Tag Archives: international news

don’t take peace for granted

 

Hamas and Israel start on a truce today.  One of those stories that repeat so often in the papers that they can hardly be classified as news.

 

This truce pertains to the Gaza Strip.  General skepticism over whether it will last is captured in Israeli Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit’s comment.  “The idea is a complete ceasefire – no fire from anyone… if there is any violation of the agreement, the government is free to return to act with full force.”, he said.

 

His emphasis that there should be ‘no fire from anyone’ underscores how unlikely it is for all not to fire.  Imagine persevering in a place like that!

 

In the civil environment that the rest of us live in, we swarm ourselves with various other concerns.  But if we pause to think about the constant terror and fear that common Palestinians and Israelis are subjected to, our daily concerns pale by comparison.

 

Peace is one of those things that we ought to be thankful for.

 

 

exchanging food for energy (part II)

 It is interesting that Malaysia PM Abdullah Badawi urged participants of the World Economic Forum (WEF) to think again on the shift towards biofuel production (from food production).

 

Maybe he has neglected to look at his own backyard.

 

When 30 years ago, you got to enjoy paddy fields, buffaloes, kampongs, rubber plantations, tin mines, cliffs and forests along the country roads, today, you see nothing but palm oil plantations along the North-South Highway. 

 

On a flight from Singapore to KL, you will marvel at the endless sea of uniform palm greenery below.

 

Back in the 60’s, Malaysia was self-sufficient where rice was concern.  Today, it imports 30% of the staple grain. 

 

The ongoing food shortage is a wake up call.  That is where PM Badawi is coming from in his address to the WEF. 

 

His government has recently decided to encourage rice farming on a massive scale again.  It has identified the East Malaysian state of Sarawak for the purpose, and the state is supportive in providing more land.

 

Sound policy it is.  The next question then, is where the land will come from.  Will biofuel production hectares be converted, or will it involve clearing of more forests yet?

 

*related article here

 

 

living up to a personal sacrifice

 South Korea President Lee Myung Bak was elected into office in a landslide victory.

 

Three months into governance, the tide has turned.  His decision to resume import of US beef against public concern over mad cow disease triggered major protests so serious that his cabinet offers to resign.

 

The issue with beef import was only the straw that broke the camel’s back.  The crux of the matter it seems lies in the President’s CEO style of governance – he hardly hears the voices of the people.

 

The turn of events is disappointing.  I was rather impressed when he pledged in March to donate all 5 years of his presidential salary to charity.

 

 

Maybe his arrogance and confidence have got to do with this very pledge.  His work now becomes a personal sacrifice for the nation, thereby justifying his calling the shots any which way he alone deems fit.

 

 

 

saudi arabia’s concerns amidst favorable oil prices

 The way oil price increases, it scares even oil producing nations who stand to gain from it for now.

 

Saudi Arabia says the hikes are not justifiable given that the market has sufficient supplies.  It is calling for a meeting among oil producing nations, consuming nations and oil companies spanning the supply chain, to discuss how to deal with it.

 

The Saudi’s official concern is that spiraling oil prices ‘could affect the world economy’.  I think they are also worried about how the phenomena could backfire against oil rich countries in the long run.

 

Everyone is now driven to research and invest in renewable forms of energy.  Dependency on oil aside, these alternatives also hold promises of cleaner environments.

 

One day they might just make oil obsolete.

innovation in sports?

 All the hype about Speedo’s LZR Racer swim suit makes one wonder where the sport is heading.

 

38 swimmers wearing the suit have set new records since its introduction in February.  Just yesterday, Kosuke Kitajima clocked 2min 7.51sec at the Japan Open to break the world record for men’s 200m breaststroke.

 

You see, the Speedo design is stealing the thunder from the athletes. 

 

Yet, some athletes actually swear by it.  Singapore’s 18-year-old Tao Li, who set a new record for 200m butterfly at the National Championships yesterday, said “I feel more confident when I swim in the suit, but the most important factor is still training hard.”

 

The unfortunate trend is that the sport is now as much about product superiority as it is about sportsmanship.

 

To level the playing field again, sports councils ought to take a leaf from beauty pageants –  they make contestants parade in gowns of similar design. 

 

But then again, sportswear is but one of various forms of performance enhancement means.

 

 

 

best practices, not age-old ones

 

 Last year, a B-52 bomber flew six cruise missiles armed with nuclear warheads across the US.  US Air Force officials had known nothing about that for 36 hours.

 

Then in March this year, it was discovered that nuclear warhead triggers had been shipped by mistake to Taiwan 17 months before, for what should have been helicopter batteries.

 

These successive Air Force blunders cost Chief of Staff Michael Moseley and Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne their jobs.

 

Commenting on the dismissals, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates pointed out that although problems in securing arsenal are not new – since decades ago, in fact – the current leadership should have identified and corrected them.

 

Actions, or lack thereof, that have established as age-old practices are not necessarily right.  Or safe. 

 

The notion itself of not fixing something if it is not broken ought to be re-examined in this light.

sinking city

I used to associate direct use of groundwater with the rural areas and farms.  Wells, I thought, were a thing of the past.

 

In Jakarta, however, it is the factories, the hotels and the wealthy residents who draw water from wells.

 

The existing water utility companies are not coping with the demand from the city’s 14 million dwellers.  So, those with deep pockets dig even deeper wells to supplement their water needs.

 

This picture from wikipedia illustrates groundwater.

 The lowering level of groundwater, coupled with the piling developments on the surface, causes the city to sink.  If the estimates are correct, Jakarta will be underwater by 2025.

 

It doesn’t help that Jakarta is a coastal city.  The rising sea level from climate change will only aggravate the matter.

 

Just yesterday, parts of the city were inundated by a tidal wave brought about by astronomical interactions.