Asian Correspondent » reddotrevolver Asian Correspondent Fri, 03 Jul 2015 10:16:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Singapore: Stricter advertising guidelines for casinos Fri, 25 Nov 2011 13:13:38 +0000

Singapore has tightened advertising and promotions guidelines for the country’s two casinos in an attempt to ensure that its domestic market will not suffer the negative consequences of an addiction to gambling, Channel NewsAsia reports.

Singapore's casino. credit: The Star

From Channel NewsAsia,

Singapore authorities have tightened advertising and promotions guidelines for the country’s two casinos to ensure that they do not target the domestic market.

With immediate effect, the scope of the Casino Control (Advertising) Regulations will be expanded to cover promotions.

These refer to membership drives, rewards and loyalty programmes, as well as lucky draws and contests.

Previously, these were not covered under the law.

Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands will now have to seek prior approval from the Community Development, Youth and Sports Ministry for all casino advertising and promotions.

These include interviews and media releases, as well as community sponsorship.

Casino advertising will also now cover merchandising, such as a T-shirt with a picture of a dice, or a mug with a picture of a roulette table.

The authorities have also made clear what is termed as “domestic market”.

They include not just Singapore citizens but also Permanent Residents and foreigners working and living in Singapore.

Operators who break the law will now be slapped with a fine of up to S$100,000.

Industry watchers welcomed the move, saying that any form of casino advertising does have an influence on a gambler and even a non-gambler.

Currently, one of the measures to deter Singaporeans from visiting the casinos is the Casino Entry Levy – where citizens have to pay S$100 to enter. The levy will expire after 24 consecutive hours from the time of the first entry into the casino. The annual levy is priced at S$2,000, which will expire after 12 consecutive months from the time of the first entry into the casino.

How does the marketer target just the foreign market in gambling advertisements? This seems rather inconceivable. By using foreigners instead of locals in the advertisements? But there are also foreigners living and working in Singapore that are part of the “domestic market” that cannot be targeted. Interviews and community sponsorships appear to be easier tools to impose stricter guidelines upon.

The takeaway is seemingly this: The casinos are not for you, Singaporeans (and those working in Singapore).

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Singapore: Yahoo! sued over copyright infringement Thu, 24 Nov 2011 06:29:09 +0000

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Yahoo! Inc on allegations that the internet giant has reproduced news articles without permission, Reuters reports.

Yahoo! credit: Getty Images

From Reuters,

“In our statement of claim, we cited as examples 23 articles from our newspapers which Yahoo! had reproduced over a 12-month period without our license or authorization,” Singapore Press spokeswoman Chin Soo Fang said in an e-mail to Reuters.

From Channel NewsAsia,

They included political and crime stories that were first published in the print editions of the Straits Times, The New Paper and My Paper.

“We confirm that Singapore Press Holdings has commenced litigation against Yahoo! Southeast Asia Pte Ltd for alleged copyright infringement,” said a Yahoo! statement sent to AFP.

“Our editorial business model of acquired, commissioned and original content is proven.”

SPH said that despite a request to cease the alleged infringement, “substantial reproduction of the media company’s content continue to be available on Yahoo! Southeast Asia’s sites.”

SPH is asking the court to declare that Yahoo! Southeast Asia infringed on its copyright, stop it from further reproducing articles and pay damages, the Straits Times report said.

It quoted a local media expert, Ang Peng Hwa, as saying the case could set a precedent as it would have an impact on the way news websites operate.

From Yahoo!,

SPH filed a writ of summons and statement of claim to the Singapore High Court on Friday.

SPH publishes 18 newspapers in four languages including its flagship Straits Times.

In this highly globalized digital world where people are inundated with information, the knowledge supplied is not free. The reproduction of full articles is indeed a copyright infringement. The devil is in the details; the question of to what extent these articles were copied still remains – until the aforementioned 23 articles are delineated, exposed and published, it is hard to get a sense of the culpability of Yahoo!

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Indian govt placates middle class, political allies with petrol price cuts Fri, 18 Nov 2011 00:48:01 +0000

The Indian government has intervened indirectly through its state-controlled refiners to reduce petrol prices for the first time in three years on Wednesday, The Financial Times reports.

Cars in India. credit: cardekho.

This is part of a move to placate the ruling Congress party’s key political allies, who “threatened to quit the alliance” over recent price hikes, according to The Financial Times. Of equal importance is the government’s desire to pander to the rapidly growing middle class that has been increasingly vocal against the price hikes as they are the most sensitive to higher gasoline prices.

From The Financial Times:

However, the cut in petrol prices – equivalent to around 3 per cent – is unlikely to have a significant impact on India’s rampant inflation, which has remained near double digit levels despite 13 rate increases by the country’s central bank since March 2010.

Although state-run fuel retailers have been free to set their own prices since June last year, when India decided to end state control over prices and allow them to move freely with global markets, any increase is still informally approved by central government.

The cut is being viewed by analysts as a political move to boost the Congress party’s image ahead of elections next year in Uttar Pradesh, the country’s largest state with a population close to 200m people.

“They are playing pre-polls politics, this seems obvious,” said Deven Choksey, managing director at KR Choksey, a brokerage in Mumbai. “On the one hand they deregulate the petrol market and on the other hand they force the refiners to cut price … this is ridiculous.”

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China irked by US plan to base 2,500 Marines in Australia Thu, 17 Nov 2011 02:36:14 +0000

China has “questioned” a plan by the U.S. to station 2,500 marines in Australia in the next five years, Reuters reports. US President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard recently announced an initial stationing of 250 Marines in Darwin.

US President Obama and Australia Prime Minister Julia Gillard. credit: Getty Images.

The deployment is part of a strategic military plan to “maintain security” in Asia, Reuters reports. Yet in Obama’s speech in Canberra this morning, China remained the focus when he spoke about the deployment; short of explicitly saying that it was in the national interest of the U.S. to contain the Chinese behemoth. Slate, it turns out, was more forthcoming – in an article titled, “Marines to Australia,” the subheading reads, “With an eye on China, the U.S. will expand its presence in the Pacific.”

