19 Aug

Readabee 19th August 2019

1. What worries Zuckerberg more than online speech rules?

Facebook – Censorship | The Straits Times | April 16th, 2019

But that’s largely fine with the technology giants – because it distracts attention from a bigger problem that goes to the heart of their business model. The White Paper on online harms, published last week, is an effort to curb the online spread of dangerous content, such as incitement to terrorism. It proposed “substantial fines” on both companies and executives who have breached a “statutory duty of care” that would be enforced by a new regulator. As if that wasn’t enough, the regulator will “ensure the focus is on protecting users from harm – not judging what is true or not”. (800 words)

2. Europe heroically defends itself against veggie burgers

Food – Language | The Economist | June 29th, 2019

All right, it isn’t literally blasted with anti-aircraft fire, but you know what we mean. One ongoing battle (OK, nobody died) involves the use of words. Earlier this year, the European Parliament’s agriculture committee voted to prohibit the terms “burger”, “sausage”, “escalope” and “steak” to describe products that do not contain any meat. It was inspired by the European Court of Justice’s decision in 2017 to ban the use of “milk”, “butter” and “cream” for non-dairy products. Exceptions were made for “ice cream” and “almond milk”, but “soya milk” went down the drain, lest consumers assume it had been extracted from the soya udder of a soya cow. (600 words)

3. Opinion | Hong Kong Makes Its Stand

Hong Kong – Protests | Wall Street Journal

Several blocks away from the Legislative Council, my cheeks flush. Continuing west of Arsenal Street, my bare arms tingle and burn as I count at least 20 police vans and buses queued up. A block later, I pull on my swimming goggles, but my eyes water as the lenses fog. Ahead of me, tear gas lingers in the muggy air. Despite the danger, thousands of Hong Kongers protested near the Legislative Council building, or LegCo. Lawmakers are pushing forward a bill that would allow extradition to mainland China. (1100 words)

4. Is America becoming an oligarchy?

Inequality – Democracy | The Straits Times | April 16th, 2019

Of course I’m a capitalist, he said; America “is a capitalist society”. But, he continued: “It’s got to be democratic capitalism.” He said that when capitalism becomes unrestrained by democratic checks and impulses, that is no longer the kind of capitalism that once produced broad prosperity in the United States. “If you want to see what happens when you have capitalism without democracy, you can see it very clearly in Russia,” he said. “It turns into crony capitalism, and that turns into oligarchy.” (700 words)

5. Inequality and Globalization

Inequality – Globalisation | Foreign Affairs | Jan/Feb 2016

The average Frenchman, for example, probably does not care how many Chinese exceed his own standard of living, but that Frenchman surely would pay attention if he started lagging behind his fellow citizens. Yet when thinking about inequality, it also makes sense to approach the world as a single community: accounting, for example, not only for the differences in living standards within France but also for those between rich French people and poor Chinese (and poor French and rich Chinese). When looking at the world through this lens, some notable trends stand out. (1800 words)

6. The rise and rise of media streaming

Media – Streaming | The Straits Times | April 15th, 2019

Now, with the boom of over-the-top (OTT) subscription-based streaming services, people sitting in the same room can watch their own shows on their own screens. OTT services refer to media content delivered directly to a consumer over the Internet. Such services have made it easier for consumers to access the content directly, removing the dependence on pay-television operators who usually act as an intermediary to control or distribute content. As a result, there has been no let-up in consumers cutting the cord to pay-TV services. (1200 words)

7. Three cheers for Amazon’s human eavesdroppers

Privacy – Amazon | The Straits Times | April 13th, 2019

The revelation this week that a large team of Amazon employees listens to conversations recorded by the company’s digital assistant has exposed the contrast between the hype of artificial intelligence and the reality of the armies of underpaid humans that make the technology work in real life. It is these battalions that are leading Silicon Valley’s massive privacy invasion. AI is supposed to be good at pattern recognition and natural language processing. However, it is all but impossible to train a neural network to recognise speech or faces with certainty. (1000 words)

8. Commentary: An intense urge to hurt someone, when anger gets out of hand for some

Singapore – Anger | Channel News Asia | August 1th, 2019

Sessions with his psychologist soon uncovered that he felt upset with himself because he couldn’t regulate his emotions. He was not able to control his anger. Small things would trigger intense anger, and provoke him to throw objects he was holding, break items close to him, or yell loudly. His anger also made it impossible to maintain a romantic relationship for a long time. In fact, Jonathan shared there were many times when he came very close to getting into trouble with the law, as he had intense urges to hurt people because he felt that they had wronged him. (1500 words)

