Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Myanmar junta 'dense' but who cares? Their children are rich.

SINGAPORE - A CLASSIFIED US document released by WikiLeaks cites Singapore statesman Lee Kuan Yew as calling Myanmar's junta leaders 'stupid' and 'dense.'

A confidential briefing on a 2007 conversation between former Prime Minister Lee and US officials was released by WikiLeaks this week.

It quoted Mr Lee as saying that dealing with Myanmar's military regime was like 'talking to dead people.'

Ambassador Patricia L. Herbold wrote that Mr Lee said China had the most influence over Myanmar's leadership of any foreign country.

Mr Lee also says China is worried the country could 'blow up,' which would threaten Chinese investments.
IN THE same 2007 exchanges with US officials, MM Lee thought one possible solution to the crisis in Myanmar would be for a group of younger military officers who were less 'obtuse' to step forward and recognise that the current situation was untenable.

They could share power with the democracy activists, although probably not with Aung San Suu Kyi, who was anathema to the military. It would be a long process.

He said that Myanmar's ambassador in Singapore had told MFA that Myanmar could 'survive any sanctions' due to its natural resources.

Mr Lee said dealing with the regime was like 'talking to dead people'.

Moore on Wikileaks

'All I ask is that you not be naive about how the government works when it decides to go after its prey. Please - never, ever believe the 'official story',' he said, adding that guilty or innocent, Assange has the right to defend himself.

Moore also offered 'the assistance of my website, my servers, my domain names and anything else I can do to keep WikiLeaks alive and thriving as it continues its work to expose the crimes that were concocted in secret and carried out in our name and with our tax dollars.'

'Openness, transparency - these are among the few weapons the citizenry has to protect itself from the powerful and the corrupt... and that is the best thing that WikiLeaks has done,' Moore said. Supporting WikiLeaks, he concluded, is 'a true act of patriotism. Period'.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Chernobyl open to tourists in 2011

KIEV (Ukraine) - WANT a better understanding of the world's worst nuclear disaster? Come tour the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.


Beginning next year, Ukraine plans to open up the sealed zone around the Chernobyl reactor to visitors who wish to learn more about the tragedy that occurred nearly a quarter of a century ago, the Emergency Situations Ministry said Monday.

Chernobyl's reactor No. 4 exploded on April 26, 1986, spewing radiation over a large swath of northern Europe. Hundreds of thousands of people were resettled from areas contaminated with radiation fallout in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. Related health problems still persist.

The so-called exclusion zone, a highly contaminated area within a 30-mile (48-kilometre) radius of the exploded reactor, was evacuated and sealed off in the aftermath of the explosion. All visits were prohibited.

Today, about 2,500 employees maintain the remains of the now-closed nuclear plant, working in shifts to minimise their exposure to radiation. Several hundred evacuees have returned to their villages in the area despite a government ban. A few firms now offer tours to the restricted area, but the government says those tours are illegal and their safety is not guaranteed.

Emergency Situations Ministry spokesman Yulia Yershova said experts are developing travel routes that will be both medically safe and informative for Ukrainians as well as foreign visitors. She did not give an exact date when the tours were expected to begin.

*'There are things to see there if one follows the official route and doesn't stray away from the group,' Ms Yershova told The Associated Press. 'Though it is a very sad story.'

*The ministry also said on Monday it hopes to finish building a new safer shell for the exploded reactor by 2015. The new shelter will cover the original iron-and-concrete structure hastily built over the reactor that has been leaking radiation, cracking and threatening to collapse.

*The new shell is 345 feet tall, 853 feet wide and 490 feet long. It weighs 20,000 tons and will be slid over the old shelter using rail tracks. The new structure will be big enough to house the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris or the Statue of Liberty in New York.

*The overall cost of project, financed by international donors, has risen from US$505 million (S$659.5 million) to US$1.15 billion because of stricter safety requirements, according to Ukrainian officials.

*The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which manages the project, said a final estimate of the project's cost will be released after the French-led consortium Novarka finalises a construction plan in the next few months.
-- AP


-- AP

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Look who's 'above the law' in China

Brutal cases involving kids of rich and powerful officials raise concerns of social unrest
By Peh Shing Huei, China Bureau Chief


BEIJING: A young man bumped his red Mazda 6 into an elderly woman, got out to scold her and then decided to inflict more pain by beating her up as well. 'I can even kill you. I have money. I would rather kill you and compensate you for it,' he shouted at the hapless woman.



Thousands of onlookers in north-eastern Changchun city quickly surrounded Mr Jiang Xiaozhu, according to local media, and ransacked his car before he was rescued by the police on Sunday.

An online background search for Mr Jiang, nicknamed 'police uniform man' because of what he was wearing, was quickly launched by netizens, whom the Chinese refer to as 'human flesh search engine'.

It revealed the 27-year-old to be a son of a local government official. His father is believed to be a county official and his father-in-law belongs to the same county's security forces.

Mr Jiang, an employee in a state tobacco firm, is what the Chinese refer derogatorily to as guan er dai, or the offspring of officials.

This unofficial clan of young Chinese are rich, arrogant and seemingly above the law because their parents are powerful and wealthy local officials.

And in recent weeks, public anger towards this privileged group has hit a high, largely because of several brutal incidents.

The most infamous involved the son of a senior police official in northern Hebei province who, when caught fleeing a fatal car accident in October, shouted: 'My dad is Li Gang!'

His words went viral on the Internet and have become the country's newest catchphrase, used in jokes, poems and even art installations.

But the phenomenon is not funny. These privileged young people have come to embody the qualities that ordinary Chinese hate about the authorities - corrupt, violent and lawless.

Experts believe that if the trend is left unchecked, it may lead to large-scale social unrest.

'With more and more of these guan er dai abusing their power, the people would have less faith in the ruling party, seeing it as a feudal organisation,' said anti-graft analyst Lin Zhe from the Central Party School.

'It would be a threat to social stability... Such things build up bit by bit, before exploding. Once the people revolt, it will be too late.'

Unhappiness with abuse of power by these guan er dai has boiled over in the past. Corruption by so-called 'princelings', children of top Chinese Communist Party leaders, was a key factor which led to the Tiananmen protests in 1989.

'The officials today are even greedier than the old cadres of the 1980s,' said Professor Lin. 'They want money, sex, government positions, academic titles, you name it. And not only do they plunder for themselves, they do it for their sons and daughters too.'

Indeed, guan er dai are also believed to get plum government jobs because of their parents' connections.

In Pingnan county, southern Fujian province, for example, the employment requirements for a finance department position were so specific and detailed that only one applicant fulfilled them last month. She was the county party secretary's daughter.

And in north-west Ningxia region, the son of two officials edged out 487 applicants for a civil service job despite allegedly not having completed his examination papers during the entrance exam.

Law professor Zhang Min from Renmin University said that if most people believe officialdom is beyond their reach and is reserved for only the children of officials, the people's hatred of officials would intensify.

'Such hatred would coalesce into a frightening force,' he wrote on the People's Daily website.

'And history tells us that once such a force has been formed, there is little chance of peace in the world.'

shpeh@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Lina Miao

A LOSS OF CONFIDENCE FOR RULING PARTY

'With more and more of these guan er dai abusing their power, the people would have less faith in the ruling party, seeing it as a feudal organisation.'

Anti-graft analyst Lin Zhe from the Central Party School. 'Guan er dai' refers to the offspring of officials.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Stories too good to bother checking up

ON NOV 4, journalist Anderson Cooper did the US a favour. He expertly deconstructed on his CNN show the bogus rumour that President Barack Obama's trip to Asia would cost US$200 million (S$260 million) a day.


This was an important 'story'. It underscored just how far ahead of his time Mark Twain was when he said a century before the Internet: 'A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.'

But it also showed that there is an antidote to malicious journalism - and that is good journalism.

In case you missed it, a story circulating around the Web on the eve of President Obama's trip said it would cost US taxpayers US$200 million a day - about US$2 billion for the entire trip.

