Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Singapore's image twisted and warped

John Lui
Film Correspondent

MAY 25, 2016

The island has gone from Orientalist heaven or hell to antiseptic cubicle world as far as foreign film productions are concerned

Is Singapore going to be the new Morocco? Let me explain.

Morocco is where film crews go for sand, sun and - let's not tip toe around this - movie extras and supporting actors of a certain ethnicity.

From the epic Lawrence Of Arabia (1962), to the desert planet Tattooine in the Star Wars saga, to the global hit that is the Game Of Thrones, where it was the city of Yunkai, Morocco is where studios go when they want a setting that is sandy, dry and, very often, biblical (Son Of God, 2014; The Bible, 2013; The Last Temptation Of Christ, 1988).

The nation stands in for the kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Tom Hanks comedy-drama A Hologram For The King, set to open here on June 2.

But in a recent podcast, I heard that it is also where Hollywood goes for movies about tragedy and trouble in the Middle East and Africa. Black Hawk Down (2001) was shot there and, most recently and more troublingly, the jingoistic American Sniper (2015).

Neither movie attempts to show the native people as anything other than, at best, exotic props, and, at worst, bloodthirsty savages.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

How feasible is it to move to Johor Baru and drive back and forth for work and school?

May 28, 2016

Cars are cheaper in Johor and so is fuel. But how feasible is it to move to Johor Baru and drive back and forth for work and school?

Lynn Tan

According to a 2014 estimate by the Johor-Singapore Community Care Association, about 5,000 Singaporean families have set up home across the Causeway.

Some are retirees, such as 68-year-old Amy Tan, who moved in 2014 after her husband retired. Others, such as Mr Ang Khartono Jamil Hanmin, 35, who works in events project management, still work in Singapore, but have chosen to live in Johor Baru and commute between the two cities daily.

Mr Ang says one could buy a terrace house in Johor Baru for the price of a three-room HDB flat in Singapore.

Cost of living was also the main reason behind Ms Noraini Mokhtar's move. The 47-year-old decided to become a stay-home mum five years ago. Bringing up six children on one income, she and her husband decided that living in Johor Baru would be more viable.

Friday, May 27, 2016

In an ambiguous world, can Singapore cope?

Bilahari Kausikan

May 27 2016

Ambassador-at-large Bilahari Kausikan, the Institute of Policy Studies' 2015/16 S R Nathan Fellow for the Study of Singapore, addresses this question in his fifth and final lecture. Below is an edited excerpt of his speech which he delivered on Wednesday.

Small states are vulnerable. The margin for error is narrow. The government's role is essential. Thanks to what was achieved over the last 50 years, the threat is no longer that we will disappear as a sovereign and independent country, although that can never be entirely discounted. The threat is now more insidious. The danger is that our autonomy could be compromised even though we remain formally independent and sovereign. We will still have a flag and a seat in the United Nations. No one will stop us from singing Majulah Singapura. But if we are clumsy in our external relationships or mishandle our domestic politics, the freedom to decide our own destiny could be severely circumscribed. That is in fact the condition of many small states who are members of the UN.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

With Beijing's growing influence, will Chinese replace English as facts on the ground change?

Han Fook Kwang
Editor At Large

MAY 8, 2016

Beijing's growing influence is sure to impact S'pore in days to come and it may even change the complexion of society

If you have been following the brewing dispute in the South China Sea, you might have come across the intriguing term "facts on the ground".

I didn't know such a concept existed, until recently.

Then, it hit me that facts on the ground is one of those irresistible ideas that can change the world, for better or worse.

And I am not just referring to the South China Sea.

But you need first to know what those four words mean.

Armed With Data, Chicago Police Try to Predict Who May Shoot or Be Shot

[This is "Minority Report" but without "Pre-Cogs" or psychics or predictions of murder. It cannot predict crimes, only the probability of a person perpetrating or being a victim of a crime. Of course, civil liberty organisations are concerned that this is just another disguised profiling or racism.] 


The New York Times
MAY 23, 2016

CHICAGO — In this city’s urgent push to rein in gun and gang violence, the Police Department is keeping a list. Derived from a computer algorithm that assigns scores based on arrests, shootings, affiliations with gang members and other variables, the list aims to predict who is most likely soon to be shot or to shoot someone. Shaquon Thomas was on it.

