18 Sep

Readabee 16th September 2019

1. President Trump Can’t Block Twitter Users, Federal Appeals Court Rules

America – Free Speech | Wall Street Journal

Tuesday’s ruling stems from a 2017 lawsuit filed by Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute on behalf of seven people who had been blocked by the president’s @realDonaldTrump account. In an opinion for the three-judge panel, Judge Barrington D. Parker of the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote that a public official who uses a social-media account for official purposes can’t block users because he disagrees with their posts. “The First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilizes a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise‐open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees,” wrote Judge Parker, who was nominated to the appeals court by President George W. Bush. (800 words)

2. Who Will Design the Future?

Artificial Intelligence | Nautilus | August 1th, 2019

Its developers should be, too. Ada Lovelace was an English mathematician who lived in the first half of the 19th century. (She was also the daughter of the poet Lord Byron, who invited Mary Shelley to his house in Geneva for a weekend of merriment and a challenge to write a ghost story, which would become Frankenstein.) In 1842, Lovelace was tasked with translating an article from French into English for Charles Babbage, the “Grandfather of the Computer.” Babbage’s piece was about his Analytical Engine, a revolutionary new automatic calculating machine. (5100 words)

3. Big data won’t build a better robot

Artificial Intelligence – Robots | The Straits Times | April 24th, 2019

Some enthusiastic computer scientists even think we will find a “master algorithm” that will fix our politics and make lives “longer, happier and more productive”. In the grandest of these visions, smart computing machines could automate all of scientific discovery. But many scientists think such promises are overblown, and even a little dangerous, naively creating false confidence in highly fallible technologies. And quite a few researchers now applying AI – in physics, biology, chemistry and finance – think machines will continue to depend on human intelligence for a very long time. (800 words)

4. A Duty to Shareholder Value

Business – CSR | New York Times | April 16th, 2015

Suppose the board of directors of a company is considering closing an obsolete plant. The closing will harm the plant’s workers and the local community, but it will benefit shareholders, creditors and new employees (and their surrounding community) at a more modern plant to which the work is transferred. Let’s further assume that the latter groups (the shareholders, creditors and new employees) cannot gain except at the former employees’ expense. By what standard should the board make the decision to close or keep the obsolete plant? (500 words)

5. Opinion | Can States Just Say No to Corporate Giveaways?

Business – CSR | New York Times | July 9th, 2019

More than 100 companies and more than 12,000 workers have moved to new offices, some headed east, some headed west. Missouri poached Swiss Re and Applebee’s; Kansas got JPMorgan Chase and AMC Entertainment.The net result? No increase in economic activity; no improvement in the lives of workers. Just a few more jobs in Kansas, a few less in Missouri — and a big loss of tax dollars. Corporate tax incentives are a dubious business. The giveaways frequently serve no higher purpose than rewarding businesses for moving where they already plan to move or creating jobs they already plan to create. (1200 words)

6. Schoolchildren in China work overnight to produce Amazon Alexa devices

Business – CSR | The Guardian | August 8th, 2019

Interviews with workers and leaked documents from Amazon’s supplier Foxconn show that many of the children have been required to work nights and overtime to produce the smart-speaker devices, in breach of Chinese labour laws. According to the documents, the teenagers – drafted in from schools and technical colleges in and around the central southern city of Hengyang – are classified as “interns”, and their teachers are paid by the factory to accompany them. Teachers are asked to encourage uncooperative pupils to accept overtime work on top of regular shifts. (1600 words)

7. Jack Ma is wrong: 12-hour days are no ‘blessing’

Capitalism – Labour | The Straits Times | April 23th, 2019

He recently praised China’s “996” practice, which refers to those who put in 12-hour days – 9am to 9pm – six days a week. This is not a problem, he said in a recent blog post, but a blessing. The response from others in China was swift. “If all enterprises enforce a 996 schedule, no one will have children,” one person argued on the same platform. “Did you ever think about the elderly at home who need care, the children who need company?” It even prompted a response from Chinese state media, which reminded everyone: “The mandatory enforcement of 996 overtime culture not only reflects the arrogance of business managers, but is also unfair and impractical.” (900 words)

