January 21, 2017

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Morning call at 8.30!

THE good news? Those who take trips to Tuas will have an easier time of it with the new 4.8km viaduct that will open on Feb 18 and four new MRT stations – Tuas Link, Tuas West Road, Tuas Crescent and Gul Circle – that will open in the second quarter.

The bad news? SMRT’s East-West line broke down again, with some commuters experiencing delays of an hour. The fault affected a stretch from Joo Koon to Clementi. Hang on, Joo Koon connects to Tuas. Oh bother.

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The good news? You can pay for your hour-delayed train ride with a fitness tracker now. Well, two specific fitness trackers, to be precise. One is the Garmin vivosmart HR with EZ-Link (S$259) available from March.

The bad news? The other is the Batman v Superman Fitness Tracker X EZ-Link (S$42.80), by Chinese company Watchdata. Yes, it has a Batman v Superman logo on it, making it a clear winner for Batman v Superman fans, all 36 of you.

The good news? There will be 8,795 Certificates of Entitlement (COEs) available each month from February to April, an increase of 8.9 per cent over the previous round. It doesn’t mean more cars on the road, though – the COE supply comes from old vehicles getting de-registered.

The bad news? Analysts and car salesmen don’t expect a significant dip in prices as there is a backlog of orders, plus the number of COEs available for motorcycles and goods vehicles is actually dropping, so prices of those are expected to rise.

The good news? The first Singapore-made electric super-car, the Dendrobium by Vanda Electric (very Singaporean names), will debut at the Geneva Motorshow in March. The 1,500 horsepower, 4,000 Nm torque, 1-100 in 2.6 seconds, two-seater was first announced early in 2016 and is developed together with Williams Advanced Engineering.

The bad news? Upper Thomson Road flooded again. This time it wasn’t as severe as it was in December, and the shin-high waters subsided in less than an hour. No businesses were affected by the flooding. It wasn’t clear if the contractor fingered for the last deluge also had a part to play this time around.

And, oh, President-elect Donald Trump will be sworn into office today.

 

 

Featured image from TMG file.

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THE Ministry of Health will merge the current six healthcare clusters into three clusters to serve the central, east and west of Singapore.

The naming’s a little funny for regional-focused clusters: National Healthcare Group + Alexandra Health System will be called National Healthcare group (NHG). Eastern Health Alliance + Singapore Health Services will be called SingHealth. Jurong Health Services + National University Health System will be called National University Health System (NUHS). One would have thought that “Jurong”, “Alexandra” and “Eastern” would be self-explanatory and save everyone the trouble of realising that “National” and “Singapore” don’t actually serve the whole nation of Singapore.

Whatever you call them, three clusters instead of six means that each cluster will be able to offer a full range of healthcare services and options, including general hospitals, community hospitals, polyclinics, and a medical school each. Specialist centres in each of the clusters will continue to serve the whole of Singapore.

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The revamp will be an opportunity to optimise resources and manpower and centralise more functions. It is designed to meet challenges ahead, such as our ageing population, and an increased chronic disease burden, although reports did not specify exactly how it would achieve this. Better integration in care?

Healthcare analyst Jeremy Lim said in TODAY that the changes were a shift towards preventative health, although the health ministry said that the patient experience will not be impacted in the short term. Just go about using the healthcare system as per normal and over the long term things will improve. We’re terribly curious to know exactly how that will work out.

From mega-healthcare clusters to mega-childcare centres. Two 1,000-place centres in Punggol (My First Skool and PAP Community Foundation), a 400-place one in Sengkang (Skool4Kidz) and a 300-place centre in Bukit Panjang (My First Skool) will be ready by mid 2018.

Registration for places starts in the second quarter of 2017.

Asean should band together and cooperate on tourism, says PM Lee Hsien Loong. This will help the bloc succeed in a global climate of isolationism and uncertainty. He called regional cooperation a “life raft” in tough times.

To that end, a new campaign was launched to promote Asean as a unified travel destination and celebrate Asean’s 50 years as a grouping. However, the name “Visit Asean@50” seems more like it is encouraging people to go on holidays once they’ve hit the age of 50.

