The Dark Shadow Shrine

Saturday, June 27, 2015

California to mandate childhood vaccinations

Click HERE ...
Yet another useful justified example for govt intervention against personal freedom and choices....Others include smoking and sale of cigarettes, alcohol, wearing of seat belts,...
Where people cannot be trusted to make wise and appropriate decisions, the govt can be justified in stepping in using the law to compel certain behaviour and actions.....

Qn: To what extent is the govt justified in intervening in the private lives of its people?

First woman to be promoted to Brigadier General in Sinapore

Click HERE ...
After our first female Red Lions parachutist at last year's NDP, and our first female fighter pilot due to perform at this year's NDP,  yet another breach of the glass ceiling has been made in Singapore -- a woman attaining the rank of Brigadier General in SAF for the first time! A Woman General! Think Hua Mu Lan or Joan of Arc!
Those who have done the Dunman High 2010 Prelim compre AQ (Sun late afternoon class), the feminist writer Hana Rosin seems o speak for Singapore too when she observes that women are making inroads into jobs that used to be 'the province of men'.
Note that the female general here accomplished what she did despite having three kids. The perennial argument that the disproportional amount of familial duties that women are expected to shoulder, esp in an Asian society like Singapore, does not seem to be an impediment to her  -- or even apply in her case -- as she has a supportive husband and parents-in-law, both of whom help take care of the children while she is at work.

Qn: 'Women can never enjoy the same rights as men.' Do you agree?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Chinese city faces flak over serving dog meat for festival


Click HERE and HERE ...
Could not locate online the actual article that appeared in the Straits Times, but the above two links are on the same news....
Relate to:
-2010 compre on food, where writer claims that food can bond people
-the use of social media and celebrity influence to influence people behaviour

Qns:
1) 'The youth of today are too ready to discard their traditional culture.' To what extent is this true of your society? (ACJC Prelim 2007)
2) To what extent are the rights of animals protected in your society? (Cam. 2012)
3) How important is it for people in your society to retain a sense of tradition? (Cam. 2008)

French cabbies burn cars in Uber protest

Click HERE ....
The Uber app service has been all the rage recently....essentially, it allows people to get a ride (at a lower cost) from drivers of private cars, bypassing the taxis and cabs... On the one hand, it has certainly makes things more convenient for us....hands up those who have difficulty grabbing a cab during emergencies or peak hours! But on the other hand, its hugely popular service is threatening to drive the taxi industry into obsolescence.....
Relate to the Change AQ (AJC Prelim 2014) where technology is said to render traditional enterpris obsolete.

Qn: 'Technology has failed to simplify our lives.' Do you agree?

Singaporeans upbeat about the country's future

Click HERE ...
Some of us discussed challenges facing the world and Singapore not too long ago....this article gives you a list of the various challenges we face as a nation.....

Top Brands vow to halve food waste

Click HERE ...

Useful for questions on consumerism and environmental degradation....
Note some useful stats in this extract from the article:
 
"It is a tragedy that up to 2 billion tonnes of food produced around the world is lost or wasted never making it on to a plate," said Paul Polman, chief executive of Unilever, whose products range from Magnum ice creams to Dove cosmetics.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation has said that a third of all food produced worldwide -- worth $750 billion -- is thrown out each year, squandering as much water as three times that contained in Lake Geneva.

The CGF said food waste, which often ends up in landfills, is responsible for releasing 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases into the planet's atmosphere each year, meaning if food waste were a country, its carbon footprint would be third only to China and the United States.
 

Tonnes of rotting meat seized in China

Click HERE ...
In the version I read from the Chinese papers, it was interestingly mentioned that the person preparing the rotten meat for cooking in a restaurant was incidentally 'younger' than the 'age' of the meat.....
HERE is a link to a quote that reflects the gravity of food safety issues in China over recent years....: “Don’t call yourself Chinese if you haven’t tried everything on the periodic table,” goes a saying in China, a reference to a string of food safety scandals in recent years.


Qn: 'Eating has never been more risky.' Do you agree?

Technology changing disaster aid and delivery

Click HERE ...
Drones are increasingly being used nowadays in what started out as a military weapon, not unlike the internet's origins....Here we see that drones do not just invade our privacy, but can also be used for humanitarian aid and a host of other useful functions that include communications.....It functions like our 'eye', enabling us to see in places or situations where human presence is not possible or convenient... it can also function like our limbs, and be made to transport or move things or even fight our battle for us....In the process, concerns about human safety/casualty is reduced to mere financial casualty.....