His first arrest came at 13, and others quickly followed, his face maturing in a progression of mug shots. By 18, Mr. Thomas, who was known as the rapper Young Pappy, was wounded in a shooting, the police say. Then last May, Mr. Thomas, 19, was fatally shot in what the police say was a running gang feud. His score was more than 500, putting him near the top of the Chicago Police Department’s list.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Remembrance of Booms Past

Paul Krugman

MAY 23, 2016

If Hillary Clinton wins in November, Bill Clinton will occupy a doubly unique role in U.S. political history — not just as the first First Husband, but also as the first First Spouse who used to be president. Obviously he won’t spend his time baking cookies. So what will he do?

Last week Mrs. Clinton stirred up a flurry of comments by suggesting that Mr. Clinton would be “in charge of revitalizing the economy.” You can see why she might want to say that, since people still remember the good times that prevailed when he was in office. How his role might be defined in practice is much less clear.

But never mind. What I want to do right now is talk about the lessons the Clinton I boom actually holds for a potential Clinton II administration.

First of all, it really was a very impressive boom, and in a way it’s odd that Democrats don’t talk about it more. After all, Republicans constantly invoke the miracles of Saint Reagan to justify their faith in supply-side economics. Yet the Clinton-era expansion surpassed the Reagan economy in every dimension. Mr. Clinton not only presided over more job creation and faster economic growth, his time in office was also marked by something notably lacking in the Reagan era: a significant rise in the real wages of ordinary workers.

But why was the Clinton economy so good? It wasn’t because Mr. Clinton had a magic touch, although he did do a good job of responding to crises. Mostly, he had the good luck to hold office when good things were happening for reasons unrelated to politics.

Positive News - 23 May 2016

News of Hope and Love, Monday 23 May 2016

These were the "Good" News of love and hope from Facebook

1) Sad news. In Sabah, a 15-yr-old girl died while trying to save her grandmother from a fire.
"The charred remains of Nurul Farhana Zulkifli, 15, was found in an embrace with her 86-year-old grandmother, Tiah Awang near the main door."
Selfless love.

2) In Singapore, an ex-drug addict gave his girlfriend the gift of one of his kidney. They will be getting married soon. She had been on the waiting list for a kidney for 10 years after an autoimmune disease cause hers to fail.
"I figured that even if my health fails after that, better to have two of us around for that short span of time than me having two kidneys yet end up losing her,"
Maybe you don't believe in "True Love". But the path of this "love" did not run smooth. The couple are 47 years old. Not old, but certainly no spring chickens. But their story is inspiring and heartwarming. "May they be so completely One."

3) Construction worker (FW) publishes book of poetry.
struck by the "universality" of Mr Mukul's thoughts on loneliness, missing home and being invisible in a different land. "I am reminded of some Singapore pioneers who came from China and built a new Singapore, yet never lost their culture and love for the country of their birth and the memories there."

4) Sisters' Island Marine Park
The 40ha Sisters' Islands Marine Park... supports corals, anemones, seahorses, fish and other marine life.
With the help of a $500,000 donation from HSBC, a turtle hatchery will be set up on Small Sister's Island by the end of next year.

The War on Diabetes - Part 1

[I've titled this "Part 1" because any war on anything (drugs, terror, etc) will take time. So I see this declaration of "war" on diabetes already a implied surrender that this war will not be won.

And as in all war the first casualty is truth. 

The comments on the various articles on this War on Diabetes was immediately inundated with "testimonials" (spam) on how the mainstream healthcare with its drugs were ineffective. 

And of course hints of secrets and lies Big Pharma and Big Medicine were keeping from you or telling you or manipulating you.

And of course your true salvation/redemption/healing will come from some obscure (or not so obscure website telling you how you can be free of diabetes.

So if you have diabetes, follow your doctor's advice. Not some quack on the internet. Your doctor studied a long time to be a doctor, and he is supported by a lot of medical knowledge and research. The quack on the internet has years and years of paranoia, suspicion, and a lack of trust in the establishment to back his assertions. 

Of course, it is precisely because of his anti-establishment attitude that draws followers. 

But... if there are a million people (or more) following him, doesn't that make him, an establishment then?

Anyway, whatever you believe or want to believe, here are the news articles.]

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Gluten-free diet - Fads without facts.

Two articles on the question of gluten in diet. Who should avoid it and is it healthier to avoid if even if you are not sensitive to it. 

