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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Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump kisses his wife Melania after she concluded her remarks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

REUTERS

PRESUMPTIVE Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump called his wife, Melania, an amazing mother and woman, when he made his first appearance at the Republican National Convention on Monday (July 19) night.

Trump appeared on the first night of the gathering in Cleveland, Ohio to introduce his wife, Melania, to the crowd.

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk
MAKING AN APPEARANCE: Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. (Photo by: REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk)

The convention’s opening night featured a string of emotional speakers attacking Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s record as secretary of state under President Barack Obama, arguing she had made Americans vulnerable to Islamist militancy.

A Republican National Convention delegate cheers as others yell and scream as the Republican National Committee Rules Committee announces that it will not hold a recorded vote on the Rules Committee's Report and rejects the efforts of anti-Trump forces to hold a roll-call vote at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTSILEV
HUGE SUPPORT: A Republican National Convention delegate cheers as others yell and scream as the Republican National Committee Rules Committee announces that it will not hold a recorded vote on the Rules Committee’s Report and rejects the efforts of anti-Trump forces to hold a roll-call vote at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., July. (Photo by: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Trump appeared just hours after the meeting erupted into raucous divisions when anti-Trump delegates tried and failed to force a vote opposing his candidacy.

The turmoil threatened efforts by the Trump campaign to show the party had united behind the businessman-turned-politician and distracted from the day’s theme of “Make America Safe Again,” meant to depict Trump as a strong leader capable of shielding the country from violence.

An RNC delegate from the State of Florida holds a Donald Trump doll on the floor at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar - RTSIKK4
MINI-TRUMP: An RNC delegate from the State of Florida holds a Donald Trump doll on the floor at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.(Photo by: REUTERS/Mike Segar)

 

Featured image and video by REUTERS.

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An employee trims a teddy bear into the fur of a dog at a pet shop, in Tainan, Taiwan June 19, 2016. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu SEARCH "PET GROOMING" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES - RTX2H5GP

REUTERS

 

 

We start at this doggie hair salon in Taiwan, where the Igogo pet shop has put a new spin — and trim — on their pooches.

How about a lion, a teddy bear, or even a Hello Kitty character for your dog?

Owners say it’s a creative and fun way to shed the fluff in the summer months.

Animal stories from South America took a more serious tone after news came out that a rare jaguar resembling that of team Brazil’s mascot was shot dead.

Jaguar ‘Juma’ was shot and killed following an Olympic torch ceremony, after reportedly escaping from zookeepers.

Though it had been tranquilized, it managed to approach a soldier, who fired the fatal shot.

Moving on to Buenos Aires, where it’s the end of an era at the city’s zoo as it closes its doors.

Over its 140-year history, the zoo has been riddled with scandals about the animal’s well-being and their habitat.

The animals are being transferred to sanctuaries elsewhere while a brand new ecological park is built.

In the United States — this black bear cub in New Jersey climbed up the wrong tree.

The cub, who authorities say had been hit by a car, had been hopping from yard to yard before it was spotted in a tree.

Animal rescue workers shot it with a tranquilizer gun.

The one-year-old cub will be treated for its injuries before being released back in the wild.

Last but not least,  swift, short-legged wiener dogs race for the top spot in the 2016 Wienerschnitzel Wiener Nationals in San Diego. The winning wiener was a dog named ‘Presley’, earning her happy owners a $500 check.

 

Featured image and video by REUTERS.

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earth by Kevin Gill

HAS the news of Brexit ruined your weekend? Well, you aren’t alone. Despair, panic and regret are just some of the emotions that are occurring around the world, be they from world leaders or even voters who wish they could take back their decision.

As the world deals with the plunge in the stock market and the pounding that the pound is taking, not everyone is in low spirits over in the UK. Ex-Prime Minister David Cameron’s tearful resignation aside, UKIP leader Nigel Farage and ex-London mayor Boris Johnson are celebrating Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU).

