Thursday, July 26, 2018

S’pore’s education system at crossroads, trade-offs necessary to prepare young for the future: Ong

By Siau Ming En


26 July, 2018

SINGAPORE — The Republic’s education system is at crossroads, and in order to prepare young people for the future, several trade-offs have to be made, said Education Minister Ong Ye Kung on Wednesday (July 25).

The choices that Singaporeans make will “set the agenda for education in the coming years”, he added.

Picking up from where he left off in a recent speech in Parliament — where he pointed out that there was no contradiction between meritocracy and fairness, nor reducing inequality and raising Singapore’s collective standards — Mr Ong also reiterated the need for Singaporeans to “have faith in meritocracy, but make sure it takes a broader form that goes beyond academics”.

[So... "Meritocracy" is a religion? So... have you accepted Meritocracy as your personal Lord and Saviour?]

But he acknowledged that it may take a whole generation for the mindset shift to take root.

Skipping plastic straws might not do much to stop marine pollution, experts say

By Aqil Haziq Mahmud

26 July 2018

An estimated 8 million tonnes of plastic trash enter the ocean every year, and plastic straws make up only a very small percentage of it.


SINGAPORE: Saying no to plastic straws might feel like a conscientious effort to reduce marine litter, but this global movement does little to stem the pollution, experts said.

One industry observer told Channel NewsAsia that the real problem lies with poor waste management systems in countries that leak huge amounts of garbage into the ocean.

“The best that can be said about the collective actions to eliminate straws is that it’s good at raising awareness, but that’s not the solution,” said Mr Steven Russell, plastics division vice president at the American Chemistry Council, which represents multi-national chemical and plastic manufacturers.

Mr Russell was in Singapore earlier in July to meet with waste companies, plastic companies and consumer brands on working together to solve global waste management problems.

The anti-plastic straw movement is believed to have taken off in 2015, after a video showing a sea turtle with a straw stuck up its nose went viral.

[Maybe the turtle was snorting cocaine?]

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

China's Rise, Chinese influence, and diplomatic overtures

[ Bilahari Kausikan expounds on the rise of China, China's public diplomacy, and how they try to influence the nations around China.
"It is wrong to think that we side with China or America. We side only with Singapore. Our organising idea is our own national interests," he said.
"Sometimes it may lead us to tilt a bit towards China or towards America. But the guiding principle is always our own interests."
China's rise is not necessarily America's decline. The post-Cold War world is complex, not binary,

"Multipolarity and China's rise therefore implies only relative, not absolute, adjustments of global power.  It is not as if the only alternative to an ‘American world’ is a ‘Chinese world’.

There is now growing international awareness in countries as diverse as Colombia, Malaysia and Pakistan, among others, that the externalisation of China’s internal challenges is not without liabilities to recipient countries.

The ultimate objective is to get Singaporeans – and not just Chinese Singaporeans -- to pressure the government to align Singapore’s national interests with China’s core interests.

Some of our national interests will in fact be aligned with Chinese interests.

But it must always be our national interests and if there are alignments of interests, they must be determined by our choices and not because of manipulation by any foreign country. ]

Exclusive: Johor crown prince claims 'sovereignty' over water in the state, prefers ‘no federal interference’ on the issue

By Amir Yusof

19 Jul 2018


JOHOR BAHRU: The crown prince of Johor, Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, has said that water in the state belongs to the state government, and he prefers that the federal government not interfere on the issue, as it relates to the existing agreement with Singapore.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Channel NewsAsia on Thursday (Jul 19), he stressed that water is an issue over which the state has sovereignty, and that the Johor state government should decide on a “win-win” agreement with Singapore.

