The Dark Shadow Shrine

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Who is your friend? Bursting social-class bubbles

Click HERE

IF u r familiar with the concept of the filter bubble syndrome and the echo chamber effect that operate on social media, the phenomenon here works the same way, where people tend to hang out with those of the same kind. This lack of social mixing can perpetuate social prejudice and misconceptions, with the resulting impact on social cohesion...

Notably in Singapore, the schools and National Service (NS) for the guys are two major social institutions which force (or actively create opportunities for) Singaporeans to mix with those from other strata of the society that they normally would not have come into contact with....
BUT elite schools have slowly become closed circles (RI was  reported to have become a middle-class school a few years ago; i.e. they have no students from the lower income group)....As for NS, it only applies to guys....

The article also mentions, sports, the arts, CCAs, volunteering as ways for social mixing.....limitations include the short or irregular durations that do not allow for the fostering of deep relationships....

Note also that the school is a place not just for gaining knowledge but also for instilling values and for social mixing....

Qn: In an age where knowledge becomes obsolete so quickly, do schools still have a future?

US govt in shutdown after failure to pass funding Bill

Click HERE
Read also HERE: "Shutdown signals deeper dysfunction in govt"
The last shutdown in 2013 lasted 15 days and, according to reports, cost the country 6.6 million work days. That shutdown was blamed on the Republicans by then President Barack Obama..... With shutdowns weaponised for political effect, both parties seek to extract maximum mileage and blame each other.
One of the paramount features of democracy is the existence of checks and balances to deter the abuse if power... however, this is a doubled-edged sword, as seen in the example here....When the opposition is considerable, it may hamper efficiency and prevents the ruling party from doing what is good for the country. Sometimes, the opposition may try to block the ruling parrty from passing a bill, not because the bill was bad for the country, but because they do not want the ruling party to take credit for it and earn the public's graitude and support. ...
Qn: Consider the view that efficient government is more important than democracy. (Cam. 2011)

China's women-only parking spaces decried as sexist

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the design reinforces stereotypes that women are bad drivers...."It is frankly discrimination against women
"The women's parking spaces are closer to the exits and monitoring systems, which is more convenient for female drivers to take a break or go shopping in the main building, and much safer, especially at night,"

Say 'no' to getting a ride from strangers, kids told

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"The sad truth is - it is not odd for adults to stop and offer assistance but because of our heightened awareness of security, we now perceive kind gestures as threats."

Think gracious society and the kindness movement....the culture of distrust that is slowly growing these days has made it such that people are hesitant to receive help and on the other spectrum, people are also starting to be hesitant to offer help out of fear of being misunderstood......Such a phenomenon can only spell bad news for the society...

Steps to shrink mountain of e-waste via better recycling

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Note a post HERE on how 70% of all global e-waste make their way to China
[About 70 per cent of all global e-waste - defined as any device with an electric cord or battery - make their way to China through nearby Hong Kong or Guangdong's capital Guangzhou. Most end up in Guiyu, the largest of several e-waste dumping sites that include Taizhou city in eastern Zhejiang province.]

Households here produce some 30,000 tonnes of e-waste a year - half of the total amount generated, equivalent to the weight of 110 Airbus 380 planes.
The survey found that e-waste was generally given to deliverymen to cart away, or thrown away. Such items also end up with scrap traders and rag-and-bone men, who lack the skills to fully recycle the items, and may end up discharging harmful chemical compounds or disposing of them with general waste.
Worse - if e-waste is incinerated, it would add to carbon emissions and contaminate the ash at the Semakau landfill, NEA warned.

Tennis: Filling the void left by WTA Finals

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Note the stats:
-The WTA Finals will move to Shenzhen, China, from next year, in a decade-long deal reportedly worth some US$1 billion (S$1.3 billion).

-Singapore is believed to have spent US$14 million for each of the five editions of the WTA Finals it hosted,

Note some of the objectives behind the hosting, e.g. tourism, getting the locals interested in the sport, heighten international profile of the country.....

1. Hosting major sporting events creates more problems than benefits. Do you agree? (Cam. 2005)
2. Does sport merit the vast sums of money that are spent on it? (Cam. 2010)

Empowering kids in need through art

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"Through the arts, we hope these children are empowered to self-advocate, embark on a journey of self-discovery and build resilience,"

Ms Loo hopes the art by children like Alfred and Rinn can change mindsets and encourage more people to accept and interact with them

Qn: ‘For the majority of people, the Arts are irrelevant to their daily lives.’ How true is this of your society? (Cam. 2014)

Friday, January 19, 2018

See the Civic District in a new light during Singapore Art Week

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Singapore Art Week -- A good example of the local arts scene to refute the oft-cited argument that the arts are esoteric and reserved only for the arty-farty (i.e. not meant for the layman / man-in-the-street)....

