Thursday, March 31, 2016

Four Corners report proves donation to Najib was from Saudi royals: Malaysia govt

A government spokesperson says the donation was a gift from the Saudi royal family to promote moderate Islam, and combat terrorism and extremism. 

By Melissa Goh, 
Malaysia Bureau Chief, Channel NewsAsia 

30 Mar 2016

KUALA LUMPUR: A report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) investigative programme Four Corners confirms that a donation to Prime Minister Najib Razak's personal accounts was a gift from the Saudi royal family, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said.

Multiple lawful authorities have concluded the same after "exhaustive investigations", it added.

The funds were meant for Mr Najib to use as he saw fit to promote moderate Islam, and combat terrorism and extremism, the PMO said in a statement on Wednesday (Mar 30). This includes the Global Movement of Moderates initiatives that was mooted by Mr Najib at the UN General Assembly in 2010.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Economists call for unemployment benefits as safety net for innovators

S’poreans also need to be prepared to ‘break the mould’ to push for transformation


MARCH 30, 2016

SINGAPORE — With transformation a key word in Budget 2016, and small and medium companies getting loan assistance and corporate income tax rebates they had long asked for, economists yesterday said unemployment benefits may be needed to give innovation a bigger push and to help workers who may lose their jobs in the process.

Policymakers have said Singapore needs to create value in the next phase of its economic transformation, and economists at a forum on the Budget organised by the Economic Society of Singapore said measures such as the Automation Support Package worth over S$400 million show that the Government wants to support certain forms of investment by firms.

But automation will have negative consequences for professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) whose jobs involve mainly routine tasks, said Assistant Professor Giovanni Ko of Nanyang Technological University at the forum yesterday.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Singapore's future according to Lee Kuan Yew

Han Fook Kwang
Editor At Large

MAR 27, 2016

When Mr Lee Kuan Yew was asked how he wanted to be judged by history, he replied: "Ah, history... I'm dead by then."

That was during an interview in 2009 with the authors of the book Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going.

I remembered thinking at the time that it was so like him: unsentimental to the end, and dead right.

But though he didn't want to dwell on what that judgment might be, he had plenty to say about the future of this place after his death.

And we the authors were very keen at the time to get him to talk about it, pressing him about this scenario and that.

How did he see Singapore's politics changing? How long would the People's Action Party be able to remain in power? How might its demise occur? What will happen in 10, 20 or 50 years from now?

He had agreed to do the book with us because he wanted his views to reach as many people as possible, but especially younger Singaporeans, never mind if they agreed with him or not.

So, on the first anniversary of his death, I thought it fitting to put together those views, not about what he had achieved, but the future which he was so concerned with in his later years.

Some of the following extracts were said in different parts of the year-long interviews we had with him, but for the purpose of this piece, I have edited and put them together.

I think he would have wanted Singaporeans to reflect on what he had to say.

Retirement planning: How much is enough?

Finance experts break down the growing range of possible means to save for retirement in Singapore.

By Nicole Tan
27 Mar 2016

SINGAPORE: Retirement means different things to different people and industry observers say retirement aspirations of Singaporeans have evolved over time.

Mr Edwin Ooi is 27 this year and he is already planning ahead. He intends to stop working full-time by the age of 45 and said that as a financial adviser, his work experience helps him manage his own money.

"On a month to month basis, I'll try to save up to about 30 per cent of my income and that goes into various portfolios of investments," said Mr Ooi. "50 per cent is more of expenses, but I do have surpluses here and there, so that eventually goes into savings or are parked to my investments."

He said he started thinking about early retirement at the age of 16 as he aspired to have more freedom with his time: "Retiring early would mean that I would have more time to spend with family and to do things that really matter in life."

Sunday, March 27, 2016

S’pore facing at least four types of terror threats, says Shanmugam

Neo Chai Chin

March 19, 2016

SINGAPORE — Cautioning that Singapore is a prime terrorism target for all, Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said there are “at least” four possible types of threats the Republic is facing.

