The Dark Shadow Shrine

Monday, February 27, 2017

Premium Friday kicks off with free rides, bubbly

Click HERE (ST Sat Feb 25 Asia Section Page A15)
Compare with Singapore's 5 day work week....
relate to work-life balance, stress, competition, family bonding, quality of life , etc....

Genetic editing should not even be considered

Click HERE (ST Sat Feb 25 Forum Section Page A47)
A powerful argument about how man should not play god with science even if science can indeed alleivate our suffering from disabilities....
Try recalling the 3-parent IVF technology that allows parents to have healthy child by editing/removing the imperfect chromosomes of the parent by replacing with those of a donor.

Qn: Should people be allowed to have children by artificial means? (Cam. 212)

Carbon tax expected to lead to higher electricity prices

Click HERE (ST Sat Feb 25 Page A6)

-Singapore way of helping to save the envmt....
-carbon tax can spur innovation and switch to green tech...
-carbon tax n hike in water pricing can increase business cost and work against the demands of the economy....
-together with the 30% hike in water pricing, the imposition of the carbon tax falls under the category of hostile policies that include the likes of GST hike, ERP, COE etc that are not popular with the masses....Their implementation can be examples to show that our govt is a pragmatic one that is not held hostage to short term goals even thought we are a democratic country....

Fro those who did the competition AQ where there's one argument about how political competition pressures govt to ditch long term for short term goals so that they can have something to show (a report card) to the electorate to earn their votes in the next election (typically 4-5year cycle, i.e. short term)

Qn: In your society, how well are the demands of the economy and the environment 
 balanced? (Cam. 2015)

Why Singapore needs more naysayers

Click HERE (ST Sat Feb 25 Home Section Page B4)

Naysayers (pple who disagree with you) are needed if any organisation is to sustain into the long term... While it is easier to forge consensus and reduce conflict if everyone says 'yes', this results in 'incestutous breeding' of ideas (and we all know how the pharoahs die out in Egypt -- they breed with their own family members!) and the danger of echo-chamber effect where everyone thinks the same way and looks at the same issue from the same angle due to their similar background experience....
Naysayers come in to create some much-needed constructive conflict, lest we suffer from the blind spots arising from the echo chamber effect....This why the PAP is recruiting ministers from the private sector (instead drawing exclusively from the civil service), and why there is a need for opposition in a democratic system....

World faces a hungry future: UN report

Click HERE (Sat Feb 25 World Section Page A35)
Plenty of useful info here in this article....

Qn: Can the transport of food over vast distances be justified? (Cam. 2009)

Get rid of blind spots to see way forward: Dean

Click HERE (Sat Feb 25 Home Section Page B4)
A good rebuttal to the often-cited point that we need to learn from the past in order to progress into the future...

Asia needs to change habits that harm environment

Click HERE (ST Sat Feb 25 Opinions Section Page A45)

Olympics lose lustre as potential hosts ditch Games dream

Click HERE (ST Sat Feb 25 Page C11 Sports Section)
Useful example of a country that bucks the trend of wanting to host the most prestigious sporting games in the world...
"Budapest's decision on Wednesday to withdraw its bid for the 2024 Summer Games"

The argument is that a lot of the infrastructure, esp those concerning sports, fall into disrepair after the Games is over, and they are expensive to maintain, hence the term 'white elephants'. Beijing's Bird Nest Stadium is a good example. built specially for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
"Just six months after Rio's US$20 billion (S$28.1 billion) Games ended, several of the expensively built venues are struggling to find new occupants."

But dont forget the other side of the picture...the Games help stimulate infrastructure development. While those concerning sports may become white elephants after the Games (even though u can argue locals can also use them and this may spur interest in sport and health), those infrastructure concerning transport (e.g. building new airport or subway or buses) will continue to benefit the locals long after the Games is over....and Barcelona is a good example of a backward city that has been successfully rejuvenated by the Barcelona Olympics into a major city some decades ago.
"The IOC has pointed out the transformational changes that its events can bring to cities, usually citing the impact on 1992 host Barcelona, which regenerated its waterfront."

Qns:
1.  Considering the money involved, should developing countries be allowed to host major 
sporting events? (Cam. 2016)
2. Does sport merit the vast sums of money that are spent on it? (Cam. 2008)
3. Hosting major sporting events creates more problems than benefits. Do you agree? (Cam. 2005)

Exploitation of Workers in Singapore

For those who did the HCI Prelim competition AQ on competiton...the point that competition may lower prices of goods, but this often comes at the expense of the worker's exploitation, in this case here -- their appalling accommodation and docking of their pay. Note also the reasons why they are able to be exploited: the threat to send them back to their country, which is a very real threat to them coz their typically owe the middleman or agent huge sums of money to arrange for them to come to work here...hence, before they even start working, they already owe a huge sum of money, so they cannot afford to be sent home. Hence, they suffer in silence.....