Qn: ‘For the majority of people, the Arts are irrelevant to their daily lives.’ How true is this of your society? (Cam. 2014)

Divided over intergenerational support

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Are you willing to pay more taxes to fund higher social spending for the elderly? Or should the national reserves be tapped instead?

Two in five respondents - or about 40 per cent - said they were not comfortable with higher taxes and would rather tap reserves. A slightly lower proportion - about 34 per cent - indicated the opposite. The remainder were neutral.

"There is a tension between self-reliance and a sense of community. The results actually show that we can't decide whether we should take care of ourselves or if we should care for other generations,"

Note this dichotomy btw inter-generational solidarity vs there something to be said about the sizable number of Singaporeans being unwilling to pay high taxes to support the old people in their country who are unrelated to them?

Qn: ‘People are willing to put their country before self.’ To what extent is this true of your society? (MI Prelim 2017)

Questions over Beijing's rising loans to Pacific nations

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The pros and cons....see also my earlier post on this issue at HERE.

Most analysts say the aid programme has various purposes, including promoting development and trade, but it is also designed to curry influence.....For years, China has used aid in the Pacific to try to prevent recognition of Taiwan. In turn, Taiwan has used aid to win recognition from some six Pacific nations - roughly a third of all the countries that recognise Taiwan.....Some analysts have suggested that China's aid was potentially designed to recoup a strategic benefit from the future indebtedness of small Pacific nations. But it can be hard to assess precisely what China seeks to gain from its Pacific aid.
BUT then hor......

"The one thing the Pacific needs is roads. It is good for accessing healthcare, it can mean a kid going to school or it can mean the difference for a farmer getting his goods to market."

1. Does the presence of a foreign power ever help a country with problems? (Cam. 2008)
2. Consider the view that foreign intervention in a country’s affairs does more harm than good. (JJC Prelim 2017)
3. Is there still a place for charity in today’s world? (Cam. 2006)

Steven Spielberg rushed to make The Post in 9 months

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Qn: Do films offer anything more than an escape from reality? (Cam. 2014)

Pakistan and China's debt trap diplomacy

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By making foreign countries financially dependent on China, debt trap diplomacy has proven effective in allowing Beijing to achieve multiple objectives simultaneously through purely economic means. These include creating markets for its cheap exports, gaining access to invaluable natural resources, ensuring support for its geostrategic interests from borrower nations, and garnering a competitive advantage over its rivals, chief among them, India and the US.

Bring to mind the adage 'there's no such thing a s a free lunch'. Sometimes, we need to exercise caution when making the descision to accept help from someone. Sometimes, foreign aid comes with strings attached, which may not be favourable to the recipient country in the long run. The history of Western imperialism is a good example of this, where Western powers made inroads into its colonies in Africa, India and Southeast Asia on the 'pretext' of 'the White Man's burden', only to exploit the natives, the repercussions of which are still felt today. Hence, beware the angel who may be the devil in disguise! This was why during the Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar in 2008, the Burmese govt refused to allow international aid organizations into Myanmar to help the local victims, out of the fear that the humanitarian aid-givers will use that as a pretext to meddle with domestic politics to push for greater democracy in the country.

But for the aid-giving/ donor country/organization, providing aid to countries in need is one way to extend one's influence, as seen in the cas ehere of China. Similar acts by MNCs can also generate goodwill for its brand or lend it a foothold in the domestic market of the country they are giving aid to...

1. Does the presence of a foreign power ever help a country with problems? (Cam. 2008)
2. Consider the view that foreign intervention in a country’s affairs does more harm than good. (JJC Prelim 2017)
3. Is there still a place for charity in today’s world? (Cam. 2006)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Unesco listing both a boon and bane for George Town

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"There's going to be a big change. You won't be able to recognise George Town later." 

Excellent read on the impact of tourism on a country via the example of Geroge Town in Penang, Malaysia.

Note the term 'gentrification' -- affluent middle to upper class moving into a poor district, in the process displacing the poor (and often older ones), i.e. causing the poor to move out....