Gluten - not a problem until you make it your first world problem, because, hey, you need to feel like a victim too... or something. I'm not a psychologist. So I don't know what's your problem. But I do know that if you do not have celiac disease, gluten is not one of your problems.

Friday, May 20, 2016

When private cars go the way of horse carriages

Adrian Lim

MAY 14, 2016

Commuters will summon driverless pods to go where they need but, first, cars that drive themselves must learn to see and think more like humans. Scientists in Singapore are working on both.
When driverless cars become the norm, they will cause a redrawing of the transport map so major it will make the changes due to Uber and GrabCar look like a few pencil marks.

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study has predicted that combining self-driving cars with car-sharing means Singapore's mobility needs can be met with just 30 per cent of the current one million vehicles.

Imagine the scale of the disruption to the billion-dollar car industry, thousands of driving jobs and miles of space now reserved for roads and carparks.

The Transport Minister himself thinks this remapping of land transport is inevitable.

Disability Providers Get Reprieve From New Wage Rule

by Michelle Diament

May 19, 2016

[Or "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction", or "No good deed goes unpunished". or "For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong."]

Disability providers are getting extra leeway as the Obama administration moves forward with a new rule that many worried could force service cuts for people with special needs.

The U.S. Department of Labor said this week that it’s finalizing a rule that will require far more American workers to receive extra pay for working over 40 hours per week.

Currently, salaried workers earning at least $23,660 are exempt from overtime pay. Under the new rule, which will take effect Dec. 1, that threshold will double to $47,476 with automatic increases in the future.

“If you work more than 40 hours a week, you should get paid for it or get extra time off to spend with your family and loved ones,” President Barack Obama wrote in an email announcing the change.

‘Sleeping giant’ glacier may lift sea levels by two metres: Study

May 20, 2016

PARIS — A rapidly melting glacier atop East Antarctica is on track to lift the sea level at least two metres, and could soon pass a “tipping point” of no return, researchers said on Wednesday (May 18).

To date, scientists have mostly worried about the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets as dangerous drivers of sea level rise.

But the new study, following up on earlier work by the same team, has identified a third major threat to hundreds of millions of people living in coastal areas around the world.

“I predict that before the end of the century the great global cities of our planet near the sea will have two- or three-metre high sea defences all around them,” said Martin Siegert, co-director of the Grantham Institute and Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London, and the study’s senior author.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Donald Trump’s Message

Mar 4 2016

Joseph S. Nye

CAMBRIDGE – Donald Trump’s lead in the race for the Republican Party’s nomination as its presidential candidate in November has caused consternation. The Republican establishment fears he will not be able to defeat Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee. But some observers worry more about the prospect of a Trump presidency. Some even see Trump as a potential American Mussolini.

Whatever its problems, the United States today is not like Italy in 1922. The Constitution’s institutional checks and balances, together with an impartial legal system, are likely to constrain even a reality-TV showman. The real danger is not that Trump will do what he says if he reaches the White House, but the damage caused by what he says as he tries to get there.

Leaders are judged not only on the effectiveness of their decisions, but also by the meaning that they create and teach to their followers. Most leaders gain support by appealing to the existing identity and solidarity of their groups. But great leaders educate their followers about the world beyond their immediate group.

Want to Buy a Self-Driving Car? Big-Rig Trucks May Come First


New York Times, MAY 17, 2016

Otto, a start-up led by former Google engineers, is betting that automating long-haul trucks rather than passenger vehicles could be more palatable financially and to regulators.


SAN FRANCISCO — Imagine you are driving on a highway late at night when a big-rig truck closes in behind you. You relax because it is keeping a safe distance and seems to be obeying the speed limit. Now imagine that truck is driving itself.

Despite Silicon Valley’s enthusiasm for self-driving cars, it could be years before there are many of them on the road. But autonomous 18-wheelers? One start-up is betting that is a different matter.

Otto, led by 15 former Google engineers, including major figures from the search company’s self-driving car and maps projects, is aiming at the long-haul freeway driving that is the bread and butter of the commercial trucking industry.

The engineers think that automating trucks rather than passenger vehicles could be more palatable financially and to regulators. Nationally, trucks drive 5.6 percent of all vehicle miles and are responsible for 9.5 percent of highway fatalities, according to Department of Transportation data.

Adding self-driving technology — at least as it stands now — into regular passenger cars could make them absurdly expensive for anyone without the cash of a Silicon Valley mogul. Until recently, the laser sensor used on the Google car project cost $75,000.