Not that it puts any damper on tourism from China to Singapore. There was a 36 per cent rise in China tourists from January to November 2016, compared to the same period in 2015 and that meant that Chinese were the largest visitor group by nationality, pipping Indonesians by 2.6 million to 2.5 million. Singapore Tourism Board (STB) wants to reach out to tier two and three Chinese cities now.

 

 

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A Casio digital watch showing 8:30 by Shawn Danker
A Casio digital watch showing 8:30

THE Labour Movement has outlined its recommendations for Budget 2017, with a focus on getting workers, employers and the G to adapt more quickly to the changing economy.

For workers:

  • More modular courses (for constant skills upgrading)
  • “Returnship” programmes for women re-entering the workforce (like internships, where workers get to try out the job before deciding to train/retrain)
  • Special Employment Credits for older workers and returning women
  • More legal protection, CPF help for freelancers

For employers:

  • Support hiring that is skills-based instead of academic qualification-based (because that’s what gets the job done)
  • Improved apprenticeship programmes (the best way to learn job-related skills is to do the job)
  • Targeted productivity funding (tailored for each sector’s needs)
  • Funds for SMEs to improve workplace safety and health

For the G:

  • Paid training leave for SkillsFuture courses (because $500 doesn’t buy you time off from work)
  • Skills and salary data from the Jobs Bank (to know what’s in demand and prepare for it)
  • Amend procurement law to allow vendor contract renegotiations (in situations where productivity/technology improves, for example)

Will NTUC’s wishes come true? We’ll find out on Feb 20 when Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat delivers the Budget speech.

It’ll be a hard Brexit. Another widely-watched list is UK PM Theresa May’s speech that underscored her administration’s “Brexit means Brexit” stance. Markets rallied when she pledged that Parliament will have to agree to the deal.

A hard Brexit means that the UK will not want any half measures like staying partially in the EU single market. It will then negotiate trade, immigration and other international agreements as an independent nation.

She warned her EU counterparts against trying to punish the UK with a raw deal, saying that she would rather Brexit with no agreement from the EU than accept a “bad deal”.

The Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation, the highest Singapore-China forum, will be held next month, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The meeting is co-chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli.

Observers had noted that the annual meeting failed to take place last year and with the Terrex seizure issue straining bilateral ties, speculation was that the missed meeting was another sign of deteriorating relations.

Both foreign ministries are upbeat about relations but mum on what is on the agenda. Everyone is guessing: Taiwan? Terrexes? Territorial disputes?

 

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THAT’S because the G can’t be considered a person. In any case, the G isn’t exactly bereft of resources to protect itself from false claims and untruths.

That’s what Singapore highest court said about the Protection from Harassment Act which the Defence Ministry tried to invoke when it had to deal with Dr Ting Choon Meng who accused Mindef of dragging out a court case over a medical device so as to drain him financially.

You can read the background on the case here. The Online Citizen has been reporting the doctor’s claims and the individuals running the site have also been subject of Mindef’s ire. But it was no-go for Mindef and the Attorney-General took the case to the Court of Appeal.

MSM reported that the three-court judge was split with Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon as the sole dissenting voice. Under the provision, a person who is a victim of a false statement can ask the court to order that the statement not be published unless it drew attention to the truth. Mindef was among the first “people” to test the law which came into place in 2014. Judges Andrew Phang and Chao Hick Tin said Mindef didn’t qualify as a “person”, CJ Menon said it did. We’ll have more on this later.

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Now, let’s go to wealth.

Veteran banker Wee Cho Yaw, has bought all 45 unsold units at upmarket condominium, The Nassim, for $411.6 million.

The bulk sale gets developer CapitaLand off the hook over penalties that apply to unsold properties after a stipulated period. CapitaLand estimated that if the 45 units had been unsold by August, it would have had to pay $9.3 million in the first year. These fees would have jumped to $27.9 million by the third year, reported The Straits Times (ST). The unanswered question: what’s he going to do with 45 units? Rent them out and sell them when the property prices go back up?

Mr Wee was one of those who helped to boost private home sales last year. Developers sold 8,136 new units, up from 7,440 in 2015 and 7,300 or so in 2014. Private home prices have been slipping in the past three years – by 3 per cent last year, 3.7 per cent in 2015 and 4 per cent in 2014.