Qn. How far should firms be allowed to limit their workers’ rights when 
profits are at stake? (Cam. 2014)


Premium airlines step up dogfight for business

Click HERE (ST Sat Feb 25 page B1)

The airline industry is facing stiff compeition...SIA esp is facing great pressure from Qatar airways...not to mention the rise of budget airlines.... To combat this, SIA is slashing prices....but it is also collborating with other airlines through code-sharing with major airlines (i.e. agreement where passangers from other airlines can transfer to SIA who have links to the city they are going...eg. to get to New York, a Malaysian Airlines passenger can fly MAS to Kuala Lumpur and then switch to SIA to get to New York..) and having a stake in buget airlines (e.g. SIA bought over Scoot and Tiger Air).
Cheaper tickets obviously benefit consumers, but note that it may not be advantageous to Business or their employees, because the employees may be exploited by being paid lower wages (so that the business can still afford to offer low prices to consumers and still make a profit), or the business may suffer from 'haemorrhage' i.e. internal bleeding....causing them to make huge losses and even become bankrupt.

For those who did the HCI Prelim competition compre AQ ....

Qn: Is competition always desirable? (Cam. 2016)

S-E Asia Banks on tourists from China

Click HERE (Sunday Times Feb 26 Front page headlines)

Recall the tourism compre we just did? (2016 Cambridge paper)....writer of compre passage says people travel to escape from the familiar....but he also concedes that there are tourists who stick to the familiar when travelling, esp when it comes to food.....they only want Chinese food eg....when people travel, if the objective is to alleviate stress, then they may want to stick to the familiar because the unfamiliar can cause stress as you need to adjust and even accommodate or tolerate the differences...
probably applies more to older folks, whereas younger travellers prefer the excitement of the unknown and the new?

Chinese tourists are flocking to South-east Asia, attracted by the region's cultural familiarity and myriad of leisure and dining options, giving a major boost to the tourism industry

VW zooms back into profit after 'dieselgate'

Click HERE (Sunday Times Feb 26, World Section Page A26)

Sun morning class, we just discussed this example for the AQ on lies and untruths, how businesses may lie to conceal defects of their products to mislead the consumer....
Thanks to Richard Nixon's Watergate Scandal, any major scandal nowadays is taglined with the word 'gate' -- in this case, 'dieselgate'. VW lied by installing a software to give the impression that their diesel engine is environmentally-friendly when it is not....

"VW admitted 18 months ago to having installed software in 11 million diesel engines worldwide that could dupe emissions tests."


Consider also the lemon law in Singapore that protects consumer rights against defective products bought....

Friday, February 24, 2017

#WhySingLit: Singapore literature's coming of age

Click HERE
1) sense of rootedness and identity
When you read about characters who look like you, whose names look like yours with a "bin" or "d/o" or are basically just more than two words, something different happens in your brain. When you hear the familiar lilt of Singlish, when you read the dialogue off the page in an accent you don't have to fake, fireworks go off somewhere between your eyes and your cerebrum. This is called identification - when you see yourself or characters familiar to your sense of self being written into the page, and granted that greater level of validation of being deemed worthy enough to be written about.

2) mutli-faceted views / mutliple perspectives
And finally, when so much of our modern population consumes news and information from biased, single-minded sources in their respective echo chambers, does it not behoove us to encourage reading of texts that contain more than one correct answer? That approach issues with complexity rather than declaring a simplistic moral of the story?

3) maturity of thinking, empathy, engaging views that are incompatible with ours, break prejudice?
Because that is the last thing Singapore literature can give us: a sense of nuance about the issues that confront us daily. The willingness to suspend our disbelief and accept views that are incongruent with our own, and to at least entertain, if not engage, them. Doesn't that sound like a mature, informed electorate with the ability to assess and dismiss the platitudes of loud-mouthed, wrong-headed demagogues hovering beyond the horizon?

For Qns on the value of studying literature or the role of the arts....

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

China names and shames cities over smog

Click HERE
Gives you a look at the govt's role on tackling envmt.....could the govt's action be also motivated by people's power? (i.e. the threat at the ballot box, or the fear of uprising by a disgruntled people?)

Qn: "People's power is key to saving the environment." Do you agree?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Let's kill the drill approach in schools

Click HERE

For qns critiquing the local education system...

