Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New immigrants are very happy to be here while Singaporeans do nothing but complain!


Ah Tan and Ah Lim were having coffee break at the table. Ah Chong then entered the pantry. He walked towards the coffee machine to dispense his coffee, but only to take just a sip and throw the rest into the sink. He then walked over and sat down with Ah Tan and Ah Lim with an empty mug.

AH LIM: Wah, what's wrong with the kopi?
AH CHONG: What's wrong? Don't you guys find these coffee horrendous? I simply can't bring myself to drink it! Give me a latte or cappuccino anytime!
AH LIM: Horrible meh? I think okay what... I think those latte and cappuccino are the horrible ones man! So expensive but you drink milk only! At least those kopi gao from kopitiam are real kopi!
AH CHONG (sternly): What are you talking about? How can you even compare Italian coffee to kopitiam coffee? Those coffee are tor the lesser mortals!

Staring at Ah Chong angrily, Ah Lim put his mug down on the table with a "bang". Ah Tan tapped Ah Lim's shoulder and tried to calm him down.

AH CHONG (grinning and ignoring Ah Lim's stare): Hey guys, guess what? The Cricket Interest Group that I formed is getting great response from the new citizens!
AH TAN: Cricket Interest Group?
AH CHONG (grinning even wider with excitment): Yah! Don't you find this such a great idea? This great idea actually occurred to me when I noticed some migrant groups playing the sport in the empty fields across the estate! And do you know what is the main purpose of this group?
AH TAN: Er... what?
AH CHONG: For integration! Integration with the locals! You know, I was thinking, if left on their own, these new immigrants would form their own enclaves. By offering them a common group, we can try to assimilate them together, and integrate them into our society as well! Isn't that a great idea I've got here!
AH LIM (scoffs): You sure got integrate? Got so many locals play cricket meh? How many percent of the members from your that Cricket Interest Group are locals? Then now you let these Indians expatriates play crickets at the fields, then where can the locals play soccer?

Ah Chong's face winced as he stared hardly at Ah Lim.

AH TAN (coughs lightly): erm... Chong, so you've got quite a number of new immigrants at your estate huh?
AH CHONG: I'll estimate about 10 percent of the residents. I'm lucky, you know? My town is a new town, housing is cheaper compared to mature estates, and it is also close to the new industrial areas that have sprouted up in the north-east. I'm sure more new immigrants will shift to my town!
AH LIM (scoffs): Wah, you really like those new immigrants hor? You hate the locals so much ah? Is it because they didn't vote for you in the last election?

Ah Chong stopped talking and started staring at Ah Lim. Promptly, Ah Tan tapped both men's shoulder.

AH TAN (turned to look at both men respectively): Gentlemen! Chill, okay?

The men sat in silence for a moment. Ah Tan then took a sip from his coffee and cleared his throat before continuing.

AH TAN: You seems to welcome new immigrants warmly to your estate huh?
AH CHONG (staring at Ah Tan unbelievingly): Naturally! Tan, face it! Singaporeans are damn hard to please. It's like, when you ask Singaporeans for feedback, they will complain that they have to wait more than 15 minutes for the bus. But hey, when you ask new immigrants, they are happy that the bus comes in under 30 minutes!
AH LIM (scoffs): So now you can ask those buses at your estate to relax and don't need to be so punctual, ask the cleaners to relax and don't need to clean so often, then ask the locals to shift to another estate if they're not happy loh!

Ah Chong slammed his palms on the table, stood up abruptly and stared even harder at Ah Lim.


Friday, June 12, 2009

The residents could assess the town councils but they must keep in mind of resource and finance constraint


Susan held the door wide open as Mr Teo together with Ah Tan and Ah Lim walked in. In the room, representative from each town council rose to each feet. Susan handed the wireless microphone over to Mr Teo as he walked to the front.

MR TEO (clearing his throat): Gentlemen, please be seated.

Discreetly and taking care not to make too much noise, the representatives sat down slowly. Ah Tan and Ah Lim took their seats at the front row.

MR TEO: I've called all of you here today to brief you on the idea of the Town Council Management Report.

The representatives stared at Mr Teo dauntingly, almost holding their breath.

MR TEO: This is a suggestion from the National Development Ministry and the aim of the report is to provide the residents a chance to compare their estates in areas like cleanliness of the estate, maintenance, and how funds are managed.

Soft disconcerting mumblings started among the representatives. One of the representatives held his hand up.

MR TEO: Yes?
REPRESENTIVE A (with his face winced): But Sir, those disgrateful residents are constantly disparaging us, always complaining about the slightest issue and unbelievably suspicious of how we are managing the funds! This report will turn them even more arrogant, and if you allow them to compare among the different estates, they will covet for more!
MR TEO: Yes, your worries are already anticipated. That's why the main aim of the report is for the residents to better understand the challenges and trade-offs involved in managing their town. To make them understand that there is a certain constraint as to how much resource or finance can be put in to manage the town, and that there must be a balance in expectations, the maintenance standards and the performance of town councils.