Whether good, bad, or ugly, we rounded up reactions from the UK as well as around the world, to see how exactly the major shift has affected the international scene.

Man who attempted to assassinate Donald Trump wouldn’t hurt a fly

“He’s a nice kid and literally wouldn’t hurt a fly – he used to tell us not to use fly spray because he didn’t want any flies to die.”

– Mr Paul Davey, father of Michael Sandford.

Well, Donald Trump must be worth less than a fly to Michael Sanford then. The 20-year-old British man, who has now been detained and charged, attempted to assassinate the Republican candidate last Saturday, June 18, during a campaign rally. After approaching a police officer on the front of wanting Donald Trump’s autograph, Sanford tried to grab the holster and the handle of the officer’s gun at his hip.

 

Joe Biden calls out Donald Trump without saying his name

“There are 1.4 billion Muslims in the world. Some of the rhetoric I’m hearing sounds designed to radicalize all 1.4 billion.”

– Mr Joe Biden, vice president of the United States during speech at a Washington think tank on Monday, June 20

On June 20, during the Center for a New American Security’s annual conference, Joe Biden made a speech which covered the openly hostile environment created for Muslims during the campaign season by a certain candidate. In his speech, he also criticised Trump’s foreign policy positions and his stance on Russia which would “call into question America’s longstanding commitment to a Europe whole, free and at peace,” said Biden.

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Mother who let baby drown blames witchcraft

“Witchcraft. That is my default explanation because I have no other. Nothing makes sense in this story. What interest could I have in tormenting myself, lying, killing my daughter?”

– Fabienne Kabou, 39

The 39-year-old French woman who left her 15-month-old daughter to drown on a beach claimed “witchcraft” was the only explanation she could offer for her actions. She was charged with premeditated murder and if found guilty could face life in prison. A court-appointed psychiatrist said that the trigger for her action could have been post-natal depression.

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Duterte not backing down against drug lords

“If they put up P100 million, I will give you P150 million, slaughter them. I will give you promotion on the spot, from PO1 [Police Officer 1] to General.” 

– Mr Rodrigo Duterte, Philippine president-elect

Mr Duterte makes the headlines again. This time, the president-elect said that he can up the bounty that drug lords have allegedly placed on his head and that he will promote any policeman who will kill those who attempt to assassinate him on the spot. Mr Duterte also restated his rationale for pushing for the re-imposition of the death penalty: That illegal drugs have robbed people of human emotions and morality, as some drug users have even raped children. Allegedy, as much as P1 billion has been raised by high-profile drug lords to have Duterte and other prominent political figures, including incoming the police chief and the Senator-elect, murdered. To read more about who else the president-elect has said he would kill, click here.

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Man killed in cinema at Germany after opening fire

“The perpetrator surprised us on the toilet. He hissed to us: ‘Lie down if you care for your lives!’ We were around 17 hostages.”

– Almir Almilovic, 16, one of the hostages

A masked gunman was shot dead by German special police officers after he stormed into a cinema complex in Viernheim. All the people he had taken hostage escaped uninjured but people in the cinema were slightly injured after the police deployed CS gas. Police spokesperson Bernd Hochstädter said that: “We have no indications regarding the motive, but we can say with certainty that the attack did not have an Islamist motive.”

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Atleast 98 killed and 800 injured by Tornado and hail in China

“It was like the end of the world. I heard the gales and ran upstairs to shut the windows. I had hardly reached the top of the stairs when I heard a boom and saw the entire wall with the windows on it torn away.”

-Local resident at Jiangsu, China

The worst tornado to hit China in half a century killed 98 people and injured close to 800 people in the east Chinese province of Jiangsu. With a clean-up of the debris under way, the search for survivors has been completed. More than 1,300 police were mobilised to help and emergency supplies have been sent from Beijing.

 

Compiled by Vishnu Preyei and Varsha Sivaram.

