Friday, May 17, 2019

IM Pei, world-renowned architect, is dead at 102

IM Pei, the Chinese-born American architect,
was probably best known for designing the East Building
of the National Gallery of Art in Washington
and the glass pyramid that serves as an entry for the Louvre in Paris.


17 May, 2019

NEW YORK — IM Pei, the Chinese-born American architect who began his long career working for a New York real-estate developer and ended it as one of the most revered architects in the world, has died. He was 102.

His son Chien Chung Pei said on Thursday (May 16) that his father had died overnight.

Pei was probably best known for designing the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington and the glass pyramid that serves as an entry for the Louvre in Paris.

Why Hong Kong cannot copy Singapore’s approach to public housing

Hong Kong’s struggles to house its population don’t just stem from its shortage of land, and looking to the Lion City as a model is unrealistic
Public housing in Singapore by its Housing and Development Board. Photo: Roy Issa

Hongkongers have long looked at Singapore as a model for how to provide good quality public housing. The latest example was laid out by University of Hong Kong adjunct professor Tony Kwok in his piece for this newspaper, “How would Lee Kuan Yew have solved Hong Kong’s housing and health care problems?” published on April 17.

He argued Singapore’s solution had simply been land reclamation, but this is an oversimplification of the city state’s approach to its acute home shortage of the 1960s. The reasons behind Singapore’s successes have little to do with reclaimed land, and the conditions in Singapore when Lee was prime minister are vastly different from those in Hong Kong today.

Reclamation was never a key feature of Singapore’s public housing policies. Most of the country’s reclaimed land has been put to non-residential uses such as the airport, industrial parks, ports, the new financial district at Marina Bay, and recreation. Only a thin sliver in the southeast has been set aside for public housing. Most future residential land parcels are also not on reclaimed land.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Looking beyond the vague terms in Singapore's fake news laws

By Benjamin Joshua Ong

Benjamin Joshua Ong is an Assistant Professor of Law at Singapore Management University.
"Often, an Act that is at first glance vague, overly broad, or open to abuse by the Government, turns out not to be when read against the backdrop of the case law."

14 May, 2019

In recent debates about the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma), some criticised it for being too vague. Yes, at first glance, Pofma contains words and phrases whose meaning is not explicitly clear.

But such criticisms only consider Pofma on the surface in isolation from its legal context. Much of the Act makes sense when one understands how it will operate in the light of other relevant legal principles.

First, Acts passed by Parliament (such as Pofma) are not the only source of law in Singapore. Another important source of law is case law. This is the law developed and nuanced by the courts over time.

Many areas of our law, such as the laws of contracts, defamation, and negligence, consist mainly of rules from case law. These rules are the product of decades or centuries of development, first by the English courts, and now by independent Singapore's courts.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

A year on, PH government finds that change is hard to come by in Malaysia

By Adrian Tan

13 May, 2019

When Pakatan Harapan (PH) won its historic and surprising victory in the May 2018 Malaysian general election (GE14), many were quick to say that this will bring in an era of change. It has been a year since the new government led by Dr Mahathir Mohamad took over power. Has Malaysia changed?

Has the government been able to execute its electoral manifesto, which was one of reforms? Looking at domestic developments since GE14, it has not been easy for the PH government, and many a time, this is not for want of trying.

Four key areas reveal the immense challenges facing this government.

Monday, May 13, 2019

How to prepare students for the rise of AI in the workforce

By Greg Naterer

09 May, 2019

The future impacts of artificial intelligence (AI) on society and the labour force have been studied and reported extensively.

In a recent book, AI Superpowers, Kai-Fu Lee, former president of Google China, wrote that 40 to 50 per cent of current jobs will be technically and economically viable with AI and automation over the next 15 years.

Artificial intelligence refers to computer systems that collect, interpret and learn from external data to achieve specific goals and tasks.

Unlike natural intelligence displayed by humans and animals, it is an artificial form of intelligence demonstrated by machines. This has raised questions about the ethics of AI decision-making and impacts of AI in the workplace.