Speaking at the Home Team Leaders’ Forum yesterday, the minister said the threat of a terror attack on Singapore soil is at its highest level in recent times because of what the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) wants to do, the situation in countries in the region and developments within Singapore.

Attacks that are planned just outside of the country and executed here, much like the one in Paris last November, is one. The Paris attacks were planned in Molenbeek in Belgium and “we have several possible Molenbeeks around us”, said Mr Shanmugam.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Perilous fishing in troubled waters

Mar 26, 2016


The spat between Indonesia and China over the South-east Asian nation's actions to intercept a Chinese fishing vessel poaching in its exclusive economic zone, and Malaysia's startling announcement yesterday that it was monitoring the intrusion of 100 Chinese fishing boats in its waters guarded by two Chinese coast guard ships, have again raised worry over the behaviour of Asia's dominant power.

On March 19, when the Indonesian vessel detained the Chinese trawler and was towing it towards land, a Chinese coast guard ship appeared and sought to reclaim the boat. However, Indonesia succeeded in bringing in the eight poachers and has vowed to prosecute them.

For the moment, Indonesia, after going public with the spat, is reining in its reaction even as it is incensed by China saying its boat was operating in "traditional fishing grounds". Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi has emphasised the good ties between her country and China. She also has clarified, after initial rumblings of taking China to international tribunals, that "Indonesia is not a party to the South China Sea dispute, so we are asking for a clarification about the incident". Those words, however, do not preclude future steps that the archipelagic nation may take to defend its interests. Malaysia, on the other hand, has hinted at possible legal action.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Stop trying to be like Arabs, Johor ruler tells Malays

Mar 24 2016

JOHOR BARU (The Star/Asia News Network) - The Sultan of Johor has called on Malays not to discard their unique culture, saying he was disturbed that some people want to stop Muslims from practising the traditional salam greeting.

Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar said he was sticking to "my customs and traditions as a Malay because I'm born Malay".

"If there are some of you who wish to be an Arab and practise Arab culture, and do not wish to follow our Malay customs and traditions, that is up to you.

"I also welcome you to live in Saudi Arabia.

"That is your right but I believe there are Malays who are proud of the Malay culture. At least I am real and not a hypocrite and the people of Johor know who their ruler is," he said.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Other than that black briefcase, S’pore Finance Ministers are significantly different

March 22, 2016


Like having different hairstyles. Joking, we really mean different policies.

Tan Xing Qi
Martino Tan

When Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat takes centre stage on March 24, he will be the 8th Finance Minister to deliver the Budget statement. takes a look back at the different challenges each Finance Minister faced.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

John Roberts Criticized Supreme Court Confirmation Process, Before There Was a Vacancy


MARCH 21, 2016

WASHINGTON — Last month, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. delivered some blunt remarks about the Supreme Court confirmation process. The Senate should ensure that nominees are qualified, he said, and leave politics out of it.

The chief justice spoke 10 days before Justice Antonin Scalia died, and he could not have known how timely and telling his comments would turn out to be. They now amount to a stern, if abstract, rebuke to the Republican senators who refuse to hold hearings on President Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick B. Garland.

Some people are hoping that the chief justice will speak out again, and more directly, addressing the actual nomination of an actual nominee.

It was not long ago that qualified nominees coasted onto the court, Chief Justice Roberts said last month, in a speech at New England Law, a private law school in Boston. In 1986, Justice Scalia was confirmed by a vote of 98 to 0. In 1993, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was confirmed by a vote of 96 to 3.

These days, Chief Justice Roberts said, “the process is not functioning very well.”

Monday, March 21, 2016

A strange anomaly in management of airspace

Chappy Hakim

21 Mar 2016

A debate has been raging in Indonesia over Singapore's management of airspace over Riau, with some saying Jakarta must reclaim the airspace as a matter of sovereignty and pride. Below is a translation of a commentary that appeared in Kompass on March 14, written by a former Indonesian air force chief.
In the Strait of Malacca, air traffic regulation of the airspace under the sovereignty of the Republic of Indonesia, which includes the Natuna Islands and Tanjung Pinang and the Riau Archipelago, comes under the Singapore aviation authority. This airspace is situated within, or is part of, the Singapore flight information region (FIR).