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

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U.S. President Barack Obama receives flowers as he arrives at Noibai International Airport in Hanoi, Vietnam May 22, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTSFE73

REUTERS

U.S. PRESIDENT Barack Obama arrived in Vietnam late Sunday ahead of a three-day trip aimed at sealing the transformation of an old enemy into a new partner to help counter China’s growing assertiveness in the region.

Four decades after a war with Vietnam that deeply divided opinion in America, Obama aims to boost defense and economic ties with the country’s communist rulers while also prodding them on human rights, aides say.

His visit has been preceded by a debate in Washington over whether Obama should use the three-day visit starting Monday to roll back an arms embargo on Hanoi, one of the last vestiges of wartime animosity.

That would anger China, which resents U.S. efforts to forge stronger military bonds with Beijing’s neighbors amid rising tensions in the disputed South China Sea.

But in the hours ahead of his arrival in Hanoi, where he was greeted on a red carpet by foreign ministry officials, there was no immediate word of a final U.S. decision on the ban.

Vietnam’s poor human rights record is a sticking point, but the Obama administration appears increasingly swayed toward giving Hanoi some leeway to build its deterrent against Beijing.

Obama’s visit follows what the Pentagon called an “unsafe” intercept by Chinese fighter jets of a U.S. military reconnaissance plane over the South China Sea on Tuesday.

 

Featured Image and Video by Reuters.

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by Clare Thng

CAPTURED in a hippy anthem with a geek’s twist, here is a summary of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s visit to Silicon Valley, San Francisco. To be sung in the tune of “San Francisco” by Scott McKenzie, and we recommend that you play the song in the background as you are reading the article. Enjoy!

 If you’re going to San Francisco, 

12717750_1049964418399597_3255327682502202056_n-1

 Be sure to wear a headset on your head

During his visit to Facebook’s HQ, PM Lee experienced the Oculus Rift, complete with Oculus Touch controllers. “Amazing how immersive the virtual reality experience was,” he wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday.

If you’re going to San Francisco,

12715305_1049963718399667_226298732323190521_n

You’re gonna meet some CEOs there

Apart from trying out new technologies, PM Lee also met with Apple CEO Tim Cook to see how Singapore could use Apple’s technologies in its pursuit of a Smart Nation status. He also met up with other prominent business leaders in Silicon Valley such as Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, Alphabet executive chairman Eric Schmidt and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

For those who come to San Francisco,

12715694_1050689001660472_9145048461574684057_n

CNY includes a lo-hei there

At a gathering – organised by the Overseas Singapore Unit – over 300 Singaporeans in San Francisco had the opportunity to celebrate Chinese New Year (CNY) with PM Lee.

In the streets of San Francisco

12717637_1050689534993752_2413965389900816535_n

Tech titans are everywhere.

Over lunch, the Prime Minister discussed tech trends with Todd Park (Technology Advisor to the White House), Brian Koo (Formation Group), John Doerr (Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers), Tim O’Reilly (O’Reilly Media) and Nicole Wong (Senior Advisor at Albright-Stonebridge Group).

All across the nation, PM Lee’s motivation

12717292_1049381518457887_466835195980810905_n

Engineers in motion

During a chat with Singaporeans working at Google, most of whom were engineers, PM Lee discussed the importance of making engineering more attractive in Singapore.

There’s a whole generation

12744719_1050689224993783_4584137695297662935_n

with some new aspirations

In a dialogue, PM Lee shared his hopes and plans for the country’s journey towards a Smart Nation with Singaporean tech professionals working in San Francisco.

PM in motion 12742461_1049381478457891_310383849556036246_n

Indeed, the Prime Minister was literally in motion when he toured the Tesla factory. Described as “exhilarating”, he rode in a Tesla Model S P90D, one of the latest models of Tesla’s electric cars.

PM in motion

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In a jolly mood, PM Lee also took a spin in Google’s latest self-driving car.

For those who come to San Francisco,12715742_1050691328326906_7222656488770792611_n-1Be sure to buy some croissants while you’re there

While this may be a working visit, Mr Lee spared some time to visit the famous Ferry Plaza Farmers Market with his wife for breakfast. “My ham and cheese croissant was good!” he wrote in a Facebook post.