Marines take their position. credit: Slate.

Is Australia playing up to the U.S. as Uncle Sam seeks to expand its presence in the Asia-Pacific region? I think that’s not entirely true.

First, the presence of American troops down under helps ensure a degree of security for Australia, especially when it comes to addressing terrorist threats emanating from Southeast Asia. At the same time, Australia is also cautious of a rising China, which has shown instances of aggressive pursuits of its claims in the South China Sea. Thus, it is in Australia’s national interest to have American troops to ramp up security in the region.

Second, Australia has allowed China to use a space-tracking system in Western Australia – also used by NASA – at a time when U.S. lawmakers have been feverishly trying to “block almost all interaction between China and the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration,” The Wall Street Journal reports.

From The Wall Street Journal,

Australian officials said on Wednesday that they didn’t consult the U.S. on a plan to allow China to use a space-tracking station in Western Australia that is also used by NASA, despite widespread concerns that the Chinese space program is largely controlled by the Chinese military.

The admission comes as a potential embarrassment to Australian authorities as they host U.S. President Barack Obama on his first official visit there.

While the site’s owner and Australian authorities say there’s no risk of China accessing U.S. operations there, some experts say that China could use it to better position spacecraft for military surveillance.

U.S. space officials, meanwhile, fear that China could overtake the U.S. as world leader in space if it continues to make rapid advances like the one this month, when the country completed its first space-docking mission, a milestone in its plan to build a space station by 2020.

“Many space capabilities are inherently dual-use, and China, like a number of other countries, does not have separate military and civil programs,” said Lt. Col. April Cunningham, a Pentagon spokeswoman. “These factors increase the need for transparency in order to avoid mishaps, misperceptions, and mistrust.” Dual-use refers to technology with both civilian and military applications.

Australia is among many countries that are keen to expand civilian space cooperation with China, even though Canberra is strengthening defense ties with the U.S. to hedge against China. The U.S., by contrast, maintains strict controls on space and dual-use technology transfers, and fierce opposition in Congress continues to block cooperation between NASA and China.

Chinese military. credit: The Telegraph

Seems like Australia wants the best of both worlds, but this will become a tricky situation in times to come.

What’s clear though, is the United States’ commitment to the Asia-Pacific region, as Obama said this morning that “Asia-Pacific is critical to achieving my (his) highest priority.” In The Straits Times today, Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, writes that the U.S. has “rediscovered” Asia, shifting its focus from the Middle East to Southeast Asia.

He writes:

Regardless of whether the 21st century will be another “American century”, it is certain that it will be an Asian and Pacific century. It is both natural and sensible that the US be central to whatever evolves from that fact.

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China overtakes Japan to become 2nd largest R&D spender Wed, 16 Nov 2011 01:48:03 +0000

Rising power China has grabbed headlines for being the top, if not amongst the top, in the world for a cavalcade of reasons. This time, it is more than beating every country in the world in math, science and reading.

In a pivotal moment in history – perhaps even signaling a global power shift in the making – China has overtaken Japan to be the second largest R&D spender in the world, “easily outstripping” money invested by Germany, France, and Britain; countries that dominate the list two decades ago, Reuters reports.

credit: Getty Images.

From Reuters,

China has overtaken Japan to become the world’s second biggest spender on industrial research and development (R&D), trailing only the United States, a report by the United Nations said on Monday.

Chinese investment in R&D rose to 12.8 percent of the world total in 2009, up from just 2.2 percent in 1993, according to the report by the U.N. World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).

The United States held on to the top position in the global R&D rankings. But its share fell 3.4 percentage points to 33.4 percent, still more two and a half times larger than China’s.

While China has received plenty of criticism regarding its adherence to copyright laws and patent rights, the country is doing all it can to ensure that its R&D innovation efforts do not go to waste. Invoking the legal provisions as set out by copyright, intellectual property rights and licensing laws, China is bent on protecting innovations produced by Chinese research; as the report by U.N. World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) shows sharp spikes in the number of Chinese applications for patents and trademarks.

Another telling sign that the Chinese economy is doing well is conveyed through the source of its R&D investment.

The public sector was the main funder of research and development in most middle income countries, predominantly in Latin American and Asia…

The private sector carried out most research and development in China and other high income countries.

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A rainy day for Bangkok: The Thailand floods in pictures Tue, 15 Nov 2011 02:22:26 +0000

Saw this picture on the front of page of The Straits Times, was awed, and at the same time, shocked at the scale of the disaster. Intrigued, I went on to look for more pictures taken on the floods. The pictures exude an element of danger, and ironically, calmness.

Vehicles are submerged at the Honda factory in Ayutthaya province November 14, 2011. Appeared in The Straits Times. credit: Reuters.

A Buddhist temple is surrounded by water at a flooded area in Bangkok's suburbs, Thailand, November 14, 2011. credit: Reuters.

A resident walks on a barricade along a flooded highway in Nonthaburi province, on the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand, November 14, 2011. credit: Reuters.

A television reporter works in floodwaters in front of Don Muang airport in Bangkok, Thailand on November 14, 2011. credit: AFP.

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Chinese student population in US spikes 20pc to 157,588 Mon, 14 Nov 2011 06:02:14 +0000

This year, the number of students from China at U.S. colleges and universities has swelled – surging 23 percent from last year to 157,558, representing more than a fifth of all international scholars in the United States.

China is now the country that has sent the most number of students to the U.S. for the second year in a row, Bloomberg reports. This is followed by India with 103,895, and South Korea, with 73,351, according to a report released by the Institute of International Education.

International Students. Credit: New Hope Christian.

From Bloomberg,

“The real driver there is the rise of the middle class in China,” Blumenthal said in an interview. “Parents now have money to send their students to the best universities anywhere in the world.”

