9/19/2017

Middle East Peace Efforts

SISI-NETANYAHU MEETING IN NEW YORK 



Introduction

Reports of a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President al-Sisi in New York Egyptian President were received with mixed feelings in the Arab World, from “shameful” to a sign of “peace and tranquility”.

It was widely reported in Arabic media and commented upon online. Commentators view the meeting very differently, depending on which side they are with in the complex Middle-East politics.

The meeting was not reported by the popular Al-Jazeera immediately and many other Arab media failed even to mention it.

General Trend

The general trend among pro-Qatar or pro-Iranian media was to bypass the issue. PressTV in Iran ignored the meeting but highlighted a new US military base in Israel.

Saudi Arabia’s Al-Arabiya English and Arabic didn’t mention the meeting directly on its home page but did have a piece devoted to Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s visit to New York and his condemnation of supporters of terrorism and criticism of Qatar. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE have been in a confrontation with Qatar since last year. The general article on Sisi’s New York visit noted that Sisi met Netanyahu to discuss Middle East peace and met with Jewish organizations.  In Arabic the site published a short article on the meeting, claiming it “revived” the peace process and that Sisi stressed the need for a “final and just settlement” of the conflict.

Most Egyptian media highlighted aspects of Sisi’s trip and some focused on the Netanyahu handshake. Although Al-Ahram in Egypt did not mention the meeting on its homepage an article did highlight Egypt’s role in trying to aid Palestinian reconciliation. On the Arabic site, it noted that the Secretary General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit, “commended Egypt’s efforts which paved the way for this important achievement.”

Another article highlighted the Qatar crises, claiming that Qatar was seeking to “blackmail Israel.”

Al Masry al-Youm reported, “Sisi stressed the importance that Egypt attaches to efforts to resume negotiations between the Palestinian and Israeli sides with a view to reaching a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue in accordance with the two-state solution and the relevant international references.”

The article showed the leaders shaking hands and emphasized that Israel had expressed appreciation for Egypt’s role in the peace process.

Egypt’s al-Wafd featured an article that showed Netanyahu shaking hands with US President Donald Trump and discussed the new US military base in Israel, but did not mention the Sisi meeting.

Certain Media Ignored The Meeting

Other major Arabic and regional media, such as The National in the UAE ignored the meeting. Al-Sharq al-Aswat didn’t include it. Al-Bayan in the UAE didn’t mention the UN General Assembly at all. Its top stories including something about Janet Jackson and her Qatari “billionaire husband” and salacious stories about domestic violence.

Favourable Reports

Al-Ain in Abu-Dhabi reported the meeting with a very straightforward explanation that it sought to settle the Palestinian issue and “create a new reality in the Middle East where all the peoples of the region live in stability, security and development.” It added that the meeting also included Khaled Fawzi, the head of Egyptian intelligence.

Milad media, a Palestinian website, said Sisi had launched a peace initiative in May 2016 with the French and Americans and that Sisi hoped “we could achieve some solution to this issue and create hope for the Palestinians and security for the Israelis and write a new page.”

Views On Social Media

On social media the meeting was publicized with photos of the two leaders smiling. One account called @Al_otaibiq8 with 89,000 followers criticized Sisi for “selling Egyptian territory and restoring relations with Israel.” Accounts linked to Qatar, Iran were more critical. Others located in the Gulf and in Egypt seemed to highlight the event without comment or with a kind of cheeky sarcasm. One twitter used named Hamdan al-Mutairi wrote “Unspeakable happiness” with photos of the smiling leaders.

A pro-Syrian rebel account also highlighted the “chuckling in public” and noted they had met “secretly last year.” The former  vice-President of the Egyptian students union, Ahmed el-Baqry, tweeted a photo of the meeting which he described as shameful, accusing Sisi of being a “Zionist agent” and mocking the leaders’ “love.” Another user said that it was a good sign of peace and tranquility in the region, while another compared Sisi to Anwar Sadat, who signed the Egypt-Israel peace agreement in 1979.

Cleavages Exist

In general the regional coverage of the meeting reveals the cleavages that exist. First of all it plays into the Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egyptian pressure on Qatar. They have linked this to terror funding of Hamas and Hezbollah, two enemies of Israel, which puts Israel in their court. However the general populist view in much of the region is still that Israel is the enemy and that those leaders who openly meet with Israel not only lead to “normalization” but are also attacked as shameful.

Conclusion

The disconnect between elite media presentations and how social media discusses the meeting is clear. Particularly interesting is that pro-Iranian media did not latch onto the meeting to criticize Israel. This may reveal that the old days of using the accusation that enemies “work with Zionists” does not play as well when leaders openly meet with the Israeli prime minister and discuss peace.

