Sunday, October 31, 2021

Commentary: Worrying signs COP26 is being set up for failure

There are worrying signs to suggest these most consequential of climate change talks are being set up for failure, says a climate researcher.

Anthony Burke

30 Oct 2021

CANBERRA: In just days, the most consequential climate meeting in human history begins in Glasgow, Scotland.

The Earth has warmed by up to 1.3 degrees Celsius since 1880. Devastating fires, cyclones and weather are wreaking havoc around the world.

And current emissions trends put the world on a path toward 3 degrees Celsius of catastrophic heating by 2100, which would trigger tipping points such as the melting of the poles, the loss of the Amazon rainforest, and a drastic slowdown in the Atlantic ocean circulation.

Under the Paris Agreement, this year countries must submit new nationally determined commitments (NDCs) to reduce emissions consistent with holding global heating well below 2 degrees Celsius and as close to 1.5 degrees Celsius as possible.

Yet a recent United Nations assessment of existing NDCs estimates that they will only hold heating to 2.7 degrees Celsius – and then only if they are implemented. The UN’s recent Production Gap report, which finds that countries are planning to produce 190 per cent more fossil fuels by 2040 than is consistent with the 1.5 degrees Celsius guardrail, puts the sincerity of these commitments in doubt.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Plans to import 30% of S’pore’s energy from low-carbon sources by 2035: EMA


OCTOBER 25, 2021

SINGAPORE — Plans are afoot to diversify Singapore’s power supply, as well as lower the nation’s carbon footprint by importing around 30 per cent of its energy from low-carbon sources by 2035.

The Energy Market Authority (EMA) announced on Monday (Oct 25) during the Singapore International Energy Week that it will be issuing two requests for proposals for up to 4 gigawatts (GW) of low-carbon electricity imports.

The authority said the first request for proposal will be launched in November this year and it will begin importing up to 1.2 GW of electricity by 2027.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

“Heard of Abu Nuwas liquor?”: Siti Kasim shares her thoughts on the Timah controversy

By G Vinod

19 Oct 2021

WITH the Timah whiskey controversy riling up the right-wing movements in Malaysia, a lawyer-activist told the latter of how the Arab world itself has its own popular alcoholic beverage.

According to Siti Kasim, Haddad Distilleries of Jordan is selling their own alcoholic beverage called Abu Nuwas Arak.

“The name denotes Abu Nuwas, a weird drunk poet who lived during the time of the Abbasid Caliphate. He was born in Iran, in 756, but died in Iraq, in 814. He lived during the reign of Caliph Harun Al Rashid and was even mentioned in the popular Arabic tale, One Thousand and One Nights.

“The man was also said to be a hafiz (those who memorised the al-Quran),” she said in a Facebook post.

Recently, the award-winning local liquor brand Timah got embroiled in a controversy after several groups called it being disrespectful to the Malays and Muslims.

Majlis Perundingan Pertubuhan Islam Malaysia (MAPIM) president Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid said that using the name Timah for a whiskey brand was insulting Muslims, claiming Timah was short for Fatimah, who was Prophet Muhammad’s daughter.

He also argued that the image of the bearded man on the bottle resembled a Muslim man in a kopiah.

“More insolent is the liquor’s advertisement uses the image of a man in kopiah with a long beard as if showing the someone with Muslim image is promoting liquor,” Azmi was reported saying.

Surprisingly, even the Consumer Association of Penang (CAP) took offence to the whiskey brand, claiming it was insulting to Muslims.

“Apart from the alcohol content, CAP does not understand how the ministry could approve the name and image (of the product) which can cause anger,” its education officer NV Subbarow added.

However, the company shot back at its critics by saying that the man featured on the bottle was not a Muslim man but a British officer named Tristram Charles Sawyer Speedy, or more popularly known as Captain Speedy.

Arab man’s face on Abu Nuwas Arak

Speedy served in British Malaya from 1861 to 1874 as an administrator to restore order during the Larut wars in Perak. He was also credited of bringing the whiskey culture in the local tin mining sector back then.

“And the word Timah is a local word meaning tin. The name ‘Timah Whiskey’ harks back to the tin mining era during British Malaya. Any interpretation of our name unrelated to Malaysian mining is false,” it mentioned.

