Sunday, August 27, 2017

Perils of owning ageing leasehold properties

By Cecilia Chow
The Edge Property
April 21, 2017

A week ago, Singapore permanent resident Ms Lew was just calculating the remaining lease on her 700 sq ft, three-room HDB flat in Marine Parade and wondering how much it could fetch in the resale market. “I’m just a couple of years from retirement,” she says. Lew’s flat, like the more than 7,000 in Marine Parade, was completed in 1975. According to HDB’s website, Marine Parade was the first housing estate to be built on reclaimed land. This means that the flats in Marine Parade have 57 years remaining on their 99-year leases.

Singaporean Ms Aw, who bought her 1,128 sq ft, five-room HDB flat in Marine Parade 17 years ago, says she now feels “a little unsettled”. Even though her flat is already fully paid for, the 56-year-old says, “My retirement is locked in this flat. If I want to make money from it, I will have to sell it and downgrade to a smaller BTO [built-to-order] flat so I won’t be saddled with a big home loan”.

The two HDB owners are representative of many others staying in ageing leasehold properties who became worried, following National Development Minister Lawrence Wong’s blog post on March 24. It was intended to caution buyers against paying high prices for older HDB flats on the assumption that their flats would automatically be eligible for the Selective En-bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS).

Wong wrote, “In fact, for the vast majority of HDB flats, the leases will eventually run out, and the flats will be returned to HDB, which will in turn have to surrender the land to the State.” He added, “As the leases run down, especially towards the tail-end, the flat prices will come down correspondingly.”

The write way to remember and honour dead colleagues

We spend as much time with colleagues as we do with our families, often more. Work takes up so much of our lives. It needs full remembrance when we die.

Michael Skapinker

June 29, 2017

Whenever a partner or retired partner of Cravath, Swaine & Moore dies, the 198-year-old United States law firm offers the bereaved family a “Cravath walk”.

This involves the retired and active partners marching at the funeral, two-by-two, in age order — oldest lawyer to youngest. I heard about the “Cravath walk” last week.

Mr Mark Greene, head of the firm’s corporate department and of its international practice, told me that the most recent walk had taken place at a memorial service about a month ago for a lawyer who had died at the age of 43.

The “walk” sounds slightly macabre, but it makes sense.

Naval vessels, shadowy by intent, are hard for commercial ships to spot

August 25, 2017

HONG KONG — The tropical sky off Singapore was utterly dark when an oil tanker plowed into the side of the American destroyer John S. McCain before dawn on Monday (Aug 21) — but the moonless night may have been only one of the reasons that the tanker’s crew may have had trouble seeing a warship in their path.

Hard to see and hard to track electronically, naval vessels have long posed special perils to night-time navigation. That has proved deadly this summer in crowded waters like those near Singapore and Tokyo, where another American warship, the Fitzgerald, was struck by a cargo freighter under a waning crescent moon on June 17.

The issue has prompted growing alarm in the commercial shipping industry — which has started warning merchant vessels to be extra careful around warships — and in the United States Navy, which began pausing its worldwide operations this week for a day or two to allow time for safety reviews.

Monday, August 21, 2017

News Commentary: USS John S McCain collides with oil tanker off coast of Singapore.

Throwing shade (I think I'm using "shade" correctly in this case):
From eyeballing the map, the location seems to be quite a bit north of Pedra Branca and in Malaysian waters, possibly. From reports, 4 ships from SGN and SG Coast Guard are attending to the incident and the damaged vessels since 0532hrs. Malaysia has also sent one ship (likely Navy) to render assistance. Maybe from their new maritime base at Middle Rocks, just south of Pedra Branca. No confirmation of the time the MY ships were deployed, but the earliest tweet with info on MY ship deployment was at 0909hrs. Quite sure it was not deployed so late. I believe their working day starts at 0800hrs.

Also from SG: Two Super Pumas and one Chinook (helicopters) assisting (transporting injured sailors for medical attention). No info on MY helicopters deployed.

From another news report: "Indonesia's Foreign Affairs Ministry said it stands ready to help in the search and rescue operation if needed. This will need to be coordinated with the Indonesian military, ministry spokesperson Arrmanatha Nasir said."

My rough translation of the Indonesian statement is: "do you require wayang kulit?"