As the poor move out, along with them go the lifetyle and traditional cultures that lend the place its unqiue, characteristic colour that is what lure the tourists there in the first place. In their place are the richer owners who wish to make profits by catering to the tastes of the tourists. The old shops thus end up becoming run of the mill cafes, esp those with international brands like Starbucks....As the article pointed out, some that sell traditional food unique to the area began to sell Singapore chicken rice too as it is popular with tourists. But what is Singapore food doing in a uniquely Malaysian town? The result is that tourism has led to the commercialization, and consequent dilution, of the original culture in the country. Given this, it can be said that gentrification is guilty of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs when it comes to tourism. In the rush to attract more tourists and earn more revenue from them, one should not forget what draws the tourists to the spot in the first place.... 

Note though that had it not been for tourism, the old buildings may have been left to rot. It is the tourist interest that has sparked off a rejuvenation of the old district and given it a new lease of life. Money from investors starts to pour in as there is profits to be made.....unfortunately, the argument now is that while the facade of the old buildings has been preserved, the same cannot be said of what's happening INSIDE these buildings, i.e. the people and the traditions they practise....(see previous para)

The arrival of the hordes of tourists also interfere with the lives of the remaining locals....the prying eyes of the tourists taking selfies which intrudes into the privacy of the locals....recall also recent reports of how hordes of big-spending Chinese tourists emptied the shops of goods in Hokkaido, leaving the locals with little to buy.....

Relate to qns on tourism and the 2016 'A' level AQ.

Qn: Should poorer countries develop their tourist industry when the basic needs of their own people are not being met? (Cam. 2007)

Racist image: H&M temporarily closes S. Africa stores


Click HERE

The image showed a black child modelling a hooded sweatshirt that said "coolest monkey in the jungle". Two other jungle-themed sweatshirts that did not mention monkeys were modelled by white children.

-at the heart of the storm is the ad in the pic above.... the H&M ad features the boy wearing a sweatshirt with the label: Coolest monkey in the jungle.
-compare this to another controversial racist detergent ad (Click HERE to watch) some time back where a black guy was forced into a washing machine and emerged 'white' after having been 'cleaned' by the said detergent.....
-note that it is images like this in the media (and advertising is a primary culprit) that feed into our impressions about steretypes, constituting our biases..leading to continuing discrimination in society...
-businesses nowadays (esp those that are MNCs) have a responsibility towards the society in which they function and derive profits is not just about the environmental impact they have, but also social impact (i.e. social values which they help to perpetuate)...realise also that consumer backlash can also impact profits; hence, businesses also need to have an ethical conscience.

-Note also how what is funny to one may be insulting to another...humour can obviously grab eyeballs, but it can also result in the wrong kind of attention, as in a backlash....hence leading to serious consequences...

1.Should advertising be restricted?
2.‘There is no such thing as bad publicity.’ To what extent is this true (Cam. 2015)
3. In your society, how far is equality for all a reality? (Cam. 2012)
4. 'Profit is the sole concern when it comes to doing business.' Discuss.
5. Can humour ever be serious? (Cam. 2012)

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Funnyman Kumar is raising laughs for a serious cause

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"Laughter is the best way to get messages across. When people laugh, they do a bit of self-reflection and confront uncomfortable truths," said Kumar.

"It is very good that Kumar comes to talk to us to understand what is happening in our lives. I watch TV, and experts make observations and analysis about things, but no one hears the voices of the ones who are actually suffering on the ground."...."I don't think people will really understand the issues we face, but I think the laughter will at least spark some awareness."

1. Can humour ever be serious? (Cm. 2012)
2. Is there still a place for charity in today’s world? (Cam. 2006)
3. ‘For the majority of people, the Arts are irrelevant to their daily lives.’ How true is this of your society? (Cam. 2014)

Quoting from President Xi....

A colourful quote by President Xi..."Hit the tiger if it rears its head, swat the flies if they anyhow fly"....He used this to urge his officials to stem corrpution.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Concerns over where to draw the line in fighting fake news

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Note the valid concerns about how legislations to combat fake news may run the risk of stifling free speech online as well as the voice of the oppostion.

Note also the excellent local examples in the article on fake news under the section entitled: "Cases of Fake News brought up in Parliament", esp NTUC selling halal pork and the Punggol roof collapse. Good international examples of fake news will include Brexit and of course the US Presidential Elections where Donald Trump won due to the circulation of fake news on Hillary Clinton.

For qns on regulation of the media.

Qn: Is regulation of the press desirable? (Cam. 2017)

Why Oprah should not run for president

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A case of why showbusiness celeberities and politics should not mix. Think also about how the media (esp new media) has influenced politics.

The criteria for having access to nuclear weapons should not be "I liked this person on TV", whether you were watching The Apprentice or The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil...Really?

This one is just something off the cuff...
consider the ongoing saga btw Trump and Kim Jong En....

