Saturday, August 31, 2019

Secret documents reveal extent of negotiations for Separation

Edmund Lim

22 Dec 2015

A nondescript exhibit at the National Museum has the potential to reshape Singapore's national history narrative. Singapore leaders were actively involved in negotiations leading to the exit from Malaysia, newly released documents highlight.

Museums play an important role in a nation's history. They serve as repositories of national history, preserving and showcasing artefacts and documents central to our shared understanding of the past, so that we can better understand our present.

[This is nothing new. The information in the "newly released" documents has been publicised before, and if there is anything new, it is simply the "documentary proof" provided by these original documents.]

Curators and public educators in charge of museums and their exhibitions also play a key role in shaping our sense of the past, and hence our sense of self, and our shared national identity.

Explainer: What UK’s parliament suspension means for Brexit, and how it will affect S’pore

30 August, 2019

LONDON — Mr Boris Johnson, prime minister of the United Kingdom, announced on Wednesday (Aug 28) that Britain’s parliament will be suspended, or prorogued, for more than a month before Brexit.

The British parliament will not sit from mid-September to Oct 14, which means that Members of Parliament (MPs) are unlikely to have time to pass laws that could stop the UK from leaving the European Union (EU) without a deal on Oct 31.

The move has enraged opponents.

Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer and Labour party member John McDonnell has said that Mr Johnson’s decision is as good as a “British coup”, while protesters gathered on Wednesday across London — notably along the River Thames and outside the Houses of Parliament — to object to the move.

A public petition against the suspension has also garnered more than a million signatures.

Amid crisis, China rejected Hong Kong plan to appease protesters: sources

The five key demands the protesters made were: the withdrawal of the extradition bill, an independent inquiry into the protests; fully democratic elections; dropping of the term "riot" in describing protests; and dropping charges against those arrested so far.

30 August, 2019

HONG KONG — Earlier this summer, Carrie Lam, the chief executive of Hong Kong, submitted a report to Beijing that assessed protesters' five key demands and found that withdrawing a contentious extradition bill could help defuse the mounting political crisis in the territory.

The Chinese central government rejected Ms Lam's proposal to withdraw the extradition bill and ordered her not to yield to any of the protesters' other demands at that time, three individuals with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

China's role in directing how Hong Kong handles the protests has been widely assumed, supported by stern statements in state media about the country's sovereignty and protesters' "radical" goals.

Friday, August 30, 2019

When will China move on Hong Kong?

By Mike Chinoy

27 August, 2019

China’s communist leadership is struggling over how to respond to Hong Kong’s swelling protests. Giving in to protesters’ demands for democracy or allowing unrest to spread is out of the question. Yet armed intervention will have its price.

On April 15, 1989, students marched from Beijing University to Tiananmen Square, ostensibly mourning the death of Hu Yaobang, a former Communist Party general-secretary purged by party hardliners in 1987 for his liberal views.

It was the first demonstration in what grew into the huge pro-democracy protest movement that rocked Beijing and China that spring. Reporting from the square, I ended the story that night by asking: “How long will the government wait to crush this challenge to its authority?”

In 1989, it took six weeks before the Communist Party sent in the army, bringing the movement to a bloody end. In Hong Kong, the wait has been almost three months.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

'Now or never': Hong Kong protesters say they have nothing to lose

28 August, 2019

HONG KONG - Exasperated with the government's unflinching attitude to escalating civil unrest, Jason Tse quit his job in Australia and jumped on a plane to join what he believes is a do-or-die fight for Hong Kong's future.

The Chinese territory is grappling with its biggest crisis since its handover to Beijing 22 years ago as many residents fret over what they see as China's tightening grip over the city and a relentless march toward mainland control.

The battle for Hong Kong's soul has pitted protesters against the former British colony's political masters in Beijing, with broad swathes of the Asian financial center determined to defend the territory's freedoms at any cost.

From the shadows, China’s Communist Party mobilises against Hong Kong protests

27 August, 2019

HONG KONG — Across the border from Hong Kong, the Chinese Communist Party screams its presence with banners and slogans on nearly every street. Yet in the former British colony, where China’s ruling party confronts what it calls a “life and death” struggle against a turbulent protest movement, it is invisible: It is not registered and has no publicly declared local members.