Those costs are coming down, but it will be some time before they have a realistic price for consumers. But a new, big tractor-trailer truck can easily cost more than $150,000, so the added cost of robotic features could make more sense.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Trump would weaken the US

Joseph S. Nye

MAY 17, 2016

Mr Donald Trump, the Republican Party's presumptive presidential nominee, has expressed deep scepticism about the value of America's alliances. His is a very 19th-century view of the world.

Back then, the US followed George Washington's advice to avoid "entangling alliances" and pursued the Monroe Doctrine, which focused on US interests in the Western Hemisphere. Lacking a large standing army, the US played a minor role in the 19th-century global balance of power.

That changed decisively with its entry into World War I, when then President Woodrow Wilson broke with tradition and sent US troops to fight in Europe. He also proposed a League of Nations to organise collective security on a global basis.

But, after the Senate rejected US membership in the League in 1919, the troops stayed home and America "returned to normal". Though it was now a major global actor, the US became virulently isolationist. Its absence of alliances in the 1930s set the stage for a disastrous decade marked by economic depression, genocide and another world war.

Ominously, Mr Trump's most detailed speech on foreign policy suggests that he takes his inspiration from precisely this period of isolation and "America First" sentiment. Such sentiment has always been a current in US politics, but it has stayed out of the mainstream since the end of World War II for good reason: It hinders, rather than advances, peace and prosperity at home and abroad.

Understanding the basis for China's S. China Sea claims

Yew Lun Tian

May 18, 2016

The Permanent Court of Arbitration is expected to announce its ruling next month on the South China Sea sovereignty-dispute case initiated by the Philippines against China. China has said it will not accept, participate and enforce the ruling. China has always stressed that the South China Sea sovereignty dispute should not be viewed only from the perspective of the law, but also from the historical perspective: For example, the "nine-dash line" which should not be ignored, the long-term historical interests China has within the "nine-dash line", and the history of China's humiliation by imperialism. Why wasn't China's interpretation of history and modern law recognised by international history and legal experts? Lianhe Zaobao interviews academics from China, Singapore and Britain to explore the issue.

Dr Wu Shicun, the president of China's National Institute for South China Sea Studies, felt a sense of pride when it came to historical archives.

He told Zaobao from Hainan: "Our institute has the archives and historical documents on the South China Sea, from the era of the Republic of China, including photos of China sending warships to reclaim the islands and reefs in the South China Sea after the surrender of Japan at the end of World War II. Many foreign reporters and academics were surprised after they saw these photos."

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in March this year that the Spratly Islands are Chinese territories and "the Chinese people have the duty to defend them".

Dr Wu said: "For many generations, we have learnt from geography textbooks since primary school that the South China Sea islands belong to China, and the "nine-dash line" is deeply ingrained in us. Which Chinese leader can say he will give up the nine-dash line or the low-tide elevations?"

Mahathir steps out of 'save Umno' mode: The Star columnist

May 16, 2016,

Joceline Tan

(THE STAR/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The roads roads leading to the Shah Alam venue of the Save Malaysia political forum were almost impassable.

Buses and cars lined the rain-soaked roads, many of them double-parked.

But politics was the last thing on the minds of the people who caused that jam last Saturday evening.

They were there for the beautiful game – the FA Cup final was taking place in the glittering stadium next to the Save Malaysia gathering.

The crowd at the less beautiful game was far more modest in size and mood. It was the Selangor leg of the Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad-led campaign to oust Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

The organisers announced that they had collected 1.2 million signatures since its launch three months ago.

Of course, not everyone buys the figure, they think it is a case of “political arithmetic”.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Stop saying 'I feel like...'

The phrase speaks of muddled ideas about reason, emotion and argument, a muddle that has political consequences.
May 8, 2016

Molly Worthen

In American politics, few forces are more powerful than a voter's vague intuition.

"I support Donald Trump because I feel like he is a doer," a senior at the University of South Carolina told Cosmopolitan. "Personally, I feel like Bernie Sanders is too idealistic," a Yale student explained to a reporter in Florida. At a Ted Cruz rally in Wisconsin in April, a Cruz fan declared, "I feel like I can trust that he will keep his promises."

These people don't think, believe or reckon. They "feel like". Listen for this phrase and you'll hear it everywhere, inside and outside politics. This reflex to hedge every statement as a feeling or a hunch is most common among millennials. But I hear it almost as often among Generation Xers and my own colleagues in academia. As in so many things, the young are early carriers of a broad cultural contagion.