China’s one-child policy means not just parents but four grandparents can help students pay for college, she said.

China sent 56,976 undergraduates, a 43 percent jump, and 76,830 graduate students, a 16 percent increase.

The country with the biggest decline was Japan, which sent 21,290 students to the U.S., a 14 percent drop.

The most popular college is the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, with an enrolment of 8,615 international students, followed by the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign with 7,991. New York University emerged third with 7,988 students.

Although LA is one of the most popular places to study for international students, there have been instances of racial and cultural intolerance and discrimination against international students, or Asians, in particular. Alexandra Wallace, a UCLA student, gained notoriety for posting an anti-Asian tirade on YouTube, mocking their speech and cultural practices.

From HuffPo, Wallace said:

All the Asian people that live in all the apartments around me… and everybody that they know that they brought along from Asia with them comes here on the weekends to do their laundry, buy their groceries, and cook their food for the week. It’s seriously without fail, you will always see old Asian people running around this apartment complex every weekend. That’s what they do. They don’t teach their kids to fend for themselves…

Hi. In America we do not talk on our cell phones in the library… I’ll be typing away furiously, blah blah blah, and then all of the sudden, when I’m about to, like, reach an epiphany, over here from somewhere, ‘OHH Ching chong ling long ting tong? OHH’

Alexandra Wallace. credit: The Daily Mail.

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Ethnic discrimination in Singapore’s rental market Sun, 13 Nov 2011 08:41:35 +0000

In a country where property prices are soaring, another phenomenon is witnessed in Singapore’s rental market: ethnic discrimination.

An article published by The Wall Street Journal last week indicates the blatant ethnic discrimination that pervades and plagues the property rental market.

Property Guru screenshot. credit: The Wall Street Journal

From The Wall Street Journal:

A three-bedroom condominium for rent in Singapore’s cosmopolitan Claymore Hill area in the central part of the island boasts a pool, a gymnasium, and proximity to the Orchard Road shopping district. It would be a great catch for any high income family – unless you happen to be Indian.The listing, which appeared November 3 on the Property Guru classified listings website, beckons prospective tenants to “search no more” but adds the following caveat: “Accept all race, except indian sorry no offence (sic).”

A significant number of property advertisements on rental websites such as Singapore-based Property Guru or Craigslist specify that no Indians, ‘PRCs’ (from the People’s Republic of China) or Malays be allowed to rent various properties. Some ads also specify that Japanese, Caucasian or Chinese tenants are preferred.

Though discriminatory, this act is not against the law in Singapore, as Eugene Tan – a professor of law at the Singapore Management University – said that this is because “landlords are free to specify their requirements,” as the Journal reports.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Singapore’s Council of Estate Agents, a statutory board under the purview of the government’s Ministry of National Development, says it doesn’t condone racial discrimination. It also said in a response to queries from The Wall Street Journal that it has advertising guidelines in place to prevent discrimination, but “some landlords have explained that they face practical considerations renting out their properties, leading to certain requirements in rental transactions.” It did not specify what those considerations were.

Property Guru says it employs a team to moderate the more than 100,000 listings on its site to check against “racist or anti-social content” that contravenes Singapore’s anti-sedition and racial harmony laws. But it still makes allowances for clients to request their preferences even when it comes to race and ethnicity.

“We understand that agents have to take care of their clients’ preferences,” said a spokesperson from Property Guru, adding that if any listing is found to be racist or anti-social, agents are contacted and told to amend the information.

Read the article here.

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Report: Singaporeans ‘heaviest Internet users’ Tue, 08 Nov 2011 09:13:21 +0000

Singaporeans are revealed to be the ‘heaviest Internet users’ in the region, according to the first Nielsen Southeast Asia Digital Consumer Report, reports Channel NewsAsia.

The average duration spent online per week is 25 hours by Singaporeans, followed closely by Filipinos who spend 21.5 hours online per week, and Malaysians at 19.8 hours.

credit: Channel NewsAsia

From Channel NewsAsia:

The report which examines digital media habits and attitudes of Southeast Asian consumers said rapid technological developments and increasing ownership of mobile connected devices, such as smartphones and tablets, are revolutionising digital media usage in Singapore.

The report also noted that Internet usage is surpassing time spent on traditional media such as television, radio or print.

Rapid growth in ownership of devices such as smartphones and tablet computers is also expected in 2012, according to the report.

It predicts that 89 per cent of Singaporean digital consumers will own a smartphone by mid-2012.

Nielsen’s Region Research Director, Ms Melanie Ingrey, said: “More and more we are seeing consumers accessing multiple media platforms simultaneously, especially accessing the Internet whilst watching television, which many Singaporean consumers are doing several times per week.”

Facebook emerged as the dominating social media site across Southeast Asia with 77 per cent of digital consumers in Singapore maintaining an active profile on Facebook.

YouTube ranked as second or third most popular social networking site in Southeast Asian markets with 45 per cent of digital consumers in Singapore having an active YouTube profile.

Mashable ran a similar article last December on the average time Americans spent online per week using the Internet and watching TV offline. The number is only slightly more than half the time Singaporeans spent online this year.

From Mashable:

The average American now spends roughly 13 hours per week using the Internet and watching TV offline, Forrester finds, based on its survey of more than 30,000 customers. The Internet has long captivated the attention of younger Americans to a greater extent than TV and is now proving more popular to Gen X (ages 31 to 44) for the first time ever. Younger Baby Boomers (ages 45 to 54) are spending the same amount of time per week using both media.

While the amount of time Americans spend watching TV has remained roughly the same in the past five years, Internet use has increased by 121% in the same time frame.

credit: Mashable

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Are Singaporeans mistreating their maids? Tue, 01 Nov 2011 03:38:00 +0000

News reports and non-governmental organizations’ (NGOs) accounts on maid abuse and mistreatment in Singapore are neither few nor new. The paucity of protection for maid abuse has triggered a move by the Singapore government to step up measures against the most extreme forms of mistreatment – sexual and physical abuse. However, when it comes to extending the rights of foreign domestic workers (FDWs), Singaporeans appear to be much less forthcoming.

credit: CNN

In a photo essay on CNN titled “Little rest for Singapore’s silent army,” Beijing-based journalist Sim Chi Yin has placed the issue of rest days for FDWs in the international spotlight.