Representative A nodded and smiled with relief.

MR TEO: For every service we provide to residents, it's based on how much service charge we collect. So if the town council has only got peanuts, the residents cannot simply expect it to provide them elephants right? Hahaha...

The representatives tried to laugh politely at Mr Teo's peculiar metaphor.

MR TEO: Just like how you are using investments to manage the funds, town councils have to be managed like a corporation with profit and loss in mind. This is the most pragmatic and efficient way to run town councils.

All representatives nodded in agreement simultaneously.

MR TEO: This report would help identify areas where town councils are not doing well and where residents can give more constructive feedback.

Representative B held his hand up.

REPRESENTATIVE B (flustered): Sir, I understand that we are trying to give the residents more say in local estate matters and to foster a stronger community spirit. But consider that if you so much as to open a channel to these insolent people, our offices will be deluged with nonsensical complaints!
MR TEO: That's why I said "constructive feedback"! For every single complaint, they must provide a constructive feedback! This will ensure that, A, if for every complaint they make, they have to think of the solution first, they will think twice before they write in. B, every complaint will come with its own solution and all you have to do is to review and say "Yes" or "No"!
REPRESENTATIVE B (perplexed): "Yes" or "No"?
MR TEO: If the solution works, say "Yes, thank you, it is a good suggestion and we will put it in our POR". If the solution sucks, say "No, we're afraid it might not work, and thank you for feedback"! And if some time later the residents were to ask you why are their suggestions not implemented yet, tell them you have resource or finance constraints! Didn't I say this at the beginning of the meeting?

Representative B nodded satisfactorily. At the other side of the room, representative C held his hand up.

REPRESENTATIVE C: Sir, previously you said that for every service we provide to residents, it's based on how much service charge we collect. Does that mean if the residents require more services, we could provide these services and charge them?
MR TEO (grinning): Good! This is a very good question! And this shows that you've been listening to me! Like I said, you have to run your town councils like corporations. So if the customers are asking for more services outside of what you're providing, what do you do? Make them pay! If they think that the estate is not clean enough and getting a better cleaning vendor means paying more, tell them they need to pay more on top of that little Service & Conservancy Charges! But be careful though. If the residents are asking for the sky, like upgrading their mere twenty years old lifts, tell them it could not be done. You should know that you can only kick-start these kind of large projects with your mayor's blessing, when these upgrades are used as carrots during elections.

The representives scribbled down all the tips as Mr Teo continued to suggest more services which the residents must pay to get them.

AH LIM (whispering to Ah Tan): This report thingy seems like a wayang to please the residents and make them believe that the town councils are not aloof from them.
AH TAN (whispering back): Yah, after all those funds lost in the Lehmen Brothers investments and the seven months bonuses rumor, this report is a good suggestion.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

President Obama Speaks to the Muslim World from Egypt

President Obama Speaks to the Muslim World from Cairo, Egypt

"We meet at a time of tension between the United States and Muslims around the world - tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of coexistence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.

Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11th, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. This has bred more fear and mistrust.

So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end."

"I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. No single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. As the Holy Quran tells us, Be conscious of God and speak always the truth. That is what I will try to do - to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart."

"So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn't. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.

But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words - within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum: Out of many, one."

"The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America's goals, and our need to work together. Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaida and the Taliban with broad international support. We did not go by choice, we went because of necessity. I am aware that some question or justify the events of 9/11. But let us be clear: al Qaida killed nearly 3,000 people on that day. The victims were innocent men, women and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet Al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with.

Make no mistake: we do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We seek no military bases there. It is agonizing for America to lose our young men and women. It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict. We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case."

"Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better future - and to leave Iraq to Iraqis. I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources. Iraq's sovereignty is its own. That is why I ordered the removal of our combat brigades by next August. That is why we will honor our agreement with Iraq's democratically-elected government to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by July, and to remove all our troops from Iraq by 2012. We will help Iraq train its Security Forces and develop its economy. But we will support a secure and united Iraq as a partner, and never as a patron.

And finally, just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter our principles. 9/11 was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year."

"For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers - for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel's founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.

That is in Israel's interest, Palestine's interest, America's interest, and the world's interest. That is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience that the task requires. The obligations that the parties have agreed to under the Road Map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them - and all of us - to live up to our responsibilities."

"Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist.

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop."

"Too many tears have flowed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together."

"That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere."

"Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together. We must always examine the ways in which we protect it. For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That is why I am committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.

Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit - for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism."

"Now let me be clear, issues of women's equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, we've seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead.