With such a status, all flights in this airspace are managed by the Singapore aviation authority.

The Low Income Singaporeans

[A collection of articles on low income families and profiles of some of these low income families and individuals.]

The really shameful thing about poverty

Chua Mui Hoong
Opinion Editor

Mar 13 2016

When I first started coming across commentaries a few years ago about a new school of research that linked poverty to poor behavioural patterns, my initial reaction was one of indignation.

Talk about blaming the victim, I muttered under my breath, as yet another op-ed filtered onto my computer screen suggesting this.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Trump presidency rated among top 10 global risks: EIU

18 Mar 2016


Donald Trump winning the US presidency is considered one of the top 10 risks facing the world, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

The research firm warns he could disrupt the global economy and heighten political and security risks in the US.

However, it does not expect Mr Trump to defeat Hillary Clinton who it sees as "his most likely Democratic contender".

Electric car Tesla slapped with $15,000 tax surcharge

[Edited. New article appended Mar 18.]

Straits Times

Mar 5, 2016

Electric car is the first tailpipe emission-free vehicle to be penalised thus in Singapore
Christopher Tan

Senior Transport Correspondent

An electric car which attracts tax breaks in several countries has been slapped with a tax surcharge in Singapore.

The Model S - a sedan made by California-based Tesla Motors - is the first tailpipe emission-free car to be penalised this way here.

Mr Joe Nguyen, 44, registered a used Model S he sourced from Hong Kong just before Chinese New Year. He was shocked that the car - for which he paid close to $400,000 - was liable for a $15,000 carbon surcharge.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The shame culture

David Brooks
16 Mar 2016

In 1987, Allan Bloom wrote a book called The Closing Of The American Mind. The core argument was that American campuses were awash in moral relativism. Subjective personal values had replaced universal moral principles. Nothing was either right or wrong. Amid a wave of rampant non-judgmentalism, life was flatter and emptier.

Bloom's thesis was accurate at the time, but it's not accurate any more. College campuses are today awash in moral judgment.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

What ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ got wrong about the AIDS crisis

By Dylan Matthews
December 10, 2013

'Tis the season for Oscar bait, and this year, "Dallas Buyers Club" looks set to get at least a few nominations. The movie stars Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof, a Dallas man who contracts HIV in 1985, when the diagnosis was a death sentence.

After responding poorly to AZT, the first drug approved to treat HIV/AIDS, Woodroof began acquiring unapproved medications from Mexico, Japan and other places around the world, and formed the titular "buyers club" to distribute them to other people in his area, whether the Food and Drug Administration liked it or not.

It's a very-well-made movie, and McConaughey and Jared Leto (who plays a transgender woman named Rayon who partners with Woodroof) give great performances. And the script, which had been written over the course of 20 years and was based in large part on interviews with Woodroof and on his personal journals, is by all accounts an accurate depiction of Woodroof's life. But it risks leaving a false impression of that period in the history of HIV/AIDS, and in particular of the role of AZT.

[The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the go-to villain for the alternative medicine set and from their narrative, the FDA is either trying to poison people by approving unsafe substances, or trying to stop people from better health by disallowing natural remedies because such natural remedies would reduce the profit of Big Pharma. So this is just riposte.]

'If you love China, you hate Hong Kong'

Li Xueying
Hong Kong Correspondent

Mar 12, 2016,

A young generation of Hong Kongers, fed up with the central government's encroachment into the territory's affairs, is embracing a more militant form of 'localism' to push for independence, to the consternation of Beijing as well as Hong Kong's established political leaders.
When Mr Lee Kuan Yew died in March last year, the clip of him tearfully announcing Singapore's uncoupling from Malaysia 51 years ago went viral in certain circles in Hong Kong.

Since Singapore could secede from Malaysia then, so too can Hong Kong do the same from China now, goes the thinking of those who shared it on social media.

"If Hong Kong and China can separate, as Malaysia and Singapore did in 1965, this is good for both sides," says Mr Martin Oei, 38, a commentator from the localism movement.