From CNN,

In 2010, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) says it took action against 26 employers for failure to provide adequate food, rest or medical care. In the first half of 2011, nine were held to account. “Most FDW employers are responsible and treat their FDWs well,” a government spokesperson said.

Yet, according to a survey released this year by Transient Workers Count Too, only 12% of Singapore’s foreign domestic workers, mostly women from Indonesia and the Philippines, were granted a day off each week. Just over half had a day off each month.

While the standard contract asks parties to nominate one day off a month (to be paid in lieu, if the maid chooses to forgo it), the Act only requires employers to provide “adequate rest.”

Employers who fail to comply can be fined up to $5,000 (US$3,900) and jailed for up to six months.

Although recognized under Singapore’s Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, FDWs are not protected by any legal provision that regulates their pay and working hours, and are most certainly not included under Singapore’s labor law, as reported by CNN.

From CNN,

“One of the things we noticed from the responses of employers is a kind of panicked reaction when we start talking about a day off,” says TWC2’s executive director Vincent Wijeysingha.

“I think that’s based on the fact that we’ve come to depend so much on our domestic workers for everything. You see them running the household, shopping, paying bills and looking after vulnerable people in the family.

“The key reason why we need them is because there are no affordable childcare services and no affordable elderly daycare services. So this represents the cheapest social policy option,” he says.

And that’s not the only reason why.

An article in Global Post in June reported that many Singaporeans were dismayed by the prospect of giving maids a day off.

From Global Post,

“Do they not rest in the course of their work every day? … Are maids really that overworked? The many maids congregating and chatting away happily at my condominium on weekdays present a different picture.”

Worse yet, she writes, “my previous maid met her boyfriend on her day off and even while we were at work.”

A social life? The horror.

Maids in Singapore raise kids, cook food, clean, run errands and more for Singapore’s Type A workaholic parents. Sometimes, when their kids are drafted into military service, the maids even carry their rucksacks.

The author is referring to a picture that depicts a maid carrying the rucksack of a Singaporean youth enlisted in the army. That picture had created a furore amongst netizens and the general public a few months back.

credit: dho

In a book published by the Human Rights Watch, “Maid to Order,” a common perception seems to pervade the community of employers that believes that the “women will use a day off for activities such as second jobs, dancing, forming relationships with men, or even prostitution.” In the book, a labor agent reportedly said, “[Giving maids a] rest day is a problem in Singapore…People think it will create social problems. They think maids will get pregnant, [they ask] who will be responsible for the S$5,000…”

credit: Global Post

Are Singaporeans really mistreating their maids?

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Singapore: iPhone 4S back in store Mon, 31 Oct 2011 01:29:27 +0000

credit: Apple

Asia has waited patiently for the release of iPhone 4S. Last Friday, the long-coveted phone reached the shores of sunny Singapore.

The latest model went on sale at midnight Friday Singapore time, but in less than 24 hours, it was listed on Apple’s (AAPL) online store as “currently unavailable.”

From CNNMoney,

Singapore would seem the perfect place for an Apple Store.

The former British colony of 5 million people on the tip of the Malay Peninsula is the world’s fifth busiest shipping port, the fourth largest financial center, the second biggest casino gambling market and first in the percentage of millionaire households.

Plus, it can’t get enough of those iPhones. The newest model went on sale at 12:00 a.m. Friday Singapore time, and by the time the sun rose in New York, according to MacRumors, it was listed on Apple’s (AAPL) online store as “currently unavailable.”

Singaporeans in line for iPhone 4S. credit: The Straits Times

Just when Singaporeans despair over the shortage of iPhone 4S, Singtel announced this morning that the popular mobile phone is back in store.

From Singtel‘s website,

We’re happy to inform you that the iPhone 4S will generally be available at all SingTel Shops and selected SingTel Exclusive Retailers from Monday, 31 October 2011.

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China’s war on the media Thu, 27 Oct 2011 02:58:39 +0000

A day after news of China’s dismay at its “overly entertaining” reality TV was released, Chinese officials’ dissatisfaction with the media continues unabated. Today, The Wall Street Journal reports that Chinese officials have publicly called for “stricter control of social media.”

Credit: Celebritysentry

From AP:

China plans to limit reality TV shows and other light entertainment fare shown on satellite television stations as part of a drive to wrest back Communist Party control over cultural industries that are fueling more independent viewpoints.

The order from the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, known as SARFT, refers to shows that are vulgar or “overly entertaining.” It singles out programs dealing with marital troubles and matchmaking, talent shows, game shows, variety shows, talk shows and reality programming.

credit to Telegraph UK

From The Wall Street Journal:

Chinese officials called for stricter control of social media and the creation of new websites and Internet technologies that would promote the Communist Party’s ideals, further signaling a broad effort to increase government involvement and tighten the reins on the nation’s fast-growing, largely private Internet sector.

The calls came as part of a directive on cultural reforms contained in a report of the Communist Party Central Committee’s 6th plenary session released by state-run Xinhua news agency on Wednesday. They included strengthening “guidance and management” of social networking and instant messaging applications and punishing the spread of “harmful” materials online. The report also called for better security to “uphold public interests and national security” as well as “creating” and promoting others to create “civilized websites” and to “develop new Internet technologies.”

credit to Weibo

Interestingly, David Bandurski, a researcher at Hong Kong University’s China Media Project calls this move “paternal,” that is in some way, “sincere,” referring to China’s widespread effort to curb “excessive entertainment and a trend toward low taste” in the Chinese media. Spreading “core socialist values,” according to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), is central on Chinese airways, and “entertainment” TV appears to promote “money worship, hedonism, and extreme individualism” that are destabilizing to the Chinese society. Television programs should be “refined and inspiring.” Furthermore,  the report released by the Chinese government is a directive supposedly to “uphold public interests and national security.” Is China experiencing a period of decadence and moral decay with the proliferation of entertainment TV and social media?