Meanwhile, the struggle for women's equality continues in many aspects of American life and in countries around the world. I am convinced that our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons."

"Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur. There is so much fear, so much mistrust that has built up over the years. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith in every country. You more than anyone have the ability to reimagine the world, the remake this world.

All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart or whether we commit ourselves to an effort, a sustained effort to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children and to respect the dignity of all human beings.

It's easier to start wars than to end them. It's easier to blame others than to look inward. It's easier to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There is one rule that lies at the heart of every religion, that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us."

"We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written. The Holy Quran tells us, Mankind, we have created you male and a female. And we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.

The Talmud tells us, The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.

The Holy Bible tells us, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."

Read full text of President Obama's speech in Cairo


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Great Firewall of China blocks Twitter

When it comes to China, the word "Social Media" is equivalent to "Anarchy". No, social media definitely has nothing to do with the advancement of online Marketing and Branding. Definitely nothing to do with globalisation of businesses and news. The social media is just some tools invented by the online terrorists for brainwashing purpose, to implant evil thought into the brains of innocent people so that they oppose the country. Trust the Chinese.
China’s Great Firewall Blocks Twitter
Source: The New York Times

Days ahead of the the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square democracy movement, the Chinese government has detained a prominent dissident, disrupted satellite news broadcasts and blocked access to popular Web sites used to post information and exchange messages, including Hotmail, Flickr and Twitter. The video-sharing site YouTube has been blocked in China since March.

The China Digital Times reports that inside China some users “have found ways to circumvent” the barriers and “are reacting to the cut-off” in Chinese and English tweets collected on threads that use obscene names to wish ill upon the “GFW,” which is what Internet users call China’s “Great Firewall.”

The China Digital Times, which is based in California, also notes that just last week a well-known Chinese blogger, whose writings were barred by the Chinese government several years ago, said that Twitter’s days as a free-speech outlet were probably numbered in China. Michael Anti, who is now studying at Harvard (and is a former employee of The New York Times), told the Web site Danwei last Wednesday:

"Twitter is a new thing in China. The censors need time to figure out what it is. So enjoy the last happy days of twittering before the fate of Youtube descends on it one day."

Mr. Anti also explained that since Chinese characters in many ways contain more information than single letters in other languages, tweets can be much more powerful in Chinese:

"By the way, I want to point out that the Chinese Twitterland is funnier than the English one, for a Chinese tweet can have three times the volume of an English tweet, thanks to the high information intensity of the Chinese language. 140 Chinese characters can make up all the full elements of a news piece with the “5 Ws” (Who, What, Where, When and How). But the joy of the Chinese Twitterland is more fragile, and I hope that it will live longer in this country."

On his own bilingual Twitter feed, Mr. Anti has pointed readers in the direction of protest tweets and apologized for his prediction.

According to a report from Reuters: “While professional and urban Chinese often use foreign Internet tools, including Twitter, Hotmail and Facebook, the vast majority of Chinese use similar domestic services that are carefully monitored for any sign of content deemed subversive.”

The Financial Times reports from Beijing and Hong Kong that China has been trying to censor any mention of Tiananmen in old as well as new media outlets:

BBC News broadcasts were blacked out in Beijing on Monday night. Last Saturday’s edition of the Financial Times, which contained an interview with Bao Tong, the most prominent Tiananmen-era dissident still residing in China, was either not delivered to subscribers or censored. Mr Bao was an aide to Zhao Ziyang, the late party general secretary purged in May 1989 for opposing the violent crackdown. Copies of the International Herald Tribune and Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, which has dedicated extensive coverage to the anniversary, have been shredded. The government has censored Tiananmen-related stories on www.ftchinese.com, the FT’s Chinese language website.

Most of the information plaguing censors is flowing in from Hong Kong, one of only two Chinese special administrative regions where freedom of press and assembly is still respected.

In a post on the New Yorker’s Web site, Evan Osnos points out that one of the pleasures now being denied Chinese citizens is the latest updates from the official Twitter feed of the North Korean government.

So why are Twitter, Flickr, Hotmail, Live, and Bing joining YouTube, Blogspot, and WordPress.com (amongst countless others) to be blocked from internet users in China? Well, probably because of their taglines...

Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question the government do not wish to face: What are the people doing together to have their voices heard?

Blogspot. Your blog. Share your thoughts, photos, and more with your friends and let the world outside the country know what is not published on the national newspapers.

Youtube. Broadcast skeletons in the government's closet.

Flickr. Share photos the government do not wish the world to see. Watch what the world wanted the people in the country to see.

Windows Live Essentials gives you instant messaging, e-mail, blogging, photos, and more that the government do not wish its people to have.

Wordpress. Express yourself and expose what the officials are hiding. Start a blog.