Hope reason will prevail and peace will be finally achieved in the Middle-East.

Reactions to the EP walkover

The no contest for the EP is quite expectable given the aristocratic elitist barriers raised to block the average citizens from their rights to be elected to the office of the Presidency. This is more than a sick joke if this country is to be called a democracy when the basic rights of the citizens are taken away from them, that not all men are equal under the law but some are more equal than others based on their jobs and wealth. Now that the show is over, let’s see how the citizens react to the whole farce all for nothing.
 

For the activitists, there was a sit in vigil at Hong Lim Park, where they protested in silence, nothing more nothing less. Anything more could be dangerous. The turnout was good enough for the govt to take notice.
 

The next group of citizens simply said, it’s over, let’s move on. This is the typical boh bian group of Singaporeans, resigned to their fate.
 

A deviant group would grudgingly said, what to do, what can you do about it, and end the story there.
 

Then there is the usual large group of tiada apa group that just go home with whatever they are doing as if nothing happens. Life just go on with or without the EP show.  The boh chap type.
 

And there is the very disappointed hedonistic group that are cursing and swearing that they did not have a free holiday. That is about the most important thing in the life of this group.
 

And you will have the happy group all celebrating and congratulating the PAP and Halimah for winning the EP election, for working so hard for it.
 

And let’s not forget another group that would give up a big yawn.
 

This is Singapore and how Singaporeans react to this EP reserved for the Malays.
It is a non event. Who cares? Nobody cares, really. The govt can do whatever it wants, change the Constitution for what it thinks fit and whatever it claims will affect Singapore in the future, whether the people agree or not, it does not matter. The govt said counts.
Oh the Malay community will be celebrating the second Malay President of the island after 47 years. Gratitude man.

9/18/2017

The people's President

Several presidents have been touted as the people's president with names
like Ong Teng Cheong, Wee Kim Wee, Nathan etc etc often quoted in the main
media. Oops, my apologies, I think Ong Teng Cheong was only quoted as the
people's president in the social media if I am not wrong. The title of the
people's president seems to endear many people and it is something of a
great honour to be known as one. Depending who you are, everyone would have
his own people's president in his heart and not every president is their
people’s president.

Tan Cheng Bock came close to be another people's president when he lost to
Tony Tan by a hair's breath and then disqualified from standing for the
next election when the Constitution was changed and he was out from the
running. The popularity of Cheng Bock has increased despite his being a non
candidate in the latest EP election that turned out to be a walkover with
only one candidate qualifying though Cheng Bock was the first to express
his intent to contest.

In the public's mind, many thought Cheng Bock was likely to win should he
be given a chance to contest. This could be one of the main reasons why the
rules were changed to disqualify him. Everything is now history and Cheng
Bock unfortunately becomes a ‘has been’. It is difficult to see him
contesting in the next EP as age is catching up on him.

Below is a pic on his popularity when the turned up at the silent sit in at
Hong Lim on 16 Sep. The crowd was with him. The crowd was there on their
own, with no temptation of free chicken rice or free transport. A people’s
president does not need that. These people paid their transport fare to be
with him. These were genuine signs of what a people's president is like,
like by the people from their heart, spontaneous and with no coercion or
any farcical set up to make him look good.

Maybe to some people Cheng Bock is still their people's president in some
way. And in some way Cheng Bock has been robbed of his rightful place in
the Istana.

Photo credit to statestimesreview.


Towards Smart Cities - Part 2

Is a Smart City a Healthy City?



Concept of  A Smart City

In the past decade, an unprecedented shift of people from the rural areas to the cities account for more than half the world's population. This huge surge of people is causing severe congestion, housing shortage, decline in air quality, failing infrastructure, inadequate public facilities and services, increased poverty and reduced general well-being. As such, the need for the development of smart cities has become more urgent.

The conceptualisation of a 'Smart City' varies from city to city and country to country, depending on the level of development, available resources, forward-looking leadership, political will for reform, aspirations and needs of the citizens.

The concept of a smart city is not absolute. There is no end point. It is a process, or series of steps, by which cities become more 'liveable' and resilient and more capable of responding faster to new and unforeseen challenges.

Four Pillars of Development

To provide for the aspirations and needs of the citizens, city planners will aim at developing an eco-system represented by the four pillars of development: institutional, physical, social and economic infrastructures. With this as a long term goal, cities then work towards developing the four infrastructures either simultaneously or incrementally, adding layers upon layers of ‘smartness’, within certain time-frames.