9. Commentary: Be concerned about unhealthy mindsets about dating and marriage, not fewer babies

Singapore – Babies | Channel News Asia | July 27th, 2019

The decline in birth numbers has been tied to the rise in the median age of first-time mothers, from 29.7 in 2009 to 30.6 last year, suggesting that more women are putting off childbearing. By contrast, a number of European countries witnessed a baby bump earlier this decade after the age at childbearing stopped climbing, as more women get around to having the children they had earlier postponed. Why hasn’t the age at childbearing stopped climbing in Singapore? Three factors are driving fertility delay: Inconsistent messaging, constraints and overconfidence. (1400 words)

10. 10 complaints made over Huawei’s S$54 phone promotion, says advertising body

Singapore – CSR | Channel News Asia | July 30th, 2019

Many left angry and frustrated when stocks for the S$54 Huawei Y6 Pro 2019 ran out. It normally sells for S$198. According to those in the queue, each store had fewer than 30 sets of the phone on offer. In response to CNA’s queries, the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS) said on Tuesday (Jul 30) that it received 10 feedback on the promotion, adding that it is engaging Huawei on the matter. “We would like to remind advertisers to ensure that their advertisements comply with the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice, which states that they must be legal, decent, honest and truthful,” said the chairman of ASAS, Professor Ang Peng Hwa. (300 words)

11. Anger, frustration as long queues form across Singapore for S$54 Huawei phone

Singapore – Consumerism | Channel News Asia | July 25th, 2019

The Chinese telecommunications firm had advertised the promotion for the Huawei Y6 Pro 2019 – which normally sells for S$198 – to mark Singapore’s 54th National Day. The promotion is applicable only to Singapore citizens and permanent residents aged 50 and above as of Dec 31 this year. Each customer was allowed to buy up to two phones and according to those in the queue, each store had less than 30 sets of the phone on offer. Queues outside Huawei outlets started forming as early as 4am, and stocks of the phone ran out even before the stores opened. (600 words)

12. Sephora data breach: 3.7m customer records up for sale on Dark Web, says cybersecurity firm

Singapore – Cybersecurity | Channel News Asia | August 1th, 2019

Russian company Group-IB said in a news release on Thursday (Aug 1) its threat intelligence team found two databases with customer data on underground forums, with the leak dating back to as early as February this year. According to the seller, the database consists of 500,000 records including the user names and hashed passwords from Sephora’s Indonesia and Thailand websites. The listing said the data was from February this year, he added. The second database surfaced on an underground forum on Jul 28 this year, a day before news of the breach broke. (600 words)

13. Pathlight School to open new campus for 500 primary level students in 2023

Singapore – Disability | Channel News Asia | July 26th, 2019

The new campus at Tampines Street 91 will be able to take in 500 primary level students, helping the Ministry of Education (MOE) meet demand for places in special education schools. Pathlight, which started operations in 2004 with just 41 students, now has about 1,400 primary, secondary and vocational-track students. The school currently has one permanent campus at Ang Mo Kio Ave 10 that caters to Primary 1 and 2 students, and an interim campus at Ang Mo Kio Stree 44 that caters to Primary 3 to 6 students. (700 words)

14. No bell curve grading in national exams, most universities

Singapore – Education | The Straits Times | June 17th, 2019

A spokesman for the ministry told The Straits Times: “School-based assessments and national examinations are standards-referenced, where the grades awarded reflect a candidate’s own level of mastery in the subject based on an absolute set of standards.” This means a student’s grades are not dependent on how well he performs in comparison with his peers. In a grading system based on a bell curve, fixed proportions of students attain the various grades. Of the six autonomous universities, only the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) still moderate results using a bell curve for certain modules. (1400 words)

15. Commentary: These PSLE changes won’t fix our national obsession with academic achievement

Singapore – Education | Channel News Asia | July 29th, 2019

He was speaking in response to parental concerns that this new scoring model did not appear to bring significant changes as students would still be sorted and differentiated according to their examination results. Is the education system evolving fast enough in order to better equip our students for the future? The idea was that these students would then be better able to develop other non-academic attributes such as creativity and leadership. That same year, the Direct School Admission scheme was introduced to accord priority to non-academic talents during admission exercises for secondary schools and junior colleges, and subsequently, polytechnics too. (1300 words)