“At the end of the day, the water in Johor belongs to Johor. Water is state sovereignty. When it comes to religion, land and water, it belongs to the state. Therefore, I think it's the Johor state government (that) should decide. (I prefer) not to have federal interference when it comes to water between Johor and Singapore,” said Tunku Ismail.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

A world ruled by robots? This artificial intelligence expert paints a different reality

By Kevin Kwang


18 Jul 2018

"...people worry that computers will get too smart and take over the world, but the real problem is that they are too stupid. And they have already taken over the world. "

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The full story of Thailand’s extraordinary cave rescue

14 July 2018


On 23 June, 12 boys went exploring in Thailand's Chiang Rai province with their football coach - and ended up trapped deep inside a cave underneath a mountain. The BBC's Helier Cheung and Tessa Wong were at the scene as a dramatic rescue bid gripped the world.

What happened over those two weeks is a remarkable story of friendship, human endurance - and the lengths some people will go to save someone else's child.

Here our reporters tell the full story of the Wild Boars.

The birthday party that went wrong

It all began with a birthday.

On Saturday 23 June, Peerapat "Night" Sompiangjai turned 17 - a milestone most young people around the world would want to celebrate in style.

His family had prepared a bright yellow SpongeBob SquarePants birthday cake and several colourfully wrapped presents at their home in a rural village in Mae Sai district. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Commentary: The Republic of Singapore Air Force's likely new fighter jet

Mike Yeo

10 July 2018


Russian and Chinese offerings would present significant inter-operability issues with the rest of the SAF’s equipment, which are almost exclusively of western origin, says one observer.

MELBOURNE: Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen’s revelation that Singapore will soon decide which aircraft will replace the Lockheed-Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon multi-role jet fighter in the Republic of Singapore Air Force service has re-ignited interest in the programme among the wider defence community.

Speaking to media in the lead-up to the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Day, Dr Ng had said that the decision will be made in the next few months, with the new fighters needed by the 2030s when the F-16s will start facing obsolescence issues.

He added that some of the criteria that will be used to choose the new jet will be its capability to defend Singapore’s airspace; whether it can work with other SAF air, land and sea platforms; ease of maintenance; as well as the overall cost.

The extreme leadership that got the Thai soccer boys out of the cave alive

By Jena McGregor

July 10 2018

The incredible rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach, the last of whom were brought to safety Tuesday after being trapped deep inside a cave in Northern Thailand for more than two weeks, has stunned the world with extraordinary feats of rescue coordination, cave diving expertise and medical know-how. But it has also required brave, steady leadership from a cast of officials, rescue workers, Thai navy SEAL divers and the boys' own trapped coach — both outside the cave and in interactions with the boys — who have worked tirelessly to turn a dire situation into a triumph of human skill and ingenuity while the whole world looked on.

Thomas Kolditz, a retired brigadier general
who is executive director of Rice University’s Doerr Institute for New Leaders and formerly led the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership at the U.S. Military Academy, has a name for the kind of leadership shown in Thailand. He calls it “In Extremis” leadership, the title of his book published in 2007 and the focus of his research on what leaders experienced in life-or-death situations know about keeping people calm and resolving impossible situations. The Washington Post spoke with Kolditz about the role of the boys' coach, the five themes that define “in extremis” leaders, and what people most want to see from the people in charge when their life is on the line. The conversation below has been edited for length and clarity.

When Singapore’s agencies struggle to deal with disruptors that come and go

By Alfred Siew

10 July, 2018

You can also say that the ship has sailed. Or, as a friend remarked, the chicken cannot now be uncooked.

However you say it, the Singapore competition commission’s intervention last week to call the Grab-Uber merger anti-competitive is a reactive and ultimately futile attempt to change the situation.

By threatening to unwind the merger, should its recommended actions be deemed insufficient, the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) is issuing an ultimatum it cannot enforce.

How can it force Uber to reopen its offices here and launch a service to users again? How can it unravel the new Grab, now more powerful than before with only smaller newcomers to the market to challenge its position?

The American company has left, happy that it got a nice return on investment after a bruising fight with its Southeast Asian rival.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

PUB aims to double water supply by 2060 without using more energy, producing more waste

By Louisa Tang

04 July, 2018


SINGAPORE — National water agency PUB has set a target to double the amount of clean water it produces today by 2060 without using more energy.