But in Hong Kong, this officially nonexistent organisation is in the vanguard of defending Chinese rule in the face of its biggest public resistance since the authoritarian leader Xi Jinping came to power in 2012.

The party, operating in the shadows through individuals and organisations, is driving an increasingly firm pushback against the anti-government protests, now in their 13th week.

Parroting slogans scripted by the Communist Party on the mainland, activists in a host of local pro-China organisations have mobilised to discredit the protesters as violent hooligans bent on wrecking the city.

Singapore needs to lift farm production, cut waste, as global protein shortage looms: Study

By Navene Elangovan

28 August, 2019

SINGAPORE — As a result of climate change and rising population, the world is set to face a 56 per cent shortfall in food nutrition by 2050. Yet, Singapore is still heavily reliant on food imports from countries with weather-dependent traditional farms, a new study has found.

Released on Tuesday (Aug 27), the study by the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) and consulting firm Deloitte said that Singapore's farms are the key to bolstering the country's food security — by deploying smart technology to boost yields.

Singapore should also become a centre for food by-products, as a way to tackle large levels of food waste, it added. Some details of the study, on food waste, were released earlier this month.

The latest report warned that the shortfall in food needed to feed the world in 2050 is likely to be exacerbated by a global shortage of nearly 600 million hectares of agricultural land.
This could have significant implications for Singapore, which imports 90 per cent of its food. Food imports here are substantially sourced from countries that use traditional farming methods which are dependent on weather conditions.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Explainer: How much time does Singapore have to build up its response to climate change?

By Navene Elangovan

While 100 years seems far away, Singapore has already started to feel the impact of climate change with hotter weather and heavier rainfall in recent years.

23 August, 2019

SINGAPORE —  A “50- to 100-year problem” was how Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong described the “grave threat” of rising sea levels to Singapore.

While 100 years seems far away, Singapore has already started to feel the impact of climate change with hotter weather and heavier rainfall in recent years. Studies have also shown that Singapore could experience more extreme weather patterns as soon as 2050.

Indeed, steps are already underway to mitigate against the impact of rising sea levels. For example, Singapore has introduced a carbon tax, to nudge companies to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. It has also begun building infrastructure such as train stations on elevated ground.

More measures are in the pipeline. How much time does Singapore have to make sure that it is sufficiently ready? TODAY takes a closer look.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Have Singaporeans misunderstood the nature of Hong Kong protests?

Some Hongkongers say that based on what they see on social media, Singaporeans do not understand the situation, and why protesters are fighting for ‘freedom and liberty’
Reports of Hongkongers relocating to Singapore and moving assets there have fuelled the perception that the Lion City is capitalising on Hong Kong’s situation

“These Singaporeans primarily think from a materialist perspective and cannot understand Hong Kong’s struggle for freedom and democracy or against growing encroachment from the mainland,”

Dewey Sim

11 Aug, 2019

Are unsympathetic Singaporeans gloating at the ongoing unrest in Hong Kong, viewing protesters as little more than disruptive troublemakers?

Some Hongkongers believe so, pointing to comments they have heard from their Singaporean friends and remarks made on social media.

Hongkonger Joyce Fung, in her 20s, said: “I keep seeing how they label protesters ‘violent rioters’, and say that Hong Kong people should accept the fact that Hong Kong is part of China.”

Friday, August 16, 2019

CPF money: Yours, ours or the Government’s?

By Christopher Gee

Being a social savings pool, the CPF is more than just a system of individual pension accounts, says the author.

14 August, 2019

To whom does our Central Provident Fund (CPF) money belong? This question comes up regularly in Singapore, and two recent cases attracted wide public attention and deep sympathies among Singaporeans.

In one case, a husband wanted to draw out his CPF monies to pay for his wife’s treatment at a private hospital. She had reportedly been given a terminal diagnosis. In another, a father wanted to draw out his CPF monies for his daughter’s tertiary education.