Still on wealth. An Oxfam report said that eight people in the world owned US$427 billion (S$610 billion) equivalent to what more than 3.6 billion people or the poorest half of the world have. Microsoft’s Bill Gates tops the the list with US$75 billion.

And finally, we end with US President-Elect Donald Trump, who has been busy making a lot of people unhappy, by predicting, among other things, an exodus from the European Union which he described as a vehicle fan instrument of German domination designed to beat the United States in international trade.

 

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THIS week it’s all about ordinary people – and one President – getting into trouble.  Here’s what happened around the world:

1. Sandra Weir

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Image a screenshot from Google maps.

Sandra Weir, 41, has been a drug addict since her 20s and is willing to do just anything for it. She became close to her elderly neighbour, Mrs Marie Logie, and acted as an unofficial carer. That wasn’t her actual intention. To fund her drug habits, Weir had been stealing significant amounts of cash from the 82-year-old. On Jan 5, 2016, Mrs Logie was found dead in the living room of her first floor flat in Leven. The victim had been attacked with a rolling pin, leaving multiple fractures on her skull and 31 other injuries on the head and neck. Judge Michael O’Grady described the way Mrs Logie was killed as “breathtakingly wicked” and “nothing can diminish the callous and cruel and utterly heartless nature of this crime”. Weir was sentenced to jail for a minimum of 21 years.

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2. President Yahya Jammeh

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Image a screenshot from Google maps.

After 22 long years of ruling the country, President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia is finally defeated. The results of the election poll last month showed that Mr Adama Barrow won the election with 43.3 per cent votes compared to Mr Jammeh who only had 39.6 per cent votes in total. Mr Barrow insists that he will become president on Jan 19 once Mr Jammeh’s term expires but the latter refuses to accept the fact that he lost. Mr Jammeh said he wants to remain in the office until the Supreme Court annuls the poll. He added that the poll was marred by irregularities and demanded a new one. Nigerian MPs have voted to give Mr Jammeh asylum if he accepts the defeat and gives up his power. Nigeria’s House of Representatives agreed that Mr Buhari should offer Mr Jammeh a “safe haven” in Nigeria instead of sending troops to remove him from power, which could lead to Gambians fleeing to neighbouring states. Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari will be visiting Mr Jammeh on Friday (Jan 13) to make this deal.

 

3. Robert Xie

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Image a screenshot from Google maps.

Robert Xie, 53, has been found guilty of killing five family members back in 2009 in Sydney. The five were his brother-in-law Min Lin, Mr Lin’s wife Lily, their sons Henry, 12, and Terry, 9, and Mrs Lin’s sister Irene. The New South Wales Supreme court heard that Xie killed the five using a hammer-like weapon at around 2 am in the family’s home. The reason he did it? It was out of jealousy. Xie resented Mr Lin for he was constantly perceived as the better businessman within the extended family. Two years later,  Xie was charged with murder after the police forensics found blood stains in his garage, with four out five DNAs that matched the victims.

in the second trial, the judge took into consideration of going with the majority verdict of 11 to one when the jury failed to reach a unanimous decision. A jury in a separate trial last year failed to reach a verdict while two other trials were aborted due to legal reasons. Xie did not give any evidence at all of his trials and was supported by his wife.

 

4. Yang

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Image a screenshot from Google maps.

A 92-year-old woman known as Yang was kept in a 10-sq-metre cell which resembles a pigsty for the longest time. It was first reported by papers in the southern Guangxi region and later went viral as Chinese social media users brought it online. Local social media user “Pretty Nan Gualan” posted a video of Yang sitting by a cage door on Miaopai. Ever since the video was uploaded on Jan 6, it has a total of 1.8 million views. Angry netizens brought this video to popular microblog Sina Weibo to voice their outrage. People used the hashtag #92YearOldKeptInPigsty to create attention and even called the people who kept Yang in there, her son and daughter-in-law, “beasts” and “scum”. On Jan 10, Southern Morning Post uploaded a picture of Yang’s condition who looked malnourished. She’s currently treated at a local hospital.

 

5. Petra Laszlo

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Image a screenshot from Google maps.