Preserve icons that build history and define culture

Click HERE

-useful vocab: 'bite the dust'

-I understand that, in this land-scarce country, we cannot afford to be too sentimental with regard to how we use our limited resources.However, we have to bear in mind that a society is defined by its culture, culture is strongly influenced by its history, and history is built, in part, by icons.

Household incomes up, but at a slower pace

Click HERE

Singapore's score dipped from 0.463 in 2015 to 0.458 last year. It stood at 0.470 in 2006. After taking government transfers and taxes into account, this score fell from 0.409 in 2015 to 0.402 last year.

The Gini Coefficient measures the wealth gap....while 0.458 is a dip from previous years, it is still considered an embarrassing high figure for a first world nation like Singapore. Note the govt's defence, which is that it fell furhter to a pretty respectable 0.402 after the govt's social spending.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Tourist spending and arrivals hit new highs

Click HERE

here's the latest on the local tourist scenario in 2016....
=record high arrivals of 16.4 million (about thrice the local population)
=tourist receipts about S$25billion
=tourism's contribution to Singapore's GDP about 4%

Note that this spectacluar performance is in spite of the threat of Zika virus here and the slow economic growth of the coutnries the tourists hail from....

Note related article HERE on "Tourists give local businesses a big boost"
-note the financial benefits of tourists
-how the tourists' pursuit of 'uniquely Singapore' souvenirs may mean that products with a uniquely cultural slant are more lucrative, which leads to the idea that local culture usually is given a boost (with the financial incentive) by tourists, hence their subsequent preservation.....
{note that in the 2016 compre, writer said in one part that financial benefits of tourism often go to big businesses, usually foreign/international chains like Starbucks, Prada etc instead of those of a local nature)

Relate to Qns on tourism and the 2016 Cambridge compre AQ on tourism....

Parents go for tuition - to help their kids

Click HERE

There's already been a saying in Singapore that when students take their PSLE (primary sch leaving exams), their parents take it together with them; in the sense that parents will apply leave to supervise their child's revision, or even coach them. But the phenomenon surfaced in this article really takes the cake, taking the saying to a even higher level! Now the parents themselves REALLY 'take the exams' with their kids by undergoing coaching themselves so that they can better coach their kids....

For qns on the education system, and parenting.

The sorry state of mainstream media in Trump's America

Click HERE

The traditional media is caught in a feud with the government of the US currently, making it difficult to be impartial and unbiased in its reports. Objectivity - a keystone in professional journalism -- is thus compromised as reports concerning the White House and Trump are often reported with a negative slant....

Qn: In the digital age do newspapers still have a role in your society? (Cam. 2011)

Never forget darkest time of Singapore's history: PM Lee Hsien Loong

Click HERE

-for qns on the importance of knowing the past/history

-importance or role of museums (in this case, the Syonan Gallery showcasing our WWII past)

Qns:
1. Children should be banned from museums. Do you agree?
2. Disuss the importance of museums. (AJC Preilm 2016)

Monday, February 13, 2017

Nostalgia: That warm, fuzzy, hairy feeling

Click HERE

1) a good point raised about nostalgia -- how we selectively remembers only the good stuff and conveniently blocked out the bad ones when we refer to 'the good old days'....'the warts and all' is flung out of the window, retaining only the nice bits when nostalgia is in operation...

2) a good example when discussing nostalgia -- the old National Library building opposite SMU, demolished to make way for a tunnel for vehicles......

3) nostalgia can be explouted for political gains: Brexti's claim to restore the glory and sovereignty of the British empire...highly seductive at a time when the current British are tired of having to kowtow, seek approval and make concessions to the EU; Trump's election rallying call to 'make America great again' is an obvious exploitation of nostalgia to stoke the people's emotions....

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

Becks' image badly hurt by e-mail leaks

Click HERE
a good example for:
1) no privacy as emails can be hacked into...compare with wikileaks, and Edward Snowden, and Jennifer Lawrence nude photos leaks from iclouds....

2)celebrity's integrity....and r they really good role models?

3)charity -- when people do charity or good acts, does it matter what their real intentions are? is charity being exploited by celebrities and businesses and even govt for their own private agenda?.....

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Parks and trees law sees animated discussion over wildlife

Click HERE

Note the example of the govt's assurance that Sister Island will be protected and not be converted into eco-tourism theme park like Sentosa....

Qn: In your society, to what extent are economic growth and environmental concerns well-balanced?

CHINGAY Festival -- and the tourism connection

Click HERE
Chingay Festival, and the Chintown lightup during Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival are good examples of how local cultures are promoted and preserved due to tourism. No doubt Chinese New Year will probably still be celebrated by the locals even if there are no tourists here, the scale of celebration would not have been at the massive scale it is if not for the tourists....