8. China’s ‘Belt and Road’ Plan in Pakistan Takes a Military Turn

China – Belt And Road | New York Times | December 19th, 2018

The confidential plan, reviewed by The New York Times, would also deepen the cooperation between China and Pakistan in space, a frontier the Pentagon recently said Beijing was trying to militarize after decades of playing catch-up.All those military projects were designated as part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a $1 trillion chain of infrastructure development programs stretching across some 70 countries, built and financed by Beijing.Chinese officials have repeatedly said the Belt and Road is purely an economic project with peaceful intent. (2800 words)

9. China is thinking twice about lending to Africa

China – Corruption | The Economist | June 29th, 2019

Kenyans feigned concern on Twitter, using the hashtag #FindPresidentUhuru. A missing-person poster appealed for information on the whereabouts of a five-foot-eight African male last seen in Beijing. A government spokeswoman sought to reassure the public: Mr Kenyatta had been in his office “meditating”. But others speculate that the president was in a funk after his trip to China failed to yield a new loan for the next phase of Kenya’s ambitious $10bn railway.Mr Kenyatta could be forgiven for feeling piqued. (1000 words)

10. China is waging war on Western names for buildings and places

China – Culture | The Economist | June 29th, 2019

Posh resorts line the island’s shore. It is also on the front lines of a culture war. In June Hainan’s government published a list of 53 places and buildings, including many hotels, with names that “worship foreign things and toady to foreign powers”. It said these names must be “cleaned up and rectified”—ie, changed.Many of the offending names use Chinese characters that, put together, sound like foreign words: Kaisa for Caesar, for example (used in a hotel name), or Weiduoliya for Victoria (the name of a residential area in the capital, Haikou). (300 words)

11. How much is your education worth? Depends on how much you make

Education – Inequality | The Straits Times | April 6th, 2019

For years people have talked about the idea of selling shares in one’s own talent, in the hope of attracting funds and assistance from others. Now it seems that this idea is happening at scale, through the Lambda School in California. The Lambda School teaches information technology skills online, and it charges zero tuition and offers stipends to select students. The deal is that students pay back 17 per cent of their income from the first two years of work, if earnings exceed US$50,000 (S$67,700) a year, with a maximum payment of US$30,000. (700 words)

12. Shortages of rare earth elements could limit clean energy development

Environment – Smartphones | Salon | October 26th, 2018

There are even cancer treatments requiring rare earth elements. Contrary to their name, however, rare earth metals are not actually rare. Or at least, not exactly. On average, they’re about as common as copper or nickel in the Earth’s crust. But unlike copper or nickel, rare earth elements don’t occur in mine-able pockets, meaning that obtaining them is a lot more expensive and labor-intensive. On top of that, when you do find them in ores they’re all mixed together and separating them can be a challenge: they’re all about the same size, have similar melting points, and tend to form trivalent cations (meaning they also look identical electrochemically). (800 words)

13. Cambridge Analytica a year on: ‘a lesson in institutional failure’

Facebook – Cambridge | The Guardian | March 17th, 2019

It was a report that drew on hours of testimony from Cambridge Analytica directors, Facebook executives and dozens of expert witnesses: 73 in total, of whom MPs had asked 4,350 questions. And its conclusion? That Silicon Valley’s tech platforms were out of control, none more so than Facebook, which it said had treated parliament with “contempt”. And it’s a measure of how much hasn’t changed that this was a news story for just two hours on a Monday morning before the next Westminster drama – the launch of the Independent Group – knocked it off the headline slots. (4000 words)