I think the objective of these Chinese officials is unclear. Chinese microblogging sites present evidence of government oversight and incompetence – in commenting and discussing the devastating train accident in Wenzhou for instance, where netizens criticized safety standards undertaken by the Chinese government that failed to keep up with rapid Chinese urbanization. If the Chinese government is keen on preventing hedonism and money worship, then shouldn’t more be done to curb material consumption, domestic demand and more importantly, to control the exponential growth of industries?

I am not against regulating the media, if the media has been acting in an irresponsible manner, propagating untruths, or if it flouts rules – as seen in the Newscorp scandal. However, given the Chinese government’s vested interest in controlling the media – as a way to control dissenting voices – regulation then has pernicious effects, giving absolute authority to the governing body over the governed.

These are the current steps taken in regulating Chinese airways, as reported by The Wall Street Journal:

In a statement published on its website Tuesday, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television–known as Sarft–said it would cap the number of “entertainment programs” at two per week beginning next year. That includes talent shows, matchmaking shows and other forms of reality programming which have proliferated in China in recent years.

Beginning next year, TV stations will be limited to showing a maximum of 90 minutes of entertainment programming during prime time each day while the total number of prime-time entertainment programs aired nationwide will be limited to nine per day.

SARFT has tried to implement limits on entertainment programming before, but the recent rules are by far the most comprehensive restrictions, analysts say.

The question is, how far can the CCP go in regulating Chinese media?

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Personal savings chief cause of unhappiness in Singapore – report Mon, 24 Oct 2011 12:59:29 +0000

What are Singaporeans most unhappy with? Personal savings.

ChannelNews Asia reported that in “The Happiness Report,” a study conducted by global communications firm, Grey Group, almost 50% of the respondents cite a “lack of sufficient savings” as a source of unhappiness in the last six months. This was closely followed by “personal expenditure.” The other three areas are confidence in the economy, job satisfaction, and work-life balance.

credit to Asia One

Singaporeans’ unhappiness, inferred from the study, stems from money-related, or job-related issues. Are Singaporeans spending more and saving less now? What does this mean in an era of increased consumption as new malls sprout up along Orchard Road, encouraging the pursuit of material things and instant gratification perhaps at the expense of lasting and meaningful “happiness”?

From ChannelNews Asia:

The study also discovered that baby boomers (45-49 years old) were the happiest people with an overall net happiness score of 11.4 per cent, 4.6 percentage points higher than the young adult segment (18-29 years old).

It also found that men were happier than women at the workplace, with 46.08 per cent of men found to be happy at their jobs as compared to 37.75 per cent for women.

Shirley Ang, an account manager, said: “In schools these days, it’s very competitive, so everyone’s competing with each other, challenging each other.

“Back during the days of baby boomers and all, it was probably an easier life in a way. Hard in terms of earning money, but easier in terms of (the amount of) stress they are feeling from society.”

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Kim Jong-Il’s grandson hogs media spotlight Tue, 18 Oct 2011 11:04:32 +0000

North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-Il, has probably been missing the limelight these days – but not his grandson. Korean and Western media is rife with reports of  Kim Han-Sol, Kim’s grandson, focusing on his whereabouts and profiling his character.

According to The Korea Times, Kim is described to be “decked out in rimmed glasses, an earring and bleached hair,” and participates actively in social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, completely Western by any standard. What is more shocking is his open affirmation of democratic values over communism, according to The Korea Times. Kim is now pursuing his studies in Bosnia.

From the AFP:

According to the school, the enrolment of the grandson of the leader of one of the most isolated countries in the world was the result of a UWC outreach programme for North Korea.

It was not known exactly why Han-Sol chose to study in Bosnia.

But a school spokeswoman confirmed previous reports that although he was accepted by a UWC school in Hong Kong his visa request was turned down despite several attempts.

“He passed the admission exam… but the Hong Kong authorities refused to give him a residence visa so we offered him the chance to attend this school,” the Mostar UWC spokeswoman, Meri Musa, told AFP.

Han-Sol will attend English language classes in chemistry, physics, mathematics or economics at the school with around 120 other students, aged between 16 and 18.

The students sleep, eat and spend their leisure time in a building in another part of the town.

Han-Sol’s father is Kim Jong-Nam, the North Korean leader’s exiled eldest son. The pair are said to have been living in Macau, southern China.

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Occupy Singapore: Fail Sun, 16 Oct 2011 11:27:16 +0000

Protestors in Singapore gathered last Saturday at Raffles Place (the Wall Street equivalent of Singapore) emulating the Occupy Wall Street movement in the United States.

Perhaps picking a Saturday afternoon is not the best choice for creating a protest of maximum impact, but what’s disappointing is the lack of fervor that the movement had.

From The Wall Street Journal,

The small crowd at the central square outside Raffles Place MRT station included mostly journalists and photographers, looking listless and bored. Some plainclothes policemen were also present, after they had earlier warned potential protesters that such a protest would be “unlawful.”

The Facebook page for the event is no longer available, with the group’s @occupysg account posting this message on Twitter: “We should try this again on Monday morning?” The Twitter page has 30 followers.

At 4:15 p.m. Singapore time, two hours after the event was meant to take place, organizers of “Occupy SG” posted this Facebook update: “We are obviously very disappointed with the lack of on the ground support. We take the blame for lack of logistics and planning and we apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

The Business Insider posted a concise article delineating reasons for the Occupy Wall Street protest, citing reasons such as “the highest level of unemployment since the Great Depression”, “corporate profits at an all-time high”, “wages as a percentage of the economy are at an all-time low”, and lastly, “income and wealth inequality in the US economy is near at an all-time high.”

