Friday, July 31, 2009

Be grateful, S'pore

I AM writing to share many things Singaporeans take for granted.

Thanks to years of budget surpluses, when the global financial collapse hit, Singapore was able to use more money as a percentage of gross domestic product than any other country, rich or poor. Now, with its economy rebounding at a 20 per cent rate this last quarter, Singapore has recovered from the collapse faster than any other country. This is something only Singapore, with its deep pockets and years of good economic management, could pull off.

My home city, Toronto in Canada, has its rubbish collected only once a week, yet it is considered one of North America's cleaner cities. It is in the 36th day of a rubbish collectors' strike, with rubbish and foul odours on its streets and an increasingly serious problem with rats and insects. Some people even store rubbish in their refrigerators.

In Singapore, our rubbish is collected every day, no questions asked. For a $40 conservancy fee, we get a clean-up that would cost hundreds of dollars a month in the United States or Canada.

Most buildings in the US and Canada have no sheltered walkways to protect residents from rain or snow, unlike most HDB blocks. This is so even though there are Americans and Canadians who freeze to death outside in the cold every year.

Most North American cities I have lived in are cutting bus and train services just to balance their budgets. Singapore plans to add a new MRT line this year and more lines and stations over the next three years.

If a poor person lives in a building without a lift in the US or Canada, that is his tough luck. In Singapore, the Government is upgrading our four-storey HDB blocks with a new staircase and a wheelchair-friendly lift that stops at every floor.

If a poor person cannot afford to pay his mortgage in the US or Canada, he can be turfed out and left homeless. If an HDB dweller cannot pay his mortgage after he loses his job, he can seek a moratorium on payments from his community development council. This mercy, to the best of my knowledge, has no equal anywhere else in the world.

After living and working in six countries, I have known for a long time that no country takes care of its people the way Singapore does.

Eric J. Brooks

Sunday, July 26, 2009

WH3.3.4 War in Europe

  • Complete chapter summary notes on War in Europe.
Topic: Road to War in Europe
  • Understanding goals and outline can be found here.
  • Worksheet can be download here.

WH4.3.4 Revision (Stalin)

  • SBQ Practise & Review: Stalin's Rise to Power (will be given in class; to be completed in class)
  • SEQ on Russia: an overview
  • Review of Social Studies Mock
  • Check your SA1 corrections submission status here. Alert me about errors.
  • Mock exam marks will be posted here too. As and when they are available.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

How the Humanities can help you get that scholarship!

The public service is not looking for conformists and 'yes men'. It is looking for people who have a personal point of view, regardless of current policy. Even a few mavericks...will be useful because they will add vitality and diversity to the service.

What the PSC wants aside, can you see how these qualities of thought and expression are cultivated through learning the Humanities?

THIS year, of the 15,000 A-level and International Baccalaureate (IB) students in Singapore schools, more than 2,500 applied for Public Service Commission (PSC) scholarships. To arrive at a manageable number to interview, the PSC took into account their teachers' assessments, academic results and records of their co-curricular activities and community involvement programme. Eventually, some 350 applicants were picked for the interview.

Before the PSC interview, every applicant sat for psychometric tests and was interviewed by trained psychologists. The tests are meant to assess the candidate's general, verbal and numerical reasoning abilities and to give a rounded view of his psychological profile. Every candidate who sits for the psychological profile interview will be seen by PSC. The candidates themselves write a short essay on their own values. The PSC panel reads all these background papers and reports before meeting the applicants. After the interviews, which stretched over five months, the PSC eventually awarded 84 scholarships.

The 84 scholarships were awarded on merit, regardless of the background of the candidates. PSC scholarships are not bursaries given out to the less privileged. The number of scholarships given out each year depends on the number of deserving and suitable candidates, not on the economic situation.

While the outcome of the selection exercise leaves the chosen happy, more than 2,400 other students would be disappointed. A few schools would also be puzzled as to why not all their top students were selected. The PSC owes all these people an explanation.

How are scholars selected?