14. The Cambridge Analytica scandal changed the world – but it didn’t change Facebook

Facebook – Privacy | The Guardian | March 18th, 2019

It took five full days for the founder and CEO of Facebook – the man with total control over the world’s largest communications platform – to emerge from his Menlo Park cloisters and address the public. When he finally did, he did so with gusto, taking a new set of talking points (“We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you”) on a seemingly unending roadshow, from his own Facebook page to the mainstream press to Congress and on to an oddly earnest discussion series he’s planning to subject us to at irregular intervals for the rest of 2019. (1400 words)

15. North Korea Accuses Expelled Australian Student of Spying

Geopolitics – North Korea | New York Times | July 6th, 2019

Sigley, 29, a graduate student in Korean literature at Kim Il-sung University in Pyongyang, was freed in North Korea on Thursday and deported on the same day. Until now, neither Mr. Sigley nor the North’s government had publicly explained why he had been detained.On Saturday, North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency, using the initials for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said Mr. Sigley was caught on Tuesday while “committing anti-D.P.R.K. incitement through the internet.”“He honestly admitted his spying acts of systematically collecting and offering data about the domestic situation of the D.P.R.K. (800 words)

16. The Gulf of Guinea is now the world’s worst piracy hotspot

Geopolitics – Piracy | The Economist | June 29th, 2019

Two layers of razor wire snake around its deck. Two life-sized human dummies in orange jumpsuits are perched on the ship’s bridge, posing as crew members keeping watch. Serving as a reminder that such precautions are prudent in Africa are the mangled steel and concrete remains of a jetty. It was blown up a decade ago by militants with a sideline in piracy.The Gulf of Guinea, on west Africa’s southern coast, is the world’s most pirate-infested sea. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reports 72 attacks last year on vessels at sea between Ivory Coast and Cameroon—up from 28 in 2014. (1800 words)

17. Opinion | A Hong Kong Protester’s Tactic: Get the Police to Hit You

Hong Kong – Protests | New York Times | June 30th, 2019

I took part in the two mass marches earlier this month, the June 12 protest that turned violent and the blockade of police headquarters on June 21. Today I am among the tens of thousands of protesters on the streets outside of the Legislative Council and I witnessed a group of them storm the building.I am not optimistic that we can get what we are asking for. The government’s response has been robotic, and it still refuses to completely withdraw, instead of just suspending, the extradition bill we oppose. (1300 words)

18. What Is Hong Kong’s Extradition Bill?

Hong Kong – Protests | New York Times | June 10th, 2019

Here’s the key background.Is Hong Kong part of China?Yes, but it’s not that simple.Hong Kong, a former British colony, was returned to China in 1997 under a policy known as “one country, two systems,” which promised the territory a high degree of autonomy. The policy has helped preserve Hong Kong’s civil service, independent courts, freewheeling press, open internet and other features that distinguish it from the Chinese mainland.Demonstrators marched on Sunday against a government proposal to allow extraditions to mainland China. (1000 words)

19. Why Hong Kong needs to press ahead with its extradition Bill

Hong Kong – Protests | The Straits Times | June 15th, 2019

They will enable Hong Kong to return fugitives, on a case-by-case basis, to other parts of China, as well as to over 170 countries with which it currently has no extradition agreements. Such case-based approaches are used in other jurisdictions, and are of obvious utility where long-term surrender arrangements are not yet in place. Given the existing vacuum, many fugitives from other places have obtained sanctuary in Hong Kong, some from elsewhere in China, others from around the globe. We know that over 300 fugitives from other parts of China are currently enjoying safe haven in Hong Kong, including at least one alleged murderer, as well as businessmen already convicted of corruption and money laundering. (2000 words)

20. How to fix the problem in Hong Kong

Hong Kong- Politics | The Straits Times | July 21th, 2019

Rental is high in Hong Kong and customers are obliged to share tables in small eateries like the one I was in. Once eagle-eyed restaurant owners spot the conclusion of a meal, patrons are swiftly handed their bills, subtly suggesting they leave the premises to make way for incoming customers. Otherwise, they’d earn short shrift from irate staff. Life is hard in Hong Kong and most residents feel that it has become much harder. Retired civil servants complain of promotions bypassing them because the top posts were reserved for whites under British colonial rule. (1300 words)