That is one of several long-term goals that the PUB committed to on Wednesday (July 4), as it soldiers on with research and development (R&D) efforts to increase water resources for the future and improve water treatment efficiency.

Through new technologies, it aims to reduce the energy used in desalination by more than two-thirds, increase the amount of NEWater recovered from used water to 90 per cent at low energy levels, and produce as much energy as it uses in treating used water.

As trade war looms, America looks more confident than China

By Cary Huang

When the Fed moved to tighten the monetary supply with its rate hike of 25 basis points on June 14, the People’s Bank of China went in the opposite direction and loosened the taps.

03 July, 2018

It has long been said that when the Fed sneezes, emerging markets catch a cold.

And China, as the world’s largest developing economy and exporter, is no exception – its fate is closely linked to the United States market.

That is why China’s central bank usually mirrors the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy, tightening when it tightens, loosening when it loosens.

For example, in March and December of 2017 and March this year, it followed rate hikes by the Fed with increases in its reverse repurchases rate – one of Beijing’s most commonly used tools to control liquidity in the financial system.

But Beijing now appears ready to defy convention.

When the Fed moved to tighten the monetary supply with its rate hike of 25 basis points on June 14, the People’s Bank of China went in the opposite direction and loosened the taps.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Older residents to pay more to join CareShield Life; Govt offers incentives to offset higher cost

By Louisa Tang


The new CareShield Life scheme, which replaces the existing ElderShield from 2020, will dole out higher monthly payouts — S$600 instead of up to S$400 — which are payable for life, up from the current cap of six years.

03 July, 2018

SINGAPORE — The majority of older residents who want to be covered under CareShield Life will have to pay a “catch-up component” for a decade, and a base premium which increases over time until they reach 67, it was announced on Tuesday (July 3).

1MDB: Malaysia's extraordinary financial scandal

3 July 2018


KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's extraordinary 1MDB corruption scandal allegedly saw billions stolen from the country's sovereign wealth fund and spent on everything from Hollywood films to handbags.

Former Prime Minister Najib Razak was arrested Tuesday in the 1MDB graft probe set up by his successor, which has engulfed the ex-leader and his cronies since his shock loss at elections in May.

Here is a look back at the saga:


1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) is a state investment fund which Najib launched in 2009 shortly after becoming prime minister.

Its portfolio has included power plants and other energy assets in Malaysia and the Middle East, and real estate in Kuala Lumpur.

The fund was closely overseen by Najib.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

'Yes, we need retirement villages'


22 Feb 2012

[Note the date.]

Few housing options for the old in S'pore, says senior-living consultant

By Radha Basu

LAST Friday's Budget [2012] bestowed a hamper full of goodies on older Singaporeans.

Families caring for the frail elderly are in for a windfall, with more state subsidies for care in community hospitals, nursing homes and even at home. For the first time, even the richest can get state subsidies for stays in community hospitals.

In this 'season of plenty', it may seem politically incorrect to talk about some seniors who feel short-changed about retirement options.

But international senior-living consultant Tan Kee Hian, 57, believes this is as good a time as any to discuss the relative shortage of living choices for Singapore's growing group of more affluent, older folk.

He says many seniors in the top fifth to 20th percentile of the income scale would gladly part with their savings to live in retirement villages (RVs) which offer professional care and support services such as an on-site round-the-clock emergency response system.

On water issue, Dr M again risks crossing a red line for Singapore


By Nicholas Fang

02 July, 2018

When Malaysia's opposition alliance, Pakatan Harapan, won the May 9 general election, many in the country hoped for a government that could stem corruption and move forward with reform.

Many Malaysians admired the commitment and extraordinary energy of Dr Mahathir Mohamad and believed that no other single person did more to secure the stunning upset.