PSC members all share a strong sense of responsibility in ensuring that the high standards of Singapore's public service are maintained and the long-term needs of the service are met. We realise that the decisions we make will determine what kind of public sector leaders Singapore will have in 15 to 20 years' time.

If the selection of scholars is done well, many, but not all, of our Permanent Secretaries and Deputy Secretaries will be scholars. Scholar public servants can be derailed in their future careers for many reasons. Some may have poor supervisors while others may be in a bad job fit. But the PSC must share responsibility if we miss a fatal character flaw or are misled by false pretences.

First and foremost, we look at integrity. Integrity is vital because while pragmatism may be a key concept for governance in Singapore, it is dangerous to have Singapore governed by public servants who are unprincipled pragmatists.

A person's integrity is best assessed through his behaviour over a period of time. It is too complex a trait to assess through interview alone, and we depend on the schools and psychologists to give us a first cut of their reading of the candidate's integrity.

Teachers play a very important role. Their impressions matter because they have first-hand experience of the student. The PSC takes their assessments, both negative and positive, very seriously. However, they should not exaggerate the strong qualities they see in their favourite students as it could be counter- productive, raising our expectations of the candidate when the reality does not fit the hype. Nor should teachers be over-critical just because a student is a bit of a maverick. As long as they have integrity, these are talented outliers whom our system must be flexible enough to fish out eventually.

The psychologists are trained to look for signs and indicators that suggest whether or not a candidate has integrity. They can determine whether the candidate has strong values which he is not afraid to express or uphold even against peer pressure. Maintaining one's values is not the same as following rules. The person with integrity will challenge the rules if they go against his values and principles. But how he challenges the rules is also important, for it reveals how shrewd and street-savvy he is.

During the interview, we judge if what the teachers, psychologists and military officers (in case of national servicemen) say about the candidates is accurate and fair. We try to balance the different perspectives, bearing in mind that people behave and perform differently in different circumstances. We hope that our overall view is a more rounded and balanced one. The interview also gives the candidate a final chance to redeem himself if the assessments are off the mark.

The second most important quality is commitment. An 18-year-old can have an interest in a public service career, but it is almost impossible to get a fix on his commitment to the public service or loyalty to Singapore. In any case, most 18-year-olds know what they don't want, rather than what they want.

The candidate's level of commitment in serving the community serves as a proxy indicator for his commitment to the public service. How committed is he to his community involvement programme? What is his reason or motive for taking part in it? Does he truly enjoy serving the less fortunate or is he doing it primarily to make his CV look good? What reasons does he give for wanting to join the public service? Do they ring true or is he saying what he thinks we want to hear? Given his character and personality, is he likely to break his bond or stay overseas?

Some candidates think that they can demonstrate how committed they are by giving 'politically correct' answers and appearing to be pro-government. They fear that being critical of, or sceptical about, government policies or decisions will make them lose points with the PSC. Unfortunately, in attempting to second- guess the panel and seeking to give the 'correct' answer, they often end up giving the impression that they have no integrity.

There is, of course, nothing wrong about agreeing with and supporting government policy, but some candidates go to the extent of suppressing their own views in order to impress the panel. It is all right to be critical, even sceptical. Being critical means you care about our nation and want to improve things and correct what you think is wrong. Being sceptical means you are not naive and do not accept everything you read or hear.

The public service is not looking for conformists and 'yes men'. It is looking for people who have a personal point of view, regardless of current policy. Even a few mavericks - people with unconventional viewpoints who are willing to challenge assumptions - will be useful because they will add vitality and diversity to the service. We are looking for people who dare to think and question because innovation within Government is possible only when there are public servants who are willing and able to debate existing rules and policies.

The PSC is of course looking also for high quality. A person of integrity and commitment will make only a limited contribution if he does not have innate ability: the ability to analyse issues, to come up with creative ideas, to perceive opportunities, to solve problems, to motivate others, and to get things done.

But ability is not measured only by academic results. While we do select from students who are at the top in terms of academic performance, our experience shows that above a certain cut-off point, academic results cannot help us differentiate between candidates. We need to look for other qualities, such as leadership skills and ability to work with others.