On MAPIM’s argument that attributing the word Timah to a whiskey was offensive, Siti Kasim pointed out that the Abu Nawas liquor has Arabic script on it, complete with an Arab man’s face attached to the bottle.

“If our religious fellows read all these, they will tear off in rage their beards, the hairs from their armpits, pubic areas, nostrils and if they can reach for it, their anal hairs,” she added in jest. – Oct 19, 2021.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Commentary: Japan’s baby bust should force a rethink about demanding jobs and never-ending growth

Efforts to boost Japan’s low fertility rate will not solve near term labour shortages and other pressing burdens without embracing a new mindset, says a professor.

Rapidly-greying Japan has one of the world's lowest birth rates (Photo: AFP/KAZUHIRO NOGI)

Chelsea Szendi Schieder

17 Oct 2021 

TOKYO: Japan has been declared the world’s first super-aged society and a pioneer shrinking society, rapidly inverting the demographic pyramid upon which the modern state has been built.

Since 1989, when the low fertility rate of 1.57 became a major social concern, numbers have continued to trend downward. In June 2020, the Japanese government announced the preliminary results of the 2020 census, revealing that the number of births in that year was the lowest on record.

Covid Deaths in Singapore - First Half of October

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Friday, October 15, 2021

Singapore studying how to expand wealth tax system as it relooks fiscal strategies: Lawrence Wong

Tang See Kit
15 Oct 2021 

SINGAPORE: Singapore continues to study how it can expand its wealth tax system as the country re-examines its fiscal strategies in the face of key challenges such as inequality and climate change, said Finance Minister Lawrence Wong on Friday (Oct 15).

Speaking at the 35th Singapore Economic Roundtable organised by the Institute of Policy Studies, Mr Wong said Singapore has succeeded so far in running a prudent and effective fiscal policy.

He said the task at hand will only become harder with three key challenges - inequality, a rapidly ageing population and climate change - that will determine the trajectory of the country’s fiscal strategies.

[This is just the start of the news article as it does not have any proposals or suggestions as to how the tax system could be revised. Merely a speech on what Singapore is looking to do.]

Fourteen US attorneys general press Facebook on vaccine disinformati

15 Oct 2021 

WASHINGTON: The attorneys general of 14 US states sent a letter to Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg asking if the top disseminators of vaccine disinformation on the platform received special treatment from the company.

The line of inquiry was generated after Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen used internal documents to disclose that the social media platform has built a system that exempts high-profile users from some or all of its rules.

In the letter, which was sent on Wednesday (Oct 13), the 14 Democratic attorneys general said they are "extremely concerned" with recent reports that Facebook maintained lists of members who have received special treatment, and want to know if the "Disinformation Dozen" were part of those lists.

The Center for Countering Digital Hate describes the "Disinformation Dozen" as 12 anti-vaxxers who are responsible for almost two-thirds of anti-vaccine content circulating on social media platforms.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Commentary: Why is Bitcoin appealing to many despite the risks and uncertainties?

Is Bitcoin worth investing in? And will it really confer gains on people now that it’s reached new highs? MIT economist Daron Acemoglu unpacks its upsides and risks.

A sign reads, "Bitcoin accepted here", outside a store where the cryptocurrency is accepted
as a payment method in San Salvador, El Salvador on Sep 24, 2021.
(File photo: REUTERS/Jose Cabezas)

Daron Acemoglu

11 Oct 2021 

CAMBRIDGE: With the price of Bitcoin reaching new highs, and El Salvador and Cuba deciding to accept it as legal tender, cryptocurrencies are here to stay.

What implications will this have for money and politics?

Money depends on trust. It is accepted in exchange for goods and services only because people can confidently assume that others will accept it in the future.

This is as true for the US dollar as it is for gold. To argue that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are merely a confidence game – or a speculative bubble, as many economists have emphasised – is to ignore their popularity.

And yet, cryptocurrencies lack the stable institutional foundations needed to bolster the public’s trust in them. Trust thus ebbs and flows, making them fragile and volatile, as Bitcoin’s wild gyrations have amply demonstrated.

Moreover, with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies that rely on “proof-of-work” mechanisms, transactions must be continuously verified and logged in a decentralised ledger (in this instance based on blockchain).

This requires millions of computers to operate continuously to update and verify transactions – work that is incentivised by the opportunity to be rewarded with newly minted Bitcoin.