Camerawoman Petra Laszlo was filming refugees in Sept 2015 as they fled through a police cordon near the Hungary-Serbia border. She was caught on film kicking two people including a young girl as they were trying to flee as well as tripping a man who was carrying his child. Laszlo has been sentenced to three years probation for disorderly conduct. Judge Illes Nanasi rejected her defence lawyer’s argument who said that she was just trying to protect herself. But Laszlo has said that she would appeal. She made an appearance at the Szeged District Court hearing via video link and occasionally broke down. Since the day that the incident happened, she has been receiving death threats and subjected to the “hate campaign”. Right-wing TV channel N1TV also fired her after the footage of her conducting the acts went viral.

 

 

Compiled by Iffah Nadhirah Osman

Featured image Earth by Flickr user Kevin GillCC BY-SA 2.0

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Uplifting news?

IF YOU’RE living in a Housing Development Board (HDB) block, go take a look at whether your lift is a Sigma lift. The company has been banned from future lift projects because its lifts, including those in new estates, have been breaking down too often. There are some 3,500 Sigma-installed lifts out of the 24,000 HDB lifts here. According to The Straits Times (ST) which broke the news, half the major reported cases of lift incidents in 2015 and last year involved Sigma as manufacturer or maintenance contractor.

Last year, a Sigma lift in Petir Road shot up and down between floors, injuring a 59-year-old resident. Sigma is a subsidiary of Otis Elevator Company, an American company which also makes lifts for HDB under its own brand. Nothing’s been said about Otis lifts. Presumably, the parent company has higher standards.

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Ban lifted

You can bet that fresh food, especially fish, is going up in price even as you read this, given that Chinese New Year is around the corner. Chinese silver pomfret sold for $45 per kg last week at the wet market at 4A Eunos Crescent, reported Lianhe Wanbao. Last month, it cost more than $30 per kg and could go up to between $60 and $80 per kg in the next two weeks, the newspaper said.

Now take into account the ban on fish sales from 12 fish farms in the wake of an oil spill that occurred off Pasir Gudang Port in Johor on Jan 3. Less supply, heightened demand equals to even higher price. The good news is that two fish farms have had their suspensions lifted after they cleaned up the oil spill. Prices will still be high… but maybe not that high?

 

Lifting Trump’s veil?

US-President elect Donald Trump’s nominees have been surprising people who thought they would turn out to be belligerent as their boss. But the men who are now going through a Senate grilling for top positions in the State and Defence departments, as well as the Central Intelligence Agency seem to be breaking ranks with Mr Trump with their own views on Russia, wall-building and water-boarding, which Mr Trump wants resurrected. So while Mr Trump can carry on tweeting whatever he likes, his Cabinet doesn’t seem so half-cocked and scary. Is this a Trump “good cop, bad cop” strategy?

Chinese media, however, are unhappy with Mr Rex Tillerson, who was nominated for Secretary of State which would make him the country’s chief diplomat. They are up in arms over his comments that China’s actions in the disputed South China Sea can be compared to Russia’s invasion of Crimea. Said Global Times: “Unless Washington plans to wage a large-scale war in the South China Sea, any other approaches to prevent China access to the islands will be foolish. Tillerson had better bone up on nuclear power strategies if he wants to force a big nuclear power to withdraw from its own territories.”

 

 

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Morning Call, 0830, clock

SINGAPORE’S trains travelled 30 per cent further before breaking down in 2016 compared to 2015, but still fell short of the interim target, set by LTA, of an average of 200,000 km before a delay.

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan had called for trains to operate for an average of 400,000 km before a delay, by 2018.

ST’s page nine report was nearly all praise for the 30 per cent increase, and made no mention that the interim target had been missed. Its online story also neglected to mention that major breakdowns of more than 30 minutes rose again to 16 in 2016, even as minor breakdowns decreased.

TODAY had a better report on the issue, highlighting the mixed bag of results and getting analysts to weigh in on issues like ageing infrastructure.

“It gives me a small measure of confidence that if we are able to inject more consistency and sustainability into our efforts, the target of 400,000 train-km by 2018 is well within reach,” said Mr Pang Kin Keong, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Transport, when delivering the report.

Erm, yes, we suppose rail reliability will improve when efforts are more consistent. The question is: How to get efforts more consistent?