21. How to make people pay high taxes happily

Inequality – Taxes | The Straits Times | July 28th, 2019

The person I was having coffee with said he wasn’t just happy to do so, he had once called in to a British radio talk show years ago to explain why. That programme on air had been over what made people happy, and he responded when the host of the show had laughed off the idea that there were people who gave away half their salaries happily. He is from Denmark, where the top tax rate of 56 per cent kicks in at a relatively low annual income of US$77,000 (S$105,450). The Danes are also often ranked one of the happiest people in the world. (1100 words)

22. World’s eight richest people have same wealth as poorest 50%

Inequality – Wealth | The Guardian | January 15th, 2017

New information shows that poverty in China and India is worse than previously thought. In a report published to coincide with the start of the week-long World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Oxfam said it was “beyond grotesque” that a handful of rich men headed by the Microsoft founder Bill Gates are worth $426bn (£350bn), equivalent to the wealth of 3.6 billion people. The development charity called for a new economic model to reverse an inequality trend that it said helped to explain Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election. (1000 words)

23. World’s richest 0.1% have boosted their wealth by as much as poorest half

Inequality – Wealth | The Guardian | December 14th, 2017

The richest 1% of the global population captured 27% of the world’s wealth growth between 1980 and 2016. The World Inequality Report, published on Thursday by French economist Thomas Piketty, warned that inequality had ballooned to “extreme levels” in some countries and said the problem would only get worse unless governments took coordinated action to increase taxes and prevent tax avoidance. Share of global wealth by income groupsThe report, which drew on the work of more than 100 researchers around the world, found that the richest 1% of the global population “captured” 27% of the world’s wealth growth between 1980 and 2016. (800 words)

24. Opinion | Kill Section 230, You Kill the Internet

Internet – Free Speech | Wall Street Journal

Will it happen again? In October 1994, an anonymous poster on Money Talk, a bulletin board run by the early online service Prodigy, accused Long Island brokerage firm Stratton Oakmont of fraud. Yes, that Stratton Oakmont, of Leonardo DiCaprio and “Wolf of Wall Street” movie fame. Fraud central. But in 1995 Stratton Oakmont sued Prodigy for defamation. The firm claimed the online service was liable as a publisher because Prodigy posted content guidelines that human “board leaders” enforced and deployed software that screened for offensive language. (1000 words)

25. Prosecution calls for woman who scammed love scammer to get jail instead of treatment order

Singapore – Crime | Channel News Asia | July 16th, 2019

She then ignored the man who was trying to scam her, and transferred parts of the cash to help another scammer she was in love with, as well as a third scammer. For her actions, the prosecution on Tuesday (Jul 16) called for her to be sentenced to three months’ jail, despite a mandatory treatment order report recommending that she undergo treatment for 18 months. The defence urged the court to sentence 63-year-old Christina Cheong Yoke Lin to the recommended mandatory treatment order instead, saying that she did not go looking to commit fraud. (800 words)

26. Commentary: Singapore’s bold bet on seniors and valuable years of life experience

Singapore – Elderly | Channel News Asia | August 22th, 2019

While the retirement age will be raised from age 62 to 63 in 2022, and 65 by 2030, the re-employment age will be raised from 67 to 68 in 2022, and 70 by 2030. Manpower Minister Josephine Teo moved quickly to announce details of the changes to the Central Provident Fund (CPF) rates for older workers the following day, to help them build up their retirement nest egg. But the current CPF withdrawal ages remain unchanged. This has been warmly welcomed by most workers who want to continue to have the option of enjoying the fruits of their labour early. (1200 words)

27. The Big Read: Taking the climate fight beyond straws and tote bags — individual actions that matter

Singapore – Environment | Channel News Asia | September 8th, 2019

The 31-year-old civil servant practises what he calls a “minimalist lifestyle”. He rarely shops, and has only bought four items for himself this year – a water bottle, socks, lenses for his sunglasses and a motorcycle plate number. What sparked the decision? Mr Leow said it happened early last year when he was packing his belongings for his return to Singapore from Australia, where he had been living with his wife for two years because of work. I got a bit fed-up as I was packing … There were many boxes. (4200 words)