Mr Cooper said he felt impelled to check it out because the evening before, he had Representative of Minnesota Michele Bachmann, a Republican and Tea Party favourite, on his show and had asked her where exactly the Republicans will cut the budget. Instead of giving specifics, Ms Bachmann used her airtime to inject a phony story into the mainstream.

She answered: 'I think we know that just within a day or so, the President of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers US$200 million a day. He's taking 2,000 people with him. He'll be renting over 870 rooms in India, and these are five-star hotel rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel. This is the kind of over-the-top spending.'

The next night, Mr Cooper explained that he felt compelled to trace that story back to its source, since someone had used his show to circulate it.

His research, he said, found that it had originated from a quote by 'an alleged Indian provincial official', from the Indian state of Maharashtra, 'reported by India's Press Trust... I say 'alleged' provincial official', Mr Cooper added, 'because we have no idea who this person is, no name was given'.

It is hard to get any more flimsy than a senior unnamed Indian official from Maharashtra talking about the cost of an Asian trip by the American President.

'It was an anonymous quote,' said Mr Cooper. 'Some reporter in India wrote this article with this figure in it. No proof was given; no follow-up reporting was done. Now, you'd think if a member of Congress was going to use this figure as a fact, she would want to be pretty darn sure it was accurate, right? But there hasn't been any follow-up reporting on this Indian story. The Indian article was picked up by the Drudge Report and other sites online, and it quickly made its way onto conservative talk radio.'

Mr Cooper then showed the following snippets - Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh talking about Mr Obama's trip: 'In two days from now, he'll be in India at US$200 million a day.'

Then Mr Glenn Beck, on his radio show, saying: 'Have you ever seen the President, ever seen the President go over for a vacation where you needed 34 warships, US$2 billion - US$2 billion, 34 warships. We are sending - he's travelling with 3,000 people.'

In Mr Beck's rendition, Mr Obama's official state visit to India became 'a vacation' accompanied by one-tenth of the US Navy. Ditto for conservative radio talk show host Michael Savage. He said: 'US$200 million? US$200 million each day on security and other aspects of this incredible royalist visit; 3,000 people, including secret service agents.'

Mr Cooper then added: 'Again, no one really seemed to care to check the facts. For security reasons, the White House doesn't comment on the logistics of presidential trips, but they have made an exception this time.'

He then quoted White House press secretary Robert Gibbs as saying: 'I am not going to go into how much it costs to protect the President, (but this trip) is comparable to when President Bill Clinton and when President George W. Bush travelled abroad. This trip doesn't cost US$200 million a day.'

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said: 'I will take the liberty this time of dismissing as absolutely absurd, this notion that somehow we were deploying 10 per cent of the navy and some 34 ships and an aircraft carrier in support of the President's trip to Asia. That's just comical. Nothing close to that is being done.'

Mr Cooper also pointed out that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the entire war effort in Afghanistan was costing about US$190 million a day and that former president Bill Clinton's 1998 trip to Africa - with 1,300 people and of a roughly similar duration and cost, according to the Government Accountability Office and adjusted for inflation, was 'about US$5.2 million a day'.

When widely followed public figures feel free to say anything, without any fact-checking, we have a problem.

It becomes impossible for a democracy to think intelligently about big issues - deficit reduction, health care, taxes, energy/climate - let alone act on them.

Facts, opinions and fabrications just blend together. But the carnival barkers that so dominate America's public debate today are not going away - and neither is the Internet.

All you can hope is that more people will do what Mr Cooper did - so when the next crazy lie races around the world, people's first instinct will be to doubt it, not repeat it.

Thomas Friedman. NEW YORK TIMES

80 years on, Stalin's world is still with us

EIGHTY years ago, in the autumn of 1930, Joseph Stalin enforced a policy that changed the course of history, and led to tens of millions of deaths across the decades and around the world. In a violent and massive campaign of 'collectivisation', he brought Soviet agriculture under state control.


Stalin pursued collectivisation despite the massive resistance that had followed when he first tried to introduce the policy the previous spring. The Soviet leadership had relied then upon shootings and deportations to the Gulag to pre-empt opposition. Yet Soviet citizens resisted in large numbers. Kazakh nomads fled to China, Ukrainian farmers to Poland.

In the autumn, the shootings and deportations resumed, complemented by economic coercion. Individual farmers were taxed until they entered the collective, and collective farms were allowed to seize individual farmers' seed grain, used to plant the next year's harvest.

Once the agricultural sector of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics (USSR) was collectivised, the hunger began. By depriving peasants of their land and making them de facto state employees, collective farming allowed Moscow to control people as well as their produce.

Yet control is not creation. It proved impossible to make Central Asian nomads into productive farmers in a single growing season. Beginning in 1930, some 1.3 million people starved in Kazakhstan as their meagre crops were requisitioned according to central directives.

In Ukraine, the harvest failed in 1931. The reasons were many: poor weather, pests, shortages of animal power after peasants slaughtered livestock rather than lose it to the collective, shortages of tractors, the shooting and deportation of the best farmers, and the disruption of sowing and reaping caused by collectivisation itself.

'How can we be expected to build the socialist economy,' asked a Ukrainian peasant, 'when we are all doomed to hunger?' We now know, after 20 years of studying Soviet documents, that in 1932 Stalin knowingly transformed the collectivisation famine in Ukraine into a campaign of politically motivated starvation. Stalin presented the crop failure as a sign of Ukrainian national resistance, requiring firmness rather than concessions.

As famine spread that summer, Stalin refined his explanation: Hunger was sabotage; local communist activists were the saboteurs, protected by higher authorities, and all were paid by foreign spies. In the autumn of 1932, the Kremlin issued a series of decrees that guaranteed mass death. One of them cut off all supplies to communities that failed to make their grain quotas.

Meanwhile, the communists took whatever food they could find, as one peasant remembered, 'down to the last little grain', and in early 1933 the borders of Soviet Ukraine were sealed so that the starving could not seek help. Dying peasants harvested the spring crops under watchtowers.

More than five million people starved to death or died of hunger-related disease in the USSR in the early 1930s, 3.3 million of them in Ukraine, of which about three million would have survived had Stalin simply ceased requisitions and exports for a few months and granted people access to grain stores.

These events remain at the centre of East European politics to this day. Each November, Ukrainians commemorate the victims of 1933. But Mr Viktor Yanukovich, the current Ukrainian president, denies the special suffering of the Ukrainian people - a nod to Russia's official historical narrative, which seeks to blur the particular evils of collectivisation into a tragedy so vague that it has no clear perpetrators or victims.

Mr Rafal Lemkin, the Polish-Jewish lawyer who established the concept of 'genocide' and invented the term, would have disagreed: He called the Ukrainian famine a classic case of Soviet genocide. As Mr Lemkin knew, terror followed famine: Peasants who survived hunger and the Gulag became Stalin's next victims. The Great Terror of 1937-1938 began with a shooting campaign - directed chiefly against peasants - that claimed 386,798 lives across the Soviet Union, a disproportionate number of them in Ukraine.

Collectivisation casts a long shadow. When Nazi Germany invaded the western Soviet Union, the Germans kept the collective farms intact, rightly seeing them as the instrument that would allow them to divert Ukrainian food for their own purposes, and starve whom they wished.

After Mao Zedong made his revolution in China in 1949, Chinese communists followed the Stalinist model of development. This meant that some 30 million Chinese starved to death in 1958-1961, in a famine very similar to that in the Soviet Union. Maoist collectivisation, too, was followed by mass shooting campaigns.

Even today, collective agriculture is the basis for tyrannical power in North Korea, where hundreds of thousands of people starved in the 1990s. And in Belarus, Europe's last dictatorship, collective farming was never undone, and a former collective farm director, Mr Aleksandr Lukashenko, runs the country.

Mr Lukashenko is running for a fourth consecutive presidential term next month. Controlling the land, he also controls the vote. Eighty years after the collectivisation campaign, Stalin's world remains with us.

By Timothy Snyder. The writer is Professor of History at Yale University. His most recent book is Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler And Stalin.

PROJECT SYNDICATE/INSTITUTE FOR HUMAN SCIENCES

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Unhappy in Bhutan

BHUTAN'S substantial population of Nepali origin might be forgiven for some cynicism over the Himalayan kingdom's fixation with gross national happiness (GNH).