When assessing a candidate's leadership skills, we are not interested only in the leadership roles he held but also what kind of a leader he is. His school record will give us an idea of what leadership posts he held. The psychologists will then probe to find out what kind of a leader the candidate is. Is he a consultative and nurturing leader or is he an assertive and task-focused one? We favour no single leadership model because the public service is looking for a diversity of leaders.

Our psychometric tests measure IQ and various facets of the candidate's personality. While IQ is generally not a bad predictor of success in life, it is not the only relevant factor, which is why some people with very high IQ do not make it in life. To assess whether a candidate has the potential to make it to the top of the public service, we need to look for non-cognitive skills as well.

EQ - the ability to understand yourself and to interact well with your environment - is increasingly recognised as a vital ingredient for successful leaders and managers. Studies have shown that successful corporate CEOs do not need to have the highest IQ, or even relevant experience, to reach the top and be successful. But without EQ, they often fail.

Why recruitment is an art

NO CANDIDATE is likely to have all the desirable traits in equal abundance. All candidates will excel in some areas and not others. It is a given that all the candidates we interview excel academically. But because candidates will vary in everything else, the PSC will have to exercise judgment in making trade-offs. This is why recruitment is an art, not a science.

The PSC must distinguish between core traits such as integrity and commitment, and traits which can be acquired over time, such as communication skills. The PSC will need to be mindful of the fact that women generally perform better in interviews; they are generally more mature (at 18 years old) and confident, and they often speak better than the men.

Candidates who come from humbler backgrounds may lack the polished exterior of their more privileged colleagues. We must look beyond appearances to determine the substance.

While we may ask tough questions in the interviews, we have no intention to deliberately trip you up. The better candidates must expect harder questions. If you walk out of the interview room thinking it is a breeze, it could well mean you have failed. We need to ask difficult questions because we are less interested in ascertaining what you know than in finding out how you think and what kind of person you are.

There is no point mugging for the interview. Appearing before the PSC is not like taking an exam. You only have half an hour and a long-winded answer is not going to help. But it is always good to show you are aware of, and have an interest in, what is going on in Singapore and in the world. Hence, please read the daily paper because invariably someone will ask you what caught your attention in that day's newspaper.

It helps if you seem to know what you want in applying to join the public service. Those who are more focused and have had internships in ministries they are interested in, have a distinct advantage over those who come before the panel and say they have no clue what the public service is all about.

You only need to be yourself, relax and feel free to express your views. We are not looking for the right answer because many of our questions have no single right answer. If you do not know something, it is better to admit your ignorance than to try to fabricate an answer. Being yourself means not attempting to be what you are not. If you fake your personality, you will tie yourself up in knots and will very soon be found out.

We are looking for an interesting conversation with you. We will begin to take notice when we hear something genuine and spontaneous being said which reflects your personality. ST25/7/09

Friday, July 24, 2009

Why did the speaker make this speech?

Watch this clip. This is the speech that inspired this article. Are you able to analyse this source for why the speaker made this speech? You can share your views in DISCUSSION. Reward? Priority marking for mock ;)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Testing Assertion SBQ

Today we went through the Testing Assertion SBQ. You can download a sample answer to this type of question here.

For practise, you shall use the History SA1 sources and attempt this question:

Study all sources.

Collectivisation in the USSR was a success. How far do these sources support this statement? Explain your answer [8]

Monday, July 20, 2009

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Peacocks in a land of wolves

Xinjiang's ethnic clashes can be traced to Han migration in droves over the last two decades.
AS MILLIONS of Han Chinese migrated to the Xinjiang region in north-western China about a decade ago, a senior government official likened the exodus to 'the peacock flying west'.

The migrating birds, said Mr Li Dezhu, head of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission, would lead to a decline in the non-Han population and this could cause ethnic friction.

But, crowed the sanguine Mr Li, such 'contradictions' would be eased with the economic development of China's West.