The imperfect data that linguists have collected indicates that "I feel like" became more common towards the end of the last century. In North American English, it seems to have become a synonym for "I think" or "I believe" only in the last decade or so. Languages constantly evolve, and curmudgeons like me are always taking umbrage at some new idiom.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Malaysia that could be

MAY 15, 2016

'Spirit of family and oneness' in country is now a memory as ethnic, religious harmony erodes

Michael Vatikiotis

Shortly after I arrived in Kuala Lumpur in 1991 as newly appointed bureau chief for the Far Eastern Economic Review, I was introduced to a Malaysian journalist then working here for The Straits Times in Singapore. We worked in a country well known for its disdain for the foreign media; and we were particular targets because our publications were deemed by the government to be biased against or even hostile to Malaysia.

Partly because of the common challenges we faced, but perhaps mostly because we enjoyed eating nasi kandar and roti canai at street- side stalls in Kuala Lumpur or on the many outstation reporting trips we took together, we became good friends.

A quarter of a century later, my close friend Kalimullah Hassan is no longer a journalist - neither am I. Our beloved profession has been much affected by the decline of advertising revenues and the rise of social media. But Kali, as all his friends know him, remains as passionate and concerned about his country as he was when we drove for long hours around rural constituencies in out-of-the-way parts of Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu covering by-elections.

5 money tips I wish I had known earlier

Shawn Lee

May 15, 2016

Journey to financial independence is a marathon and planning well would put you on a sound footing

By the time most of us graduate, we would have completed almost two decades of formal schooling. I savoured the time when I graduated as I was on my own to forge my own path ahead.

Receiving my first full-time pay packet was exciting but the excitement faded as quickly as it came. Financial responsibilities of planning for my wedding, a home and kids soon came my way.

As a young graduate, you are required to make your most important financial decisions when you are still at a young age. 

I wish I knew these five money tips before I started working.

Philippines' next president: Implications for Asean

Mely Caballero-Anthony

May 12, 2016

A charismatic maverick by the name of Rodrigo Duterte, a long-time mayor of Davao city in the southern Philippines island of Mindanao, has this week been elected president of the Philippines.

He cut a stark contrast to the other presidential aspirants who were either seen as pro-status quo, inexperienced or allegedly corrupt. Standing on a platform of eradicating crime and corruption that have plagued the country, Mr Duterte has shocked his countrymen's sensibilities with his colourful language, threats to kill criminals and shut down Congress should an impeachment attempt be made when he comes to power. He has also startled neighbours with his tough statements on foreign relations.

The new president has the huge task of steering the country towards better economic prospects, resilient political stability and security amid major policy challenges within the country and the wider Asean region.

Are health concerns killing our food heritage?

Ignatius Low
Deputy Editor

May 15, 2016

We may be robbed of our identities and memories when foods we have always enjoyed are branded unhealthy

Are health concerns slowly but surely killing our food heritage?

It certainly felt that way to me this past week, as I joined in one conversation after another about the latest big national menace - white rice.

All this came after Health Promotion Board (HPB) chief Zee Yoong Kang said in an interview that white rice was actually more potent in raising a person's risk of getting diabetes than sugary soft drinks.

He cited a recent analysis of four major studies by the Harvard School of Public Health showing that a plate of white rice eaten in a day raises the risk of diabetes by 11 per cent in the overall population.

As you know, the Singapore Government has declared war on diabetes. It estimates that as many as one million Singaporeans may eventually be afflicted with the disease, which is already costing the country more than $1 billion a year.

After the story came out, half of Singapore seemed to take heed and cut back on their rice intake. My colleague's 11-year-old son, for example, told mummy to serve him 20 per cent less rice from now on.

The other half was much more cynical about the findings, even outraged by them.

We have been consuming white rice all our lives, people said. What changed suddenly?

Friday, May 13, 2016

How grade obsession harms children

David Brooks

May 13, 2016

We all know why it exists, but the grade point average (GPA) is one of the more destructive elements in American education.

Success is about being passionately good at one or two things, but students who want to get close to that 4.0 have to be prudentially balanced about every subject. In life, we want independent thinking and risk-taking, but the GPA system encourages students to be deferential and risk-averse, giving their teachers what they want.