GNH was conceived by the country's former King Jigme Singye Wangchuk as a societal indicator more meaningful than simply measuring economic conditions through gross domestic product. It is overseen by the government's GNH Commission, established two years ago to replace the planning commission, and is quantified through the GNH Index.

The index is based on 72 questions covering nine categories, ranging from psychological well-being to ecology and community vitality. Respondents are not categorised by ethnicity.

Bhutan's official population of Nepali origin is about 140,000, presuming that those professing to be Hindus in the 2005 census are a reliable indicator. If you add to that more than 100,000 ethnic Nepalese who have been forcibly expelled from Bhutan since 1987 and sequestered in seven refugee camps in eastern Nepal, then the community accounts for at least one-third of the country's population. And most cannot be too happy.

The Bhutanese government says those expelled were illegal residents who threatened the country's national identity, pointing to neighbouring Sikkim's influx of ethnic Nepalese and its 1975 annexation by India.

Many of the displaced say their families have lived in Bhutan for generations, and that the contentious 1985 Citizenship Act leading to their exodus is a deeply discriminatory law rooted in ethnic nationalism.

Those of Nepali origin remaining in Bhutan generally stay quiet, but others maintain that they are still being pressured to leave.

Talks between the Bhutanese government in Thimphu and the Nepali government in Kathmandu that tried to resolve the issue were unproductive and effectively abandoned. But from late 2007, third-country resettlement of these displaced people emerged as a durable solution. This initiative is led by an informal core group of eight countries and has so far seen more than 37,500 refugees from Bhutan leave the camps, with 74,600 remaining. While many have expressed an interest in resettlement, a small number may wish to stay in Nepal.

Thimphu has meanwhile remained steadfast. 'As of today, not a single refugee has been able to voluntarily repatriate to Bhutan,' said Ms Nini Gurung, a spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Kathmandu.

Some in Bhutan's ethnic Nepali community resisted the expulsion by establishing in 1990 the Bhutan Peoples' Party, which agitated for political reform and remains active. This group also spawned a militant wing that mounted a steady stream of small-scale attacks, though this effort at armed resistance seems to have been short-lived.

The issue involving ethnic Nepalese centres on southern Bhutan, where this population is concentrated. Around the same time, there was also unhappiness pervading the eastern region, although sources say this appears to have been resolved through Bhutan's first war in its modern history.

Beginning in the early 1990s, several tribal secessionist groups fighting in north-east India established base camps in eastern Bhutan for training purposes and for safe refuge between cross-border raids.

Thimphu came under pressure to act from New Delhi and from the weary local population, which in 1998 appealed to the King for assistance. Constrained by the army's weakness, the government tried to address the issue through six years of negotiation while building up its military strength.

In December 2003, the Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) launched Operation All Clear after its forces expanded by about one-third to 9,000 personnel. Deploying about 6,000 troops, the army captured 30 militant camps within two weeks. Nearly 500 tribal rebels were reportedly killed while 11 from the RBA died. A number of prisoners were handed over to India.

'Every couple of moons, there are reports that the camps have resurfaced in remote areas (of eastern Bhutan) but these remain uncorroborated,' an Indian intelligence source said of the current situation.

'Generally speaking, the camps have disappeared but some individuals - stragglers or cross-border hunters or those who married locally - remain.'

This campaign - successful by Bhutan's standards - has doubtless bolstered Bhutan's GNH Index.

But it is unclear just how the prospect of refugee resettlement may affect the happiness index.

Nov 15, 2010
Unhappy in Bhutan
By Robert Karniol, Defence Writer

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Aung San Suu Kyi: Burma's opposition leader is a new Mandela

The word's a commonplace but Aung San Suu Kyi really is a legend: daughter of the man who won Burma its independence from the British, but who was assassinated when she was barely two; a political leader herself who for the past 22 years has headed, with a delicate but compelling charisma and unimaginable determination, her nation's "second struggle for independence"; a prisoner of one kind or another for 15 of the past 20 years; and winner, in 1991, of the Nobel peace prize.

In her own country she's an uncrowned queen; a slight, fragile but unbending figure glimpsed by few but known to all as The Lady. Beyond it, she has become an icon, a universal symbol of courage, endurance and peaceful resistance, a new Mandela.

Those who have met her (which isn't many, recently) speak of a beauty every bit as striking as the photographs, a proud poise and a demure gentility acquired, certainly, at the Anglo-Indian finishing school she attended in New Delhi, where her mother was ambassador.

She apparently also has, though, a quick and by no means prim wit and an infectious giggle. Not, by all accounts – including her own – a born political strategist, she knows precisely the system her country needs, if not precisely how to get there. Her Nobel citation called her a shining example of "the power of the powerless".

Born on 19 June, 1945, two years before independence, Aung San Suu Kyi – the name means "a bright collection of strange victories" – left Burma with her mother in 1960. In 1964 she was at St Hugh's, Oxford, studying politics, philosophy and economics. A friend, Ann Pasternak Slater, recalls her "tight, trim lungi [Burmese sarong] and her upright carriage, her firm moral convictions and inherited social grace".

She worked as a research assistant at the University of London and then for the UN in New York. She got engaged to Michael Aris in 1971, and wrote to him every day before their marriage the following year: "I only ask one thing," she said: "That should my people need me, you would help me to do my duty by them." She added: "I am beset by fears that circumstances and national considerations might tear us apart."

It took 16 years for that need to arise. Michael and Aung San Suu Kyi's first son, Alexander, was born in London in 1973, followed by their second, Kim, in Oxford, where Michael had a junior fellowship. She resumed her own academic career, teaching Burmese studies and taking research assignments first in Japan, and then in India. One evening in Oxford in late March 1988, the boys in bed, Aung San Suu Kyi took the phone call that changed her life: her mother had suffered a severe stroke.

Back in Burma, the military dictatorship that had run the country since 1962 was suppressing a student-led protest movement. On 8 August 1988, soldiers fired into a peaceful demonstration, killing up to 5,000 protesters. Barely two weeks later, Aung Sun Suu Kyi addressed 500,000 people at the great Schwedagon pagoda in Rangoon. As her father's daughter, she said, she could not stand by. "True," she said, "I have lived abroad. It is also true that I am married to a foreigner. These facts have never lessened my love and my devotion for my country." She demanded freedom and democracy, a multi-party government, and free and fair elections.

The rest is as sad as it is familiar. The National League for Democracy was formed with Aung San Suu Kyi as its general secretary.

"We listened to the voice of the people, that our policies might be in harmony with their legitimate needs and aspirations," Aung San Suu Kyi wrote. "We explained why, in spite of its inevitable flaws, we considered democracy to be better than other political systems. Most important, we sought to make them understand why we believed political change was best achieved through non-violent means."

Despite detentions and intimidation, the NLD won 82% of the seats in Burma's parliament in the 1990 elections, whose results the dictatorship have never recognised. Aung San Suu Kyi was held under house arrest until 1995, and then banned from travelling. In 1999 her husband died of cancer in London; had she left the country to visit him, she would never have been allowed back in. Detained again in 2000, released again in 2002, she was rearrested once more in May 2003. Her phone line cut, her post blocked and her NLD colleagues banned from visiting her, she has lived under house arrest at her home on University Avenue, Rangoon, ever since, writing, reading, exercising and meditating. Not even the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, was allowed to meet her on a visit in 2009.

Then John Yettaw, a confused American, swam across the lake by her house to see her, ensuring she was charged and convicted with breaking the terms of her house arrest and sentenced to 18 months further house arrest – until tomorrow, a convenient six days after Burma's recent elections. "It is not power that corrupts, but fear," Aung San Suu Kyi once wrote. "Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it, and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it." But even under the "most crushing state machinery, courage rises up again and again. For fear is not the natural state of man."