How wrong he was.

In a land where the wolf is regarded as a lucky omen by the native Uighurs, the Han peacock is an unwelcome bird.

'The new Han migrants are proud,' said Mr Litipu, 64, a retired Uighur engineer. 'They don't know our cultures and they just come here to take our jobs.'

Indeed, development and modernity did not turn out to be the magic formula that would unite the Han and the Uighurs in the 'greater Chinese nation'. They resulted, instead, in an inequality perceived to be race-based and favouring the Han.

Years of anger and grievances boiled over on July 5, when Xinjiang's capital Urumqi was rocked by the country's worst ethnic riots in decades. Nearly 200 people were killed and another 1,680 injured.

'Xinjiang belongs to the Xinjiang people. Han Chinese should go home,' said a young Uighur woman, who declined to give her name.

But more and more Han Chinese have been calling Xinjiang their home.

When the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) first took over the country in 1949, there were just 300,000 Han Chinese in Xinjiang, comprising 7 per cent of its population.

The Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking people who are mostly Muslim, accounted for 76 per cent.

But as China broke free from the shackles of a Maoist planned economy and allowed the freer movement of its people after 1978, many Han Chinese moved west in search of a better life.

By 2005, they were almost eight million strong, making up some 40 per cent of Xinjiang's population. The majority status of the Uighurs, who made up 45 per cent, was clearly under threat.

The Han numbers usually do not take into account the flood of migrant workers from other provinces, who are not officially registered as Xinjiang residents.

Xinjiang's communist party boss Wang Lequan told reporters in 2004 that one million labourers flocked to Xinjiang each year for the tomato and cotton harvests and that some decided to stay.

They were, no doubt, encouraged by the government's call since 1999 to 'develop the West' and by elite exhortations, such as former leader Jiang Zemin's wordplay on Mao Zedong's famous quote about the Great Wall.

'Bu dao Xinjiang, bu hao Han!' said Mr Jiang during a visit in 1990, meaning 'if you have not been to Xinjiang, you are not a good Han!'

Roads to rage

XINJIANG'S development exploded after Mr Jiang's visit. Kilometres of highways were added, airports constructed, and skyscrapers soon rivalled the mountains surrounding Urumqi.

The people prospered, with per capita gross domestic product in 2001 of almost 8,000 yuan (S$1,700), compared with 166 yuan in 1952.

In the 1990s, the Chinese government poured an estimated 900 billion yuan into the region, with a significant amount allocated to exploring energy resources.

Officials pushed the 'one white, one black' strategy, referring to cotton and oil, the twin pillars of the region's economy.

By 1998, for example, Xinjiang produced 1.5 million tonnes of cotton, up from just 55,000 tonnes 20 years earlier.

All that growth just fuelled the rage felt by the ethnic minorities, especially the Uighurs.

'Xinjiang has so much oil. We should be richer than the Saudis! But all the money has gone to the Han,' said a Uighur hawker who asked not to be named.

The Han Chinese dominate commerce with their clan networks that extend across China, and even government jobs are largely filled by them.

Said political analyst Chung Chien Peng of Hong Kong's Lingnan University: 'Many Uighurs do not speak Mandarin at all, which is usually the prerequisite for any good-paying job or government position, and many Han employers do not want to hire Uighurs.'

An ethnic Hui government official told The Straits Times that most ethnic minorities need to bribe their way into the civil service, with the going rate for an entry-level job at about 20,000 yuan.

'The crux of the problem is jobs. We are very easily satisfied. We just want our children to have jobs,' said an elderly Uighur.

'Our university graduates shine shoes and sell kebabs. They can't afford to buy their own homes and so can't get married. Are you surprised that they are angry?'

While all Uighurs interviewed conceded that two decades of development have raised their living standards, they also felt that the much higher cost of living these days has priced them out of their own land.

Property prices in Urumqi are now about 3,500 yuan per sq m on average, 10 times the rate in the early 1990s.

Even the price of lamb has spiked, with some Uighurs now unable to afford it during Korban, when sheep are commonly slaughtered as sacrifice.