Robot arms ensure fast recovery in thoracic surgery

Click HERE...
Note the various benefits of robotic surgery....
Relate also to the AQ some of us have done recently on Changes (AJC Prelim 2014), about technology making certain traditional ways of doing things obsolete, and how it will lead to certain jobs being diminished....If u need a heart by-pass surgery, would u leave it TOTALLY to a robot?

Qn: 'Science has failed to simplify our lives.' To what extent do you agree?

Hard to ascertain influence of social media in politics....

Click HERE ....

This can be read as a rebuttal or AQ response to an earlier article HERE ....

Do note that despite some political discussion online, they are often of the superficial kind confined to 'likes' and signing of petition..... Little in depth discussion is possible due to irresponsible comments by some who hide behind the veil of anonymity and the high level of 'noise' which is mostly just emotional outburst instead of any mature views that can contribute to constructive discourse....
There is also mention of the 'echo chamber' in the article where like minded people gather to affirm their own views rather than go in with an open mind to listen to what others with contrary views have to say....In fact, if they know a particular site carries views which oppose theirs, they may not even want to go into that site at all....recognise that in social media, we tend to surf those sites whose values are in synch with ours....

Relate also to the Change AQ (AJC Prelim 2014) that some of us have done recently, where the writer asserts that changes in the political scene (in this case discussion of politics in internet forums and the our ministers' presence on social media platforms) have enhanced democracy and led to a more inclusive attitude which is evident in the way our views are incorporated into new policies rolled out by the govt....

TPP deal a chance to protect wildlife

Click HERE

Note how the signing of trade pacts can actually help in fostering environmental conservation by stipulating the conditions that come with the benefits of trade with a major partner like the US or the EU.....

extract from article in link above:

They have spurred FTA partners to build the necessary institutional and legal frameworks to protect wildlife locally; Peru established a ministry of environment and safeguards for protected species. Through the Central American-Dominican Republic FTA, the Central American Wildlife Enforcement Network was established to combat wildlife trafficking. The US FTA with Oman led to stronger protection of species like the Arabian oryx and loggerhead sea turtles. The inclusion of enforceable commitments is crucial for real reform. The most recent US FTAs have included environmental provisions covering issues ranging from public participation to implementation of Cites, all of which are fully enforceable and subject to trade sanctions - not just diplomatic pressure, if any party does not fulfil its commitments. This gives the provisions teeth, ensuring that they are not just words on paper.

Qn: 'Environmental concerns and economic growth cannot coexist.' Do you agree?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sat Afternoon Class! -- Agriculture and Envmt Degradation

Click HERE ...

We discussed this in class before.....the above link takes you to the related articles...

Note:
-Green Revolution in India has led to cancer as chemicals from pesticides and chemical fertilizers (that increase yields) pollute water sources and the soil, causing the food grown on this soil to be contaminated as well.....
-About 70% of soil in China is polluted due to excessive use of pesticides
-Similarly in Bangladesh, industrial waste from factories pollutes the water, causing fish stock to die and rice paddies to be contaminated....

Also, I popped by Marks&Spencer today and here's a packet of coffee sold there. Note the Fair Trade logo at the bottom right hand corner (it resembles the Chinese Yin-Yang insignia). Marks&Spencer is a famous champion of Fair Trade products. Consumers buying such products are assured that the farmers producing them are not exploited but paid fair wages. Note though that products that carry the Fair Trade logo tend to be slightly more expensive.
Relate this to the 2010 compre on Food, where Patricia O'Sullivan talks about the labelling of food and whether it comes from workers who are paid fair wages......Check out THIS link also on Marks&Spencer some years back...Look at how they market themselves as a 'business with a conscience'....



Qns:
1) 'Eating has never been more dangerous'. Discuss.
2) The answer to environmental damage is not to be found in technology but by leading a simpler life. How far do you agree?
3) Environmental concerns and economic growth cannot co-exist. Do you agree?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Banda Aceh bans women from nightspots after 11pm

Note:
- In S'pore, alcohol sales and consumption is banned from 10.30 pm....but in Aceh, women are banned from nightspots, whether for leisure or working.....note the condition under which the ban is lifted: accompaniment by husband or male relative....
- examples of acts that come under the Syariah/Islamic law punishment
- note that Syariah law is also invoked to ban women from riding pillion on the motorbike behind a male driver
- in a nutshell, note the various restrictions imposed on daily life based on an overly strict interpretation of Islam....