PM Lee in San Francisco,

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fun-filled time before the Summit in Sunnylands.

Looks like our Prime Minister enjoyed his short stay in San Francisco before attending the US-ASEAN Leaders Summit, which will be hosted by President Barrack Obama from February 15-16 in Sunnylands, California.

Photos sourced from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s Facebook page

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Painting of Bernie Sanders. Image sourced from Flickr user: DonkeyHotey

by Reuben Wang

WITH superstar names like Trump, Bush and Clinton in the mix for the presidential race this year, it’s little wonder if Senator Bernie Sanders has slipped under the radar. Well, no more. The race for the Democratic Party’s nomination has for some time been a two-horse showdown between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders, but after crushing Mrs Clinton by over 20 percentage points in the Democratic Party New Hampshire Primaries, the political momentum seems to be slipping away from Mrs Clinton.

On one side, Mrs Clinton represents the moderate centre of the party – the type of person you need to win over the swing votes in any elections. On the other, Mr Sanders is a self-described “democratic socialist” who leans so far left he’s probably teetering on the edge of what the public would accept.

 

Who is Bernie Sanders?

Mr Sanders is a unique politician in the hubbub of Washington. Spending his political youth in obscure third parties (often socialist ones), he made his big break after becoming a mayor of a small city in Vermont. His aptitude and consultative style of governance eventually catapulted him into the US House of Representative, representing Vermont.

His public demeanour is very much like some of the coffee shop uncles you see in Singapore. Hunched, old, grumpy, and with messy uncombed hair, always complaining about the establishment keeping the honest working man down. Mr Sanders’ speeches may sound awkward and unrehearsed, but they possess conviction and authenticity not felt in other speeches delivered by his opponents in this year’s race so far.

His lack of party affiliation has placed him in a unique position. He has been free to criticise anything and everything he is morally against without having to engage in the often messy inter-party politics. His constituents loved it, and practically every re-election was won in a landslide. His solid electoral footing and lack of party affiliation also proved useful to the Democrats, who share many of Mr Sanders’ liberal views, but de-emphasised them to be competitive nationally.

So a quid pro quo emerged: Mr Sanders, while retaining the ability to vote against the Democratic Party whip when he wants to, will caucus with the Democrats. He had a respected seat at the meeting of democratic members of Congress to hash out policy objectives (these types of meetings are called congressional caucus, not to be confused with the one held in Iowa). Simply put, he was Democrat in all but name, but under no obligation to follow any orders.

An added benefit for the Democrats: he can voice, and put into the national conversation, viewpoints too hazardous for any Democratic senator in any unsafe seat to say out loud. Most of the bills he introduced have been too liberal to pass, but Mr Sanders is perfectly happy taking flak for being too liberal, being in a constituency which wants more liberal policies.

 

What about Hillary?

Mrs Clinton, for all of her faults, has deep liberal credentials. Having gone through college during the civil rights era, she was a leading participant in student politics, organising strikes and running student campaigns. As her husband became president, she didn’t withdraw into the ceremonial trappings usually afforded to first ladies. During a time when universal healthcare was unviable politically, she championed and campaigned for it as though it was an election – without her husband.

But the times have changed. Today, it is not just enough to have deep ideological leanings. To have someone’s support, those leanings must be placed out in the open and actively practised. Even if the general population finds it unappealing. It’s the same charge levied at the G over LGBT rights – that it lacks the political courage to enact unpopular changes, no matter how it feels about it away from the cameras.

Mrs Clinton may have the most experienced and be the best political operator in the race, but that won’t matter if a majority of her party members reject her for not committing political suicide in the name of ideological purity.

In other words, Mr Sanders did not shift further towards the centre; the party’s centre of gravity has been moving towards the extremes, so much so that Mr Sanders has a national support base who pushed for him to run for president. The same has also been happening in the Republican party, but with Mr Ted Cruz.