'People have switched to chickens or pigeons,' said Mr Litipu.

Some experts believe that Beijing needs to change its thinking.

'The leadership must realise that many Uighurs and Tibetans are resentful of the Han not because they want to separate but because they feel discriminated against, and they want more respect and better economic opportunities,' said analyst Jiang Wenran of the University of Alberta.

'Beijing needs to think hard about how to deal with frustrations regarding inequality, a widening distribution gap and perceived injustice rather than purely focusing on 'separatist activities',' he added.

In fact, Uighurs whom The Straits Times spoke to never mentioned 'independence' or 'separation'. Most of them were concerned only about bread- and-butter issues.

The Han strike back

BUT ask the Han Chinese in Urumqi about income inequality and they never fail to attribute it to the Uighurs' laziness or lack of business acumen.

'They pay less tax and can have more than one child. Their children get 10 to 20 extra points during the university entrance exams. Government policies favour them more than us. But they are lazy,' said a Han taxi-driver, surnamed Zheng.

'Han shops open at 8am, but the Uighurs open theirs later. The Han people are better businessmen, getting better prices and selling products which are more popular.'

A persistent sentiment among the Han Chinese is that the Uighurs are ungrateful even though their lives have improved.

'They used to live in mud huts. Now they live in concrete buildings. Urumqi has developed so much. I don't know why they are unhappy,' said a retired worker, Mr Yi Kangzhan, 68.

'Labour migration exacerbates underlying ethnic tensions,' Professor Dru Gladney of the Pomona College in California, an expert on Muslims in China, said in a telephone interview.

This has created unhappiness that cuts both ways. Uighurs are discomfited by the large presence of Han Chinese in their midst, while the Han resent the Uighurs for enjoying what they see as the government's bias towards ethnic minorities.

When wolves leave home

TO MAKE matters worse, Uighurs have in recent years begun to venture out of Xinjiang as part of a government labour export drive to raise their wages and facilitate assimilation.

Since 2002, they have travelled to coastal provinces such as Shandong and Guangdong, taking up factory jobs that pay them two to three times more than in Xinjiang.

Some Uighurs left willingly but others were reportedly forced to go after local officials threatened them with fines.

As with many policies in China, implementation often takes on a draconian bent despite the policy's benevolent intentions.

The July 5 riots can be traced to clashes between Han and Uighur factory workers far away in southern Guangdong which led to two Uighur deaths.

'Han Chinese are going to Xinjiang for jobs while the government needs to take Uighurs across the country for work. That's very bizarre,' said Prof Gladney.

'There must have been resentment that Uighurs were getting jobs when Guangdong people were losing theirs.'

The obvious solution would be to restrict the migration of both Han and Uighur workers. But observers acknowledge that it would be tough to impose such barriers.

'The Han see that as citizens of China, they can go anywhere within the country. But their presence in large numbers causes resentment in Tibet, Xinjiang and even in Inner Mongolia,' said Professor Stevan Harrell of the University of Washington, an expert on China's ethnic minorities.

'But at least the government should not appear to be encouraging large-scale Han migration (into these regions) or providing economic incentives (for Han to do so).'

In all likelihood, the peacocks would continue to fly west.

But until the Chinese government makes real improvements to the daily bread-and-butter concerns of the Uighurs, Xinjiang would remain a hostile land to these Han birds. ST18/07/09

Friday, July 17, 2009

SS4.3.3 Revision (Healthcare)

  • Submit Social Studies SA1 corrections (if you have not done so).
  • Submit History SA1 corrections.
  • Healthcare SBQ
  • Deterrence & Diplomacy SEQ

Friday, July 10, 2009

Scream that sparked widespread violence

BEIJING: A teenage factory worker whose rumoured sexual assault last month is said to have sparked violence in Xinjiang, said yesterday that the incident was nothing more than an 'unintentional scream'.

'I was lost and entered the wrong dormitory and screamed when I saw those Uighur young men in the room. I just felt they were unfriendly so I turned and ran.'