By constantly speaking the 'truth' about his feelings (i.e. with no filter), Trump is stoking the fire btw the two nations and provoking a more defiant reaction from NKorea.
On the part of N Korea, something rather interesting seems to be happening....No one seems to know for sure what the NKorean leader is thinking, or what game he's playing....he's able to play this mind game with the world because he keeps people guessing as to whether he's telling the truth....In contrast, Trump comes across as pretty transparent.
In shorting, telling the truth in politics is akin to being a book, where matters may be read (I'm quoting Shakespeare here, btw...). And we all know that when it comes to playing chess, u don't want to let others know what your next move will be...Kim Jong En thus comes across as a masterful chess player..Just think about it -- small country isolated in one corner of the globe, and yet it is able to hold the entire world hostage in a sense....
In ancient strategies of war, most required setting traps and luring the enemies....all of which involve dishonesty, esp when it is a case of David up against the mighty Goliath.

But then again, Trump, in having no filters, and being blatantly 'honest' about his feelings in that sense, has also been termed 'unpredictable'. But Trump is 'unpredictable' coz he is not diplomatic. Diplomacy requires a distinction btw what you say publicly and what you actually feel inside, i,e. diplomacy is akin to dishonesty. Hence, in being painfully honest, Trump is being undiplomatic and hence unpredictable in the political sense.
The unpredictability of Kim Jong En's 'dishonesty' affords him some security; at the very least, it buys him valuable time. But what about Trump's unpredictability?

Moving away from politics to showbusiness.....what about celebrities? Should they come clean about their scandals? (drugs, molest, sexual orientation, plastic surgery, etc.) or should they retain a cloak/aura of mystery by not revealing everything to keep people guessing, hence increasing their interest value in the public's eye? OR are there any celebrities who are popular because they are known to be honest?

1) Honest is the best policy. What are your views?
2) 'People should always tell the truth.' Do you think there are any situations in which this might not be the best thing to do? Explain your views. (Cam. 'O' level 2107)

A gold for diplomacy if two Koreas march as one

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Note the pun on 'gold' (goal) in the title...

A good example of sport diplomacy...note that the original ideal behind the first Ancient Olympic Games in Athens is rooted in the notion of peace, where the various Greek states took a break from war to participate in sport....

Qn: Does sport merit the vast sums of money that are spent on it? (Cam. 2010)

'We've got this' response from 4G16 shows mettle

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Note the use of figurative language at the end in the closing BANG....the soccer imagery not only summarises the essence of the writer's views, but also makes for a colouful ending to the piece....

Useful also for qns about whether intelligence is all that matters in this world. Realise that besides intelligence and competence, certain jobs requires you also to be a team player, able to communicate and work with others, as well as command their respect....

The current scandal involving Donald Trump in the tell-all book "Fire and Fury" is a classic example....Trump is denounced as an idiot (i.e. no intelligence), and his EQ (esp with the media and politicians like Kim Jong En) is not exactly stellar either; he's always saying the 'wrong' things on twitter....Obabma, on the other hand, is well-known for both his intelligence and his EQ....He's tremendously popular....and I don't anyone would call the Harvard-trained lawyer a moron!

Qn: ‘Practical ability is just as important as intellectual skills.’ How far is this true in your society? (Cam. 2017)

Digging deeper to go beyond saying 'nice'

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Just a piece to show you that 'nice' is not really such a nice word to use....esp for those writing descriptive essays....go for more vivid and precise adjectives instead....

Why Asean is good for Singapore

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For qns on how small countries can survive in the  well as qns on cooperation.

Qn: The key to success is cooperation, not competition. Discuss.

Capital idea: Preserving the past through art in India's Amaravati

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Potential rebuttal for the oft-cited point that you need to preserve the old buildings to retain our memories of land-scarce Singapore, perhaps one way to retain them is through art....paintings, sculptures, literature and photograps have the advantage of not needing land yet still able to preserve our memories...
But how effective is this? do photos and paintings have the same effect as the real deal (i.e. buildings)?

Qn: Assess the view that traditional buildings have no future in your society. (Cam. 2016)

Saturday, January 06, 2018

This can blow ur mind least mine was!

Nothing to do with GP, but just something mind-blowing that I feel must be enshrined here!!! Obviously, the photographer could be lying, but what the heck!
For those who can't read Chinese, it's about this bunch of birds who gathered in formation to form a big 'bird' in order to scare off a predator! At least, that's what the photographer who took this photo claims. Talk about Transformers -- where the various robots come together to form a BIG one! Think UltraMagnus or Dinobots or the Constructicons!