 

Strategy 101 in 2016

Another force is also at play: fringe groups with a not-insignificant number of supporters who have been shut out of politics due to their unpopular positions. For a politician to champion their views may give him or her a much more loyal and active base of support than those who usually dabble in politics. This, in turn, bolsters their grassroots infrastructure – an aspect of retail politics critical to success in smaller states.

For Mr Sanders, the group has a very distinct look: white, male, unmarried and young.

Sanders, Trump, and Cruz hold contradictory views, but all three of them run the same electoral strategy: Forgoing the middle ground, and instead, rally enough people who don’t usually vote towards your side to swamp the pre-existing voters and entrenched interests. In the New Hampshire Democratic primary, 16 per cent were first-time voters. Of them, 78 per cent voted for Sanders.

In short: Forget trying to convince people who disagree with you, just get enough of people who do support you to the ballot box. There is no need for compromise.

Ironically, it was the same electoral strategy President Obama pursued in 2008 – but his strategy was applied to apathetic voters from across the board, not just any one subset.

 

Party power in Singapore

Regardless of whether any of them are right, the net result is a precariously shrinking window of consensus on which important issues can be discussed. It means politics will be over time more about identity and discussion over issues and policies.

It is not a phenomenon local to the US, however. In our own presidential election in 2012, two of the four candidates represented distinct political identities, one pro-establishment and the other one utterly against it. Even in parliamentary politics, both sides are settling down into static identities where party triumphs over all else.

 

A second go at “Change we can believe in”

The political polarisation in America may be of concern, but they have been through worse, including a civil war and the emancipation of millions of ex-slaves and their children’s subsequent enfranchisement. And who knows, periods of high social tensions tend to create leaders of a certain calibre. Will Mr Sanders be the next great liberal president the way the Depression created Roosevelt and the Cold War created Kennedy?

But it’s 2016, and not 2008. Everyone saw what the grind of presidential politics did to President Obama. For many democrats, the aim now is to have a president who can continue the slow tug-of-war politics has settled in the past eight years, and win those key incremental victories. For the supporters of Mr Sanders, they are still looking for the hope and change promised to them – and if they have to co-opt someone outside the party to represent their beliefs, so be it.

 

Featured image Painting of Bernie Sanders by Flickr user DonkeyHotey. CC BY 2.0

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GOOD morning!

Taiwan has voted its first woman president into power – opposition leader Tsai Ing-wen – with 56.12 per cent of the vote. The chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Ms Tsai beat Kuomintang’s Eric Chu (31.04 per cent of the vote) and People First Party’s James Soong (12.84 per cent), winning unprecedented control of the Legislative Yuan in the process (68 of the 113 parliamentary seats). The DPP has advocated formal independence for a self-governing island, and in her victory speech and Ms Tsai said that Taiwan “will build consistent, predictable and sustainable cross-strait relationship,” and emphasised that “both sides of the strait have a responsibility to find mutually acceptable means of interaction that are based on dignity and reciprocity.”

An apology made by a 16-year-old Taiwanese K-pop singer Chou Tzu-yu on the eve of elections in response to the election results for holding a Republic of China (ROC) flag, the official name of Taiwan, in an online broadcast infuriated many Taiwanese voters. Chinese netizens denounced the singer as an advocate for Taiwanese independence, while Ms Tsai added – after casting her vote – that “An ROC citizen holding her national flag should not be suppressed from doing so.”

In response, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said that Taiwan independence activities will be opposed, and China is determined to protect its territory and sovereignty. As reported in Zaobao, reference was also made to the 1992 consensus – on which Ms Tsai and the DPP have not stated their stance – which recognises one China with differing interpretations. Likewise in its statement, Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs congratulated Ms Tsai, that “As a longstanding friend, Singapore looks forward to maintaining our close relations and cooperation with Taiwan based on our consistent ‘One China’ policy.”