Violence broke out at a Guangdong toy factory on June 26 after word spread that a Han Chinese girl had been sexually attacked by a Uighur worker.

But the alleged victim, factory trainee Huang Cuiling, 18, now says nothing of the sort happened to her.

The rural Guangdong native had been working at the factory for less than two months when she had an encounter with some Uighur workers on June 26.

Recalling what happened, she told the official Xinhua news agency yesterday: 'I was lost and entered the wrong dormitory and screamed when I saw those Uighur young men in the room.'

She said she had no idea why she was terrified. 'I just felt they were unfriendly so I turned and ran.'

She remembered that one of the men stood up and stamped his feet, as if he was about to chase her.

'I later realised that he was just making fun of me,' she said.

She spent the night with a school teacher who had accompanied her and some schoolmates to find jobs, unaware that her 'unintentional scream' had sparked clashes between hundreds of Han and Uighur workers at the factory.

Over 400 policemen were called in to break up the fight, which left 120 workers injured. Two Uighurs later died.


SS3.3.3 Conflict in Multi-ethnic societies

Double period:
  • Review of SEQ skills for CA2.
Triple period:
  • SBQ on Northern Ireland: Answering Reliability Questions.

SS4.3.3 Venice

Double period:
  • Nation Builder quiz! (this is not a test).
Triple period:
  • History Mock SEQ

Thursday, July 09, 2009

As vigilantes roam Urumqi, brutality reigns

URUMQI: She tapped me on the shoulder and said: 'You are a reporter? Interview me. I have things to tell the world.'

As I reached for my notebook, tears were already streaming down the face of toilet cleaner Zhu Xinqin, 60.

'Forty years in Xinjiang and I have never seen this. My neighbours are Uighurs and they treat me like their mother,' said the white-haired Han Chinese woman, who came to this far western region of China with her soldier husband decades ago.

'My heart hurts. It pains me. I saw what happened. First, the Uighurs attacked the Han Chinese. Then, the Han Chinese attacked the Uighurs,' she said.

The toilet she cleans is situated strategically at the South Gate, the scene of violent clashes on both Sunday and Tuesday.

'Please stop, please stop fighting,' pleaded Madam Zhu. 'Let's live a peaceful life. Peace did not come easily, let's not waste it like this.'

But the fighting continued in Urumqi yesterday, with a brutality I had not witnessed first-hand until now.

When I was visiting the Uighur quarters yesterday morning to look at the damage caused by Tuesday's riots, a roar erupted from the adjacent Liberation South Road.

I ran out and saw a dozen Han Chinese men armed with makeshift weapons breaking through a police barricade and charging at a group of Muslim Uighurs.

An Uighur woman screamed, but she and the Uighur men managed to flee, averting what might have been a bloody clash right next to a mosque.

'You saw how easily those men got through? The Han Chinese and the police are in cahoots. They belong to the same family,' 26-year-old lyricist Aikbar Mamuti told me.

The paramilitary, which was supposed to stop the two ethnic groups from attacking each other, did little. They did not pursue the men either.

I thought that menacing scene was awful enough, but worse was to follow.

In the afternoon, groups of Han Chinese vigilantes standing along the streets were clearly baying for blood. On sighting a possible Uighur, some of the men would rush towards the person, shouting for revenge.

If they discovered that the person was not an Uighur, they let him go. One time, they took out their frustration on foreign journalists, threatening to beat up those who were filming or taking photographs.

At about 3pm, the vigilantes found what they were looking for - a hapless Uighur.

They chased him, caught him, pushed him down by the side of the road and began punching and kicking him. At least one of the attackers used a stick to clobber him.

There were security forces barely 80m away, but they made no effort to intervene or stop the attack until the Uighur was blood-stained and lying motionless.

When the paramilitary officers formed a ring around the victim, who was still breathing, the attackers refused to move away. Instead, they berated the officers for going to the Uighur's rescue.

'They killed so many of ours!' shouted one woman.