Across the Causeway, some Singaporeans expressed admiration for how Malaysia managed to peacefully transition from a coalition that had been in power for over six decades to a new government.

Others however started to brace themselves for a return to a testier relationship with their northern neighbour.

Younger Singaporeans celebrating Dr Mahathir’s electoral success may not remember this, but the last time he led Malaysia, bilateral ties were marked by what ousted prime minister Najib Razak described as “confrontational diplomacy and barbed rhetoric”.

US State Department official to promote military sales at Singapore Airshow

02 February, 2018

WASHINGTON — The United States, for the first time in years, is sending its diplomat responsible for foreign military sales to the Singapore Airshow to promote US-made weapons, a US official said on Thursday (Feb 1), as the State Department prepares for an overseas arms sales push.

The attendance of Ambassador Tina Kaidanow at the air show from Feb 6 to Feb 11, the most important in the Asia-Pacific region, is aimed at boosting sales for US arms manufacturers such as F-35 jets made by Lockheed Martin Corp and missiles manufactured by Raytheon Co.

US President Donald Trump's administration is nearing completion of a new "Buy American" initiative that calls for US military attaches and diplomats to play a much bigger role in the sale of billions of dollars more in business overseas.

Vietnam's 'knight rider' vigilantes help underfunded police bust crooks

Vietnam "street knight" Nguyen Thanh Hai (right) and his team ride as they patrol on a street in Thu Dau Mot city, Vietnam on May 24, 2018. REUTERS

01 June, 2018

HO CHI MINH CITY — Vietnam's "street knights", hurtling through the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, are not your typical medieval warriors.

Their stallions are scooters. They wear rubber flip-flops, not metal boots. And their shining armour is a tracksuit jacket billowing like a cape.

SAF acquires new fighting machines to do more with less, will reveal replacement for F-16 fighter jets soon

30 June 2018


SINGAPORE: The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is overhauling its arsenal, adding new warplanes, submarines and warships as it gears up for a future with fewer soldiers.

High on the agenda is the replacement for the ageing F-16 fighter jets, with Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen saying on Friday (Jun 29) that a decision will be made in the coming months.

“F-16s would face obsolescence beyond 2030,” Dr Ng said of the 30-year-old jets. “To plan for a replacement is not as if you are going to buy a new car, you actually need a lead time of eight to 10 years.”

For the past few years, speculation has swirled around potential replacements, with Lockheed Martin’s fifth-generation F-35 fighter emerging as top contender. As early as 2013, Dr Ng had told Parliament that the F-35 was one option.

But Singapore has consistently maintained that it would not be rushed into a decision.

“You need to know first of all what platform, what your needs are, how you are going to maintain. You also need to know how you are going to train your pilots, where you are going to train pilots, especially on such a small island,” Dr Ng said.

“We thought long and hard about it, taken our time to choose a replacement, and we would be making a definitive decision likely in the next few months.”

Vitamins, Supplements and Alternative Medicine.

[Two articles on Vitamins and Supplements. The point of the first story is not new: Vitamins and supplements do not work: 
The dietary supplement industry raked in over $32 billion in 2012, most of which profited from junk science, or at best, unproven claims.
That they are ineffective has been known for sometime. But there is a creeping realisation that they can actually be harmful.
The second notes that 1/3 of children are on alternative medicine. That may not work. And may instead be harmful.
It’s bad enough if you’re just wasting money; it’s much worse if you’re putting their health in danger.
Should you be giving your child unproven and possibly dangerous supplements or alternative medicines?]

Monday, July 2, 2018

Singapore opens its third desalination plant in Tuas


28 June 2018

Lianne Chia

Vanessa Lim

SINGAPORE: Singapore on Thursday (Jun 28) opened its third desalination plant, boosting the country’s desalination capacity from 100 to 130 million gallons a day (mgd).

The Tuas Desalination Plant, which can produce 30 million gallons of drinking water a day, will help to meet up to 30 per cent of Singapore’s current water demand.