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The middle class crisis Thu, 13 Oct 2011 11:42:54 +0000

I’m not a big fan of Friedman’s even though he can be pretty funny and engaging – especially the analogies he makes up – because he teeters on the edge of pulling a Glenn Beck with the graphs he presents. I felt that he was always on a relentless green crusade, or even a messianic mission to push for green energy. Not because I have an issue with green energy (in fact, I think we really need to do more for the environment, looking at the overfilled trash bin of disposed coffee cups and Nespresso capsules at work.) More importantly, I think there are two issues that show in his writing: firstly, he always writes about the same things; a green revolution, China, globalization, IT revolution… His ideas are broad, and… the same. Second, he’s a storyteller. He has a gift of writing in a style to which the masses can relate, but reading one Friedman book after another, he is exposed: he writes too much relative to the information he knows.

That being said, I truly enjoyed his article in The New York Times on October 11. One could argue that he’s essentially saying the same things as the rest of the journalists are: globalization, IT revolution, social reforms… But it is refreshing that Friedman manages to frame the current situation we face in a concise and insightful manner through engaging the perspectives of two thinkers. And through that, whether or not of his own doing, there are fresh ideas that are mind-provoking.

credit to Brian Heckman

From The New York Times,

There are two unified theories out there that intrigue me. One says this is the start of “The Great Disruption.” The other says that this is all part of “The Big Shift.”

Paul Gilding, the Australian environmentalist and author of the book “The Great Disruption,” argues that these demonstrations are a sign that the current growth-obsessed capitalist system is reaching its financial and ecological limits. “I look at the world as an integrated system, so I don’t see these protests, or the debt crisis, or inequality, or the economy, or the climate going weird, in isolation — I see our system in the painful process of breaking down,” which is what he means by the Great Disruption, said Gilding.

“Our system of economic growth, of ineffective democracy, of overloading planet earth — our system — is eating itself alive…many who worked hard are unemployed; many who studied hard are unable to get good work; the environment is getting more and more damaged; and people are realizing their kids will be even worse off than they are…It’s most people, including the highly educated middle class, who are feeling the results of a system that saw all the growth of the last three decades go to the top 1 percent.”

Not so fast, says John Hagel III, who is the co-chairman of the Center for the Edge at Deloitte, along with John Seely Brown. In their recent book, “The Power of Pull,” they suggest that we’re in the early stages of a “Big Shift,” precipitated by the merging of globalization and the Information Technology Revolution…

“As flow gains momentum, it undermines the precious knowledge stocks that in the past gave us security and wealth. It calls on us to learn faster by working together and to pull out of ourselves more of our true potential, both individually and collectively. It excites us with the possibilities that can only be realized by participating in a broader range of flows. That is the essence of the Big Shift.”

The world we live in now is vastly different from a decade ago. Across the world, people are getting more affluent, more well-educated, and are more well-traveled. We gradually see more people who are in the middle class, and yet the income gap has widened, and continues to widen at an accelerated pace.

An infographic by PBS shows the degree of income inequality in the world. South America and Africa have the worst levels of inequality while parts of Asia have moderate to high levels of disparity. Thailand has one of the highest level of inequality in Southeast Asia, followed by Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore.

Before, well-educated individuals were expected to get good jobs, and a good pay. Now, this doesn’t seem to be the case. More are laid off, real wages are declining, and inflation is rising. Is this the result of more competition as globalization intensifies? Or is this the result of an inherent problem with capitalism and the IT revolution? I think it is both.

This appears to be a middle class crisis. There is a gradual expansion of the middle class where many are in the lower bracket, and the income gap between the middle and upper class widens rapidly. Are we witnessing a middle class crisis globally? Or are we going to experience a potential middle class crisis?

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Steve Jobs: Death of a revolutionist Thu, 06 Oct 2011 05:40:12 +0000

It was 7.45am this morning, and I went about my morning routine at work. My coffee turned cold. I reached out for my iPhone, checking texts messages until my news feed popped up: Steve Jobs had passed away at 56.

I tried to gather my emotions. I was overwhelmed by sadness. As if a close friend, or a family member has passed away. Even though I have never seen or spoken to this man who has become such a cult figure in the past decade. Why?

Because he was a brilliant man. Not just a technology expert or talent, he was a true designer, a creator, an innovator. He touched lives. He changed things. He became someone people looked up to, not because of his phenomenal success, but because he failed, again and again, before he finally made it, and revolutionized how we thought about technology and gadgets. He represented life’s trials and tribulations, not the excesses of wealth. And that is why his death is so tragic, and so sad. He fought – initially as people doubted Apple, and then his illness – and fought. He earned the respect of many.

From USA Today:

President Barack Obama: By building one of the planet’s most successful companies from his garage, he exemplified the spirit of American ingenuity. By making computers personal and putting the Internet in our pockets, he made the information revolution not only accessible, but intuitive and fun. And by turning his talents to storytelling, he has brought joy to millions of children and grownups alike.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg (via Facebook): Steve, thank you for being a mentor and a friend. Thanks for showing that what you build can change the world. I will miss you.

Microsoft co-founder and longtime rival Bill Gates: Melinda (Gates’ wife) and I extend our sincere condolences to his family and friends, and to everyone Steve has touched through his work. Steve and I first met nearly 30 years ago and have been colleagues, competitors and friends over the course of more than half our lives. The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come. For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it’s been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely.

Larry Page, CEO of Google: I am very, very sad to hear the news about Steve. He was a great man with incredible achievements and amazing brilliance. He always seemed to be able to say in very few words what you actually should have been thinking before you thought it. His focus on the user experience above all else has always been an inspiration to me. He was very kind to reach out to me as I became CEO of Google and spend time offering his advice and knowledge even though he was not at all well. My thoughts and Google’s are with his family and the whole Apple family.

We have lost a great visionary, who has earned the love and respect of many.