Indeed, there are provisions for members to withdraw their CPF monies for the healthcare needs of their loved ones and educational costs of their children. However, both men had reached limits set by the CPF Board.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Protests put Hong Kong on collision course with China’s Communist Party


13 August, 2019

HONG KONG — As anti-government demonstrations escalate in Hong Kong, each side is staking out increasingly polarised positions, making it difficult to find a path to compromise between the protesters and China’s ruling Communist Party.

[Realistically, compromise was never an option for the CCP. This report is by The New York Times. It has a certain perspective, which is not very useful in this case.] 

The demonstrations, which began as a fight against a bill that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to be extradited to the mainland, have more broadly morphed into a call for free elections, which largely do not exist in China. To Beijing, it would be a direct challenge to the leadership, tantamount to losing control of Hong Kong.

The once peaceful demonstrations have now intensified, coming into conflict with Hong Kong’s reputation for order and efficiency. Protesters on Monday (Aug 12) filled the airport, crippling one of the world’s busiest transportations hubs.

Want to do more to fight climate change? Cut down on driving, buying stuff and eating meat

By Aqil Haziq Mahmud

08 Aug 2019

SINGAPORE: In the battle against climate change, environment experts have urged individuals to look beyond single-use plastic and make bigger changes in their daily lives: Drive and fly less, and change what they eat and buy.

"Most of the individual actions people can do are often less visible than not using straws, and requires an effort to change behaviour for the long term," Associate Professor Winston Chow of the Singapore Management University (SMU) told CNA on Wednesday (Aug 7).

"Some steps would be to reduce consumption of goods, materials and services that generate carbon emissions."

A Mediacorp survey released on Wednesday showed that more than nine in 10 Singaporeans and permanent residents agreed that they would do their part to "minimise the impact" of climate change.
But what exactly should they do?

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

SAF’s Hunter provides a glimpse into world of unmanned tanks. They could be game changers

By David Boey

The unveiling of the unmanned Hunter a month after manned Hunters were commissioned into service with the Singapore Army shows that the work to adapt the Hunter for remote control probably began sometime during its 13-year development, the author notes.

12 August, 2019

Fifty years after AMX-13 light tanks first appeared at the National Day Parade (NDP), the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) showcased its newest armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) called the Hunter at this year’s parade.

The three 29.5-tonne vehicles which can carry three crew members and eight other soldiers stood out among the 171 vehicles in the Mobile Column as they cruised past President Halimah Yacob and the audience with their roof hatches shut and no one visible.

The crew’s no-show was deliberate. And the symbolism goes beyond simply demonstrating the Hunter’s ability to fight with hatches closed. To some observers, seeing the Hunter move with no crew in sight reminds one that the AFV can operate unmanned.

Monday, August 12, 2019

How a village pond became a quirky tourist attraction in Indonesia in the social media age

South China Morning Post

10 August, 2019

KLATEN (Central Java) — Mr Dery Sananya sits casually on a chair “watching” television – as carp, koi and pomfret swim past him. Later, he will upload a selfie of this pose to his Instagram feed, with a quip about how easy it is to find TV channels underwater.

He is one of the many tourists — Indonesian and foreign — who have flocked to Umbul Ponggok in Klaten, Central Java, Indonesia, to take tongue-in-cheek underwater selfies in a pond.

“Many visitors upload photos of themselves on motorbikes or bicycles, and even do pre-wedding photo shoots, which quickly become viral on their Instagram accounts,” says Umbul Ponggok’s 25-year-old manager, Mr Muhammad Abdul Rahman.

Civil Unrest in Hong Kong - How will it all end?

[News articles from 4 Aug 2019 onwards on the HK protests.

What started as a protest against a law, has escalated/deteriorated in anti-government protests and demonstrations for democracy. It has been more than 2 months now, and protests/demonstrations or "riots" if you prefer, have increased. What used to be weekend protests have extended to weekdays and strikes and disruption to business and work. 

And, China has now referred to the protestors as "violent separatists". So... they are now trying to separate from China? Hmmm...

How will it end?

Not well.]