Focus and Objective

The focus is on sustainable and inclusive development and the idea is to look at compact areas and provide solutions to foreseeable problems.

In the implementation, all parties concerned must always bear in mind that the objective is to promote and provide a decent quality of life to the citizens, a clean and sustainable environment and application of ‘Smart Solutions'.

Core Elements

The core infrastructure elements in a smart city include:

1. Optimum and low-cost water supply,
2. Optimum and low-cost electricity supply,
3. Efficient sanitation and waste management,
4. Efficient and speedy mobility and public transportation.
5. Affordable low-cost housing, especially for the poor,
6. Robust IT connectivity and digitalization,
7. Good E-Governance with citizen participation,
8. Sustainable living environment for humans, fauna  and flora,
9. Safety and security, particularly  for children, women and the elderly,
10. Effective health and medical services.
11. E-education at home to reduce needs for direct instructions and teaching facilities.
12. Efficient and speedy law and order enforcement and judicial services.
13. Well coordinated communications and feedback systems.
14. Efficient, effective and speedy emergency response to all components of maintenance, medical, law and order, transportation, communications, etc.
15. Last but not least, the promotion and facilitation of e-Commerce and e-Services.



A Healthy City

If the planning is well done, coordination well linked and timed, implementation well executed and maintenance well responded, it goes without saying, a smart city will definitely become a more livable, environment friendly and healthier city.

However, there are four big IF's. So, there are going to be numerous teething problems. These problems must be envisaged and not left to chance, because other than foreseeable problems arising, there will be unforeseeable challenges, shocking and undesirable! This leads us to the next part:

The Pitfalls of a Smart City

(Continues in Part 3)

by Rigpa

9/17/2017

20th Asian Masters Athletic Championship - Our masters athletes in action


35 Singapore masters athletes will be competing in the 20th Asian Masters Athletic championship in the city of Rugao in Jiangsu China from 24-28 Sep. Rugao is famous for having the most centenarians alive and is most suitable to host such an event. In Singapore we have a strong pool of senior athletes enjoying themselves in the gruelling sports of athletics and would not call it a day until their bodies failed to move, their legs failed to run and their hands failed to lift or throw. These masters athletes are self funding and doing their own training totally on their own without any support from the govt except for some generous individuals and private organisations.

The Singaporean Team of athletes, age 35 to 80+, with some ex state runners like Paul Su, have been training very hard in the past months to do battle with the other Asian athletes, all 3,000 of them from across Asia in this meet. Some of the competitors that have registered for the events were in their 80s and 90s.

Just my event for the 65-69 age group for 100m sprint draws 28 runners. The events include long and middle distance, 10,000 metre walks and field sports like short putt, javelin, discuss and the jumps.

The man behind this Singapore Team is A Kannan from the Singapore Masters Association. Working closely with him and assisting in coordinating all the travel arrangement and logistics is Jason Wong from the Singapore Masters Track and Field Association. The athletes from both associations and some free individuals are all going as Team Singapore to fly the Singapore flag.

The Singapore Team is fortunate to have many sponsors making contributions to this event. The main sponsor is a Mr Andy Foo who will be hosting a dinner for the athletes in Rugao. The other sponsors are acknowledged in the top banner of this blog.

Towards Smart Cities - Part 1

Introduction

Cities have a long way to go before they can be considered geniuses, but they are getting smart pretty fast everyday.

In the last two decades, many cities in the world have begun to use the voluminous data available  - income, banking, tax returns, traffic flows, fire breakouts, illnesses, thefts, tickets sales, parking habits, etc  - to solve or reduce many of the urban problems. Whether it is controlling traffic flows, or making it easier for people to find parking lots, or guiding parking inspectors to places of illegal and unruly parking, big-data technologies are beginning to change the way cities work.

Although cities have been using data in various forms, the modern practice of civic analytics has only begun to take off in the past few years, because of the speed and volume of recent technological changes. Among them: the growth of cloud computing, which dramatically lowers the costs of storing information; new developments in artificial intelligence, which put advanced analytical tools in the hands of city officials; the Internet of Things and the rise of inexpensive sensors that can track a vast array of information such as noise, traffic or pollution; and the widespread use of smartphone apps and mobile devices that enable citizens and city workers alike to monitor problems and feed information back to the appropriate agencies.

As governments balance risks and rewards, they are nevertheless moving forward with programs that predict and mitigate issues before they happen, document issues faster than ever, and create efficiencies in everything from transportation to regulatory enforcement.

What is a smart city?