28. Media Literacy Council apologises for ‘confusion’ after labelling satire as an example of fake news

Singapore – Fake News | Channel News Asia | September 9th, 2019

“We acknowledge that the post and infographic gave the wrong impression that satire was fake news, which was not the intent. We are sorry for the confusion and will review our material,” MLC said. The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act Bill, which was passed earlier this year, does not cover opinion, criticism, satire or parody. In its initial Facebook post on Sep 5, MLC said that fake news could take many forms and includes: False context, imposter content, manipulated content, misleading content, clickbait and satire. (400 words)

29. Win, lose or draw: Analysing the extension of the two casinos’ duopoly

Singapore – Gambling | The Straits Times | April 20th, 2019

Several analysts, including Morgan Stanley’s, quickly declared the Government as the big winner; and JP Morgan decried the “unnecessary large investments” in the decision to extend the duopoly concession to 2030 in return for an additional investment of $9 billion by the two operators. Both casino operators – Las Vegas Sands and Genting – have cheered in reciprocal official statements about not having to worry about a third entrant into the Singapore casino market for the next 11 years, and about the increased allotment of hotel rooms, gaming machines and casino floor space. (1600 words)

30. Why Singapore won’t take chances in safeguarding social peace: Shanmugam

Singapore – Hate Speech | The Straits Times | April 3th, 2019

It can fall into different categories and be on different platforms. For example, religious hate speech can be very powerful. Political hate speech can be very powerful, especially if the politician is charismatic. It can be in general discourse, in the mass media. It can be as part of entertainment, like in music and theatre. This list is illustrative; it is not intended to be exhaustive. What impact can hate speech have? Hate speech leads to social divides. Repeated hate speech increases people’s prejudices, feelings of being threatened, and propensity to violence. (5600 words)

31. HIV-positive man who avoided taking test, possibly infecting others, gets jail

Singapore – Health | Channel News Asia | September 5th, 2019

The 35-year-old Malaysian started engaging in sexual activity with other men in Singapore in 2003, the court heard. Although he suspected that he could have been exposed to HIV or infected with it, he decided not to get tested after 2008, as he was afraid of losing his permanent residency status in Singapore if he tested positive for HIV. According to the person who reported him to the Ministry of Health (MOH), at least six other men who had sex with him were later diagnosed with the human immunodeficiency virus, which could lead to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). (900 words)

32. What can the US health system learn from Singapore?

Singapore – Healthcare | The Straits Times | April 24th, 2019

When we published the results of an Upshot tournament on which country had the world’s best health system, Singapore was eliminated in the first round, largely because most of the experts had a hard time believing much of what the nation seems to achieve. It does achieve a lot. Americans have spent the last decade arguing loudly about whether and how to provide insurance to a relatively small percentage of people who don’t have it. Singapore is way past that. It is perfecting how to deliver care to people, focusing on quality, efficiency and cost. (1800 words)

33. Commentary: How should maid abusers be punished?

Singapore – Justice | Channel News Asia | September 1th, 2019

A firm response to their acts – and similar acts by others – is entirely warranted. But in determining what our response is, we must not forget that “the only justice that can be attained by mortals, who are fallible and are not omniscient, is justice according to law; the justice which flows from the application of sure and settled principles to proved or admitted facts”, as English judge William Bagnall put it. Paradoxically, even as criminal law embodies society’s revulsion at certain crimes, it must do so in a dispassionate, principled manner. (1200 words)

34. Man fined for repositioning toy grenade near Istana to see public reaction

Singapore – Justice | Channel News Asia | July 23th, 2019

For his threatening behaviour, 59-year-old Elankovan Marimuthu was fined S$4,500 on Wednesday (Jul 24). The court heard that Elankovan’s work involved cleaning Istana Park and the surrounding areas. He was doing so at about 7am on Nov 3, 2017, when he came across a toy grenade lying on its side near a fire hydrant along Penang Lane. He decided to position the grenade in an upright manner, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Thiagesh Sukumaran, and used a pair of tongs to do so before leaving the scene. (700 words)