Creative people are good at asking new questions, but the GPA rewards those who can answer other people's questions. The modern economy rewards those who can think in ways computers can't, but the GPA rewards people who can grind away at mental tasks they find boring. People are happiest when motivated intrinsically, but the GPA is the mother of all extrinsic motivations.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Mahathir's Looting of RM 150 Billion – The Biggest Financial Scam in Malaysian history

Malaysia Today
May 9, 2016

by Julian Khoo

[Note: this is a Conspiracy Theory, which in my book counts as speculative fiction, which may be entertaining. However, that is not why this speculative fiction is here. Regardless of the veracity of the accusations here, the fact remains that there are suspicions fueling this and related conspiracy theories, particularly with regard to public funds. By extension, because this is possible (if not true) in Malaysia and their EPF, then it is possible that it is true in SG and our CPF. And that is the harm of this conspiracy theory.

Note also that the purpose of this piece is to defend Najib by attacking Mahathir. I take no sides in the Mahathir-Najib quarrel. So I an not endorsing or promoting the views or conclusions within this article. Read with scepticism and at your discretion.]

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Singapore Is Taking the ‘Smart City’ to a Whole New Level

Government-deployed sensors will collect and coordinate an unprecedented amount of data on daily life in the city


Wall Street Journal, April 24, 2016

SINGAPORE—This wealthy financial center is known world-wide for its tidy streets and tight controls on personal behavior, including famous restrictions on the sale of chewing gum to keep the city clean.

Now Singapore may soon be known for something else: the most extensive effort to collect data on daily living ever attempted in a city.

As part of its Smart Nation program, launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in late 2014, Singapore is deploying an undetermined number of sensors and cameras across the island city-state that will allow the government to monitor everything from the cleanliness of public spaces to the density of crowds and the precise movement of every locally registered vehicle.

When Cars Fly

How driverless vehicles could change meetings, manufacturing, safety, and more


The Atlantic MAY 2016 ISSUE   

The automobile has long been a symbol of everything great and everything terrible about America. On the one hand: freedom, individualism, power, speed. The taming of millions of miles of varied wildernesses through roads, then highways, then interstates. The capacity of American industry—Pittsburgh’s steel, Akron’s rubber, Detroit’s factories.

But on the other hand: gas-guzzling SUVs. Traffic and sprawl. The abandonment of mass transit. The suburb and then the exurb, with their undeniable ties to white flight and segregation. The decline of the Rust Belt, the near-collapse of the Big Three automakers during the Great Recession of 2008, and the slow death of American manufacturing and blue-collar work.

Now, after four decades of doldrums, things are looking up for American carmakers, in ways that would have been hard to imagine just 10 years ago. Yet the changes ahead won’t reconcile the great and the terrible of the past; instead, the conflicts between freedom and community, power and equity, will play out in new ways. Here’s what that future will look like.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Sarawak electoral win may come back to haunt BN


Norshahril Saat

May 8, 2016

The ruling Barisan Nasional’s landslide win in the Sarawak State Elections on Saturday is a morale boost for Prime Minister Najib Razak, who has been under pressure over troubled state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and donations worth US$680 million (S$920 million) in his personal bank account. BN secured 72 out of the 82 seats contested and saw its popular vote increased to 63.72 per cent from the 55.4 percent it obtained in 2011.

Mr Najib was quick to announce that the victory manifests the public’s trust in BN’s power-sharing mechanism at the state and federal levels and the coalition’s ability to fulfil promises.

There are many factors behind BN’s victory: from the popularity of Chief Minister Adenan Satem to gerrymandering that favours the ruling coalition and fragmentation of the opposition.

The opposition was unable to repeat its good showing in the 2011 state elections where it secured 41.23 percent of popular votes in a state many described as BN’s stronghold.

There are two lessons to be drawn from the election: one, issues concerning Peninsular Malaysians do not necessarily have an impact on East Malaysians; and two, there is a stark contrast between ethnic politics in the Peninsular and that in Sarawak.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Swing against PAP in Bukit Batok expected: Analysts


Kenneth Cheng 

May 8, 2016

SINGAPORE — Given that the Opposition has an inherent advantage in by-elections, the vote swing against the People’s Action Party (PAP) in the Bukit Batok by-election on Saturday (May 7) was expected, analysts said.

The political watchers TODAY spoke to had expected the ruling party’s victory margin to be slimmer than the one in last year’s General Election (GE), largely because of the “by-election effect”, where the Opposition is seen as having an intrinsic edge because voters have the assurance that the Government would not change even if they were to vote for a non-PAP candidate.