Last Train Home

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Mein Kampf (2009)




Genre Drama, History, Theatre
Year of Production 2009
Director Urs Odermatt
Principal Cast Goetz George, Tom Schilling, Wolf Bachofner, Bernd Birkhahn, Karin Neuhaeuser, Paul Matic, Elisabeth Orth, Henning Peker, Simon Schwarz, Anna Unterberger
Length 109 mins
International Festival Screenings Montreal 2009, Atlanta Jewish Film Festival 2010, Solothurn 2010, Berlin 2010


In 1910, young Adolf Hitler, aiming to conquer the world as a painter, is on his way from the provincial recesses of Austria to Vienna. He rents himself a room at a men's hostel in the Leichengasse, ("Cadaver Alley"), and feverishly awaits the big day of his entrance examination for the Academy of the Fine Arts. He shares the rundown barrack with two Jewish men: the wily Bible hawker Shlomo Herzl and the kosher cook Lobkowitz, who claims to be God and has been known to cause miracles. Wise old Shlomo wants to write a book, but nobody thinks much of its title Mein Leben (My Life). They come up with Mein Kampf. Hitler is also enthusiastic about it.

Shlomo, hospitable and good-natured, feels responsible for the impetuous Hitler and takes him under his wing. For Hitler, who vastly overestimates his artistic talent, the world falls apart when the Academy rejects him for the second time. And again it is good old Shlomo who hurries to bring Hitler back from the depths of his suicidal hopelessness. Hitler brazenly exploits the support offered by Shlomo, who cooks and washes up for him and even trims his droopy moustache. In return Hitler tries to seduce young Gretchen, Shlomo's girlfriend. Ironically, it is Shlomo himself who recommends Hitler to try his luck in politics.

The film grotesque Mein Kampf, based on George Tabori's eponymous theatrical farce, is by no means a historical reconstruction of Hitler's time in Vienna. Instead it is a timeless parable of good serving evil, in which the borders between reality and fiction are blurred.
Screening Details
Tue 16 Nov, 7.15pm
The Cathay, Hall 4
In German with English subtitles

Book tickets now
Rating M18 - Some Nudity and Coarse Language

Urs Odermatt was born in 1955 in Switzerland and has been working in film, television and the theater since 1983 after studying Directing and Scriptwriting with Krysztof Kieslowski and Edward Zebrowski. In 1989 he founded the Swiss production company Nordwest Film AG.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Island disputes test Japan's honour

No one is saying that contemporary Japan will develop into the militaristic Japan of old. But regional powers in Asia should take heed not to push Japan too much, lest the consequences surprise them.


IN OCTOBER 1996, Mr Yukio Hatoyama and Mr Naoto Kan, two founders of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), made an extraordinary demand by calling for the removal of United States troops in Japan.

Fast forward 13 years to 2009 - the year the DPJ finally grabbed power - and that demand no longer exists.

For a few months last year, however, DPJ officials worried their US counterparts after they stated that there would be a sea change in Japan's military relationship with the US. For example, the DPJ called for a revision in the sensitive Status of Forces Agreement that governs how US troops in Japan are treated.

Mr Hatoyama served as premier for a brief nine months. His successor, Mr Kan, is the only serving politician from the DPJ class of 1996 that had called for a radical change in Japan's alliance with the US.

In Mr Kan's five months as premier, his volte-face from his previously held views is interesting. There is little talk about any kind of distancing from the Americans. In fact, there is much talk about strengthening the alliance.

Speaking to Japanese troops in September, Mr Kan sketched the dangers posed by China and North Korea, and stressed that he would 'deepen the alliance into an appropriate form for the 21st century'.

This is understandable. In recent years, Japan has seen its security environment deteriorate. In 2006, North Korea conducted its first nuclear test. China's military has also cast a long shadow over Japan, particularly after Tokyo's recent clash with Beijing over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands.

Also, Russia remains a worry. Earlier this week, Japan locked horns with Russia after President Dmitry Medvedev visited an island in the disputed Kuril chain.

Not surprisingly, Japan's strategic thinking in the past two decades has been dependent more on its security environment than the instincts of its politicians. Indeed, the Japanese military has undergone a radical shift, such that pacifist Japan is on the path of remilitarisation.

In 2007, the Japanese Defence Agency was turned into a full-fledged ministry, paving the way for Japan to become a 'normal' military power. Japan has increased cooperation with the US on ballistic missile defence - a system that is arguably both defensive and offensive.

Japan's ability to project power over long distances is also being augmented with the purchase of a helicopter carrier, Boeing 767 in-flight refuelling tankers and long-range air transports.

Writing in 2008, Japan analyst Christopher Hughes said that Japan's remilitarisation should not be read 'as an alarmist warning that Japan is necessarily intent on reverting to the kind of state it became between 1931 and 1945'. Rather, he argued, Japan is set upon a 'long-term trajectory' that will see it assuming a more assertive regional and global role.

That is fine. Japan, after all, has been a responsible global citizen for decades, and a beefed-up Japan Self Defence Force (JSDF) would be good for regional stability.

The problem here, however, is that China, North Korea and Russia have to be careful in pushing Tokyo too far in their disputes.

Embedded deep in the Japanese psyche is an acute sensitivity to rank, dignity and honour. With each perceived slight that Japan suffers, the profile of the country's nationalist right-wing increases. This could push the Japanese military into uncharted waters - be it the adoption of nuclear weapons, or even a JSDF that is more independent of its American ally.

In September, a group of 100 conservative politicians led by former premier Shinzo Abe criticised the government's release of the captain of a Chinese fishing trawler that had slammed into Japanese coast guard ships near Senkaku.

'We are standing at a watershed where our ability to defend the Japanese people and this nation itself is tested,' the group named Sosei Nihon, translated roughly as Creation Japan, said in a statement. 'We hereby declare we will resolutely seek to overthrow the Kan administration which has damaged our nation's interest, trust and dignity.'

Note the emphasis on Japan's dignity. In recent years, talk about Japan's honour and dignity has become more intense. The Dignity Of A State, written by Japanese mathematician Masahiko Fujiwara, has caught the popular imagination.

Honour and dignity are themes that resonate throughout Japanese history. During the Tokugawa period, both the warrior and bureaucratic classes emphasised the role of honour.

Likewise, Japan's most strategic decision in 1941 - the decision to attack Pearl Harbour - stemmed from bizarre, but understandable, calculations about honour. If Japan had yielded to American demands to withdraw from China, it would have lost its honour and all sense of purpose. Alternatively, a fight against a power 10 times more powerful, though damaging, could still preserve its honour.

Speaking to the Emperor that year, Chief of Naval General Staff Osami Nagano told the Emperor that if Japan did not go to war against the US, the fate of the nation was sealed. 'Even if there is war, the country may be ruined. Nevertheless a nation which does not fight in this plight has lost its spirit and is already a doomed nation,' he said.

No one is saying that contemporary Japan will develop into the militaristic Japan of old. But regional powers in Asia should take heed not to push Japan too much, lest the consequences surprise them.

STRAITS TIMES williamc@sph.com.sg

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

SKorea fires warning shots



SEOUL - SOUTH Korea's navy fired warning shots to chase away a North Korean fishing boat that crossed their disputed sea border early on Wednesday, the Defence Ministry said, in the latest flareup of tension on the divided peninsula just days before the Group of 20 summit in Seoul.



The North Korean boat intruded on South Korean territory for about two hours before returning to North Korean waters early Wednesday, the ministry said. The fertile maritime border, the scene of three deadly skirmishes between the Koreas, is a key flashpoint because the North does not recognise the line drawn by the UN at the close of the 1950-53 Korean War.

The firing comes just days after North Korea shot two rounds at a South Korean guard post in the Demilitarised Zone, prompting return fire from South Korean troops, according to Seoul military officials.

South Korea is bracing for any possible North Korean moves to sabotage next week's Group of 20 summit of world leaders. North Korea has a track record of provocations when world attention is focused on the rival South.

In 1987, a year before the Seoul Olympics, North Korean agents planted a bomb on a South Korean plane, killing all 115 people on board. In 2002, when South Korea jointly hosted soccer's World Cup along with Japan, a North Korean naval boat sank a South Korean patrol vessel near the sea border.