Spanning just 3.5ha - the size of three rugby fields - Tuas Desalination Plant is the country’s smallest plant to date.

Despite its size, the plant can produce the same amount of drinking water as SingSpring Desalination Plant, Singapore’s first such plant.

SingSpring occupies 6.3ha, nearly double the footprint of Tuas Desalination Plant. Advertisement

Both plants can produce up to 30mgd of drinking water, which is enough to supply to 200,000 households.

The first to be owned and operated by PUB, the Tuas plant will also be used to test new energy-saving technologies.

Singapore’s Water Cycle Wizardry

28 May 2010

IEEE Spectrum

Singapore’s toilet-to-tap technology has saved the country from shortages—and a large electricity bill

By Sandra Upson

Singapore began its journey to sovereignty with a mighty jolt. The island was still an exotic outpost of the British Empire when World War II delivered the shake-up. Japan’s army was preparing to invade from the Malay Peninsula, and the British forces beat a retreat to Singapore across the one bridge connecting it to the mainland. To thwart the Japanese troops, the Royal Engineers blew up the bridge behind them.

The blast sealed the island’s doom, for it also ruptured a critical pipeline that brought water from Johor, a Malay state. The people of Singapore discovered they had only a few days’ water stored in their meager reservoirs. The island was truly defenseless. The Japanese swiftly repaired the bridge, bicycled across the strait, and claimed victory.

Sixty-eight years later, this port city has both gained territorial independence and managed to bootstrap its way to wealth in spite of a lack of water and energy. And now, against all odds, complete water independence—from both Malaysia and even the weather—is within easy reach. Rather than flushing waste into the sea, the water utility collects the country’s wastewater, cleans it to pristine levels, and returns it to the public supply. Singapore has thus short-circuited the water cycle by reducing it to an island-ringing loop.

SAF scores an ‘A’ for securing Trump-Kim Summit against external threats: Ng Eng Hen


30 June, 2018

SINGAPORE — Sentosa was not the ideal venue for the Trump-Kim summit given its exposure to potential threats from the sea, air and mainland, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said on Friday (June 29) in a wide-ranging interview ahead of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Day this weekend.

But for planning to the last detail, the SAF scored an “A” in securing the historic meeting earlier this month against external threats, Dr Ng said.

On June 12, United States President Donald Trump’s historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un went without a hitch at the Capella Singapore hotel on Sentosa.

The meeting took place after a series of diplomatic flip-flops that initially saw the summit cancelled abruptly.

When the go-ahead was given finally, the SAF had a fortnight to prepare. “From a security perspective, it wasn’t the ideal situation,” said Dr Ng.

S’pore open to joint patrols with M’sia around Pedra Branca and Middle Rocks

By Kenneth Cheng

30 June, 2018


SINGAPORE — Singapore and Malaysia could explore joint patrols in the waters around Pedra Branca and Middle Rocks, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said on Friday (June 29), in response to his Malaysian counterpart’s suggestion a day earlier.

In an interview on Thursday, Malaysia’s Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu spoke about strengthening security cooperation in the entry lane to the Singapore Strait — near Middle Rocks and Pedra Branca — as an area in which the two countries could join hands.

When asked about this, Dr Ng supported Mr Mohamad’s views. “It makes no sense to deploy more resources around Pedra Branca or Middle Rocks if we can decide on a common plan,” Dr Ng said in an interview ahead of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Day, which falls on Sunday.

Describing the newly appointed Malaysian defence minister’s views as “very enlightened”, Dr Ng added: “Even joint patrols with our agencies and their agencies, I completely agree with that.”

Pedra Branca, which belongs to Singapore, sits at the entrance to the Singapore Strait about 30km east of the country. Middle Rocks, which is under Malaysia’s control, are two clusters of rocks 1km south of Pedra Branca.

Right now, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand carry out joint patrols in the Malacca Strait for maritime security, including counter-piracy efforts.