The Bukit Batok contest saw PAP candidate, lawyer Murali Pillai, garnering 61.2 per cent of the vote, about 12 percentage points lower than the 73 per cent the party had won in the GE last September.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Scientists have discovered a simple way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories

By Roberto A. Ferdman 
March 25, 2015 

Rice, the lifeblood of so many nations' cuisines, is perhaps the most ubiquitous food in the world. In Asia, where an estimated 90 percent of all rice is consumed, the pillowy grains are part of almost every meal. In the Caribbean, where the starch is often mixed with beans, it's a staple too. Even here in the United States, where people eat a comparatively modest amount of rice, plenty is still consumed.

Rice is popular because it's malleable—it pairs well with a lot of different kinds of food—and it's relatively cheap. But like other starch-heavy foods, it has one central flaw: it isn't that good for you. White rice consumption, in particular, has been linked to a higher risk of diabetes. A cup of the cooked grain carries with it roughly 200 calories, most of which comes in the form of starch, which turns into sugar, and often thereafter body fat.

But what if there were a simple way to tweak rice ever so slightly to make it much healthier?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

6 things to know about Singapore's Elected Presidency

The next presidential election is due to be held on or before Aug 26, 2017. But before then, here's what you need to know about Singapore's Elected Presidency system.

JAN 27, 2016

Lee Min Kok

SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will appoint a Constitutional Commission to study potential changes to the Elected Presidency system, which was introduced in 1991.

The three areas he highlighted: reviewing the qualifying criteria of presidential candidates, whether the views of the Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA) should be given greater weight and how to ensure that minorities have a better chance of being elected.

The president, however, will remain an elected office, Mr Lee said in his speech in Parliament on Wednesday (Jan 27).

Here are six things to know about the Elected Presidency.

The choice explosion

David Brooks

May 4 2016

A few years ago, social psychologist Sheena Iyengar asked 100 American and Japanese college students to take a piece of paper. On one side, she had them write down the decisions in life they would like to make for themselves. On the other, they wrote the decisions they would like to pass on to others.

The Americans filled up the side for decisions they want to decide for themselves. Where to live. What job to take. The other side was almost blank. The only "decision" they commonly wanted to hand off to others was, "When I die."

The Japanese filled up the back side of the sheet with things they wanted others to decide: what they wore; what time they woke up; what they did at their job. The Americans desired choice in four times more domains than the Japanese.

News Reaction: Chee disses Murali

Chee has been reported to have said about his opponent: "There is very little Mr Murali can do about the plight of our elderly because it is the policies of his party that have caused the elderly to lead such miserable lives."

Online Comment:
Even if we take your words at face value, even if we concede that the plight of our elderly is because of the policies of the PAP, the ruling party, what is your solution? Win one by-election, get into parliament, finally get a good paying job, work full-time as an MP (as opposed to working part-time as an MP and writing books full-time? G. R. R. Martin, you are not. J.K. Rowling you are not.), and somehow by yourself, or even with the other opposition MPs, you will convince the PAP to change their policies? 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Obama leaves a diminished America on world stage

Jonathan Eyal
Europe Correspondent

MAY 2, 2016

His stance has also diminished the foreign policy debate in the current US presidential campaign

LONDON • He didn't care much for foreign policy matters and didn't mind that people noticed his lack of interest. But with only nine months remaining to the end of his presidency, Mr Barack Obama is now busily recasting himself as an international relations guru.

The US President now gives long interviews on foreign matters to scholarly magazines read by the sort of policy wonks he never welcomed to his White House. Mr Obama has also just concluded a week-long jaunt to Europe, which proved short on real work but rich in photo opportunities. Similar grand tours are being planned for Asia in the near future.

One explanation for this remarkable transformation is the traditional desire of any US president to leave a positive legacy. But another reason for Mr Obama's increasingly frantic efforts to explain his approach to the world is the near-certainty that foreign policy would be remembered as the most controversial aspect of his presidency.

For what is increasingly being referred to as the "Obama Doctrine" not only diminished America's global footprint but is now also restricting the foreign policy options available to Mr Obama's successors. The foreign policy straitjacket under which Mrs Hillary Clinton now has to operate and the intellectual void in which Mr Donald Trump floats are both the result of fundamental flaws in Mr Obama's foreign policy vision.