Hong Kong braces for largest citywide strike in decades on Monday

Hongkongers have long put work as a priority. But now some people are defying that and supporting the five demands of the anti-extradition movement, including a full withdrawal of the now-abandoned bill and an independent investigation into police’s use of force on the demonstrators.

South China Morning Post

04 August, 2019

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Estrogen and Autism

[The latest news about possible link between autism and Estrogen in the womb. The findings are promising, but not absolutely conclusive. But it does seem to point to further research in this direction.]

High levels of estrogen in the womb linked to autism

July 29, 2019

Source: University of Cambridge

Summary: Scientist have identified a link between exposure to high levels of estrogen sex hormones in the womb and the likelihood of developing autism.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

What ‘Our Singapore’ means to me after 12 years away from home

By Neha Thakkar

The author notes that the Overseas Singaporean Unit's website addresses three specific issues: Going abroad, staying abroad and coming home. But there is nothing on retaining repatriates, ensuring they re-integrate into society.

08 August, 2019

“Our Singapore” is the theme for National Day Parade 2019 to commemorate the nation’s bicentennial and to emphasise Singaporeans’ collective ownership of their country.

As a Singaporean joining my country in marking 700 years of history and its 54th birthday, I would like to reflect on the idea of “our” Singapore being ours — a caring, inclusive society for everyone.

Travel vlogger Nas Daily reflects on ‘easy’ life in Singapore and the pursuit of social media ‘likes’

By Low Youjin

Nuria Ling

Mr Nuseir Yassin admitted that before he started Nas Daily, he was clueless on how to tell a story — a skill he says every human should have. Now, he believes he has hit the right formula, and wants to share it.

09 August, 2019

SINGAPORE — Close to four months from the day he landed in Singapore and made it his new home, popular travel vlogger Nuseir Yassin of the Nas Daily videos says life here has been “easy”.

In an interview at his home office near Stevens Road, Mr Yassin said: “You know what you have to do, you know what you can do, you know what you can’t do.”

Living here has also strengthened his initial positive assessment of Singapore’s traffic and transportation system, he said, though he acknowledged that some Singaporeans might not see eye-to-eye with him on this.

“There’s nothing that stresses you out, and I really like that.”

Friday, August 9, 2019

MHA hits back at Asia Times op-ed alleging K Shanmugam spread ‘poorly informed’ drug stats

They pulled out a bunch of studies the op-ed writer somehow wasn't able to find.

Joshua Lee

August 3, 2019


The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Friday evening issued a statement countering claims made in an Asia Timesarticle on drugs and Singapore’s laws.
Article claimed K. Shanmugam peddled misleading statistics

The op-ed, “Singapore minister spreading disinformation about drug policy”, alleged that Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam has been peddling “poorly informed and inflammatory” claims to back Singapore’s drug policy.

Its author, Gen Sander, is a human-rights analyst at Harm Reduction international, a non-government organisation that works to “reduce the negative health, social and legal impacts of drug use and drug policies”.

Sander’s article, dated July 17, asserted that the statistics used by the minister to justify the harsh stance Singapore takes against drug use and abuse are wrong or cannot be verified by existing evidence.

Invasion Taiwan - how it might happen, why it would be costly

[It started with a comment when China warned that if Taiwan tries to declared that they are an independent country, China was ready to defend their national interest with military force. This was the comment:
Ok, so here's the plan.
1) HK protesters escalate their... "protests" until Beijing sends in the Military.
2) When Beijing has committed troops to HK to quell the protests, Taiwan declares that they are independent and not just a "Rogue Province" of China. They may also want to send a diplomatic note Beijing: "nyah! nyah! nyah!" 
3) When the Chinese begin military operations to... "re-take" Taiwan, Vietnam and Philippines will then move to occupy the contested islands in the South China Sea - Paracels, Spratley, etc. 
4) I think Japan also has an island that they are contesting ownership with China? Dunno. If they do, they should move to... "protect" that island. 
5) Xinjiang Uighurs should watch closely the developments, and when China is fighting HK, Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Philippines, they should declare independence. 
6) Meanwhile in Tibet, the people there should pray for peace... NAH! they can try to breakaway, too. 
7) At this point, the orang utan in the White House will do what he usually does. Or maybe someone might advise him that this is an opportunity to be seized. Or not. Who cares. 
Well, it's just a plan.
The tone suggests that this was not a serious plan, or at least not one to be taken seriously (certainly, the question would be whether the various factions are ready to breakaway). But part of China's problem is that even if it has almost a million soldiers, those soldiers are needed to keep the country together. Or Tibet might breakaway, Xinjiang might revolt, and... Hong Kong is already rioting.