Qns:
1) 'Women will never enjoy the same rights a men.' Do you agree? (Cam. 2006)
2) 'The youth of today are too ready to discard traditional culture.' To what extent is this true of your society? (ACJC Prelim 2007)


China eating songbird to near extinction

Click HERE ....
Those who did the 2010 compre on Food, recall writer's observation about how the food we consume could be from endangered species like sharks and turtles....
Other than the usual example on shark's fin, here a new eg from China if u r from there.....
Note the two solutions offered at the end of the article....

Qn: 'Eat at your own risk'. To what extent should we be concerned about what we eat?

AVA: India-made Maggi noodles in S'pore safe

Click HERE ...
A useful example of foodscares in S'pore...

Qn: 'Eat at your own risk'. To what extent should we be concerned about what we eat?

It's pink versus white this weekend

Click HERE  ....

once again, the 'battle of the colours' resumes this year....record turnout of  28,000 this year compared to last year's 26,000......quite a feat considering that the Pink Dot started with only a tiny dot of 2,500 in 2009.....
What's not mentioned in the article but circulating in social media is that there're some people who started a campaign online to pray for a heavy downpour on the day itself so as to ruin the event, and cleanse that nation of its 'sins'.

Qns:
1) To what extent is your society tolerant of diversity?
2) In your society, how far is equality for all a reality? (Cam. 2012)

Pakistan boots out one aid group, warns others....

Click HERE ...

some weeks back, some of us were discussing how international cooperation may not be effective in dealing with problems in a country...one argument that surfaced is that the recipient country of the aid may be resistant towards them for fear of hidden agenda behind those groups masquerading as aid organization, whose real intention is to stir up trouble within the country or to meddle with the domestic politics....

Qn: Does the presence of a foreign power ever help a country with problems? (Cam. 2008)

No clothes, no shame! rite of passage for some....

Click HERE ....

There are two possible angles to this article, both of which appears towards the end of the article....
1) narcissism -- how youths go to the extent of taking such controversial pics and upload them online to attract attention...
2) tourism -- cultural exposure and experience is a common point often cited as a benefit of tourism....but we see from here that sometimes, what happens is that the local culture suffers from not just disrespect, but indignity and humiliation....

Qn: 'Tourism has caused more harm than benefits.' To what extent is this true of your society?

Not too young to climb a mountain

Click HERE ...

Some useful parts where he talks about how education in Singapore in moving beyond the classroom into the real world outside, as evidence by such trips overseas...Gives added weight to the adage that the real classroom is out there, or that real learning takes place out there...

Note also the ending of the article with a quotation....

Qn: To what extent is the education system in your country effective in preparing the young for their future?

Social media's influence on politics here to stay

Click HERE ...
A good look at the social media's impact on the political landscape here...
Note:
- useful stats: 66% of the population here in Singapore uses social media
-'propinquity' , simply put, nearness, immediacy and proximity. This refutes the more common notion that social media alienates people....the dichotomy btw connectivity vs connectedness....
-other key concepts related to social media: highly interactive, information sharing, empathy, non exclusionary, provide feedback,
-the challenge of translating mere 'likes' into meaningful responses and actions, so that political participation is not confined to just the virtual realm and reduced to just 'liking' and 'sharing' , but something concrete and practical in the real world.

Woman to be face of US$10 bill from 2020

Click HERE ...

an interesting anecdote for you to open or close ur essay for gender-related qns....

Woman fighter pilot to make history

Click HERE ....

Makes for a useful 'your society' example....S'pore's first female fighter pilot at the NDP....recall last year's NDP where we had our first female Red Lions (female parachutist)...And I recall that China had their first female astronaut in outerspace a few years back....Looks like the women are indeed giving the men a run for their money by venturing into the 'province of men'...
For the J1 class which recently did the gender compre, try to make the connection...

Qn: 'Women will never enjoy the same rights as men.' Do you agree?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Athletes 'don't have to obey dress code'


Click HERE ....