With computing power increasing rapidly in recent decades, the capabilities of AI have also risen dramatically. Vincent Müller, a philosopher at Eindhoven University of Technology, and Nick Bostrom, a philosopher at Oxford University, conducted a survey in 2016 about AI’s future potential.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Biggest threat to Johor River’s sustainability is lack of environmental protection: Vivian Balakrishnan

By Aqil Haziq Mahmud

08 May 2019

SINGAPORE: Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan on Wednesday (May 8) warned that the "biggest threat" to the sustainability of the Johor River was a lack of environmental protection, as he urged Malaysia to safeguard water quality for the benefit of both sides.

"The biggest threat to Johor's own water supply is actually the lack of environmental protection," Dr Balakrishnan told Parliament. "And the seven episodes since 2017 ... are a clear and present amber warning light."

MAS to disclose more information on monetary policy operations

TODAY file photo

08 May, 2019

SINGAPORE — The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) will start releasing more information on its exchange rate-based monetary policy operations this year, as it announced a transfer of S$45 billion from official foreign reserves to the Government.

In a media release on Wednesday (May 8), the central bank said it had decided to release data on its foreign exchange intervention operations on a six-month basis, beginning with data for the second half of 2019.

The data will comprise MAS’s net purchases of foreign exchange on a six-month aggregated basis, and with a six-month lag from the end of the period.

"This further disclosure initiative will provide market participants a better indication of the actions that MAS has undertaken to implement its monetary policy stance, while preserving MAS’s operational effectiveness," said MAS.

PUB's Johor River Waterworks temporarily shut down in 7 pollution incidents since 2017: Masagos


07 May 2019 

SINGAPORE: There have been seven pollution incidentsalong the Johor River since 2017 that caused PUB's Johor River Waterworks to be temporarily shut down, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli on Monday (May 6).

Mr Masagos said this in a written response to parliamentary questions by Member of Parliament Seah Kian Peng on the impact that prolonged stoppage of the water treatment plant's operations had on Singapore, as well as Singapore's obligations to provide treated water to Johor under such a scenario.

"PUB will shut down its Johor River Waterworks when the Johor River is affected by pollution upstream of our waterworks," said Mr Masagos.

"Johor also has water treatment plants along the Johor River, upstream of the Johor River Waterworks, and will shut down the plants when pollution occurs upstream of them."

Monday, May 6, 2019

If China thinks it’s overtaking the US any time soon, here’s a wake-up call

There’s no guarantee that China’s economy will surpass America’s – and even if there was, it wouldn’t mean much

Cary Huang

23 Apr, 2019

The warning by the former commerce minister Chen Deming that China should not assume it will overtake the United States to become the world’s top superpower should serve as a wake-up call to those harbouring illusions about China’s place in the world while ignoring the challenges ahead.

“Do not take it for granted that China is No 2, and do not make the assumption that we will be No 1 sooner or later,” Chen told a forum organised by the Centre for China and Globalisation, a Beijing-based think tank, last Sunday.

The perception that China is the No 2 global power and on the path to become No 1 is based on two questionable assumptions – that China’s stellar growth levels, which outpace those of its main competitors, will continue on the same path, and that gross domestic product or the size of the economy equates to national power.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

How US went from telecoms leader to 5G also-ran without challenger to China’s Huawei

Verizon and Sprint chose the CDMA mobile standard, developed by US firm Qualcomm, which operated on different frequencies than GSM, adopted by Europe
After the initial boom in the mobile industry following deregulation, the US telecommunications industry began to decline from 2001

Zen Soo

3 Apr, 2019

For well over a century, the US was known for its telecommunications prowess – first for the invention of the single-wire telegraph, and then for Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the modern-day telephone in the 1800s. Bell went on to found the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (known today as AT&T), which became one of the world’s largest telecommunications firms.

But as 2020 draws near and the world is on the cusp of ultra-fast 5G networks, the US has found itself without a telecommunications hardware champion that can compete with major 5G players such as China’s Huawei Technologies, Finland’s Nokia and Sweden’s Ericsson.