35. Preetipls video: Shanmugam acknowledges racism exists in Singapore, but says situation is improving

Singapore – Justice | Channel News Asia | August 4th, 2019

“You look at the regular discussions on race, issues – this is a basic fact. But the situation now is much better than before, improving over the years,” he said on the sidelines of a temple event in Woodlands. “We want to build a cohesive society, but racism corrodes and deepens the fault lines in society,” he said, adding that Singapore does “a lot” to counter it. In Singapore, racism is discussed “openly”, studied and reported in the media, he said, pointing to surveys done by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) as examples. (700 words)

36. Up to S$5,000 fine for those who flout PMD ban at void decks: PAP town councils

Singapore – PMDs | Channel News Asia | September 1th, 2019

The ban, which took effect on Sunday, prohibits PMDs like e-scooters and skateboards, as well as bicycles and e-bikes from void decks and all common areas of housing estates run by the 15 PAP town councils. Public paths where PMDs are allowed under the Active Mobility Act are exempted from the ban. Also exempted are personal mobility aids such as motorised wheelchairs and mobility scooters. During the two months, offenders will be issued a warning letter for the first offence. Thereafter, the town councils will take “strict enforcement action”, he said. (400 words)

37. How commuting times affect HDB flat prices

Singapore – Transport | The Straits Times | April 9th, 2019

A Commuting to work is often time-consuming, expensive and stressful, even on the good days. No wonder most people dread it. Economists dislike commuting as much as anyone and have studied how commuting patterns affect many economic outcomes, such as productivity, where businesses choose to locate and pollution. One particular area of interest has been the trade-off between choosing where to live and the price of housing. Many empirical studies have found that one of the reasons why housing farther away from employment centres such as the Central Business District (CBD) sells for a lower price is the long commutes that residents must endure. (700 words)

38. Bold moves in infrastructure: Thinking big pays off for Singapore planners

Singapore – Urban Planning | The Straits Times | February 4th, 2018

A natural reaction to that would be, “What Long Island Project?” Over time, it has become largely forgotten. But decades ago, urban planners envisioned building an island using reclaimed land off East Coast Park for recreation and with beautiful waterfront housing. But this plan – known as the Long Island Project – has since been put aside as there was little demand for it, reveals the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) chief planner, Ms Hwang Yu-Ning, in an interview with Insight. “People love East Coast Park, so do we really want to commit to the plan if we don’t need it? (2300 words)

39. Section 230 Was Supposed to Make the Internet a Better Place. It Failed

Tech – Regulation | Bloomberg | August 7th, 2019

A tiny federal statute in 1996 transformed the web into a wildly lucrative business, and became Big Tech’s favorite liability shield. It’s now under attack from all sides. By Felix Gillette @felixgilletteOne afternoon in July, Ted Cruz banged a gavel on the dais, calling to order a hearing of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution. The day’s first witness was Karan Bhatia, a top policy adviser for Google. He gazed up at the panel of senators, alarm creeping into his expression, like a 10-point buck hearing the sudden crack of gunfire.When elected officials start appending the prefix “big” to the name of an industry, it’s never a good omen. (3000 words)

40. Playing Video Games Makes Us Fully Human

Video Games | Nautilus | June 27th, 2019

I have an agonizing decision to make. Should I save a governing body that has never done a thing for me? It doesn’t even contain a single person from my race. The aliens of the galactic Council decided long ago that my people should not be trusted, that we were aggressive, entitled, and short-sighted. I’m a soldier engaged in a fight to save the entire galaxy. And now the Council wants my help to destroy their assailants? My companion Ashley is against it. “You can’t sacrifice human lives to save the Council!” she yells. (2500 words)

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