The controversy regarding the recent dress code of a Malaysian gymnast makes for a useful example regarding the restrictions imposed by religion/tradition in our daily lives....
Note the double standards here with respect to the men in revealing clothes....
According to a report in the Chinese papers (Lian He Wan Bao) not picked up in the Straits Times, a religious authority in Malaysia was quoted as actually saying that gymnastics is not meant for women as it requires them to reveal their body. He even went on to say that even for soccer, the men's shorts are too short; a suitable length should be BELOW the knee cap!!!!!

Qns:
1) 'Women do not enjoy the same rights as men.' Do you agree?
2) 'The youth of today are too ready to discard their traditional culture.' How far is this true of your society? (ACJC Prelim 2007)

Let's not wait another 22 years to host the SEA Games

Click HERE ....
Note:
- the price tag of hosting the just-ended SEA Games:  about S$300million...THE YOG 2010 cost us nearly S$400 million....but nothing beats the 2008 Beijing Olympics US$40billion!!!
- the spill-over effects onto business
- values on sportsmanship etc
- national pride and foging of national cohesion


Qn: Hosting major sporting events creates more problems than benefits. Do you agree? (Cam. 2005)

It is great fun to watch people fail......


Click HERE....If u recently did the AJC Prelim 2014 AQ, there's a quote on reality TV....this article here gives you a reason why reality TV is so popular....there're some rather disturbing and bizarre examples of reality shows in the US.....

Set aside places in top schools for needy, bright children

Click HERE ...

For those who just did the AJC Prelim 2014 AQ on how education is responsible for young people today understanding that the less fortunate bunch do not enjoy the same benefits as they do, recall how I was trying to convey to you that in today's meritocratic Singapore, those students who are in top schools and who tend to do well academically tend to be from families who are NOT POOR. The article in the above link gives you clearer picture of this....
Without the recent reforms in the education sector, Singapore's top schools are in danger of developing into closed circles where poor students are kept out......i.e. no social mixing, which can affect social cohesion....

Qns:
1) In your society, how far is equality for all a reality? (Cam. 2012)
2) To what extent is education a social leveller in your society?

Pope 'to call for climate change action'

Click HERE....

Note:
-consumerist lifestyle which depletes resources is seen as responsible for envmtal degradation..As a solution, the Pope advocates moving away from such a model and 'live simpler lives'....
-an interesting instance of using religious authority to restore envmtal order
-note useful quotation by Pope Francis: 'man has slapped nature in the face'.

Qns:
1) Environmental concerns and economic growth cannot co-exist. Do you agree? (Cam. 2011)
 
2) The answer to environmental damage is not to be found in technology but by leading a simpler life.’ How far do you agree? (CJC Prelim 2014)

3) ‘Morality is the voice of authority in disguise.’ What is your view? (CJC Prelim 2014)

US bans 'unsafe' trans fats in food

Click HERE....
If u have recently done the 2010 paper on Food, recall some of the writer's observations regarding labelling and packaging and note how this can be an issue in the article in the above link. In a parallel context in Singapore, do you recall those packaging on fruit juice that says 'No Sugar Added'? It is not lying, but that doesn't mean there's no sugar in it. Some of them already tastes like 'diabetic juice' even with no extra sugar added!

Qn: 'Eat at your own risk'. To what extent should we be concerned about what we eat?

Monday, June 08, 2015

Bye, Bye Car!

Click HERE  
A thought-provoking article about how the comforts and convenience brought about by technology can actually shield and alienate us from the reality outside, causing us to lose touch with it. In the Singapore context, it could mean little interaction with the various segments of the population (low income groups, the disabled, the ex convicts, the foreigners, etc) that we are less likely to meet unless we take public transport and rub shoulders with them....This lack of contact can perhaps cause us to regard these people as invisible or non-existent as we continue our day to day interactions rubbing shoulders with those of our own kind. This is why social institutions like schools, HDB flats(with its ethnic quotas), pubic transport, hawker centres., etc provides those crucial public space for those diverse segments of our society to come together to rub shoulders....never mind that we may not actually 'scratch each other's back' and become firm friends....that is not the idea.....the whole idea is to come into contact with, to acknowledge their existence, so that when it come to making major decisions and crafting major policies, we take them into account and regard them as part of the equation. ....
But the possession of private cars, and even the lifts that land at EVERY floor (hence doing away with the need to walk past the long corridor, past your neighbours' flats on your way to your own flat....)... all these afford us the convenience, efficiency and privacy that we crave, thanks to technology..... but thanks to technology also, we are deprived of the chance to come into contact with the other people in our midst, robbing us the 'kampong spirit' that makes life endearing.....
Riding in your own car thus comes with all the advantages; but in that comfortable bubble that shields us from the harsh elements outside, it also robs us of the ties that we could otherwise have formed with the people outside, and our consciousness that our society is more than just those of our own kind.