The idea of Hong Kong as an independent state is not as far-fetched as it seems, he argues.

Only Trump Can Trump Trump

Mar 10 2016

Thomas L. Friedman

Donald Trump is a walking political science course. His meteoric rise is lesson No. 1 on leadership: Most voters do not listen through their ears. They listen through their stomachs. If a leader can connect with them on a gut level, their response is: "Don't bother me with the details. I trust your instincts." If a leader can't connect on a gut level, he or she can't show them enough particulars. They'll just keep asking, "Can you show me the details one more time?"

Trump's Republican rivals keep thinking that if they just point out a few more details about him, voters will drop The Donald and turn to one of them instead. But you can't talk voters out of something that they haven't been talked into.

Many have come to Trump out of a gut feeling that this is a guy who knows their pain, even if he really doesn't. Many of his supporters are from the #middleagewhitemalesmatter movement, for whom the current age of acceleration has not been kind and for whom Trump's rallies are their way of saying "Can you hear me now?" and of sticking it to all the people who exploited their pain but left them behind, particularly traditional Republican elites. They are not interested in Trump's details. They like his gut.

How gut bacteria are shaking up cancer research

March 14, 2016

LONDON — Top scientists at Roche Holding AG and AstraZeneca Plc are sizing up potential allies in the fight against cancer: The trillions of bacteria that live in the human body.

“Five years ago, if you had asked me about bacteria in your gut playing an important role in your systemic immune response, I probably would have laughed it off,” Dr Daniel Chen, head of cancer immunotherapy research at Roche’s Genentech division, said in a phone interview. “Most of us immunologists now believe that there really is an important interaction there.”

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Referendum Charade

MAR 8, 2016 


NEW YORK – Referendums are all the rage in Europe. In June, British voters will decide whether the United Kingdom should remain in the European Union. The Hungarian government has called for a referendum on accepting its quota of refugees set by the EU. Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, has already said that Hungary would resist letting them in. “All the terrorists are basically migrants,” he said. The referendum is likely to go his way.

Perhaps the oddest referendum will take place in April in the Netherlands, following a successful petition campaign. The question put to Dutch citizens will be whether the Netherlands should sign up to an association agreement between the EU and Ukraine. All other EU member countries have already agreed, but without the Dutch it cannot be ratified.

One might think that the details of trade agreements and tariff barriers with Ukraine would baffle most Dutch voters, and one might also wonder why they should care enough to hold a referendum. But referendums fit the populist mood that is sweeping many countries, from Donald Trump’s America to Orbán’s Hungary.

Why the world is stuck with persistent stagnation


MARCH 8, 2016

Concerns over global growth were at the top of the agenda at the recent Group of Twenty (G20) meeting in Shanghai — and with good reason. Seven years after the Great Recession, the world economy continues to struggle. After a wrenching financial crisis morphed quickly into a severe downturn in the global business cycle, the subsequent recovery has been unusually weak, lacking the vigour that normally insulates the world from subsequent shocks. With a multitude of shocks continuing to batter today’s troubled world — from Islamic State and a European refugee crisis, to a collapse in energy and other commodity markets — the probability of a relapse remains high.

To a large extent, the world is mired in a Japanese-like secular stagnation.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


From Bill Gates Annual letter 2016:

By Bill and Melinda Gates

February 22, 2016

We were asked that question recently by some high school students in Kentucky.

They also asked us about our favorite breakfast cereal (Bill: Cocoa Puffs; Melinda: Wheat Chex); what animal we would want to be (Bill: a bonobo; Melinda: a white leopard); and if we know how to dance the Whip and Nae Nae (one of us does).

The superpower question was our favorite.

To fly. To be invisible. To travel through time. All good options.

Trying to keep up with our foundation work and our three children’s schedules, we gave responses that will be immediately familiar to other parents.

“More time!”

“More energy!”

When we sat down to write this year’s letter, those answers stuck with us. Sure, everyone wants more time and energy. But they mean one thing in rich countries and something else entirely when looked at through the eyes of the world’s poorest families.