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The front page story on ST was about eight Indonesians who had been deported because one of them had photos of a shoe bomb and ISIS fighters on his phone. They were turned back trying to come in from the Woodlands Checkpoint, and were questioned by Malaysian authorities before being sent back to Indonesia, where they are being investigated by the Indonesian counter-terrorist unit Densus 88.

The fellow with the photos, one Ridce Elfi Hendra (TODAY has the name, but not ST), said that he got them from a WhatsApp group which he has since left, but he had neglected to delete the photos.

Preliminary investigations by Malaysian authorities found that the group, who were on a Muslim preaching itinerary through Thailand and Malaysia, held largely moderate views that rejected ISIS ideology.

It wasn’t clear why authorities decided to inspect the group’s mobile phones.

 

Featured image from TMG file.

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by Glenn Ong

EVER since winning the US presidential elections on Nov 8 last year, Donald Trump just hasn’t been able to catch a break – and not always for the right reasons.

His electoral college victory – confirmed on Dec 19 – will see him inaugurated on Jan 20 as the 45th President of the United States. However, this hasn’t been sitting well with many of his detractors, and Trump continues to be the subject of jokes, parodies, and yes – insults.

Trump, however, is not one to take things lying down. The celebrity businessman-turned-President seems intent on sharing – or hogging – the spotlight. In a country where it is common for celebrities and politicians to become the butt of jokes, Trump’s frequent expressions of indignation have been described as impetuous and thin-skinned.

Here are some of the people he’s clashed with so far:

 

1. Meryl Streep

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Image FESTIVAL INTERNAZIONALE DEL FILM DI ROMA ’09 by Flickr user Vincent Luigi Molino(CC BY-ND 2.0)

The most recent celebrity to be embroiled in a conflict with Donald Trump is Hollywood actress and 19-time Academy Award nominee Meryl Streep.

In her acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Award, she called Trump out for ridiculing a disabled New York Times reporter, and for inciting a culture of hate and intolerance, though she stopped short of naming him:

In her six-minute speech for the lifetime achievement award, Streep addressed the circumstances surrounding Trump’s rise to office, saying:

Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.

The President-elect did not take kindly to Streep’s speech, retaliating in a series of tweets calling her “one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood”:

Trump’s labelling of Streep as “over-rated” is a reversal of his previous opinion of the actress. When asked to name his favourite actresses in 2015, Trump said, “Meryl Streep is excellent; she’s a fine person, too.”

In her speech, Streep – who has won at least 157 awards in her career – also called for greater press freedom and more support for the non-profit Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). As of yesterday (Jan 9), just a day after her speech, the CPJ reported a spike in donations totalling US$80,000 (S$114,900).

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2. Alec Baldwin

alec-baldwin-2008-peta-new-york-city-by-david-shankbone

Image Alec Baldwin 2008 PETA New York City by David Shankbone by Flickr user David Shankbone(CC BY 2.0)

Alec Baldwin’s unflattering impersonation of Donald Trump on American variety show Saturday Night Live (SNL) has earned him much praise from SNL’s viewers, but also plenty of scorn from Trump and his supporters.

In another tweet, Trump called SNL a “totally one-sided, biased show – nothing funny at all”. Yet, SNL’s parodies of Trump remain popular. While many SNL videos cannot be viewed in Singapore, one of its sketches – of the town hall debate – garnered more than 20 million views and over 135,000 ‘likes’ on YouTube.

Below is a full video of SNL’s town hall debate parody, uploaded by another user:

 

The President-elect, who had difficulties getting celebrities to agree to perform at his inauguration, even received a sarcastic offer by Baldwin to show up – provided Trump allowed him to perform the song “Highway to Hell” by rock band AC/DC.

However, not all of Baldwin’s retorts have been caustic.

In a series of tweets, Baldwin told Trump what he would do if he were President: “I’d be focused on how to improve the lives of AS MANY AMERICANS AS POSSIBLE… I’d be focused on improving our reputation abroad, including actually fighting for freedom and not just oil.”

“I would make appointments that encouraged people, not generate fear and doubt,” he added. He concluded with, “I could go on. You want more advice, call me. I’ll be at SNL.”

 

3. Arnold Schwarzenegger

arnold-schwarzenegger

Image Arnold Schwarzenegger by Flickr user Eva Rinaldi(CC BY-SA 2.0)

Trump allegedly picked a fight with former Republican Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger over the ratings of the reality show, “The Celebrity Apprentice”, which Schwarzenegger now hosts. In a tweet last Friday (Jan 6), The Donald ridiculed Schwarzenegger for failing to match the ratings of Trump’s previous hit series, “The Apprentice”.

“The Celebrity Apprentice”, which premiered last Monday (Jan 2) with 4.9 million viewers, is a new iteration of Trump’s iconic reality show, which garnered 18.5 million viewers when it premiered in 2004. Calling himself the “ratings machine”, Trump said he “swamped (or destroyed)” Schwarzenegger.

Mr Schwarzenegger hit back at Trump, tweeting: “I wish you the best of luck and I hope you’ll work for ALL of the American people as aggressively as you worked for your ratings.”

Calling Schwarzenegger out for the show’s poor ratings might have been an odd move, since Trump is himself the official executive producer of the show. However, Trump’s hostility towards Schwarzenegger is not surprising, since the latter stated last October that he would not vote for Trump.

 

4. Joe Biden

After the tape of Trump bragging about sexual assault was leaked last year, US Vice-President Joe Biden was among the many who publicly expressed outrage, saying on Oct 21 that he wished he could “take Trump behind the gym”, a euphemism for settling their differences with a fight.

 

Trump responded less than a week later (Oct 25), saying he’d be more than willing to take on the Vice-President’s challenge, whom he described as “creepy“.

 

While the two have yet to fight out their differences, the verbal squabble hasn’t ended.

Just last Friday (Jan 6), Mr Biden was asked by PBS NewsHour, an American news program, on what his thoughts were on Trump’s tweets, to which the Vice-President responded: “Grow up, Donald. Grow up. Time to be an adult.”

He added: “You’re president. You’ve got to do something. Show us what you have. You’re going to propose legislation. We’re going to get to debate it. Let the public decide. Let them vote in Congress. Let’s see what happens.”

 

5. Charlie Brotman

brotman

Image _MG_9498 by Flickr user David(CC BY 2.0)

Not all of Donald Trump’s snubs are hostile and confrontational.

While he’s probably unknown to people outside America, 89-year-old Charlie Brotman has been the parade announcer for every presidential inauguration since Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President, was sworn in for his second term in 1957. Brotman also made a name as the stadium announcer for the Washington Senators baseball team.

On Sunday (Jan 8), however, the Trump campaign broke with tradition and announced that they would be dropping Brotman from the inauguration. Instead, the campaign has appointed Steve Ray, a 58-year-old freelance announcer.

Upon receiving the notice, Brotman said, “I looked at my email, then I got the shock of my life”, and that “I felt like Muhammad Ali had hit me in the stomach.”

The Trump transition team spokesman, Boris Epshteyn, said that in recognition of his services, Brotman would be honoured as “announcer chairman emeritus”. While Brotman isn’t sure why he was dropped, he said it is likely because Ray is being rewarded for expressing support for the Trump campaign.

While he is “heartbroken” and “destroyed”, Brotman wished his successor well, telling reporters, “I want [Ray] to do good“.

 

6. Mark Cuban

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Image 509306865DH00026_TechCrunch by Flickr user TechCrunch(CC BY 2.0)

Perhaps one of the most well-known public feuds Donald Trump has is with billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban. A vocal critic of the President-elect, Cuban has been dubbed a “Trump troll” for his comical and sometimes absurd taunts. In 2012, Cuban offered Trump US$1 million (S$1.43 million) to a charity of his choice if he agreed to shave his head. Both continued to exchange blows online, with Trump tweeting:

However, they weren’t constant enemies. When Trump announced his candidacy in 2015, Cuban had said that he would consider being his running mate.

Cuban changed his position in the following months, launching scathing criticisms against Trump and publicly endorsing Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton. Defending his reversal, Cuban said in an interview, “I liked Trump’s honesty because it was different and had a chance to change the business of politics”.  He added: “What I didn’t realize he was missing at the time was a complete and utter lack of preparation, knowledge, and common sense.”

Last September, when Trump suggested that Cuban wasn’t intelligent enough to understand his policies, the latter issued a dare, tweeting: “$10 [million] to the charity of YOUR choice if you let ME interview you for 4 hrs on YOUR policies and their substance.”

When Donald Trump’s victory was confirmed, however, Cuban took to Twitter to call for optimism:

 

Covering all bases

But just to make sure he didn’t miss out anyone, The Donald made sure to end last year right by sending out a greeting on New Year’s Eve to anyone who has ever crossed him:

 

Featured image by Sean Chong.

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Clock showing 0830

BUT he didn’t mention that figure which got Singaporeans hot under the collar: 6.9 million.

You remember that row, don’t you? How the G came up with a report in January 2013 that said more people would be needed to power Singapore’s economy in the future? There was an unprecedented outcry even though the population target (or projection) was for 2030.

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Mr Calvin Cheng, a former Nominated MP who is well-known for his conservative views, has a column published in ST today noting that the assumptions made in the White Paper, such as the challenges of globalisation, an ageing population, and the continued low birth rate haven’t changed. Nor has productivity budged to make up for low increase in manpower numbers.

He wrote:

No plan on the future of the Singapore economy can be presented without addressing the elephant in the room: how an ageing, shrinking population can have a future economy without addressing its population concerns.

He added:

If the electorate continues to reject the proposal of the 2013 Population White Paper, the Government cannot address the acute problems that an ageing, shrinking workforce brings. Without addressing these problems, how then can we bring in new plans of growth that will require an even higher increase of a productive workforce, and attract the best global talent to Singapore to help us execute these plans?

Mr Cheng thinks the people’s problem with the White Paper was the way it was explained to them, rather than the points in them. He also said that it was time for the People’s Action Party G to expend the political capital it accumulated in the last GE when it scored a landslide victory. Doubtless people will take issue with his proposal, even though the problems of overcrowding and inadequate infrastructure have eased somewhat with changes to housing and transport policy. Because what he is essentially calling for is a loosening of the foreign worker tap, so that Singapore can draw in available talent for use at home – rather than have them compete with Singaporeans in the global marketplace.

It’s likely that the immigration issue will be canvassed in the much-anticipated report of the Committee for the Future Economy. Eyes will be peeled.

Controversial column aside, it looks like ST is going big on changes in the new year, with a revamped Sunday Times and new foreign correspondents. TODAY has changes as well, deciding to expand coverage of local news. MSM also seems to have the same method of opening the new year: interviews with ministers. For ST, it was Mr Ng Chee Meng on education matters on Sunday. TODAY has a lengthy interview with Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin today, while Berita Harian ran a two-parter with Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim.

So what’s new? You can read our post here for what was published over the weekend. For those who read Berita Harian, you’ll know already that Mr Yaacob has ruled himself out for the presidency. Which might be a good thing, because it will be mighty awkward if he got elected and had to meet US President-elect Donald Trump, whom he described as someone who is peddling “petty politics, hatred politics, misogynistic ideas”.

Woah.

 

Featured image from TMG file.

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LIKE that oil spill from the ship collision – it’s hit land, mostly around Changi Beach and Pulau Ubin. An 800m stretch of Changi Beach had to be closed for cleanup operations. Three fish farms have been asked by the AVA to stop selling their produce.

The Tote Board is moving its funds for the Football Association of Singapore to be administered by SportSG. While it is not unusual for SportSG to administer funding to National Sports Associations, this is unusual for football, which has always been funded directly by the Tote Board.

Why? Could it be the association’s dismal performance? Slipping to a miserable 171 ranking in October last year hardly inspires confidence. Is it fears over a possible team Venga win? The long-time critic of the football establishment is mounting a leadership challenge; is he expected to win? Does the Tote Board lack confidence in a team Venga leadership?

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Good news if you’re buying, bad news if you’re selling. HDB resale prices slipped by 0.3 per cent in December 2016 compared to November’s numbers. Volumes were down 12.6 per cent. No cooling measure changes in sight.

Moving on up, Mr Ong Ye Kung has been co-opted to the PAP central executive committee and has been made an organising secretary. That’s a big step up for the newcomer and signals leadership renewal as he takes the place of Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.

Ministers Gan Kim Yong and Chan Chun Sing are the other two organising secretaries.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli and MPs Sitoh Yih Pin (Potong Pasir) and Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok) were also co-opted to the central executive committee.

 

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