President Lee Myung-bak said Wednesday that he does not believe Pyongyang would strike South Korea but that Seoul was ready for anything. -- AP

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Japan an easy target as Russia flexes muscles

Moscow triggers diplomatic row over disputed islands after sensing weakness


LONDON: President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia has triggered a huge diplomatic row with Japan after staging a visit on Monday to the Southern Kuril Islands, whose ownership is disputed between the two nations.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has characterised Mr Medvedev's decision to become the first Russian leader to set foot on territory over which Japan still claims sovereignty as 'extremely regrettable'.

But the authorities in Moscow remain unrepentant: Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has slammed the Japanese reaction as 'unacceptable' and 'senseless', adding that the Southern Kuril islands are 'Russian land' which the country's President 'can visit whenever he chooses to'.

The timing of the flare-up has caught political observers by surprise, since it comes soon after the Japanese were embroiled in a separate territorial spat with China, and barely two weeks before the Russian President is due in Japan for a regional summit.

Yet in many respects, that was precisely the point. By raising the Kuril issue at such a sensitive moment, Moscow hopes to force Tokyo's hand and remind its neighbours that Russia remains an Asian power which cannot be ignored.

According to latest opinion polls, up to 80 per cent of ordinary Russians view the Kuril Islands as an integral part of their territory, a reward for the defeat of Japanese aggression in World War II.

The reality is more complicated. The Soviet Union declared war on Japan only a week before the Japanese surrendered in August 1945. The Southern Kuril Islands - specks of land which the Japanese refer to as the Northern Territories - were coveted largely for their strategic significance: they blocked the Russian fleet's access to the Pacific.

And the seizure is regarded by Russia as sweet revenge for an older humiliation: the defeat of Russian forces in a war with Japan, back in 1905.

At various times, Russia had offered to hand back some of the islands, in return for a permanent settlement of the dispute. But every Japanese government held out for the return of all the territories, and the deadlock continued.

Diplomats in Moscow claim that Mr Medvedev had planned to visit the Kuril Islands in September, and was prevented from doing so only by bad weather.

They also claim that Japan knew of his intentions well in advance.

Mr Viktor Pavlyanteko, who runs the Japanese Research Centre at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said Tokyo's anger is just 'artificial'.

One explanation for the visit is Russia's own internal politics. Until now, Mr Medvedev had tended to adopt a more conciliatory attitude towards his country's neighbours, while Prime Minister Vladimir Putin stuck to an uncompromising position.

However, with fresh presidential elections due in 2012, Mr Medvedev may have decided he needs to burnish his own nationalist credentials, and that a visit to the Kuril Islands offered the perfect opportunity.

There are also clear signs that, after decades of neglect, Russia is determined to become an active player on the Asian scene. Late last year, Mr Medvedev visited Singapore and Mongolia; more recently he attended the Asean summit in Vietnam, and will be at the Group of 20 gathering in South Korea this month. Mr Putin visited both China and India this year.

Apart from the objective of engaging with Asia's growing economies, the Russians have a particular need to develop Siberia, their own huge expanse of Asian land, rich in natural resources but sparsely populated.

For a while, the Japanese were regarded as the most promising investors in Siberia; Japanese companies were big players in the development of the Sakhalin oil and gas deposits, not far from the disputed Kuril Islands.

But such interest in Japan has waned, as Russian liquefied natural gas facilities are coming on stream, and new pipelines deliver oil and gas to China and the Pacific ports.

Mr Fyodor Lukyanov, the editor of Russia in Global Affairs journal, says Russia's latest 'Far East Development Plan' - adopted last December - envisages attracting additional capital from China, India and South Korea, to 'diversify the country's foreign policy'.

Meanwhile, economic ties with Japan have nosedived, particularly after the Russian authorities slapped new duties on second-hand Japanese cars, which formed the bulk of the trade with the Siberian regions. The Russians feel that it is now Japan's turn to chase them.

Moscow remains interested in ending its lingering territorial spat with Tokyo. But, having seen how the recent Chinese-Japanese dispute over the Diaoyutai or Senkaku islands unfolded, Russia has concluded that Japan is an easy target. 'Japan's foreign policy is in complete disarray,' says Mr Alexander Panov, who heads Russia's diplomatic academy.

An anonymous posting on one of Russia's top websites summed up the feelings of the country's leaders: 'Japan is in a deplorable situation. Its economy has stagnated for over 20 years; it is too weak to do much other than complain.'

Friday, October 29, 2010

Activist Detained in North Korea

SEOUL: An evangelical activist from the US state of Arizona, imprisoned by North Korea last year after he illegally entered the country on Christmas Day, has appeared on South Korean television and spoken for the first time about how his captors treated him.



Mr Robert Park, 29, who was released in February after 43 days of detention, gave a harrowing account of his imprisonment, which he said included beatings, torture and sexual abuse.

'The scars and wounds of the things that happened to me in North Korea are too intense,' the Korean-American said in an interview with the South Korean broadcaster KBS. In the interview, which was broadcast on Wednesday, he said some of the abuse was sexual in nature, but refused to provide details.

'What happened was very humiliating. You know... there is damage that is, maybe, permanent,' he said, calling the abuse 'devastating'.

'As a result of what happened to me in North Korea, I've thrown away any kind of personal desire. I will never, you know, be able to have a marriage or any kind of relationship.'

Mr Park said he attempted suicide soon after he returned to the United States. He told the magazine Christianity Today that he had been 'in and out' of psychiatric hospitals for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Last December, he had crossed into North Korea by walking over the frozen Tumen River, which forms the border with China. He carried only a Bible and some letters urging North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to close prison labour camps in the North, free all its prisoners and resign.

Analysts in Seoul say such personal affronts to Mr Kim are forbidden in the North and, typically, draw long prison terms or death sentences. Mr Park had told friends in Seoul, before he left, that he would die with political prisoners in the North if Mr Kim refused to free them.

Early this year, Mr Park had read a confession on North Korean TV, after which officials said they 'decided to leniently forgive and release him, taking his admission and sincere repentance of his wrongdoings into consideration', according to a report then by the North's official news agency, KCNA.

Nearly nine months after his release and back in the Korean peninsula for a visit to Seoul, he said the confession and contrition were extracted with force. 'My only regret is... the false confession,' he told The Associated Press in an interview in Seoul. 'People start to know how evil North Korea was and they know the confession was a lie. They knew the confession was false.'

Mr Park also said that he had a new appreciation of the harshness and cynicism of the North Korean government, which he vowed to devote his life to fighting. North Korea, long criticised for alleged human rights abuses, has been accused of carrying out public executions and maintaining an extensive network of political prison camps where torture is thought to be common.

Mr Park's account of his detention, however, stands in contrast to those of the three other Americans who have been detained and subsequently released by North Korea since early last year. The three of them did not say they were tortured.

Mr Aijalon Gomes, 31, who reportedly was following Mr Park's example when he crossed into North Korea, was treated 'superbly', according to doctors who examined him in Boston after his release.

Journalists Laura Ling, 33, and Euna Lee, 37 - who contend they were on the Chinese side of the border when they were detained - recounted more difficult conditions, including being forced to confess to crimes and being kept in cramped, dark rooms. But they have not alleged any abuse.

All three were released following the visits of former American presidents to North Korea.

NEW YORK TIMES, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Seoulshiok!

Gone korea. Back 2 Nov. all the best guys.

Information Age? No, it’s the Chatter Age

TELL ME if you do this: start walking somewhere, take out the smartphone, check email, check Facebook, check Twitter, put the phone back in your pocket, take it out a minute later, repeat.

I do this, and so do a lot of people. Combine this lack of self-control with increasingly frequent updates, and you have a recipe for senseless distraction. These are updates, not information. Rather than the Information Age, we’re living in the Chatter Age.

Sometimes the “information’’ is just false, as in the “Balloon Boy’’ case last year: a boy’s parents reported that their son was on board a hot-air balloon; after several hours of frantic gab on television stations and on Twitter, it turned out that the whole thing was a hoax. If you came back to your computer after the whole thing was over, as I did, you got it all in reverse order: tweets telling you that the whole thing was a false alarm, followed by post after post about the tragedy. There was no information in those few hours; they may as well not have happened.