16. Next year’s Primary 5 students to get exam results based on new PSLE scoring system

Singapore – Education | Channel News Asia | July 25th, 2019

They will be graded based on an Achievement Level (AL) score ranging from 1 to 8, with 1 being the best score and 8 the lowest. In the following years, all P5 and P6 students will receive their results in that format, moving away from the T-score system which will be scrapped in 2021. This change will not affect students from Primary 1 to 4 who will continue to receive progress reports. The AL system will result in 29 possible scores, as opposed to the current T-score system, which has about 200 variations, according to MOE. (1200 words)

17. Could more be done to reduce plastic packaging waste in Singapore’s supermarkets?

Singapore – Environment | Channel News Asia | July 27th, 2019

Fruit and vegetables are often wrapped in plastic while meat and fish usually comes in a tray encased in clingwrap. There are also usually plenty of plastic bags on hand for those loose items that shoppers select before they’re weighed and priced. Such scenes are repeated at supermarkets around the world. But questions are starting to be raised about whether more should be done to reduce the reliance of supermarkets on plastic packaging, as the debate extends beyond cutting down on plastic shopping bags. (1400 words)

18. Myanmar citizens deported from Singapore over alleged insurgent ties remanded in custody

Singapore – Immigration | Channel News Asia | July 26th, 2019

“We issued another remand this morning for them,” Min Thant, an information officer at the Western District Court in the commercial capital of Yangon, told Reuters by telephone, without giving further details. They are being held in an undisclosed location along with two other people including a driver, according to relatives and a lawyer. Authorities in Myanmar have declined to provide details about the case or give the whereabouts of the detainees. Singapore’s home ministry said the group, members of the Rakhine Buddhist minority, had “organised and mobilised” some members of the Myanmar community in Singapore to support the Arakan Army (AA), an insurgent group fighting for greater autonomy in Rakhine and Chin states, and its political wing, the United League of Arakan. (600 words)

19. Beware ‘class warfare’ approach to taxes

Singapore – Inequality | The Straits Times | April 11th, 2019

Decades of strong growth produced economic convergence with rich nations in North America and Western Europe. Given how few nations have made that jump, this is a remarkable achievement. What’s even more noteworthy is that Singapore’s economy then continued to expand at a healthy pace. Based on measures such as per-capita economic output, residents of Singapore are now significantly better off than their counterparts in almost every nation in the so-called rich man’s club of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). (1000 words)

20. Prosecution calls for higher sentence in landmark maid abuse case, reversal of acquitted charge

Singapore – Justice | Channel News Asia | August 2th, 2019

Former IT manager Tay Wee Kiat, 41, had received two years’ jail for his part in the abuse of 31-year-old maid Moe Moe Than in 2012. His wife Chia Yun Ling, 43, was sentenced to three years and 11 months’ jail and fined S$4,000 for 15 charges. The maid from Myanmar had been force-fed a mixture of rice and sugar with a funnel after complaining of not having enough to eat. When she ran to the toilet choking, she was instructed to throw up inside a plastic bag and eat her vomit. The prosecution turned to the High Court to appeal for three years and two months’ jail for Tay, an increase of 14 months, and for his wife to be convicted of a charge that the district judge had acquitted her of. (1200 words)

21. 7 in 10 Singapore workers will take pay cut for one extra day of holiday: Survey

Singapore – Labour | Channel News Asia | July 25th, 2019

According to travel company Expedia’s latest Vacation Deprivation Survey, about six in 10 Singaporeans said they were deprived of vacations in 2018, up from 57 per cent in 2017 and 41 per cent in 2016. The survey placed Singapore as the sixth most vacation-deprived market in the world. Conducted with 11,000 full-time working adults across 19 countries, including 300 people in Singapore, the survey uncovered workers’ sentiments on whether the number of vacation days they received in 2018 was adequate. (400 words)

22. MOE, MSF ‘very concerned’ about spike in youth suicides; experts say more support and awareness necessary

Singapore – Mental Health | Channel News Asia | August 4th, 2019

“It is not yet a trend, but we must monitor this closely and take various measures to address it,” said spokespersons for the ministries in response to email queries from CNA. The number of suicides in Singapore rose 10 per cent last year, with suicides among boys aged 10 to 19 at a record high, the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) said last week. A total of 94 people aged between 10 and 29 killed themselves last year, SOS said. Among boys aged between 10 and 19 years old, there were 19 suicides last year – the highest since it began keeping records in 1991 and almost triple the seven cases recorded in 2017. (1600 words)