Warmer relations are expected between Iran and the United States, as the latter lifts Congressional economic sanctions as part of its side of the Iran nuclear deal. This follows verification from the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran has implemented its required commitments to slash its uranium centrifuges, to reduce its stockpile of uranium – necessary to make fissile material for a nuclear bomb – as well as to remove the core of the Arak reactor which could have given Iran weapons-grade plutonium. While the main parties to the Iran deal have hailed these achievements, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and American President Barack Obama’s Republican opponents have argued that the deal does not do enough to deter Iran.

And closer to home, parliamentarians are expected to speak on improvements to the political system in Singapore – following President Tony Tan Keng Yam’s address that reforms will be studied – so as to assure Singaporeans “of clean, effective, and accountable government over the long term.”

From the political to the security front, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin stressed the emergency preparedness of Singaporeans, knowing not just “how to react in an emergency situation”, but also “to stand against the pressures that could be placed on the country’s social fabric.” The minister was speaking at the “My Community, My Responsibility” exhibition organised by the People’s Association Community Emergency and Engagement Executive Council.

Finally on the social and community front, social workers ST spoke to revealed that they are seeing more senior citizens cheated or financially abused by their children. Many cases are not reported, and these social workers emphasised the need for greater awareness.

 

Featured image by Chong Yew. 

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by Felix Cheong

IF ALL else fails, you just have to make it bigger, bolder, and blatant-er.

That’s how a karung guni man is now looking for love, as reported by The Sunday Times. The 59-year-old divorcee wears his heart on a big, white banner – complete with his name, contact number and criteria, in both Chinese and English. He drives his lorry around housing estates, much like the campaign vans during GE2015, he collects old stuff and, if Cupid’s aim hits true and right, a few women’s phone numbers.

In fact, Mr Steven Chan has already landed one date and even turned away a few candidates who didn’t meet his cut-off age of 50. (For love, like secondary schools, also has cut-off points.)

 

cupid, love
Image Cupid by Flickr user Matija Grguric .

 

I foresee this two-birds-in-one-lorry trend picking up. Before long, your karung guni uncle will walk up and down your neighbourhood, squeezing his horn (gently, so as not to scare unsuspecting women) and calling out: “Newspapers, TV, marriage. If you’re not right age, can negotiate.”

He’s not the only one coming up with his own Craigslist ad. Recently, we reported another bachelor, also named Steven, who took to the camera to hawk himself on social media.

Hook up on dating websites? Aiyoh, takes too long! Join SDN? Pai-seh!

Mr Lee Kuan Yew would’ve certainly approved of these gentlemen’s gung-ho, can-do, bo-bian-do-it-yourself spirit. It’s like the early years when EDB went all over the world wooing investors. Were they shy about their intentions? No way. Did they shout out loud their credentials? You bet.

When you come down to it, self-promotion is just the evil twin of entrepreneurship. You want to sell yourself? Be upfront, be in-your-face.

 

bread, fresh
Image Mmm… fresh bread by Flickr user jeffreyw .

 

One Brooklyn blogger takes this literally to dough…err, heart. She posts Instagram videos of herself pressing her face on bread (giving new meaning to Facetime). Like any good performance artist, she does this to a pop song playing in the background. Then she eats it – skin flake, whiteheads and all. It’s not revealed if the bread talks to her or protests at being face-palmed.

All this, for the entertainment of 33,000 followers (about the size of Bukit Panjang constituency).
What a story to tell your grandkids, huh? “When I was young, we were too poor to buy jam. So I spread my acne on it. It was disgusting but we needed the protein.”

Yes, this is what counts as attention-grabbing these days. The more ridiculous, the more eyeballs.
Which is the strategy taken by an ad agency in Thailand for skin lightening pills called “snowz”. Its ad features a veteran Thai actress who proudly proclaims: “If I stopped taking care of my body and white complexion… a newcomer will replace me and turn me into a dark star.” To round off the controversy, the ad flashes the tagline: “@white makes you a winner.”

