s analytics, and watches as the readers pour in.

Why the world changed in 2007


NOVEMBER 22, 2016

Britain’s vote to withdraw from the European Union followed by Mr Donald Trump’s election in America constitute a single giant political event — one that makes 2016 a vintage year in history that will long be studied. Big political events have big causes. For the past three years I have been working on a book about what has been happening beneath the surface — in the plumbing and wiring of the world — that is roiling politics in so many places. My answer begins with a question: What the hell happened in and around 2007?

2007? That is such an innocuous year. But look again.

Steve Jobs and Apple released the first iPhone in 2007, starting the smartphone revolution that is now putting an Internet-connected computer in the palm of everyone on the planet. In late 2006, Facebook, which had been confined to universities and high schools, opened itself to anyone with an email address and exploded globally. Twitter was created in 2006, but took off in 2007. In 2007, Hadoop, the most important software you have never heard of, began expanding the ability of any company to store and analyse enormous amounts of unstructured data. This helped enable both Big Data and cloud computing. Indeed, “the cloud” really took off in 2007.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Asean still the critical catalyst for China's future

Kishore Mahbubani

NOV 22, 2016

In undermining the grouping's unity on the South China Sea, China is shooting itself in the foot.

China is making some serious strategic mistakes in its dealings with Asean. It is sacrificing its long-term interests in favour of short-term objectives and its global interests in favour of regional concerns. And, in the process, it is undermining a critical catalyst to its peaceful rise.

China's peaceful emergence as the No. 2 power in the world is a modern geopolitical miracle. In 1980, its share of global GDP in purchasing power parity terms was 2 per cent - far less than the 22 per cent the United States accounted for. By 2014, China's share had overtaken the US'. Normally such great-power transitions are accompanied by competition and conflict. Instead, China emerged peacefully. Why?

Many factors were responsible. Deng Xiaoping's wise geopolitical advice to "hide and bide" China's strength was a key factor. He also called on the Chinese "to swallow bitter humiliation". This they did. But it is impossible to swallow bitter humiliation forever. It was inevitable that China would eventually lose its patience and lash out against perceived maritime provocations by Japan and Asean. We can only hope that these recent outbursts have had a cathartic and calming effect on the national psyche.

Yet China's actions with Asean show that the anger has not abated. It is commonly believed that Chinese pressure led Cambodia to veto the Asean joint communique on the South China Sea in 2012. Similarly, China likely persuaded Cambodia, Laos and Thailand to walk away from the agreed Asean statement, later indiscreetly leaked by Malaysia.

[The Angle] Ideas to Further Refine the CPF System

Jan 20, 2016

By Christopher Gee

The CPF return formula has been “tweaked” significantly to improve the progressivity of the system in recent years with the addition of initial balance layers that attract higher rates of interest; most recently as high as 6% on balances up to $30,000 in the Retirement Account.

I’m not sure you can find a better return-risk trade-off out there anywhere in the private markets, and the return is structured to cater to the large majority of CPF members’ needs and risk profile; they should satisfy all but the most risk-hungry, most likely top quintile CPF members for whom their CPF payouts are likely to be a minor component of their overall retirement financial plans.

In some respects, the Government is best placed to absorb some investment risks that individuals find very difficult to mitigate, such as that of sequence risk or inflation risk.  Amongst the most persuasive arguments to further improve CPF returns would be to add some element of inflation protection, again perhaps structured to protect the most needy CPF members first.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Facebook fake-news writer: ‘I think Donald Trump is in the White House because of me’

By Caitlin Dewey
November 17, 2016

What do the Amish lobby, gay wedding vans and the ban of the national anthem have in common? For starters, they’re all make-believe — and invented by the same man.

Paul Horner, the 38-year-old impresario of a Facebook fake-news empire, has made his living off viral news hoaxes for several years. He has twice convinced the Internet that he’s British graffiti artist Banksy; he also published the very viral, very fake news of a Yelp vs. “South Park” lawsuit last year.