That wasn’t a rare occurrence; there’s a whole ecosystem devoted to generating and propagating non-information. If you’ve been waiting for months to buy a new phone, but have hesitated to do so because the iPhone will come to Verizon “any day now,’’ you’ve felt the effects of this chatter. Various blogs confidently asserted that there would be “A Verizon iPhone in 2010.’’ That was noise; it was not information.

Often, this non-information takes on political overtones. During the health care debate in the summer of 2009, someone probably sent you an email purporting to show that the Democratic health bill would require mandatory euthanasia counseling for seniors every five years. This prompted a round of counter-chatter, as sites such as Snopes.com leapt into action to disprove those rumors. More recently, social media have helped spread the (less than accurate) idea that “if you cross the US border illegally, you get a Social Security card,’’ whereas if you cross into North Korea you get shot.

Inevitably, lots of people have stepped in to rebut that argument, too. But it’s a little absurd when intelligent people feel obliged to respond to unfounded rumors that seem to gain traction and urgency only because they circulate so quickly.

During this election season, I’ve seen an endless stream of tweets, updates, and Facebook links offering up reasons why the Democrats might lose big: because of TARP, because the president isn’t politicking enough, because people are upset about health reform. These assertions stir people to high indignation.

And yet the underlying story is simple and well documented: If the economy has done poorly over the last year, people vote out the party in power; if it’s done well, they reelect the incumbents. Everything else is noise, whose predictable effect is constant anxiety — and a relentless focus on short-term ups and downs rather than on the long-term state of the world. But amid all these bits of information, there’s almost none for which it’s important that we form an opinion right away.

As our brains fill with chatter, there’s every reason to think this will only get worse; all the incentives are there for more updates, more often. Technology isn’t going to solve this. Setting up better electronic filters won’t keep this out. Installing products like LeechBlock or Freedom won’t solve the problem; that just delays it until the next time you’re on the web.

If we really want the Information Age rather than the Chatter Age, there’s only one solution: relearn self-control. By Steve Laniel
October 26, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hitler becomes tourist attraction


BERLIN - 'HITLER and the Germans', an exhibition in Berlin's German Historical Museum which investigates the society that created Hitler, has seen more than 10,000 visitors walk through its doors since opening on Friday.

Rudolf Trabold, a spokesman for the museum, said there were 4,000 visitors to the exhibition on the first day alone. People visiting the exhibition said they had waited as long as 1 1/2 hours to get in.

Ravi Nair, a 73-year-old Indian visitor, said: 'I had to queue for about an hour but it was worth it. The exhibition should help people in democratic countries realise that their vote is very valuable.' Mr Trabold said Hitler and the Germans was so popular because it was 'the first exhibition to explain how a man who lived on the margins of society for 30 years, in Vienna's men's hostels, could become an almost mythical leader of the German people.

'We are all affected by Hitler, so it speaks to all of us and helps Germans and foreigners to come to terms with the past'.

Inge Lonning, a 72-year-old tourist from Norway said: 'I thought the exhibition was very impressive. I wanted to see it because I experienced the German occupation of Norway as a small child, so it's not just history for me.' But not everyone was convinced there was something new to be learned from the exhibition.

'So much has been done about this period over the years, it was like, I knew this and I knew that,' said Canadian Julien Cayer, aged 28. 'I thought I'd find something new but I didn't.' There has been widespread concern in the German media that the exhibition could become a magnet for neo-Nazi admirers of Hitler, but Mr Trabold said that although there had been some right-wing extremist visitors, they had not caused any problems. -- REUTERS

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Wang Yinfeng in the news

Several versions of the recording have been uploaded onto the Internet. In the longest recording, lasting 31 minutes, a man alleged to be Wang Yinfeng, Party chief of Jiangjin district...

Oct 17, 2010
'Fengshui' halts construction

CHONGQING - A RECORDING clip on the Internet allegedly showing a government official talking about fengshui has sparked controversy as it seemed to suggest the construction of a building was halted because the official believed it would disturb the fengshui of a nearby government compound.

Several versions of the recording have been uploaded onto the Internet. In the longest recording, lasting 31 minutes, a man alleged to be Wang Yinfeng, Party chief of Jiangjin district in south-west China's Chongqing Municipality, said the under-construction building would block the government building and asked men said to be representatives from the real estate companies: 'Do you know what fengshui is?'

However, it is unknown whether the recording is authentic and whether the man in it was Wang Yinfeng, as neither the district government nor Mr Wang has yet responded to the recording allegations. A media report on October 8 said that Wang Yinfeng called off the building project because he believed it would block the fengshui of the administration building of the district government.

The district's information office held a press conference on Wednesday, denying that Mr Wang had said anything about fengshui.

Jiangjin made an adjustment to the district's urban development plan in 2008, because the Shuiyingkangcheng building project would affect the People's Square Commercial Center Project planning, said Tian Ling, chief engineer of the district's urban planning bureau.

According to the bureau, the square is being built to improve people's quality of life and to create a better urban environment. -- CHINA DAILY/ANN

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Saturday, October 09, 2010

arrggghhh .... I wanna get in-SITE...

Google is closing groups and membership was managed from google groups. Hence you need to apply to access to MY HUMANITIES CLASS.

Step 1: In right sidebar, click "FOLLOW".
Step 2: Complete the form below.

Space to ask your questions

If you have questions, there is always space for you to ask.

More readings

Not in the textbook? Too little info? Read everything? Try this.

Compilations updated

SS SEQs and WH SEQs updated. Many thanks to Ian and Clarence. Always so dependable!

Friday, October 08, 2010

Post-graduate studies


Exceptions: these students must be present for the following slots:
Mon 11 Oct 

1120: Amrit, Darius, Pinak, Bhag, Darius, Jarren

Tue 12 Oct 

0900: Yong Kiat, Adrian, Samuel

Thu 14 Oct 

1000: Anjie, Yongwee, Gexiou, Lihao

Fri 15 Oct
1100: Yong Kiat, Tze, Voo


Mon 18  Oct 
1000: Adrian, Darius, Saw
1100: Yijun, Aik
1330: Tze, Voo


Tue 19 Oct
10: Soo, Youduen, Clarence

Chinese girls

This is for Erwei, Dawei, Gexiou, Lihao, Yingfeng, Yanxu, Jingxin

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Venice SBQ Answers MUST SEE!

Sec 4s,

Remember the SBQ on Venice from XYZ school that was given to you for practise. You can consult the answer scheme here.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Why has Germany taken so long to pay off its WWI debt?

Germany is finally paying off World War I reparations, with the last 70 million euro (£60m) payment drawing the debt to a close.


A remembrance poppy on a memorial displaying the names of some of the missing from WWI and WWII in Ypres, Belgium, on 5 November 2008 Germany was forced to accept responsibility for World War I

Germany is finally paying off World War I reparations, with the last 70 million euro (£60m) payment drawing the debt to a close.

Interest on loans taken out to the pay the debt will be settled on Sunday, the 20th anniversary of German reunification.

It is about time, some would say.

More than nine decades after the war, Germany - now a leading European Union state and the largest economy in Europe - has long cast off its post-WWI image of a defeated, beleaguered Weimar Republic.

So why has it taken so long for it to shed its age-old debt?

The European nation was not expecting to lose the war, let alone anticipate being burdened with payments that would reach into the next century.
Continue reading the main story
Price of conflict

* The Treaty of Versailles stripped Germany of just over 13% of its territory
* The treaty also reduced Germany's economic productivity by about 13%
* Germany told to pay substantial reparations for 'civilian damage', along with its allies
* While the 1919 treaty included a "guilt clause", the definite sum was decided in 1921

But, in 1919, the victors of the war wrote Germany's guilt into the Versailles Treaty at the infamous Hall of Mirrors, and collectively decided that it should pay a high price for that guilt.

