Monday, April 24, 2017

The unexpected ways our lives will change when cars drive themselves

Steven Overly
April 5
Washington Post

The expected shift to battery-powered vehicles that drive themselves will have repercussions that extend far beyond U.S. roadways — altering industries as varied as real estate, oil, auto repair and retail.

At least that’s the view of Benedict Evans, a longtime tech observer and partner at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. In a recent blog post titled, “Cars and second-order consequences,” Evans speculates on the many ways the technology will change the lives of motorists and the economy at large

“Something will happen, and probably something big,” he writes.

Here are seven of his boldest and most interesting predictions.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

This is what the beginning of the end of democracy looks like

Across the world, our form of government may have already reached its zenith.

By Joshua Muravchik and Jeffrey Gedmin

April 19, 2017
Washington Post

Freedom diminished around the world in 2016 for the 11th consecutive year, according to Freedom House. These years saw the devastating failure of the “Arab Spring” and the sad turn of Russia and other states of the former Soviet Union back to dictatorship. Russia, China and Iran are increasingly assertive in their regions. And illiberal populist parties — nearly four dozen of various stripes — are on the rise in Europe in parallel with a new angry nationalism in the United States. Taken together, it’s hard not to at least contemplate whether democracy might be an endangered species.

To Americans, democracy is a given. But to the rest of the world, it’s a fairly recent invention — a creature of the past two centuries. This is a relatively narrow slice of recorded history, briefer than the Ming or Song dynasties in China or various other dynasties elsewhere that appear as mere blips in historical memory. Maybe this democratic moment is just another phase.

Singapore would have turned out differently if Othman Wok had wavered on multi-culturalism: PM Lee

April 19, 2017

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong led the eulogies for the late Othman Wok at a memorial service on Wednesday night (April 19). He paid tribute to "one of Singapore’s greatest sons", and thanked the former Old Guard Cabinet minister for the pivotal role he played in helping to forge a multi-racial, multi-cultural Singapore.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Solving the problem of overbooked flights

Mohamed A El-Erian

April 18, 2017

Given the deep mess that United Airlines created for itself after a passenger was dragged off a full flight last week, Delta said it could increase the incentives for “voluntary denied boarding”.

Agents will now be allowed to offer up to US$2,000 (S$2,800) to entice passengers to give up their seats, significantly more than the previous limit of US$800.

If that does not work, the agents’ supervisors can authorise payments of almost US$10,000.

Steel, stimulus drive China's strongest economic growth since 2015

April 17, 2017

BEIJING - China's economy grew faster than expected in the first quarter as higher government infrastructure spending and a gravity-defying property boom helped boost industrial output by the most in over two years.

Growth of 6.9 percent was the fastest in six quarters, with forecast-beating March investment, retail sales and exports all suggesting the economy may carry solid momentum into spring. 

But most analysts say the first quarter may be as good as it gets for China, and worry Beijing is still relying too heavily on stimulus and "old economy" growth drivers, primarily the steel industry and a property market that is overheating.

"The Chinese government has a tendency to rely on infrastructure development to sustain growth in the long term,"
economists at ANZ said in a note.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Knives out for party power struggle in Beijing

March 7, 2017
Asian Review

Parliamentary session to provide a glimpse into party infighting

Nikkei senior staff writer

BEIJING -- The annual session of the National People's Congress, China's parliament, kicked off in Beijing on March 5 amid rising political tensions ahead of a party leadership reshuffle later this year.

The Politburo Standing Committee, the party's top decision-making body, is to be shaken up at the national congress this autumn. Most of the seven committee members are getting on in years and expected to retire, while President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang will almost certainly stay on.

The congress, a five-yearly affair, will make 2017 a politically sensitive year for China.

The annual session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the country's top political advisory body, also got under way at the Great Hall of the People on March 3.

Why China’s bid to sell high-speed rail technology overseas is losing steam

April 2, 2017

HONG KONG — China’s ambitious strategy to export its high-speed railway technology is facing various obstacles, making its aim of boosting connectivity with nations across continents difficult to achieve, industry insiders said.

Construction of high-speed railways abroad is part of Beijing’s massive “One Belt, One Road” initiative to increase trade and infrastructure links with countries from Asia to Africa, but most of the current rail projects have stalled.

“There is no case of China exporting high-speed rail that can be described as very successful. The situation is very undesirable,” said Ms Dou Xin, a spokesman for CRRC Qingdao Sifang.

Sifang is one of China’s biggest locomotive and rolling stock manufacturers had planned to build a bullet train for a high-speed rail project in Mexico. The plan was aborted after Mexico cancelled the 210-km rail link in 2015 in budget cuts.

“The biggest obstacle for countries that have signed deals with China is the lack of financial strength. High-speed railways and bullet trains are unimaginable expensive,” said Ms Dou.

“Even though Chinese technology is highly cost effective when compared to other countries, it’s still too costly for many.”