For last year's 'A' level compre AQ on how cultural assets are given a new lease of life and preserved due to tourism....

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

The bad blood between the Trump White House and US media

Click HERE

1) watchdog role of the media
'one of the media's chief roles is to hold governments to account, and few people may need it more than Mr Trump.' [recall Meryl's Streep's exhortation to the Hollywood Press in her recent political speech during the Golden Globes Awards?]
Consider also gov't censorship as a rebuttal to this point...

2) biased reporting of traditional media
'the poison and bile which this extreme adversarial attitude generates is unhealthy for the US, and for the rest of the world. First, in their effort to push back against the US administration, some media networks resort to exaggerations and "spinning", which do their profession no credit.....Second, the established media's demonisation of Mr Trump could accelerate, rather than halt, the decline of traditional outlets......for many Americans, this question remains: Why subscribe to newspapers, magazines or cable TV programmes if these media platforms also engage in sloppy, heavily-biased reporting as do private websites which give their content away for free?'

3) behaviour of IT-savvy youth
'more than half of all US voters aged 30 or younger followed the 2016 presidential race through social media and apps on their mobile devices, effectively bypassing most of the editorial judgments and opinions of cable TV networks, magazines and newspapers.'
[this got to do with the lifestye of the Millenial youth too, who are highly mobile and always on the move, hence prioritising convenience over all others...]

4) out of touch with reality
We like to think social media is often the one out of touch with reality, esp with the operation of the filter bubble syndrome compounded by the echo chamber effect so prevalent in cyberspace. (the outcome of the Singapore 2015 election is one such example, where few expected the PAP to make such a clean sweep of the seats; even the PAP themselves were floored!) But recent incidents like Brexit and the outcome of the US election have shown that traditional media can also be severely askewed in their grasp of sentiments on the ground in reality. Both, esp the latter, gave the public the impression that Trump will lose, when the outcome is actually the opposite. This has severely shaken the faith of the public in the accuracy and reliability of reports in traditional media.
'[Trump] whose chances of being beaten by his opponent Hillary Clinton were not merely high, but also an astronomical "98 per cent", as the Huffington Post predicted on the eve of the ballots without the slightest hint of doubt.'


Qn: In the digital age do newspapers still have a role in your society? (Cam. 2011)

Friday, February 03, 2017

Companies cash in on silver dollar

Click HERE

Old people living longer is not just about burden to the young; they can also continue to contribute to much-needed manpower in the case of Singapore. Note: retirement age will be extended to 67 yo with the implementation of the re-employment act this year.
This article gives us another idea as to the benefit of an ageing population with old people living longer....They can be a potential market to be tapped where they play the role of the consumers instead of workers. The term is 'silver dollar industry.'
"The market is huge: In Singapore alone, one in four Singaporeans will be at least 65 years old by 2030, up from one in eight now."

For the qn below, note that longer life expectancy can also refer to reduced infant mortality rate, esp in developing nations where babies are known to die before they can even grow up....In the context of developing nations, this can be good news as it means an additional pair of hands to help out in the farm and support the family.


Qn: Longer life expectancy creates more problems than benefits. Discuss. (Cam. 2016)

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

An educated electorate the best insurance against political uncertainties

Click HERE

Some useful examples of countries for such a discussion on political systems...note Russia is democratic in the sense that its govt is voted through elections...but it does not have press freedom and elections are apparently heavily rigged and controlled by the Putin govt; in other words, not a fully liberal democracy. Singapore faces the same accusation of not being a true democracy, but obviously, we are nothing like Russia.

Possible rebuttal to the article: note that educated people can be selfish and clouded by their emotions to make less-than-wise decisions at the ballot box. For example, the rich elite in the US are infamously known for evading taxes. These rich are likely to be educated too. Given a choice, nobody likes to pay taxes, whether they are educated or not; hence they're unlikely to support a punitive tax policy on high-income earners even if it's a fair one.
Anger against the establishment can also cloud one's intellectual mind and cause one to vote against the greater good of the nation. Evidence of this can be found in the recent Brexit and the US election, even though the media would attribute the fluke outcomes in both to the less educated group.
In the case of Singapore, it would not be too far-fetched to say that even if one is educated, one would still be disinclined towards hostile policies like GST hike, ERP, CPF minimum sums, etc even if one can see the need for these for the society to function. Of course, the uneducated are probably even more susceptible to this. But the point is that just because one is educated does not guarantee that one will vote wisely....

Qn: Only educated people should have the right to vote in elections. What is your view? (Cam. 2009)