 Qn: Does modern technology always improve the quality of people’s lives? (Cam. 2006)

Approval for Sarawak dam despite concerns

Click HERE
Like the Three Gorges Dam in China, the building of the dam can actually harm the envmt even though it helps to produce hydroelectric power (green energy). Economic investments are at the hear of the issue, with the attendant threat of causing the displacement of the affected indigenous tribes...

Qn:
1. 'Technology does not owe ecology an apology.' Discuss.
2. Environmental concerns and economic growth cannot co-exist. Do you agree? (Cam. 2011)

'lack of confidence' holds back women entrepreneurs

Click HERE ....
Most arguments on gender inequality attributes the problem to men.....here, we have an argument that puts the blame squarely on the women.....

Manny for President. Many Filipinos will cheer him on.....

Click HERE ...
a useful example of popularity in politician....

Qn: 'Popularity is an important quality in politics.' Discuss.

Rising debate over free speech

Click HERE

A few ideas come to my mind:
-is S'pore falling into the trap of 'intolerance of intolerance'?
-too much censorship can lead to 'cultural bankruptcy'

Rags to rags, riches to riches

Click HERE

note how meritocracy operates to reward ingenuity and grit only in an equal society where mobility is possible; but in an unequal society, it cements the privileges of the rich from one generation to another....herein lies the problem of meritocracy in Singapore....

Safety net? More like trampoline!

Click HERE

Beautiful imagery here by our DPM Shamuguratnam. Useful for opening or closing BANG! S'pore's social welfare spending does not just function as a safety net to catch those who fall through the cracks, but rather, it propels or bounds them upwards after catching them...think our Workfare instead of Welfare mantra, where instead of giving money, we subsidise their training so that they can earn their own money and be self-reliant. That adage that comes to mind: Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach him how to fish and he eats for a lifetime.

Qn: Many developed countries are paying increasing attention to the needs of the disadvantaged. How far is this true in Singapore? (Cam. 2008)

Firms in China cough up cash to fight pollution

Click HERE....
Shows how China is doing its part, and MNCs cooperating fully....Note some of the useful stats to show how going green is not cheap.
Note also the opening  BANG using a series of examples in the intro....

Struggle to end child marriages in rural India

Click HERE...

Qn: Women will never enjoy the same rights as men. Do you agree? (Cam. 2006)

US govt's spying powers curbed

Click HERE for article.

In a crushing defeat to the Patriot's Act, the US govt can longer collect the phone records of Americans to hunt for terrorists, once again manifesting the tension between security and freedom. Like the gun laws, it seems that freedom is a more paramount compared to their security. And all this thanks to the whistle-blower Edward Snowden, who first blew the lid on the whole issue of govt spying. But this also makes it more difficult for the Obama administration to rein in terrorism.

Qns:
1. Is silence always golden?
2. Can terrorism ever be eradicated?
3. To what extent is freedom limited in your society?

Degree Mills on the rise in China

Click HERE for article.

I've posted some articles on this matter before....it's a good point to show that having educational credentials is no guarantee that u have the relevant skills, or --- if found out --- that you will get the coveted job.

Qns:
1. 'To win at all cost'. To what extent is this true of your society?
2. 'Getting what wants in life is what matters'. Discuss. (Cam. 2014)

Potential leaders must possess fire to serve

Click HERE for article.
Other than the attributes of a leader, note also how continuity of support and govt is a prerequisite for democracy to thrive. Herein lies one of the greatest criticisms of democracy -- there are often constant changes in the govt as they get elected in and out of office, with the consequence that long term projects for the nation cannot be seen through.....The exception of coz is Singapore.


Qn:
1. 'Popularity is an important quality in leaders.' Discuss.
 2. Consider the view that efficient government is more important than democracy. (Cam. 2011)