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A reprieve for foreign workers in Asia Tue, 04 Oct 2011 07:32:21 +0000

Asia’s human rights record has been far from stellar. Governments are known to be repressive and authoritative by Western standards. Citizens are oppressed, disenfranchised, and at times, even tortured. These are, however, the more traditional and conventional issues that arise when democracy and human rights in this region are discussed.

As growth in Asia intensifies, so does the need for more workers to fuel the growth of the economy. Not just highly-skilled workers, but lowly-skilled workers especially. Rapid urbanization and infrastructure needs have resulted in the influx of foreign workers into Asian countries. Most of these foreign workers are from less developed nations such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

In recent years, the plight of foreign workers has been in the spotlight, both as a source of diplomatic tension between states (for instance, Malaysia and Indonesia) and also as a case for protection against abuse. However, little has been done on the part of governments to institutionalize foreign workers into host countries as residents, in order to guarantee the protection of their rights. Individuals too, have been seen to champion the cause for protecting the rights of these workers, but the tangible benefits that the workers actually receive remains to be seen.

Thus, the recent series of events that have unraveled in Hong Kong are remarkable.

Two days ago, AFP reported that a landmark court ruling in Hong Kong has given Indonesian and Filipina maids the right and chance to apply for permanent residency.

From AFP:

Now a landmark court ruling has given them a chance to apply for permanent residency — but the decision, which has polarised opinions in the southern Chinese city, has also prompted different reactions among maids themselves.

Foreigners can seek permanent residency in Hong Kong after seven years of uninterrupted stay, gaining rights to vote and to live in the city without a work visa.

There are as many as 292,000 foreign maids in the city, but they were specifically excluded from being allowed to apply. In the first case of its kind in Asia, the city’s High Court ruled on Friday that the provision was unconstitutional.

Permanent residency would mean a domestic worker was no longer tied to a single employer, but could take any job and access benefits such as public housing.

Providing a reprieve of a rather different nature, a good Samaritan in Singapore has helped more than 100 foreign workers by offering them a place to stay.

From The New Paper:

American Debbie Fordyce, 57, has helped more than 100 foreign workers by letting them live in her condo unit over the last three years.

They stay for anywhere from a few months to a year, as long as it takes for their affairs here to be sorted out.

The widow, who volunteers full-time with Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) to help migrant workers here, told The New Paper that she does so out of a moral imperative.

“I don’t get anything out of it except perhaps the pleasure of their company. None of the workers I meet can afford to spend $200 a month on a place to stay,” she said.

The mother of four, whose children live overseas, said: “I have a big house. My children have left home. It makes sense to for me to let the workers stay here.

“I’d like to ask why aren’t other people doing the same?”

These events present some sort of consolation for human rights activists. Although there are many non-governmental organizations in Asia that focus on the welfare of foreign workers – and are doing well – these two events are perhaps a watershed. One is a legal provision that signifies a serious protection of the rights of foreign workers; while the other offers more tangible and direct, rather than symbolic, benefits for these workers.

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Singapore: Young and clueless about unprotected sex Tue, 27 Sep 2011 02:13:38 +0000

A recent article by Channel NewsAsia reports that a shocking eight in 10 respondents in Singapore said they did not use any form of contraception during intercourse with a new partner. Singapore stands out as this survey result shows the highest rate of unprotected sex amongst young adults in nine of the Asia Pacific countries surveyed.

The survey conducted by Bayer Healthcare earlier this year involved 200 adults from each country.

From Channel NewsAsia,

Some 40 per cent of survey respondents said they or their partner preferred not using any, while another one in five thought they were not at risk of getting pregnant.

About one in four believed in at least one common myth on how not to get pregnant.

These include withdrawal before ejaculation, showering after sex, staying upside down for two hours, and rinsing the genital area with Coca-Cola.

The use of Coca-Cola as a contraceptive method has been around for decades, and a study in the 1980s showed that the drink did have some spermicidal qualities.

According to the survey, one in three respondents reported previously receiving wrong information about contraception.

Among respondents who admitted getting their facts wrong, more than half said the Internet was the main culprit, while many also cited friends and religious or spiritual leaders.

Respondents had been presented with a separate list of sources, including their partner, siblings and teachers.

Thirty-nine per cent cited “friends” and another 19 per cent pointed to religious/spiritual leaders as sources of erroneous information on contraception.

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Just for Laughs: British Road Signs Reinterpreted Thu, 22 Sep 2011 12:47:48 +0000

The deluge of issues in the news these days is unsettling and disheartening. Perhaps humor is the best way to deal with the harsh reality of these issues – and design appears to do this well.

While I was reading news updates from international news websites, I came across something interesting and delightful.

In response to a request from London magazine, Blueprint, some designers, artists and artists reinterpreted British road signs and came up with a series of facetious and creative images.

[via designtaxi]

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South Korea: World’s most advanced communications economy Tue, 20 Sep 2011 09:57:16 +0000

Although it is not one of the top three economies in the world, South Korea was the world’s most advanced Internet and telecommunications economy in 2010, Reuters reports.

Beating the United States, China and Japan, South Korea had the highest levels of “access, usage and skills.” Scandinavian countries follow closely behind South Korea; with Sweden, Iceland, Denmark and Finland trailing the Asian country.

Despite having the largest number of Internet users, China is ranked 80th based on its ICT (Information & Communication Technology) competency, according to ITU. The United States was ranked 17th.

From Reuters:

“The ‘mobile miracle’ is putting ICT services within reach of even the most disadvantaged people and communities. Our challenge now is to replicate that success in broadband,” the ITU’s Secretary-General Hamadoun Toure said in the report.

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Lee Kuan Yew celebrates 88th birthday, launches new book Mon, 19 Sep 2011 01:23:50 +0000

It was a birthday that ended with a big bang for former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew on September 16. Lee launched the Chinese edition of his best-selling book, Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going, to celebrate his 88th birthday – an auspicious number according to Chinese traditions. The book includes 16 interviews with The Straits Times journalists on a diverse range of issues such as the politically sensitive topic of immigration, foreign talent, and even climate change, Asia One reports.