About 269bn gold marks, to be exact - the equivalent of around 100,000 tonnes of gold.
'Bitter resentment'

The treaty took complex negotiation and was undoubtedly controversial; economist John Maynard Keynes was one of its most vocal critics, arguing that it would not be effective in achieving its goals.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote

The economic perception that the allies are bleeding Germany is far more important”

End Quote Felix Schulz Newcastle University

The allies - mainly driven by France - wanted to ensure Germany would not be capable of war for many years.

But the plan backfired, with modern-day historians claiming that Versailles was a key factor in the lead-up to World War II.

There was bitter resentment in Germany over the sum, and also over article 231, the so-called "guilt clause", which ruled that Germany was responsible for the conflict.

"The sum was met with disbelief in Germany," says Felix Schulz, a lecturer in European History at Newcastle University.

He says Germany tried to push back the payments, and very little was paid back in the 1920s - not only because Germany was struggling financially, but because Germany didn't accept them.

"It's linked to this idea that it is always seen as unfair… In reality I'm sure they could have [paid earlier] if the Weimar Republic was to live on a shoestring, but it would have led to more radical parties earlier on."
Circa 1944: Adolf Hitler (1889 - 1945) gives the fascist salute at a parade during WWII. Visible on the balcony with him are Galeazzo Ciano and Italian Benito Mussolini (far left). Hitler refused to pay back the reparations after coming to power

Faced with hyperinflation and soaring unemployment, people sought refuge in a movement that promoted national pride, and signed up to Hitler's Nazi party - which used the reparations as a propaganda tool.

"These reparations were as important politically as economically," says Mark Harrison, an economics professor at University of Warwick.

"It was what it [the reparations] stood for. The Germans hated it," he says.

"They could have [paid] more than they said they would."
'Overturning the treaty'

After Versailles, there emerged some recognition of the financial strain on war-torn Germany, and allied nations attempted to minimise the pain.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote

It's unlikely that either of the German states believed they had [debt] obligations”

End Quote Professor Mark Harrison University of Warwick

The 1924 Dawes Plan and the 1929 Young Plan reduced the debt to 112bn gold marks, and granted Germany loans to meet its payments.

But then disaster struck, and the Wall Street Crash of 1929 threw nations across the world into disarray.

The ensuing financial crisis meant that not only Germany, but many nations, could not keep up with their war debts; as a result, US President Herbert Hoover introduced a one-year moratorium.

A year later, the 1932 Lausanne conference tried to write off almost all of Germany's war debt, but the proposal failed to pass US Congress.

When Hitler came into power, the system of payments had collapsed and time had run out.

Lausanne, says Mr Schulz, therefore became irrelevant.

Although the country had only paid about one eighth of what it owed, Hitler refused to pay any more.
Colourised photograph shows the German delegation, at left, as they arrive to sign the Armistice provisionally ending World War One, in a train dining car in Rethonde, outside Compiegne, France, 11 November 1918 Germany felt the end of the war was a humiliation

As Prof Harrison says: "Hitler was committed to not just not paying, but to overturning the whole treaty."

At this point, Mr Schulz says: "The economic reality is not as important as the economic perception... The economic perception that the allies are bleeding Germany is far more important."
'Two countries'

When Germany became two countries - East and West - it threw up new questions about which state inherited the debt.

"When one state succeeds another, there is always a question of whether it takes on its assets and liabilities," says Prof Harrison.

"It's unlikely that either of the German states believed they had obligations".

A new agreement in 1953 - the London Treaty - agreed to suspend many payments until Germany was unified.
Photo dated 1929, released 28 October 2004, showing a view of Wall Street in New York during the financial crisis The Wall Street Crash plunged the world into recession

By the time country was reunified, in 1990, the world had changed dramatically since the days of Versailles, and policymakers decided to write off most of the original sum.

Mr Schulz says it was, essentially, a return to the conditions in the 1932 Lausanne agreement, and a reduced amount of payments was reactivated.

"There was no real need to go back to the punitive state of the 1920s, so you return to something which is much more modest."
'Lessons learned'

With time, historians say there was recognition that Versailles did not achieve what it set out to, and that saddling a country with war debts was not a solution.

The approach was different by the time WWII ended. Germany was made to financially compensate other nations, but there was more of an emphasis on rebuilding Europe.

"After WWII they decided to hang the leaders but not to punish the nation," says Prof Harrison.

"But in WWI it was the other way around."

As Martin Farr, a senior lecturer in British history at Newcastle University, says: "The lesson was learned eventually."

Unfortunately, he says, "it required another 20 or so million people to be killed first".

Friday, October 01, 2010

Online essay review TONIGHT

Want to have your essay commented-reviewed-discussed online? Check out here to find how you can join the conference tonight at 10pm.

Image impacts

Monday, September 27, 2010

ESPN & conference

Available on the following days: Sign up under comments. 3 pax max per slot.
21 Sep 2010
230-330:Marcus, Li Keen, Justin
330-430: Clarence, Ian, Alvin
430-530: Voo, George, Sheikh, Tze Yang
530-630: Erwei, Dawei, Gexiou
630-730: You Duen, Soo Wei, Zaki

23 Sep 2010
5-6: Tze Yang, Voo
6-7: Nat, Junyong
7-8: Ervin, Jianwen

28 Sep 2010
3-4: Tze, Voo, Weizhen, George
4-5: Li Hao

30 Sep 2010
4-5: Justin, Weizhen, Sikka, Abi Ta
5-7: Calvin, Jun Yew, Jinxiang

4 Oct 2010
3-5: Tze, Voo, Justin,

6 Oct 2010
4-530: Gerard, Youduen, Calvin, Josiah, Rama
6-730: Li Keen, Justin, Abi V
730-930: Khanh, Tea, Saw

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sec 3 Term 4 schedule

Week 1: Rise of Facism/War in the Pacific
  • complete worksheet
  • watch The Last Emperor & Hiroshima

Week 2: Social Studies 2009 SA2 Practise
  • complete SBQ on Paris Riots
  • complete SEQ on Bonding

Week 3: History 2009 SA2 Practise
  • complete SBQ on Stalin's Show Trials
  • complete SEQ on Japan

Week 4: Social Studies 2008 SA2 Practise
  • complete SBQ on China-Tibet

    Administrators to blame for Games fiasco

    Danny Jordaan, the South African most responsible for pulling off a secure World Cup, offers proof that his country hosted the perfect games.

    'I have just been all over the world,' he says. 'And whether it was 10 Downing Street or the White House or the Kremlin... the first line was, 'This was the best World Cup ever'.'
    Sep 25, 2010
    Administrators to blame for Games fiasco
    By Rob Hughes, In Good Conscience

    CALL me naive, but did Singapore miss a trick this week?

    As one of the 54 member nations of the Commonwealth Games Federation, Singapore was in a unique position to rescue that crumbling, sorry organisation this week.

    To the horror of athletes, the shame of India, the Games went to the brink of being called off. The filth and squalor, the collapsed bridge and stadium roof, the threat of terrorism, and the fear that Delhi is no fit place for a massive celebration of sports is a terrible indictment on the organisation.

    We called these the 'Friendly Games', and I have attended enough to know that was once true.

    But what has this to do with Singapore?

    Your country has just hosted the Youth Olympic Games, taking care of 3,500 budding Olympians. Facilities prepared for a one-off event stand handsome, but largely idle.

    It may have needed great diplomacy but, when the Britons, the Aussies, the Kiwis and others threatened to pull out of Delhi, did nobody think that of all the member nations, Singapore is in perfect shape to rescue the Commonwealth Games from dire mismanagement?

    I don't suggest that thousands of participants suddenly divert from India to Singapore. But by, say, next spring, it could surely have happened.

    By rescuing a damaged, if not dying, ideal, Singapore would have gained monumental international prestige.

    By showcasing its cleanliness, order, safety and organisational powers, Singapore could have furthered its aim to be a hub of global attention. Sport would be the catalyst, but Singapore would benefit in so many ways.

    Facilities for the Youth Olympics - lamentably largely ignored in the international media - would be used a second time.

    Like every nation hosting major events, Singapore's costs spiralled threefold. As he was bound to do, Sports Minister Vivian Balakrishnan defended the US$285 million (S$378 million) spent on the YOG.