China’s population to peak in 2023, five years earlier than official estimates, new research shows

Findings suggest Beijing waited too long to abandon the one-child policy, founder of one of the firms behind the report says
New research suggests that China’s population will hit
a high of 1.41 billion people in 2023. Photo: Xinhua
Finbarr Bermingham 

2 May, 2019

China’s population will peak in 2023, five years earlier than official forecasts, according to a new report.

Tony Nash, CEO and founder of Complete Intelligence, one of the co-authors of the report, said the findings should be a cause for concern for Beijing’s policymakers, who waited too long to lift the controversial one-child policy for its rapidly greying society.
China abandoned the policy in 2015 to allow couples to have two children. But the birth rate last year fell to its lowest since 1961, indicating that most, if not all, of those parents who wished to have a second child already had done so, the study found.

China’s ‘charming towns’ plan turns into a nightmare for investors, amid legal crackdown

Initiative was to dot the countryside with themed villages, like Crayfish Town, Poetry Town, Fairyland Town, and Happy Town
Collapse of a funding company has seen senior executives detained by police, and thousands of investors scrambling for answers

He Huifeng

2 May, 2019

An artist's impression of the Crayfish Town, created by JC Group. Photo: Handout

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Can humans help trees outrun climate change?

Most trees can migrate only as fast as their seeds disperse — and if current warming trends hold, the climate this century will change 10 times faster than many tree species can move, according to one estimate.
Most trees can migrate only as fast as their seeds disperse — and if current
warming trends hold, the climate this century will change
10 times faster than many tree species can move, according to one estimate.
01 May, 2019

SCITUATE (Massachusetts) — Foresters began noticing the patches of dying pines and denuded oaks, and grew concerned. Warmer winters and drier summers had sent invasive insects and diseases marching northward, killing the trees.

If the dieback continued, some woodlands could become shrub land.

Most trees can migrate only as fast as their seeds disperse — and if current warming trends hold, the climate this century will change 10 times faster than many tree species can move, according to one estimate.

Rhode Island is already seeing more heat and drought, shifting precipitation and the intensification of plagues such as the red pine scale, a nearly invisible insect carried by wind that can kill a tree in just a few years.

The dark synergy of extreme weather and emboldened pests could imperil vast stretches of woodland.

So foresters in Rhode Island and elsewhere have launched ambitious experiments to test how people can help forests adapt, something that might take decades to occur naturally.

Economic injustice of climate change: Why poor countries suffer more than rich ones

Photo of Brown Bare Tree on Brown Surface during Daytime

By Nicholas Beuret

30 April, 2019

Those least responsible for global warming will suffer the most. Poorer countries — those that have contributed far less to climate change — tend to be situated in warmer regions, where additional warming causes the most devastation.

Extreme weather events such as Syria’s prolonged drought, South Asia’s catastrophic monsoon floods, and Cyclone Idai in South-East Africa, the third deadliest cyclone on record, are becoming more likely and more severe.

These events are disproportionately bringing death, displacement, and crop failure. As a result of this, projections estimate that the economies of poorer, warmer countries will be gravely harmed by climate change over coming decades, while the cooler, richer countries responsible for the vast majority of the extra CO2 in the air may even benefit in the short term.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Who controls Huawei? Chinese telecom leader’s ownership structure explained in more detail

01 May, 2019

HONG KONG — A research paper questioning the independence of Huawei Technologies put the world’s biggest telecoms network gear maker back on the offensive last week, as it held a press conference to rebut the paper’s central assertion that it may ultimately be controlled by the government.

The paper, jointly written by Dr Donald Clarke of George Washington University and Dr Christopher Balding of Fulbright University Vietnam, said that Huawei’s controlling holding company – 99 per cent of which is held by an entity called a “trade union committee” – could mean Huawei is owned and controlled by the government, if the committee functions like similar organisations in China.

Huawei dismissed this claim at a press conference in Shenzhen on Thursday (April 25), saying the trade union committee had been established to meet legal requirements and that it only had oversight of after-hours staff activities, such as badminton and hiking.