Lee said:

I think if we arrange our education system, especially in kindergarten and preschool, in such a way that our children are exposed to two languages straight away, we will make bilingualism a reality, and easily achieved by all.

Lee spoke in Mandarin and English at the book launch event at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel. His birthday song was also sung in both English and Mandarin.

In June last year, Lee reportedly said that Mandarin is important but is relegated to second language. At a dialogue following a Joint Conference of Confucius Institutes in East and Southeast Asia, Mr. Lee purportedly said that “no one can master two languages at the same level.”

According to Channel NewsAsia, Lee said,

If my English gets an A, then my Mandarin gets a C, it can’t be helped. No two languages are the same. No one, including translators, can say their command of two languages is the same.

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Human rights theory… China style Tue, 13 Sep 2011 13:24:51 +0000

Scholars, international relations practitioners, and human rights activists have long debated the universality of the rights of man as enshrined in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. The major arguments presented by countries that do not abide by the articles in the declaration include issues regarding the worldwide applicability of the terms, cultural relativism, and Western imperialism.

The spotlight is often cast on Asian countries – as major human rights abuses are highlighted in newspapers dominated by Western media – and the most salient one is China. In the Wall Street Journal this morning, China was reported to have released its first annual blue book on human rights last Thursday, with the objective of showing how the country has “achieved great progress in the theory and practice of human rights since the introduction of reform and opening up.”

From the Wall Street Journal print edition,

Luo Haocai, the president of the China Society for Human Rights Studies, which collaborated on the blue paper, recently wrote an essay in the People’s Daily on the creation of “human rights theory with Chinese characteristics.” China’s view of human rights is different that (sic) in the West, he wrote, because the political rights of the individual must be balanced against collective rights. All “members of society” have “rights to equal participation and to equal development.”

First question that came to my mind was, what are these elusive “Chinese characteristics” that Luo is talking about? I suppose these are special characteristics that are bestowed upon anyone who is either holds a Chinese passport or who is ethnically Chinese. To draw a coherent link based on what Luo said, being Chinese also suggests the desire and tendency to balance collective rights over individual rights. But isn’t this what every other country is trying to do? To balance collective rights and individual rights? Laws are kept in place to ensure that the public is not harmed in any significant way as the individual gets to enjoy his/her rights. How is that a distinctive Chinese characteristic?

Perhaps Luo is subtly implying that Chinese people tend to place collective rights over individual rights, simply because they are from the East, and thus politically and culturally different from the West. This is simply untrue. Ethnicity or nationality does not program the individual to behave in a particular manner – the individual is not naturally inclined toward collectivism. Rather, societal forces and culture shape and play a role in influencing how the individual behaves and reacts, but the entire population is not homogenous, and there is much differentiation amongst individuals. Such arguments based on cultural relativism -presented by politicians and the elite- are often used to control and oppress populations.

Also from the Wall Street Journal print edition,

Likewise in today’s China, human rights only protect you if you subscribe to the Party’s definition of those rights. All members of society work toward economic development and the collective good. Those who insist on absolute political rights for the individual threaten economic development. Because that imperils the cause of human rights, they are no longer members of society and the government is right to silence them.

I wonder what this “great progress in the theory and practice of human rights” is about. If anything, given the justification by Luo, it is deeply unsettling.

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Mexico: Most hardworking country in the world Sun, 11 Sep 2011 10:34:33 +0000

In this highly competitive and globalized world, the phrase, “a dog eat dog world” is an apt way of describing the race to the top. This also means a longer time spent at the workplace.

An infographic by TribeHR shows both a predictable trend and a surprise; countries with higher Gross Domestic Product (GDP) work longer hours – such as the United States, Japan and South Korea – yet, the most hardworking country in the world has a GDP lower than those three economic powerhouses.

Mexico is the most hardworking country in the world, followed by Japan which finished in second place, and Portugal in third place.

A gender trend is reflected as well; women spent the most time in cooking and food cleanup, in cleaning and childcare. Although men also spent most of their time in cooking and food cleanup, however, the time they spent on those chores is still shorter than women did.

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Singapore: Change in tertiary tuition fee subsidy for Malays Sun, 11 Sep 2011 05:51:43 +0000

The prime minister and Muslim affairs minister of Singapore have stepped out to address the public in an attempt to justify the new Tertiary Tuition Fee Subsidy (TTFS) scheme.

Set up in 1991, the TTFS was implemented to help needy Malay households that could not afford to send their children to tertiary educational institutions. Muslim Malays in Singapore are a minority group, and the Malays’ underachievement in education has been a concern within the Singaporean Malay community. That, together with the Malays’ poor socio-economic standing in Singapore, has prompted the Singapore government to adopt schemes such as the TTFS, which closely resembles that of an affirmative action policy.

Under the current TTFS, Malay students from households with a monthly income of less than $3000 qualify for subsidies between 70 and 100 percent. The criterion of the new TTFS will be a per capita household income of $1,500 and below, based on a three-tier system.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong believes that more Malay students will benefit from this.

He tells Channel NewsAsia:

“At the same time, those families who are able to support their own children in tertiary education would be able to do it by themselves, so that the resources can be freed up for the more needy members of the community through Mendaki’s projects.”

Muslim Affairs Minister Yaacob Ibraham reiterated this belief as well:

“We will revise the TTFS so that it remains relevant to the needs of the community and allow for more Malay families – including the larger families – to benefit from the scheme.”

Changing the criterion is bound to have some significant and tangible effect on needy Malay households; however, there is still some lingering doubt whether this will benefit more Muslim Malays. Is there specific data to show that this number will increase in time to come? How is it measured? I think it’s positive that there are revisions made to this scheme, reflecting the adaptability of the current government, but the effect of this change still remains to be seen.

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