A teenage boy, ignoring the men in uniform, walked up and threw an empty water bottle at the floored Uighur.

The crowd cheered the youngster as if he were a football star who had just scored a goal. The teenager walked away.

The officers did nothing.

Mr Aikbar, the young lyricist I had met earlier in the day, told me: 'The Han Chinese and the Uighurs used to live peacefully together. But it is very difficult to find reconciliation now. The heart has been broken.'

After what I saw yesterday, I knew exactly what he meant.

And the better times that Madam Zhu recounted to me with tears in her eyes might well remain only memories of the good old days. - ST 9 Jul 09

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Ex-US defence secretary McNamara dies at 93

WASHINGTON: Former US defence secretary Robert S. McNamara, who was vilified for prosecuting America's most controversial war and then devoted himself to helping the world's poorest nations, died at home yesterday. He was 93.

His wife Diana told The Associated Press that he had been in failing health for some time and died in his sleep.

Known as a policymaker with a fixation for statistical analysis, Mr McNamara, then 44, was recruited to run the Pentagon by then President John F. Kennedy in 1961 from the presidency of Ford Motor. He became the youngest US defence secretary, and stayed seven years - the longest since the job's creation in 1947.

Mr McNamara oversaw the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion, an attempt to topple Fidel Castro's communist regime in Cuba. In 1968, he cited the mission, which ended in the killing, capture or surrender of the entire invading force, as his biggest regret in office.

But, he was fundamentally associated with the Vietnam War, the country's most disastrous foreign venture and the only American war to end in abject withdrawal rather than victory.

Recognisable to a generation of Americans for his slicked-back hairstyle and wire-rimmed eyeglasses, Mr McNamara eventually became disillusioned with the Vietnam conflict, finding himself at loggerheads with the commanders of a war that killed 58,000 US soldiers and more than three million Vietnamese.

His association with Vietnam became intensely personal. Even his son, as a university student, protested against the war while his father was running it. Once, at Harvard University, Mr McNamara had to flee a student mob through tunnels.

After leaving the Pentagon on the verge of a nervous breakdown, Mr McNamara became president of the World Bank, where he served for 12 years. He tripled its loans to developing countries and changed its emphasis from grandiose industrial projects to rural development.

After retiring in 1981, he championed the causes of nuclear disarmament and aid for the world's poorest nations.


Monday, July 06, 2009

How did Roddick lose?

Roddick could not have done more. Thirty-eight times he stepped up for a service game on Centre Court. Thirty-seven times he succeeded.

The one time he didn't, the greatest player in history stepped in to break the American's heart and leave his career in an agonizing limbo.

Such is the life of Andy Roddick. His is an existence where being good, and sometimes great, is just not enough. Read more...

How liveable a city is S'pore?

Depending on who you read, Singapore is either the 18th, 26th or 54th most liveable city in the world. It is ranked 18th, 26th and 54th in different surveys. But such indexes reflect expat, not local, life

In the latest issue of global affairs magazine Monocle, Singapore is ranked 18th in its annual Top 25 Most Liveable Cities 2009 index, above Montreal, Kyoto and Geneva. Zurich was top, followed by Copenhagen and Tokyo.

Yet, barely a month ago, global business intelligence company The Economist Intelligence Unit placed Singapore in 54th spot, out of 140 cities, in its annual liveability ranking, behind Osaka and Hong Kong and ahead of Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta.

In international consulting firm Mercer's quality of living survey published in April, Singapore finished in the 26th spot - the highest placing among Asian cities including Tokyo.

What is one to make of the different rankings since they all purport to tell people the same thing: which cities are better or worse to live in, using criteria such as housing, health-care services and public infrastructure.

While all three rankings have the same objective, they use slightly different criteria.

The Economist Intelligence Unit - the business information arm of The Economist Group, publisher of the international affairs magazine, The Economist - assesses the living conditions in 140 cities around the world. It assigns a rating for over 30 qualitative and quantitative factors across five broad categories - stability, health care, culture and environment, education and infrastructure.