Of course, this is politely and politically wrong on so many levels. But my main grouse is with “snowz”. I still don’t getz this thingz about adding a “z” to a word. Is it random? Do you tag it onto wordz that do not have a plural form, like “sheepz”? Or is it meant to mimic people with lisps? In any case, the ad was pulled after an outcry on social media.

Monkey business was also in tall order in the US on Monday. In a case that has repercussions for all inmates of the Singapore Zoo, a New York judge ruled that a monkey – specifically, a crested macaque – cannot own the copyright to a photograph, even though it had taken the selfie. The reason? The monkey is not human.

Wow. I’m not sure which scares me more – the revelation that monkeys are not human, or that the case actually went to court. My advice: keep your camera to yourself on your next trip to the zoo – just so a primate doesn’t snatch it for its LinkedIn picture.

Selfies also helped catch a wanted criminal in trouble on Wednesday. An Ohio man, wanted for drunk drinking, was upset his mugshot put out by the police wasn’t flattering enough. So he did what any bumbling idiot with more narcissism than common sense would do: he posted a better selfie – on the Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, no less. Naturally, he was nabbed.

Again, this incident chills me to the bone. We’ve already seen people who drown or fall off cliffs while taking selfies. We’ve seen criminals who end up in the can because they can’t resist posting selfies. Is this natural selection at work, mother nature’s answer to the way you cull forgotten friends on Facebook?

 

red, paint
Image Waiting to Happen by Flickr user ClickFlashPhotos / Nicki Varkevisser.

 

Another incident that scares me to my Singaporean soul: loan sharks targeted a pre-school in Tanjong Pagar on Thursday. Red paint (it must have been on sale, since Chinese New Year is coming) was splashed on the back door, walls and signboard of the Modern Montessori International school at Pinnacle@Duxton. So far, no one has been caught red-handed.

That these Ah Long fellows dared to do this, right in the heart of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s former ward, is either the pinnacle of brazen self-promotion or a shortcut to an early grave. And it’s not even the school that owes them money, but parents of one of the students.

Either way, I hope they are caught pronto and made to “snowz” HDB blocks all over the island as part of their sentence. That would teach them the proper way to paint is with a brush, not merely splash it ad hoc. And, of course, there are right ways to advertise your illegal money-lending business. Just put up a big, white banner on your lorry.

 

Featured image from Guet Ghee Pang.

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Dried up lake

by Ryan Ong

OVER the past two decades, three things have almost completely lost their charm: leg warmers, George Lucas, and climate talks. If you’re old enough to remember Kyoto 1997, you’ll know climate talks used to be as overhyped as movie premieres – they were a social activists’ version of red carpet events. Now, despite the media rave about COP21 (the nickname for the Paris climate talks), there’s more in the way of reserved anticipation than celebration. Here’s why:

1. The pledges made by participating countries already fail to meet targets


Saving the planet is a team effort, but not everyone is playing ball.

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The goal of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (called COP 21, because it’s the 21st annual meeting of the Conference of the Parties) has one goal. That goal is to save the planet by keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

This will be done through the collective efforts of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which I will explain in greater detail below. For now, suffice it to say that INDCs are pledges made by participating nations to lower pollution in their own way.

Should all those nations hit their targets (highly improbable), we will…hit global warming of around three degrees centigrade. That’s right: participating nations haven’t even begun executing their plans – this is just the goal setting phase. And already, the goal is pretty much to fail.

This is the equivalent of a football coach telling the team “Okay guys, let’s try to aim for a 2 – 0 loss tonight.” Sure, you might say that’s realistic if the team is crap (and the “team” in this case are a bunch of quarrelling, fractious countries that barely get along.) But you can see how that takes the spirit out of this whole climate change talk, and makes my point right at the beginning of this article: COP 21 probably won’t work because participants seem to be agreeing to fail.

2. The pledges are entirely voluntary

100% committed to totally non-binding volunteerism. 

via GIPHY

This is the heart of COP21, and what makes it unique. The Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) are pledges by individual countries to combat pollution on their own turf, in their own way. Countries will provide a report every five years to reflect on the progress.