A smart city is an urban development vision to integrate information and communication technology (ICT) and Internet of things (IoT) technology in a secure fashion to manage a city's assets. These assets include local departments' information systems, schools, libraries, transportation systems, hospitals, power plants, water supply networks, waste management, law enforcement, and other community services.

A smart city is promoted to use urban informatics and technology to improve the efficiency of services. ICT allows city officials to interact directly with the community and the city infrastructure and to monitor what is happening in the city, how the city is evolving, and how to enable a better quality of life. Through the use of sensors integrated with real-time monitoring systems, data are collected from citizens and devices – then processed and analyzed. The information and knowledge gathered are keys to tackling inefficiency.

ICT is used to enhance quality, performance and interactivity of urban services, to reduce costs and resource consumption and to improve contact between citizens and government. Smart city applications are developed to manage urban flows and allow for real-time responses. A smart city may therefore be more prepared to respond to challenges than one with a simple "transactional" relationship with its citizens. Yet, the term itself remains unclear to its specifics and therefore, open to many interpretations.

Other terms used are: cyberville, digital city, electronic communities, flexi city, information city, intelligent city, knowledge-based city, MESH city, telecity, teletopia, Ubiquitous city, wired city.


Essentials in developing smart cities 

1. The first thing is awareness. Government officials and citizens alike must be fully aware of the availability, functions and pitfalls of the new technological gadgets and instruments installed. A nation-wide education program must precede the implementation of any new system progressively.

2. Developing smart cities requires teamwork across industries and areas of expertise at all levels, rarely seen in the history of business, government or real estate development. Finding out how to create a sensor-laden, data-driven, sustainable development requires big-thinkers from multiple sectors to work together in order to break new grounds – literally and figuratively.

3. All data collection raises real privacy concerns. In theory, cities can have privacy laws emplaced  to safeguard citizens' privacy and prevent the release of information that might identify any individual. In reality, even when publicly available data is stripped of personally identifiable information, tech-savvy users can combine it with other data sets to gain excess to a lot of information about any individual. Widespread use of sensors and video cameras also present privacy risks unless precautions are taken. Therefore, the questions of privacy must be confronted head-on and not be allowed to shaft down the throats of the stake-holders, businesses and commoners.



4. Smart cities require large investments from both the government and the private sectors. Where are the funds going to come and how are they going to be recovered? Moreover, the residents and users of smart cities will have to pay a costly price on a routine daily basis. This will cause further stress to the already stressful living in an urbanized environment. How can this financial stress be tackled?

5. Implementation - the hardest part. All-round co-ordination and alert systems must be implemented efficiently and effectively 24/7. Otherwise, instead of facilitating a smooth operation, chaos caused by breakdowns will occur frequently.

Is a smart city a healthy city?
(To continue in Part 2)

by Rigpa.

9/16/2017

CPF – Phillip Ang carrying the touch

Thanks to Phillip Ang for his persistence in keeping the CPF money issue alive and current. Just keep talking about this subject less some donkey would say 'see, no one is talking about it anymore', so they have accepted their fait accompli about the CPF no longer their money and would not care what would happen to their CPF money anymore.

Here is a quote from 'bapak' in a comment in Philip Ang's post in the TRE.

Bapak:
September 9, 2017 at 11:51 pm (Quote)
And now they upped the brainwatching by advertising on MiddleCorpse a son telling his daughters he is topping up his father’s account as token for bringing him up. Whoever fucking stupid ones will do that. Got money give your aging parents CASH. Why need to topup their accounts?

How many people have read this or know about the foolishness of topping up the CPF of their parents when they should be giving them cash to spend as and when they like? Once the money is in the CPF, you lose control of that money and using it is subject to all the rules of the CPF and could mean tan ku ku.

How many people understand the meaning of putting more money into their CPF or topping the CPF accounts of their parents and did not know the consequences?

I have been told that there is another change to the CPF Medisave Fund. When the owner dies, the money would not be allowed to be taken out despite the owner choosing to pass all the money to the beneficiary in cash. The money in the Medisave will be transferred to the Medisave of the beneficiary, forever retain in the CPF. See how desperate they are to take your money.

A caveat, I need to confirm this change if it is true and if it is retrospective or only affect new CPF members. Phillip Ang and all of you reading this, please check up on this. I will be writing to the CPF to confirm on this change.

This is really frightening and disgusting. I hope it is not true. And Leong Sze Hian has recently reported that if you don't do anything after they sent you a letter at age 65, your piecemeal withdrawal for retirement will be deferred to 70 years old!

And no announcement again in the media.

Has this got to do with blocking Cheng Bock from the presidency? Money not enough?