But in recent months, Horner has found the fake-news ecosystem growing more crowded, more political and vastly more influential: In March, Donald Trump’s son Eric and his then-campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, even tweeted links to one of Horner’s faux-articles. His stories have also appeared as news on Google.

In light of concerns that stories like Horner’s may have affected the presidential election, and in the wake of announcements that both Google and Facebook would take action against deceptive outlets, Intersect called Horner to discuss his perspective on fake news. This transcript has been edited for clarity, length and — ahem — bad language.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

When the facts don’t matter, how can democracy survive?

Catherine Rampell
Opinion writer

October 17 2016

Americans — or, at least, a particular subset of Americans — have had enough of experts, facts, math, data. They distrust them all.

This rising cynicism, sown recklessly by opportunistic politicians, will not only make it increasingly difficult for policymakers to make good choices and govern peacefully; it could also become a significant economic challenge.

The latest evidence of this anti-evidence trend comes from a Marketplace-Edison Research Poll released last week.

The survey found that more than 4 in 10 Americans somewhat or completely distrust the economic data reported by the federal government. Among Donald Trump voters, the share is 68 percent, with nearly half saying they don’t trust government economic data “at all.”

How Trump crushed naysayers with a coalition of the forgotten


Nov 9, 2016.

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump was right. Countless others were wrong.

The pundits and pollsters who said the former reality TV star could not win the U.S. presidency, the Republicans who shunned him, the business leaders who denounced him and the Democrats who dismissed him failed to fully understand the depth of his support.

In a stunning victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton, Trump stuck to a plan that worked to perfection in the Republican primary, a campaign built around his blunt-talking celebrity persona, his command of social media, and his anti-establishment message of change.

“Ours was not a campaign, but an incredible and great movement,” Trump said in his victory speech on Wednesday.

Trump Won Because Voters Are Ignorant, Literally

Democracy is supposed to enact the will of the people. But what if the people have no clue what they’re doing?

NOVEMBER 10, 2016

OK, so that just happened. Donald Trump always enjoyed massive support from uneducated, low-information white people. As Bloomberg Politics reported back in August, Hillary Clinton was enjoying a giant 25 percentage-point lead among college-educated voters going into the election. (Whether that trend held up remains to be seen.) In contrast, in the 2012 election, college-educated voters just barely favored Barack Obama over Mitt Romney. Last night we saw something historic: the dance of the dunces. Never have educated voters so uniformly rejected a candidate. But never before have the lesser-educated so uniformly supported a candidate. Trump supporters might retort: “That’s because Trump supports the little guy and Clinton helps the already privileged college grads.” But that’s false: Trump supporters in the primaries had an average income of about $72,000 per year. They aren’t rich, but make more than the national average and more than Clinton supporters.

Trump owes his victory to the uninformed. But it’s not just Trump. Political scientists have been studying what voters know and how they think for well over 65 years. The results are frightening. Voters generally know who the president is but not much else. They don’t know which party controls Congress, what Congress has done recently, whether the economy is getting better or worse (or by how much). In the 2000 U.S. presidential election, most voters knew Al Gore was more liberal than George W. Bush, but significantly less than half knew that Gore was more supportive of abortion rights, more supportive of welfare-state programs, favored a higher degree of aid to blacks, or was more supportive of environmental regulation.

Just why voters know so little is well-understood. It’s not that people are stupid. Rather, it’s that democracy creates bad incentives.

One of Hillary Clinton’s top aides nailed exactly why she lost

By Chris Cillizza
November 14 2016

In The Washington Post's terrific oral history of the 2016 presidential campaign, there's a quote from Hillary Clinton media consultant Mandy Grunwald that is remarkably prescient. Responding to a question about how Clinton could lose despite being ahead in every traditional measure of the campaign, Grunwald said:
How it will happen would be that the desire for change was greater than the fear of [Donald Trump], the fear of the risk. . . . That’s something we talked about very early on — how do we make sure that people aren’t comfortable making that leap because they’d like to go for change. . . . The question is what’s the more salient question when they go vote.