Mercer's rankings are also based on a point-scoring index and cover 215 cities which are analysed according to 39 factors, grouped in 10 categories.

These categories are political and social environment, economic environment, socio-cultural environment, health and sanitation, education, public services and transportation, recreation, consumer goods, and housing and natural environment.

Monocle goes beyond hard economic data and includes 'soft' factors such as hours of sunshine, ease of opening a business and a city's tolerance of alternative lifestyles.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

SS4.3.2 Venice & History Practise

Double period: Venice SEQ Test
4F: your double was today, today was a school holiday, so you do this as assignment.
4D: your double is on Wed, so you do the Venice SEQ under "test" conditions.
Ernie, Bih & Linchun: hope this answers.

Triple period: World History Practise Exam
  • To complete 1SBQ & 1 SEQ (unattempted questions) in 1hr 30mins
4F: do this "mock" on Tue triple. You're probably asleep by the time this gets posted.
4D: do this "mock" on Wed triple. You're lucky, you'll see this tomorrow/today.

SS3.3.2 Conflict in Northern Ireland

Essential Question: How does the lack of good governance lead to inter-ethnic conflicts?

Understanding Goals:
1. Causes of conflict in Northern Ireland
2. Effectiveness of attempts to resolve the conflicts.

1. Chapter outline on the conflict in Northern Ireland can be found here.
2. Chapter slides can be found here.
3. Find out more about the Troubles below:

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Forget bottled water, tap water as good as it gets

By Tommy Koh & Leong Ching

WATER is a common but very precious asset. Without water, human beings cannot survive. Without water, the planet's ecosystem, which sustains life, will be destroyed. Without water, there will be no agriculture and no industry. Without water, life on planet Earth will perish.

We regard the right of a person to safe and affordable water as a basic human right. It is a great shame that, at the beginning of the 21st century, about one billion out of six billion people do not enjoy this right. In Asia, about 700 million people do not have access to safe and affordable water.

In Singapore, all citizens have access to clean water at an affordable price. The water from our taps is safe to drink. In recent years, partly because of our growing affluence and partly because of the influence of the West, Singaporeans are drinking more and more bottled water. In 2007, Singaporeans spent $98.3 million on bottled water, an increase of 80 per cent over 10 years.

We want to start a campaign to persuade Singaporeans to drink tap water instead of bottled water, whenever possible. The following are our reasons.

First, it is a waste of your money. Bottled water is more expensive than petrol. For one bottle of water you buy off the shelf (at 50 cents), you can get 850 bottles off the tap (at $1.17 per cubic metre).

Second, the tap water is as safe as bottled water. In Singapore, the water in our taps is safe to drink and subjected to daily checks. Health-wise, there is no difference between drinking tap water and bottled water. On the contrary, tests in the United States have shown that sometimes harmful chemicals, such as bisphenol-A (BPA), can leach from bottled water. Other tests in the US have shown that expensive bottled water is no better than tap water.

Third, bottled water uses energy unnecessarily. To make water bottles, you need polyethylene terephthalate or PET, a derivative of crude oil. In the US, 1.5 million barrels of oil are used each year just to make bottles for the water industry. This is enough oil to power 100,000 cars for a year.

Fourth, bottled water is bad for the environment. In Singapore, most of the bottles are not recycled but incinerated. This uses energy and produces carbon dioxide, adding to our carbon emission. Some bottled water travels great distances to Singapore. We are importing bottled water from as far away as France, Italy, Fiji and Serbia. Transport consumes energy and produces carbon dioxide. This is another reason bottled water is not a friend of the environment.

Fifth, you should drink tap water because it is the right thing to do. We can understand the need to drink bottled water in places where the tap water is unsafe to drink.

In Singapore, there is no good reason to drink bottled water. It costs you more, but it does not make you healthier. It is unfriendly to the environment.

By all means boil your water if that makes you feel better, but please do not buy or serve bottled water if you can help it. If a waiter asks you, 'still water or bubbly water', you should politely say you prefer PUB water.