Friday, August 18, 2017

China’s fear of becoming Japan is said to drive deal crackdown

August 3, 2017

SINGAPORE — Chinese President Xi Jinping’s top economic adviser commissioned a study earlier this year to see how China could avoid the fate of Japan’s epic bust in the 1990s and decades of stagnation that followed.

The report covered a wide range of topics, from the Plaza Accord on currency to a real-estate bubble to demographics that made Japan the oldest population in Asia, according to a person familiar with the matter who has seen the report. While details are scarce, the person revealed one key recommendation that policy makers have since implemented: The need to curtail a global buying spree by some of the nation’s biggest private companies.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

At the heart of every restaurant

Tom Sietsema

August 7, 2017

Our food critic works a shift to understand why top chefs are starting to give dishwashers their due.

My dish hose has a mind of its own.

Every time I use it to spray a geyser of water onto a dirty plate, it splashes clean whatever it touches — and shoots much of the detritus back into my face. By the end of my shift, I’ve ingested specks of just about every dish at this restaurant: rice, seafood, salsa, black beans, you name it. And each time I set the wriggling rubber snake down between tasks, it repositions itself, obliging me to apologize to colleagues for soaking more than just myself.

Until recently, the most dishes I’ve ever washed were at home, following a dinner party for 10. So why would I sign up to do it at a 250-seat restaurant? Because I wanted to experience firsthand the job that CNN star Anthony Bourdain says taught him “every important lesson of my life,” the one New York chef Daniel Boulud calls “the best way to enter the business.”

Plenty of bandwidth has been lavished on the men and women who cook the food, pour the wine and otherwise pamper us in restaurants. Scant attention has been paid to some of the lowest-paid workers with the most responsibility, the ones chefs say are the linchpins of the restaurant kitchen. “You can’t have a successful service in a restaurant without a great dishwasher,” says Emeril Lagasse, the New Orleans-based chef and cookbook author with 14 restaurants across the country. “Bad ones will bring the ship down.”

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Debunking the myth of Chinese centrality to Asia

Shyam Saran

August 1, 2017

India is in a prolonged standoff with Chinese forces on the Doklam plateau. China may have been caught off guard after Indian armed forces confronted a Chinese road-building team in the Bhutanese territory.

Peaceful resolution requires awareness of the context for the unfolding events. China has engaged in incremental nibbling advances in this area, with Bhutanese protests followed by solemn commitments not to disturb the status quo. The intrusions continued.

This time, the Chinese signalled their intention to establish a permanent presence, expecting the Bhutanese to acquiesce while underestimating India’s response.

Managing the China challenge requires understanding the background of Chinese civilisation and the worldview of its people formed over 5,000 years of tumultuous history.

Caution is required before mechanistically applying historical patterns to the present, as these are overlaid with concepts borrowed from other traditions and behaviour patterns arising from deep transformations within China and the world at large.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

In Beijing, 20 Million People Pretend to Live :: 在北京,有2000万人假装在生活 (full translation)

By Megan Pan 

July 27, 2017 
Editor’s note: On July 23, the writer Zhang Wumao published an essay called “In Beijing, 20 Million People Pretend to Live” to his public WeChat account. As of the following morning, it had accumulated more than 5 million views and nearly 20,000 comments. 
Of course, the article was removed that very afternoon.
But by then, the essay had attracted thousands of responses. As our correspondent Megan Pan wrote for Radii:
Though the hubbub online has died down, the essay, a meditation on varying facets of life in Beijing, has since spawned over a hundred thousand countering essays in response. Titles include plays on the original essay’s title, such as “In Beijing, 20 Million People and “In Beijing, 20 Million People are Bravely Living,” and even direct digs at the author, such as “Mr. Zhang, You Aren’t Even a Beijing Kid So Why Are You Acting Like a Know-it-all.” The original essay has been lambasted as “making a fuss over nothing.”
But “In Beijing, 20 Million People Pretend to Live” resists easy summarization – it’s framed as a series of Zhang’s loosely related reflections on living in Beijing, heavily supported by anecdotes. He touches on a variety of topics that hit close to home: the everyday absurdities of urban sprawl, the never-ending struggle to buy a house, and alienation from home. As a nonlocal from Shaanxi who has been living in Beijing for the past eleven years, he also attempts to negotiate the tensions and differences between locals and nonlocals.
What follows is Megan Pan’s translation of that now-censored essay.

在北京,有2000万人假装在生活In Beijing, 20 Million People Pretend to Live