23. Progress on race and religion occur when issues surface: Pritam Singh on ‘offensive’ rap video by Preetipls

Singapore – Race | Channel News Asia | July 31th, 2019

Mr Singh was commenting on the video by YouTube performer Preeti Nair, also known as Preetipls, featuring her and her brother Subhas Nair rapping a stream of vulgarities in response to a controversial advertisement. The ad by NETS to promote the E-Pay platform featured Mediacorp actor Dennis Chew, who is Chinese, portraying characters of different races. This sparked criticism over the use of “brownface”, the act of darkening one’s fair skin to mimic that of another race. “The announcement of an investigation against Preeti Nair and Subhas Nair for offensive speech against the Chinese community is a case in point.”Mr Singh noted that the status quo on race and religion in Singapore is the result of tolerance, compromise and give-and-take among different communities. (600 words)

24. Singapore’s religious harmony law to be updated: Shanmugam

Singapore – Race | Channel News Asia | July 24th, 2019

Mr Shanmugam, who was speaking at a forum on religion, extremism and identity politics, said that the MRHA, which was passed in Parliament in 1990 and came into force in 1992, needs to be refreshed. “The world has become a very different place, we now have Facebook, Twitter, Google. Hate can go viral in seconds,” he said at the forum organised by the Institute of Policy Studies and the Ministry of Home Affairs. “We are going to need to relook the MRHA, (and) need a more robust set of tools to make sure we can stop the spreading of hate and discord.” (800 words)

25. The Big Read: Dangers lurk in youth’s chase for social media ‘likes’

Singapore – Social Media | Channel News Asia | July 28th, 2019

This is a snapshot of a day in the life of 21-year-old full-time model Lukas Koshy, who has been losing sleep since he got sucked into the latest social media craze, TikTok, a video-sharing app filled with 15-second lip-syncing videos, memes, and all things amusing to a Generation Z’er like him. Five hours of sleep is all that he is mostly getting these days. “It’s unhealthy,” the Singaporean admits, but he doesn’t see a need to change his ways. He has over 13,600 followers and a “like” count of more than 95,000. (3200 words)

26. Monthly household income in Singapore rising faster than expenditure, survey shows

Singapore – Statistics | Channel News Asia | July 31th, 2019

Conducted by the Singapore Department of Statistics (SingStat), the Household Expenditure Survey 2017/18 also found improvements in the standard of living here. Resident households’ average monthly household income from all sources – defined as regular income from employment, business, investment and others, as well as regular government transfers such as the Workfare Income Supplement – was S$11,780, up from S$10,470 in 2012/13 when the survey was last conducted. This was an increase of 2.4 per cent per annum in nominal terms, or 2.2 per cent a year in real terms after factoring in inflation. (1000 words)

27. Subsidies helpful, but public education also needed to improve adult vaccination rates: Experts

Singapore – Vaccination | Channel News Asia | July 31th, 2019

Yet according to figures from the Ministry of Health (MOH) only 12 per cent of adults aged 65 to 74 in Singapore have been vaccinated against it. With the take-up rate for the influenza vaccine equally low at 14 per cent, experts find the numbers worrying given that it can be more difficult for seniors to fight off infections as their immune systems weaken. To improve the take-up rates, a multi-agency task force proposed on Sunday (Jul 28) that vaccination subsidies be given to Singaporean adults and Permanent Residents to protect themselves against vaccine-preventable diseases. (900 words)

28. Millions of Business Listings on Google Maps Are Fake—and Google Profits

Tech – Competition | Wall Street Journal

She ended the night wishing she hadn’t. Ms. Carter had pulled into her Falls Church, Va., driveway and saw the garage door was stuck. The 67-year-old searched Google and found the listing of a local repair service she had used before. She phoned in a house call. Google’s ubiquitous internet platform shapes what’s real and what isn’t for more than two billion monthly users. Yet Google Maps, triggered by such Google queries as the one Ms. Carter made, is overrun with millions of false business addresses and fake names, according to advertisers, search experts and current and former Google employees. (2800 words)

29. Fallible machines, fallible humans

Tech – Robots | The Straits Times | April 16th, 2019

A series of white plastic boxes stacked on top of one another, they look similar to other pumps in a hospital that control the flow of drugs and fluids into the bloodstream of critically ill patients. Yet there is one crucial difference: These pumps – which can be used for insulin, painkillers and many other medications – are set up to take over important, safety-critical tasks that were once undertaken only by doctors and nurses. Just as aircraft autopilots have improved overall airline safety by assuming control of tasks where human pilots can make errors, the pumps have been designed to conduct some of the arduous process of checking on dosage levels, patient identity and medical records that are required before any drug is administered. (2100 words)

WhatsApp chat