No repeat of the depths of 2008 for global economy


MARCH 9, 2016

The question I am asked most often nowadays is this: Are we back to 2008 and another global financial crisis and recession?

My answer is a straightforward no, but that the recent episode of global financial market turmoil is likely to be more serious than any period of volatility and risk-off behaviour since 2009. This is because there are now at least seven sources of global tail risk, as opposed to the single factors — the eurozone crisis, the Federal Reserve “taper tantrum”, a possible Greek exit from the eurozone and a hard economic landing in China — that have fuelled volatility in recent years.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Mahathir's politics of fatigue

Leslie Lopez
Regional Correspondent

7 Mar 2016

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's chaotic politics took its most bizarre twist so far last week when former premier Mahathir Mohamad and a wide cast of the country's opposition banded together under a so-called "Citizen's Alliance" to force Prime Minister Najib Razak from office.

Bizarre because Dr Mahathir, who is very much responsible for Malaysia's current political and economic troubles, is being held up as the only leader who can save this South-east Asian nation.

What's more, the 90-year-old politician, who also resigned from Umno last week, is being hoisted to that role by the likes of Mr Lim Kit Siang, the granddaddy of Malaysia's opposition politics, and jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who many Malaysians believe is a victim of a high-level government conspiracy engineered by Dr Mahathir's supporters.

The unfolding political drama from Dr Mahathir's latest gambit is set to keep Malaysia's political temperatures running high and put him at the forefront of the campaign against Datuk Seri Najib.

It also underscores the desperate state of the country's politics, particularly when ordinary Malaysians grudgingly admit that only someone of Dr Mahathir's stature can provide the leadership to restore much-needed discipline among the opposition alliance.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Juicing - the new fad.

Juicing is bad for you and the earth, says one article.

So naturally, being the internet, and because the juice lobby is pretty significant, there is a moderating article, to put the claims (or critiques) into perspective.

But questioning the value of juicing is not new. Here is a Q&A on juicing from June 2015. One answer on the use of juices as a meal replacement:
One of the biggest misconceptions about juicing is that juices can replace a large quantity of your meals in a healthy manner. It almost goes without saying that a refreshing drink beaming with antioxidants is healthy – but juices as meal replacements is another thing entirely. Fruit and vegetable juice just does not provide adequate fibre, protein or fats in the long term.
But all is not lost! If you really want to keep on juicing.

Recycling - WWII scrap drives


Were WWII scrap drives just a ploy to boost morale?
May 31, 2002
Dear Cecil:
My relatives who lived during World War II insist that all the scrap-metal and rubber drives, supposedly done to preserve resources for the war effort, were only for propaganda. None of the metal and rubber collected was ever used for anything. Is this true?
— Anthony Allen, Los Angeles

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Benjamin Lim case: MPs question if release of more information could have dispelled falsehoods

Ng Jing Yng

March 1, 2016

SINGAPORE — The question of whether the authorities could have shared more information to dispel allegations on the Benjamin Lim case being circulated was raised by Members of Parliament (MPs) on Tuesday (March 1), after the Home Affairs and Education ministers set out the facts of the case and their protocols to handle such matters.

Although Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said it was a deliberate decision to refrain from passing comments out of respect for the boy’s family and the young girl in the alleged molestation, MPs expressed concern about the public being misled by falsehoods being spread in public and online. The 14-year-old boy was found dead at the foot of his HDB block on Jan 26 after he had been questioned on an alleged molestation.

Others also asked if protocols for police investigations and schools’ handling of investigations involving students needed to be tweaked, even as a review is underway, including on the suggestion for a familiar adult figure to accompany minors being questioned.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Benjamin Lim case

1 Mar 2016

A timeline of what happened

Seow Bei Yi

SINGAPORE - On Jan 26, a 14-year-old Secondary 3 schoolboy was found dead at the foot of a block of flats in Yishun. He had lived on the 14th floor with his family.

The boy, Benjamin Lim, had earlier been questioned by the police in connection with an allegation involving outrage of modesty.

In Parliament on Tuesday (March 1), Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam laid out the facts of the case. Here is a summary: