June 25, 2017

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by Bertha Henson

LUXURIATING in his favourite place, Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump decides to make a long-distance phone call. He knows it will be a historic moment, hence the gawkers in his playground watching the President do his thing.

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Trump: Hiyah Kim, old buddy, how’s the famine coming along? I mean, family.

Kim: Bzzzccckrracccc

Trump: I can’t hear you. The Chinese… they’re wiretapping you huh? Well, the Russians are listening in to mine. Plus the CIA, NSA, FBI and a whole lot of fellas.

Kim: Brzzzcckkk… hell…. oh… brrccsssk

Trump: I’m just calling to tell you that Carl Vinson is going to your part of town. The boat, not the congressman. Michigan as well. The boat, not the state. Just me trying to tell you not to play with your nukes…Okay, buddy?

Kim: Brrrzzzccckk… reta… ccckkk… ate… brrrcsssk live… brrcsk miss…

Trump: You ate what? Missed me? Aw shucks. I’ll come over if you like, but you seriously have got to calm down. You’re making Seoul so nervous. The Japs are jumpy too. We’re all coming to get you.

Kim: Brrzzzccck….Beijing…bbrrzzz military..brrrzzzccckkkkk

Trump: Your buddy Beijing? Hey, they’re just making noises. They don’t even want your coal. And they’ve already said they don’t mind a surgical strike. So I’m thinking of doing a Syria on you.

Kim: Brrzzccchhh…doing sixth missile test. You don’t frighten me, Mr Trump. Pyongyang will not succumb to threats by the hegemonic United States.

Trump: You must be using an iPhone… I can hear you perfectly well. Made-in-America? Anyway, I don’t mean to frighten you. I’m not a frightening person. I just sack people, evict them, defame them, insult them and put up walls to keep them outside. I don’t kill people. You, on the other hand…

Kim: It is the prerogative of a sovereign nation to protect itself against outside threats. Our nuclear missiles are not offensive weapons even though they have weird names. They are also meant for decorative purposes at military parades, of which I have many.

Trump: Hmm… I hear you’re even aiming them at Darwin in Australia. What have you got against kangaroos and sheep?

Kim: Who is a sheep? I am Kim Jong Un, all-powerful leader of the hermit kingdom. I am prepared for all-out war. My people are hungry but my military is strong. We have good missiles which sizzle even when they fizzle. We are now putting up a live-firing display to welcome your boats.

Trump: If you’ve got missiles…why are you detaining US citizens? That’s not playing fair. You’re not going to poison them like you did with your half-brother at the KL airport right?

Kim: They are alive. I need hostages who can act as my shield. Also, I would like some US currency and an iPhone or two.

Trump: You wanna do a deal? I can throw in a free trip to Disneyland for you and you can stay at one of my hotels. Okay?

Kim: Tha….BOOMMMMZZZZ…KAPOW

Trump: Kim? Is that one of my guys hitting a bullseye?

Kim: No. One of my guys. Misfired.

 

Featured image by Sean Chong.

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THE Terrexes are back! All nine vehicles arrived in Singapore at 2:40pm on Monday after APL shipped them directly back to Singapore. It’s a tad late for a Lunar New Year reunion, but better late than never. The infantry carriers were moved to a military camp for administration and checks.

That seems to bring the two-month long Terrex incident to a close for now, although the threat of criminal prosecution still exists for shipper APL.

Changi Airport has also been a bright spot in a tough year – the airport clocked a new record of 58.7 million passengers in 2016, 5.9 per cent higher than in 2015. Chinese visitors accounted for the bulk of the growth.

US President Donald Trump isn’t wasting time between executive orders. While chaos still rules at airports after last week’s immigration ban, he’s got another executive order – this one about putting caps on federal regulations with the aim of reducing the cost of compliance to businesses.

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In a bid to streamline regulations, Mr Trump has ruled that for every new regulation introduced by agencies, two old ones must be cut. A cap has also been placed on the cost of any new regulation: $0 for fiscal year 2017. Is that a recipe for more chaos, or a more efficient system?

In another case of policy getting derailed, The Philippines police’s war on drugs is on hold to pursue a war on dirty cops. The high-profile murder-kidnapping of South Korean Jee Ick Joo by corrupt narcotics officers was a chilling counterpoint to President Duterte’s support of “extrajudicial killings”.

Mr Duterte ordered all national- and precinct-level anti-narcotics groups to be disbanded, and said that 40 per cent of the force could be corrupt. Mr Duterte said, however, that his war on drugs will continue until his term ends in 2022, instead of the extended nine-month deadline he had previously asked for.

But what are the chances that a bunch of uniformed criminals will be able to curb a bunch of non-uniformed ones?

 

Featured image from TMG file.

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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.

 

Featured image from TMG file.

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CHINA has released a white paper on “China’s Policies on Asia-Pacific Security Cooperation”, which says that “small-and medium-sized countries need not and should not take sides among big countries”, and that “major countries should… reject the Cold War mentality”.

The white paper highlights China’s intention to “reshape” the security power balance in the region. It extends overtures of cooperative peace, and a mutually beneficial ecosystem with China as a major player, but also lays down China’s firm position and conditions for such a future.

“Rules of individual countries should not automatically become ‘international rules’ still less should individual countries be allowed to violate the lawful rights and interests of others under the pretext of ‘rule of law’.”

Beijing said it may also “make necessary responses to provocative actions which infringe on China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights” in the South China Sea.

It’s hard not to read that white paper in the context of the Terrex incident, though. While peace is good, it’s also good not to have double standards.

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Meanwhile, China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier and several other warships entered waters covered by Taiwan’s air defence zone yesterday morning (Jan 11). Taiwan scrambled F-16s in response and Taiwanese were told not to be alarmed, but the act is most certainly calculated to be provocative.

At about the same time, Taiwanese ally USA said farewell to an era as President Obama delivered his final speech as President in his hometown of Chicago. He warned about internal divisions and inequality, and urged Americans to take ownership of democracy and keep fighting for it.

And fighting is what his successor Donald Trump is doing against unverified allegations that Russia has dirt on him that could compromise his presidency. What is even more unusual is that it was American intelligence services that made the unverified allegations, which were then published without verification by news outlet Buzzfeed. Both Mr Trump and the Kremlin have slammed the news as “fake”.

Locally, the papers are all a-bluster about the latest O Level results. The 2016 batch had the highest proportion of students with five O Level passes, 84.3 per cent, which beat the record of 83.8 per cent set just the year before.

MOE’s description of the record was that the results “are comparable to that of 2015”.

 

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by Ryan Ong

CONSIDERING Donald Trump believes climate change is a Chinese hoax, no one expects him to be bandaging wounded rhinos or painting with the colours of the wind.

But while his position is simple, his environmental policy reads like random words off a Scrabble board. It’s not often that history gifts us with something so magnificently ludicrous (besides Trump himself), so it deserves to be studied. Five hundred years after the ice caps melt, I hope our descendants will discover this article in the great sunken city of Sing-ha-P’ore, and learn that humanity didn’t always have radiation sores.

 

America’s Environmental Protection Agency is now led by a man who doesn’t believe the environment needs much protecting

Mr Scott Pruitt, attorney general for Oklahoma, made big news in 2014. He accused America’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of overestimating the air pollution from drilling oil wells. His source for this was Devon Energy, which is one of Oklahoma’s biggest oil and gas companies. Obviously, no one took it seriously, because most people have an IQ above five.

Well, President-elect Trump took one look at that, and decided to appoint Mr. Pruitt to head the EPA, the very agency which he accused.

But because this isn’t weird enough, Mr Pruitt is also involved with a bunch of other players in suing the EPA (this is related to Clean Power Plan, which we explain below). Let that sink in: the agency is now being headed by a man who is involved in suing it. Furthermore, he’s a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda. You know how I found that out?  He wrote it on his LinkedIn profile.

Even if this isn’t the most ridiculous conflict of interest in… well, ever, we have to wonder how exactly Mr Pruitt will lead the EPA. Will he change the office dress code to permanently include blindfolds? Will fines be replaced with making the polluting companies just say they’re really sorry?

Whatever the case, the appointment of Mr Pruitt means America now has one of the most useless government bodies in the world. It’s the equivalent of Mas Selamat being put in charge of our Internal Security Department. You can be sure any achievements are the result of dumb luck.

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The articulate description of the environmental policy

If the Trump environmental policy was just plain evil, it wouldn’t be worthy of attention. We’d at least know what to expect, and can find a good hiding place for the pandas before people start paying to shoot them. What makes the environmental policy so amazing is how confused it is.

Before his election, President-elect Trump was convinced climate change is a Chinese hoax. Today, he’s “open-minded” about it. His stance on climate change, based on that link, is:

I’m very open-minded. I’m still open-minded. Nobody really knows. Look, I’m somebody that gets it, and nobody really knows. It’s not something that’s so hard and fast. 

The only consensus on that quote is that he was probably speaking English.

Also, the first daughter, Ms Ivanka Trump, might want to champion environmental protection from climate change. Yeah, that won’t be a problem; her father can introduce her to the head of the EPA.

 

The plan to restore coal mining is based on bizarre assumptions

Remember the Clean Power Plan (CPP) we mentioned Mr Pruitt was involved in suing? That’s a plan put forward by the Obama administration, which seeks to cut carbon dioxide emissions by the United States.

It exists because most of the planet agrees Waterworld was crap enough as a movie, let alone a real scenario. The lawsuit involves some 15 states, which don’t want to follow the carbon restrictions; but they’re not important here.

What matters is that the Trump administration really wants the CPP gone; and a large part of that is due to the President-elect’s promise to revitalise coal mining.

There’s a relation between the two: coal is one of the leading sources of carbon dioxide emissions, and is only really used for power due to energy poverty (quick translation: used by countries that are poor to afford cleaner, more expensive sources of power).

If the CPP is undone, and companies can emit as much carbon as they want, then coal – and coal mining – will be back in business. That’s the rationale of the Trump administration anyway.

The problem with this plan, besides it being the sort of thing a Saturday morning cartoon villain would come up with, is that coal mining won’t come back just because people get to pollute more.

Coal is on the decline because of a range of factors, such as China (once the world’s largest buyer of coal) consuming a lot less of it. Coal prices are also falling due to fracking and the abundance of natural gas, which is a cleaner source of cheap energy. And of course, developments in renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, make these options cheaper all the time.

In effect, lifting carbon pollution restrictions to help coal mining is like lifting restrictions on video rental stores, and believing it will make them popular again. There are few prospects for coal to bounce back, but the Trump administration has decided “hey, whatever will buy a coal executive’s vote!”

 

The chest thumping over the Paris Agreement

The Trump administration has played up the way the President-elect will quit the agreement, in a four-year process. The language used makes it sound like some kind of bold and complex gesture, worthy of a Tom Clancy espionage novel.

But the Paris Agreement was unique, in that it was not legally binding in any way. The highlight of the Paris Agreement was that it would try a new approach, which was free of legal entanglements: rather than make participants sign a bunch of agreements, which had to be passed by their various legislatures, countries would set their own targets and commit to them.

Countries are also free to pursue those goals however they want. You can read the details of how it works here.

What this means is that America – or any of the participants – can freely ignore the agreement anyway. There isn’t a Paris Agreement Strike Force that will invade the country in black helicopters, if they don’t meet targets. Loudly announcing a decision to “leave the agreement” is like standing on your desk, pulling off your shirt, and yelling that you’re going to break your new year’s resolutions. No one cares, and it just makes you look like a loud jerk.

 

There are two ways this will get less funny

The first is if Trump passes total control of environmental policy to the chamber of Batman villains he calls his cabinet. If he does that, American Republicans will make it another drab, pro-business, anti-planet set of policies. The other way is when the ice caps melt, and you’re just happy you caught enough roaches to feed your family.

 

Featured image by Sean Chong.

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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

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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

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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

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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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Who would have thought that one phone call would have such serious ramifications? Did US President-elect Donald Trump really think that his phone call with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen would merely be viewed as an exchange of pleasantries? And what if the two leaders talked to each other again? 

by Bertha Henson 

Trump: Hey there babe! Thank you for taking my call. I know you must be pretty busy with them Chinese eh?

Tsai: Not really. I’ve been keeping my head down. I didn’t say a word. But you’ve been very… haha… busy.

Trump: Well, you know the Chinese… You gotta show them who’s boss. We’re the superpower and China won’t even make it to being my apprentice… They’ve gotta learn their place… I mean, earn their place.

Tsai: I’m just happy you took my first call. Really happy. We’re tired of being marooned on Earth. You remind me of Ronald Reagan; he didn’t care about the One China story too. But maybe you should wind down a bit. We Asians don’t really like such open confrontations.

Trump: All I did was tweet a couple of times about their currency and their exports. Maaaan… You Asians are pretty thin-skinned. I was just being polite taking your call because it’s simply not me to let a lady down you know…

Tsai: It’s face.

Trump: What did you say? Two-faced?

Tsai: No, no. But you might want to know that Asians aren’t like Americans. There is an Asian way. After a while, we pretend that things never happened… Although it’s very, very nice you took my call. I know you’re using Taiwan for leverage against China in trade deals… But is it possible for you to not wave me around like a pawn in your chess game, Donald? May I call you Donald?

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Trump: Sure babe. But you understand that I’m a businessman? I’m a tough negotiator. If the Chinese aren’t going to do anything about their exports, I’m gonna hit them with 45 per cent tariffs! And I’ve appointed tough steel types who can negotiate their way through a Chinese wall!

Tsai: Hmm. But the Chinese aren’t quite blaming you as much as blaming me. I’m glad that you made it clear that the call wasn’t arranged months in advance but only recently.

Trump: Well, you know me…  I tell the truth! My advisors have been telling me to pipe down too because the Chinese seem rattled. They’re going from “solemn representation” to “serious concern”. All these fancy diplomatic dances… I don’t give a fig… I’m a straightforward man.

Tsai: You’re not worried that the Chinese will cause trouble in other areas? I know you don’t attend intelligence briefings because you’re already smart enough… But you’ve heard that China said it might go for “re-unification by force”? That’s terrifying…

Trump: It’s a bluff. Businessmen do it all the time. What are you worried about anyway? The United States of America has a deal with Taiwan to guarantee you can defend yourself. That’s the law. My military guys won’t let you down if push comes to shove. And I’ll ask my friend Putin to get involved… He’s got great hackers! Might be able to bring down the commies.

Tsai: No, please, no. Don’t! Don’t! Promise me! Promise me!

Trump: Okay, I promise. I always promise everything… I’m the promising kind.

Tsai: By the way, why are you calling me?

Trump: So I can tell the Chinese that one good call deserves another… That will put them off-balance. I’ll show them who’s naive in foreign matters!

Tsai: Donald, I am going to hang up now. I will also deny taking the phone call. If you even tweet about this, I will… I will…

Trump: You’ll what…?

Tsai hangs up 

Trump: What the…? Hey, she just hung up on the President-elect of the United States? That’s not polite! I’m gonna tweet about this!

 

 

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Casio watch on a wrist with clock hands pointing at 8:30

TO THOSE who thought that US President-elect Donald Trump was trying to get some leverage over China by taking a telephone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen are probably right. “I don’t know why we have to be bound by a One China policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade,” he told Fox News on Sunday.

The infamous phone call which broke diplomatic protocol because China regards Taiwan as a renegade province has aroused much comment over how Mr Trump will deal with China when he moves into the White House next month. He’s putting his infamous phone call in very layman terms.

“I don’t want China dictating to me and this was a call put into me,” he said.

“It was a very nice call. Short. And why should some other nation be able to say I can’t take a call? I think it actually would’ve been very disrespectful, to be honest with you, not taking it.”

Anybody can understand that on a personal level but this isn’t how countries relate with each other. The billionaire who said he would impose punitive  tariffs  on Chinese imports will be mighty pleased that China isn’t about to be treated as a market economy under the World Trade Organisation, which means America can continue to impose anti-dumping taxes on cheap Chinese imports.

Does it matter to him how the Chinese are reacting – publicly and privately – to his public statements? He might not know since he isn’t attending the daily intelligence briefings by spooks and other officials. China has reportedly flown a long-range nuclear-capable bomber in the South China Sea last week, the furthest that such an aircraft has gone in the disputed area. “You know, I’m, like, a smart person. I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years,” he said. His vice-president Mike Pence will attend the briefings instead.

In any case, why would he need briefings from the CIA which he rubbished for saying that Russia had intervened in the US presidential election and helped him to victory? These were the same people who said Saddam Hussein was hoarding weapons of mass destruction, he added.

So if he’s not busy getting briefings, what is he up to? Meeting businessmen from near and far, including tech titans.

So there you have it, the soon-to-be most powerful man in the world.

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Yesterday’s news was filled with deaths.

  • In Turkey, Kurdish militants killed 38 people, mainly policemen, in a football stadium
  • In Yemen, ISIS killed 50 soldiers as they were collecting their pay at an army base
  • In Egypt, 25 Christians attending Sunday mass were killed in Cairo Coptic Cathedral
  • In Nigeria, two girls blew themselves up in a market, killing themselves and wounding at least 17 others
  • In Somalia, a truck bomb hit the entrance of its biggest port in Mogadishu yesterday, killing at least 29 people.

Then there are news of rising tensions

  • China has claimed that two Japanese F-15s fired the projectiles as Chinese planes passed through the Miyako Strait between Japan’s Miyako and Okinawa Islands in a “routine far seas training”.
  • North and South Korea are in a war of words because a military exercise the North conducted simulating attacks on targets, including the Blue House where the president lives.

So what would Mr Trump say to all this action? “Sorry, I’m busy making America great again and I sent Mike to the intelligence briefing.”

 

Featured image by Abraham Lee.

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Black clock showing 8.30.

EVEN if an American-led coalition of Arab and Kurdish fighters – together with 200 more troops from the United States (US) – does eventually liberate and isolate the city of Raqqa in Syria, the de facto capital of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), surviving fighters of the self-declared caliphate could cause even more destruction, should they return to their home countries. “Paradoxically, the defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria will likely worsen the threat in Southeast Asia,” Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said, at a security conference in Bahrain yesterday. “We expect the returning fighters from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and a few from Singapore… will likely return to continue their violent plots at home.”

Uncertainty over terrorism and radicalisation is not the only global problem of concern. In the US – with suspicions of Russian interference – President Barack Obama has ordered a review of all cyber-attacks during the election campaign in 2016. And even though a secret assessment from the Central Intelligence Agency reported by The Washington Post found that Russia had acted to help President-elect Donald Trump get elected, Mr Trump’s transition team has instead blasted the spy agency for its past missteps. There is, however, still no clear evidence that Russian officials directed the supply of hacked emails to anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, and a review by America’s 17 intelligence agencies could therefore be useful.

And in South Korea, the impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-Hye – for constitutional and criminal violations – may have led hundreds of thousands to celebrate on the streets, yet many are calling for Ms Park to resign immediately and to face criminal prosecution, and the country now confronts a period of uncertainty. The impeachment process now heads to the Constitutional Court, where judges will decide whether to remove Ms Park permanently. Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, now the Acting President, sought to reassure: “The government is carrying out all measures necessary to prevent any government vacuum and ease the people’s anxiety.”

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Back home in Singapore, in the problem-ridden National Stadium, many suite owners – who pay membership fees of $70,000 and above to attend all sporting events at the stadium, and who receive tickets to two non-sporting events at the venue – are unlikely to extend their contracts with the Singapore Sports Hub. Among the reasons that suite owners are citing: the high membership fee, the lack of events organised this year or planned for next year, and the strict restrictions placed on the suites. There are 62 executive suites in the National Stadium, and it is not clear if assurances of “exciting and refreshing events” are enough to entice members.

Finally, over 5,200 households in Singapore have applied for the Proximity Household Grant, a grant which helps families live closer together when they buy resale HDB flats. Families in general get $20,000, while singles get $10,000, though the bulk of the applicants were children. National Development Minister Lawrence Wong wrote in a Facebook note that “We recognise the desire shared by many Singaporeans to live closer to their families… We will continue to support this aspiration and help strengthen family bonds in Singapore.”

 

Featured image from TMG file.

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by Bertha Henson

THE Carrier man can. I can’t get the jingle out of my head even though it’s been so many years ago that Carrier was the air-conditioning of choice here. I suppose it has to do with US President-elect Donald Trump boasting about saving 1,100 jobs at the Carrier plant in Indianapolis from moving to Mexico.

It’s been an interesting duel between corporate interest and political inclination. In between are the unions and the workers.

It’s interesting because it has to do with the push and pulls of globalisation and also what this says about an attempt to transform the economy, which is what Singapore is doing.

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So Mr Trump was elected on a platform of protecting American jobs, which is something every worker in danger of losing a pay check approves. He’s doing it with a combination of threats, like a 35 per cent tax on companies which intend to move out of the land of the free and, in the case of Carrier and its parent United Technologies (UTC), $7 million in tax breaks over 10 years.

Then there is the looming threat to the company’s current $6.7 billion worth of federal contracts. UTC chairman and CEO Greg Hayes alluded to this in an interview with CNBC: “I was born at night but not last night. I also know that about 10 per cent of our revenue comes from the U.S. government. And I know that a better regulatory environment, a lower tax rate can eventually help UTC of the long run. And so we weighed all of things in making the decision.”

But what exactly has been saved? The numbers are a bone of contention. It’s not 1,100 but 800, said union chief Chuck Jones, because the other 300 white-collar jobs were never in danger of being outsourced. Mr Trump, said Mr Jones, had “lied his a** -off.”

At least, there are 800 jobs saved right? Hurray!

But hear what the UTC chief has to say: “We’re going to make up US$16 million (S$22 million) investment in that factory in Indianapolis to automate to drive the cost down so that we can continue to be competitive. Now is it as cheap as moving to Mexico with lower cost labour? No. But we will make that plant competitive just because we’ll make the capital investments there.”

“But what that ultimately means is there will be fewer jobs.”

Then he said this, which sounded exactly like what the G or NTUC chief Chan Chun Sing would say: “The jobs are not jobs on assembly line that people really find all that attractive over the long term. I would tell you the key here, is not to be trained for the job today. Our focus is how do you train people for the jobs of tomorrow?”

The key is not to be trained for the job today. It’s for the jobs of tomorrow.

On that front, he claimed that UTC had spent $1.2 billion on training over the last 20 years.

“We’ve got 7,000 people currently enrolled in this programme. And the whole idea is to improve your own marketability. Improve your own skills. Because the skills that you have today are not the skills that are gonna get you through tomorrow.”

Of course, nobody wants to hear corporate types go on about justifying jobs and investments; everybody thinks that they are out only for their self-interest.

Headlines will be about the union’s outbursts, whether UTC was strong-armed, and Trump’s enraged tweets. They make for better reading. Why talk about how the workers were told three years ago about the move when the popular thing to do is to decry hard-headed business which couldn’t be bothered about breaking rice bowls and dinner plates?

In Singapore, Mr Hayes would have been praised for his training programme and for trying to transform his workplace by having more higher-value jobs.

And his company is doing this without any G handout! The workers would be told of their options and put through subsidised training programmes to “re-skill” – or for the more ambitious, to “upskill”. Some will use their SkillsFuture credits.

If this article sounds like a rah-rah piece praising the G’s foresight, it is. It’s tough to get people to look at the machinery powering the economy; we prefer to look at Man’s woes because we identify so much with their emotions.

America might have a new president promising to make the country great again by turning inward. Its private sector thinks differently. Mr Hayes’ parting shot during the interview was this: “It’s about life-long learning.”

 

Read the other pieces from our interview with Chan Chun Sing:

  1. Chan Chun Sing: Your job is NOT safe
  2. Chan Chun Sing: Making sure freelancers aren’t fleeced
  3. Chan Chun Sing: It’s working people; not working class

 

Featured image by Sean Chong.

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