The energy consumed in these “mining” operations now exceeds that of a medium-sized country like Malaysia or Sweden. Now that the world has awoken to the dangers of climate change (and to the paltriness of our response to it so far), this massive waste should make Bitcoin highly unattractive.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Separation of powers, rule of law fundamental principles but need to ‘look at what works’: Shanmugam


OCTOBER 05, 2021

  • The Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act was passed into law after an almost 11-hour debate
  • The debate saw Workers’ Party MPs moot amendments to the law, including a key push for judicial review by the courts
  • Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said he agreed with the party on the principles but exceptions need to be made in some situations
  • Most of the party's proposals were rejected except for one
  • 11 parliamentarians voted against the Bill and two Nominated MPs abstained from voting

SINGAPORE — Singapore will not be where it is today if the People’s Action Party (PAP) Government did not uphold the fundamental principles of separation of powers and the rule of law, but it is necessary to “get out of this colonisation of our minds... (and) look at what works”, Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said.

Mr Shanmugam was responding on Monday (Oct 4) to the Workers’ Party (WP) as he wrapped up a marathon debate on the Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act, or Fica. The debate started around 12.30pm and ended almost 11 hours later.

In that time, Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh and several fellow WP Members of Parliament (MPs) spoke at length on the opposition party’s key proposal: For judicial oversight of the new law.

Mr Shanmugam said that the PAP Government agrees with WP on the importance of the principles but it differs on where exceptions need to be made.

Parliament repeals Sedition Act, amends Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code to cover relevant aspects

Minister for Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam in Parliament on Oct 5, 2021.

Cindy Co
05 Oct 2021

SINGAPORE: Parliament voted to repeal the Sedition Act on Tuesday (Oct 5), while amending the Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code to cover aspects of the Act that “continue to be relevant”.

The Sedition Act has been in existence since 1938, and criminalises conduct with seditious tendencies including promoting disaffection against the Government and feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes.

Some aspects of the Sedition Act are “no longer relevant and have not been relevant for a long time”, Law Minister K Shanmugam told the House on Tuesday.

“For instance, the excitement of disaffection against the Government shouldn’t be criminalised. I think if it is, a lot of people, including many in this house, would be considered criminals.

“But it hasn’t been done away with sooner, because some of the other provisions were relevant,” said Mr Shanmugam, who is also Minister for Home Affairs.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

South Dakota - Tax Haven?

[From The Washington Post Daily 202 newsletter:]

"...the rise of the Mount Rushmore state — and several others — as a harbor for shielding global wealth is interesting inasmuch as America has always lectured smaller countries about the necessity of unimpeachable financial hygiene and transparency...

From Sioux Falls, S.D., my colleagues Debbie Cenziper, Will Fitzgibbon, and Salwan Georges reported on a seven-year-old financial firm called “Trident Trust” that enticed clientele with “The South Dakota Advantage” — essentially laws making it easier to hide who owns what and where. 

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Commentary: Is China’s economic growth model superior and worth copying?

Should US leaders emulate Chinese policies to back firms in strategic industries to strengthen the country’s hand? Chang-Tai Hsieh explains what’s really powering China’s industrial policy.

Chang-Tai Hsieh
03 Oct 2021

CHICAGO, Illinois: US political leaders have long tried to counter Chinese industrial policy. And now they seem to have decided that the best way to do that is to emulate it.

But their agenda betrays a profound lack of understanding of the unique challenge posed by China’s coupling of an centralised political regime with a dynamic market economy.

Millions of Chinese firms, including some of the world’s most innovative, are occasionally asked to serve the regime’s political objectives – an unprecedented marriage of pioneering private companies and a Leninist one-party state.

Western countries cannot match it, and should not begin to try. But much of the US economic policy response to China is misdirected.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Singapore addresses death penalty, foreign interference law during UN human rights review

Freedom of assembly, LGBT issues and conscientious objection were also discussed in Singapore's national statement.

Ng Hong Siang

02 Oct 2021

SINGAPORE: Singapore can support 210 out of 324 recommendations it received in the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council's universal periodic review (UPR), the country's Permanent Representative to the UN Office in Geneva, Ambassador Umej Bhatia said on Friday (Oct 1).

The outcome of the review, which happens every five years and is Singapore's third, was adopted on Friday.

Singapore's national statement during the adoption also addressed the Government's position on the death penalty, freedom of assembly, LGBT issues and the draft Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Bill.