The truth behind 'healthier' food labels and terms

Take these food labels with a pinch of salt
Apr 29, 2019 06:00 am

We are surrounded every day by so many catchphrases and misleading terms that it is hard to tell fact from fiction.

Even though they do not mean what you think they do, each of these labels is so insidious that marketers simply have to slap them somewhere on the packaging and they can start charging more.

No Added Sugar

The next time you indulge your sweet tooth, save yourself the trouble of hunting down "no added sugar" versions of your favourite desserts.

Just go with the regular ones, and make a plan to work off the extra calories if you really must.

Basically, a food labelled as such already has enough sweetness to start with (like juice), or you are simply being fed other forms of sweeteners.

And what a wonderful variety of sugar substitutes the food industry has to play with. From high-fructose corn syrup to exotic-sounding variants such as stevia and agave and the latest compounds known as sugar alcohols, each of these can be readily found in processed foods these days. Not only do some of these raise health concerns, but some manufacturers also use sugar substitutes simply to jack up prices.

Low-Fat or Fat-Free

For manufacturers, introducing low-fat or fat-free foods seems like a logical choice to give customers what they want.

The problem is, lowering fat or removing it entirely makes the resulting product unappealing, and manufacturers are forced to compensate with food additives, most commonly sugar or sugar substitutes.

This brings you back to square one if you are trying to eat healthier, as you are simply swapping fat for sugar (or worse).

Remember, fat-free doesn't mean calorie-free. In this case, sticking with the regular product may be more beneficial.


Choosing products labelled as such were believed to be a responsible, healthy, adult choice.

But 'all-natural' means absolutely nothing, because authorities have not come up with any concrete definitions of the term.

That does not stop manufacturers from slapping it on anything they think they can get away with, even though many foods marketed as 'all-natural' are processed products.

"All-natural" food does not contain added colour, artificial flavours or synthetic substances, but can still contain ingredients that can be harmful under specific circumstances (such as if consumed in excessive amounts).

White Tuna

Even though you may see "white tuna" listed as an ingredient in some processed foods or menus, what you might be getting may not be tuna at all.

Instead, white tuna is an industry term that stands in for any number of white fish meat.

Just pray that you do not end up with escolar, which is known for causing intestinal distress that will make you develop trust issues around fish.

Chilean Sea Bass

The fish actually looks like the pet of Xenomorph creatures and originally had a name to fit - toothfish. Like any entity with an image problem, toothfish hired a really good PR agency and underwent a branding exercise, now going by the vaguely exotic-sounding "Chilean Sea Bass".

Restaurants also (wisely) refuse to serve the fish whole.

Just know that you are paying inflated prices for a fish that nobody wanted to take home to their mothers once.

[Note that while the fish is UGLY, nothing in this section actually says that the fish is unhealthy or bad for you.]


We do not really know how the panic around genetically modified organisms started, or why.

We have been cross-breeding plant species until desired traits such as sweetness became dominant - watermelon, corn and bananas are just some examples of "genetically modified" foods that we safely consume every day. Marketers seizing upon (unfounded) fears promoted non-GMO into a hero label, charging you higher prices to keep so-called "frankenfoods" out of your diet. But what we should be really worried about is the highly processed ingredients that are used in many modern foods.

Cage-free and Free-range

Happy chickens strutting about in the open, contentedly pecking in the rich earth for fat juicy earthworms, living comfortable fulfilling lives until they generously give their eggs or lives for our sustenance.

Is that not what "cage-free" and "free-range" mean? Yeah well, maybe in a cartoon.

The reality is these terms sound much nicer than they actually are. Instead of being crammed into individual wire cages in darkened barns, "cage-free" chickens (or other poultry) are kept in a massive communal pen. Their "free-range" brethren have it even better; with stipulated time spent basking in the sun.

Both these farming practices sound more humane, but the animals can still face overcrowding and fights which cause illness and injuries.
[Also, while more humane treatment of animals is better ethically, nothing in that treatment makes the food healthier. This is an ethical choice, if it works and is true. But it does not result in healthier eggs or chickens for you.]

This article was first published in Shape (