There are no binding agreements, and no treaties to be signed.

To understand why they’re using this crazy approach, we need a little history lesson.

Go back to 1987, when women had big shoulder pads, Karate was a craze, and Paula Abdul was still relevant. That was also when hawkish, right-wing American President Ronald Reagan launched one of the most successful environmental efforts of all time.

Yes, you read that right. The first “green” treaty to achieve universal ratification in United Nations history was the work of a Republican. It was called the Montreal Protocol, and ST reminded us of this as recently as May.

If it wasn’t for the Montreal protocol, which used a treaty to bind nations into lowering CFC emissions, the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica would have been 40 per cent larger in 2013.

So the Montreal Protocol became a template for future climate talks. The goal of these talks was to corner nations, particularly developing ones like India and China, into signing a treaty. This resulted in in the failed Kyoto Protocol in 1992, and the even worse failure at Copenhagen in 2009.

Kyoto didn’t work because some nations, like the US and China, simply ignored the treaty without consequences. And when Copenhagen came around, the political slant in the discussions derailed the signing of any meaningful deals (I’ll explain this in point three.)

So COP21 is trying out a radical new approach, where countries basically do a show and tell: they get a stage to brag about what they’ll try to accomplish, and we get a little presentation every five years. This hasn’t been tried before, but common sense dictates it’s problematic. This is like telling the ISIS guys they don’t have to sign a ceasefire, they just need to present their case on how they’ll advance every five years, and we trust they’ll do their best.

3. The political implications are massive hurdles


Behold, the glory of human civilisation.

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Why don’t developing nations, particularly China and India, want to save the planet?

Because for the most part, they feel it isn’t fair. Countries like the US saw great progress on the back of burning fossil fuels. Right up from the time of the Industrial Revolution, the developed nations of the Western world got their lead from smoke-spewing factories. Now that the developing countries are on the verge of catching up, they suddenly want to ban or cap the burning of fossil fuels?

No deal.

This was the direction of discussions at Copenhagen, which accomplished little besides building a sense of enmity between developed and developing countries.

Now COP21 may lessen the intensity by not forcing anyone to sign treaties, but its absurd to think this core issue has gone away. The prevailing sentiment among developing countries is that they’re being unfairly handicapped. What does that result in? See point one.

4. Falling oil prices


With all the grace and consequence of a dive like this.

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With oil prices falling to $37 a barrel, a 2014 prediction by The Financial Times is looming large.

One of the main drivers of finding renewable energy sources is cost: as fossil fuels gradually run dry and become more costly, we will be driven to find alternative energy sources such as solar energy, wind power, hydroelectric dams, etc.

But if fossil fuels fall to super low prices and stay there, sustainable energy sources start to look expensive. Why bother with research and development of pricey wind farms, when oil is abundant and cheap?

Yes, it’s a short term view. But if nations could be relied upon to always take the long term view, we wouldn’t have a dying planet right now.

But the one reason it may work…

The glimmer of hope is, ironically, the same INDCs I slammed a few paragraphs up. It’s far-fetched to expect nations to voluntarily follow through on their plans. And most of their plans are – as you might expect – far too small for the task they’ve been given.

But because INDCs are not treaties, they don’t have to be ratified. The US and China, for example, don’t have to sign the treaty in Paris, and then go home and fight to get all their politicians on board with the idea.

Even better, INDCs let nations pick targets that are aligned with their own interests. For example, China has wanted to clear up its air pollution issues for a long time. Now, instead of having abstract environmental targets determined by outsiders, it can focus its environmental efforts on the air quality in major cities.

Maybe, just maybe, this ability to self-determine goals will actually take off where the old methods have failed. What it comes down to now is faith, and trust.

 

Featured image Lake Hume at 4% – 6531 by Flickr user Tim J Keegan, CC BY-SA 2.0.

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