But I was curious. 

How would Taiwan defend against a Chinese invasion? 

Surprisingly, I found that Taiwan's chances were actually quite good!

Monday, August 5, 2019

China Wants to Hit Back at Trump. Its Own Economy Stands in the Way.

By Alexandra Stevenson

Aug. 2, 2019

New York Times

BEIJING — As China considers ways to retaliate against President Trump’s mounting tariffs, it has increasingly acknowledged that it must first address its main obstacle to punching back: its own slumping economy.

Chinese officials have vowed to respond with measures of their own if Mr. Trump follows through on his threat to put 10 percent tariffs on $300 billion in Chinese imports a year. If Mr. Trump enacts the tariffs next month, as he said he would do on Thursday, the costs would rise for nearly everything China ships to the United States, from shoes to car parts to the latest gadgets.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Number of radicalised individuals on ISA orders at highest in 7 years

04 August, 2019


SINGAPORE — The number of radicalised individuals on orders under the Internal Security Act is at its highest in the last seven years, the Ministry of Home Affairs said, as Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam stressed the importance of the Act, describing it as the single most important tool against terrorism.

This is due largely to the spike in the number of radicalisation cases dealt with from 2015 onwards, it added in an emailed response to queries from TODAY.

Self-radicalised individuals make up the bulk of the 50 currently issued with ISA orders, the ministry said. Of these, there are 22 issued with orders of detention, 26 with restriction orders and two with suspension directions for terrorism-related conduct.

Since 2002 the MHA has dealt with over 130 individuals who were found to be involved in terrorism-related activities, it added.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Thousands of Hong Kong civil servants defy government to join protests


03 Aug 2019

HONG KONG: Thousands of Hong Kong civil servants rallied on Friday (Aug 2) night to support protesters and urge authorities to rebuild confidence in the government as escalating protests rock the Asian financial hub.

The rally is the first time government employees have promoted a demonstration in Hong Kong. The civil servants assembled peacefully with protesters in the heart of the business district, many in black masks to hide their identity.

"I think the government should respond to the demands, instead of pushing the police to the frontline as a shield," said Kathy Yip, a 26-year-old government worker.
Civil servants attend a rally to support the anti-extradition bill protest
in Hong Kong, China. (Photo: REUTERS/ Tyrone Siu)

Police said they had arrested eight people, including a leading pro-independence leader, after seizing weapons and suspected bomb-making material in a raid.

A wave of protests is planned across Hong Kong this weekend, along with a mass strike on Monday across sectors such as transport, schools and corporates that could bring the city to a standstill.

The protests in Hong Kong, a former British colony that returned to China in 1997, pose one of the gravest populist challenges to Communist Party rulers in Beijing.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Southampton to Shanghai by train — one climate change researcher’s quest to avoid flying

By Roger Tyers

02 August, 2019

Academics travel a lot. Whether for fieldwork or conferences, we’re often encouraged to do it. Often internationally, invariably by aeroplane. But while globetrotting might make us feel important, a recent study suggests there’s no connection between academic air-miles and career advancement.

With the obvious realities of the climate crisis, and with air travel being the single quickest way an average person can contribute to climate change, some academics are trying to stay on the ground whenever possible.

Within a broader campaign to encourage people to go “flight-free”, there’s a community of academics challenging the reliance on flying that’s typically sat uneasily at the heart of their careers.

I’m a member of that community. I pledged not to fly in 2019 and 2020, and then won a fellowship to study Chinese attitudes to sustainability which required me to go to China for fieldwork. Suddenly, the consequences of my pledge became very real.