    Just weeks ago, he declared: 'I have no doubt we will recoup our investment, both on the tangible side and intangible side of the ledger.'

    The larger game plan, Dr Balakrishnan said, is 're-positioning Singapore... We now want to be one of the most exciting, happening, dynamic, vibrant places that cater to all needs.'

    For all I know, your government did quietly offer to save the Commonwealth Games. It would have taken care not to be seen as opportunistic or taking advantage of a fellow nation's calamity.

    But it is not going to happen.

    We Commonwealth countries are all in this together. From my side of the argument, Britain has enough on its plate trying to prepare for the 2012 Olympics in London.

    The former British Empire Games are, like the empire itself, a fading concept.

    Through sports, we sometimes see the state of nations, and the old colonial notion of nation-building on the playing fields is in a sorry state.

    If you followed the England-Pakistan cricket summer, you will know what I mean. Contaminated by alleged fixing, again close to being abandoned, the value of sport withered.

    England's tabloids are still bashing anything and everything to do with Pakistan. They are calling for the Delhi Games to be abandoned before a race is run or a shot fired (in the sporting sense).

    Games meant to build bridges threaten to bring them down, literally and politically.

    The real focus in all this should be on sports administrators.

    It is their duty, their purpose, to choose sound venues for their ever-growing jamborees. Once chosen, the administrations surely must sit on the local organisers every step of the way to ensure that the bridges, the infrastructure, the security hold up.

    How did we get to within one week of the opening ceremony in Delhi before the press exposed the infirmity of India's readiness?

    How many of us believed this week's rewriting of the World Cup by its organiser, Fifa?

    Fifa tells us that South Africa was perfect, and sets the benchmark for the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, and beyond.

    It glosses over the dearth of goals, and dearth of great football.

    It thinks we have forgotten that in chasing its US$3 billion profit, it clamped down on individual freedom. A youth who stole a mobile phone was jailed for 15 years. Girls dressed in orange were removed from the stadium.

    They were accused of 'ambush marketing', a crime that does not exist except in Fifa's mind when protecting its profit from selected brands - in this case Budweiser beer.

    Danny Jordaan, the South African most responsible for pulling off a secure World Cup, offers proof that his country hosted the perfect games.

    'I have just been all over the world,' he says. 'And whether it was 10 Downing Street or the White House or the Kremlin... the first line was, 'This was the best World Cup ever'.'

    No doubt it was. Jordaan is a member of Fifa's inspection team that has toured the nine lands bidding to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

    The bidders will say anything to gain votes. No doubt the Indian government also made persuasive promises to the Commonwealth Games Federation.

    stsports@sph.com.sg

    How did we get to
    within one week of the opening ceremony in Delhi before the press exposed the infirmity of India's readiness?

    Sunday, September 19, 2010

    Evidence, Proof, Right & Wrong

    Straits Times Sep 18, 2010
    Driver cleared of causing cyclist's death
    Judge doubts whether driver with right of way could have seen man
    By Selina Lum

    A MOTORIST who crashed into an elderly cyclist, who was defying all possible road traffic rules, was yesterday acquitted by the High Court of causing the 86-year- old's death through negligence.


    In overturning the conviction of Addie Razali Lau, Justice Steven Chong said he doubted whether Mr Lau, 37, who had the right of way, could reasonably have seen Mr Sewa Singh at all before the accident.

    The judge also doubted whether the accident could have been avoided even if Mr Lau, who was travelling at 60kmh, was within the speed limit of 50kmh at the time of the incident.

    On the evening of June 7, 2008, Mr Lau was taking his wife, two children and parents for dinner.

    He was driving along Eunos Road 8 towards Tanjong Katong Road, with the lights in his favour, when Mr Singh cycled diagonally across the junction, against the flow of traffic and into the path of Mr Lau's car.

    Flung across the windscreen, Mr Singh was taken to hospital with serious injuries and died nearly two months later.

    Mr Lau was charged with causing Mr Singh's death through negligence by failing to keep a proper lookout and driving above the speed limit.

    After a trial, he was found guilty by a district court, fined $6,000 and banned from driving for three years. The maximum penalty is two years' jail and a fine.

    Mr Lau appealed to the High Court to set aside the conviction.

    Yesterday, his lawyer, Mr Abdul Salim Ahmed Ibrahim, argued that while cyclists are vulnerable road users, they owed a duty to themselves to exercise common sense and steer clear of acts that would put their own lives in danger.

    'It is crystal clear that the deceased was the author of his own fate by blatantly disobeying and disregarding all traffic and road safety rules applicable to him as a cyclist,' the lawyer argued.

    The prosecution conceded that Mr Singh had cycled against the flow of traffic while the lights were in Mr Lau's favour.

    But Deputy Public Prosecutor Kan Shuk Weng said the fact that Mr Singh was not following road traffic rules did not mean Mr Lau did not owe him a duty of care.

    Otherwise, the DPP argued, it would lead to the 'absurd' position that a driver is entitled to run down a person who is jaywalking since he has flouted traffic rules.

    But in giving his decision to acquit Mr Lau, Justice Chong did not comment on Mr Singh's conduct.

    The judge said he disagreed with the lower court's conclusion that Mr Lau had failed to keep a proper lookout because he did not slow down after his wife, who saw Mr Singh through the left passenger window, alerted him seconds before Mr Singh collided with the vehicle.

    Justice Chong said it was not reasonable to expect a driver to be glancing at an extreme side angle while the lights were in his favour and his attention rightly focused on the traffic ahead of him.

    As for Mr Lau's breaching of the speed limit, the judge said there was no evidence to show that the accident would not have occurred if Mr Lau, who went over by just 10kmh, had kept within the speed limit.

    National Safety Council president Tan Jin Thong said cyclists should cut across the road only when the cars are at a safe distance or, better still, when there are no cars. 'Cyclists, especially the older folks, must take precautions because in an accident, they are always on the losing end.'

    selinal@sph.com.sg

    Monday, September 13, 2010

    Mock Exams

    Monday 20/09/10 Social Studies 0800-0930
    Monday 27/09/10 History Elective 0900-0930

    Sunday, September 05, 2010

    Recess classes

    3J: 6 Sep 1130-1pm (War in the Pacific replacement class)
    4H: 6 Sep 1330-1500 (SS Prelim review)
    4D: 6 Sep 1500-1630 (SS Prelim review)

    Apologies for changes. This is to accommodate as many folks as possible.

    Monday, August 30, 2010

    Post Prelim Practise

    In order for you to maximise your break meaningfully, complete the following before Term 4.


    1. Attempt all SEQs for Social Studies & World History including the one you did
    2. Attempt SEQs from question bank (2-timed SEQs per day)
    3. More assignments will be updated here.

    Here are the SEQs

    Saturday, August 28, 2010

    Prelim II Consultations

    Saturday 4 Sep 2010 (4H only)
    1300-1400: JWen, Nat, JYong, CMa
    1400-1500: PRC scholars

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010

    June Assignments

    Sec 4s:

    Please complete
    1. other 2 SEQs you did not attempt in SS & WH SA1
    2. notes for Globalisation

    Sec 3s:

    Please complete
    1. other SEQ you did not attempt for WH SA1
    2. notes for Sri Lanka/Northern Ireland
    3. notes for Fascist Japan/War in the Pacific

    Assignments to be checked in Week 1. Non-negotiable.

    Saturday, April 17, 2010

    Sec 3 Schedule for Weeks 5-6

    Week 5 (19 Apr 10) Social Studies Revision
    • 2 periods: 
      • Lecture on Healthcare in Britain
    • 3 periods:
      • SEQ: How far does the Medisave Scheme encourage citizens’ self-reliance in managing rising healthcare costs? (30 mins)
      • SBQ: Contribution of Elderly (30 mins)
      • Review suggested answers (30 mins)
      • Notes Update
    Week 6 (26 Apr 10) History Revision
    • 2 periods:
      • SBQ: Nazi Economy (30 mins)
      • review suggested answers (30 mins)
    • 3 periods:
      • SEQ: TOV & Stalin (60 mins)
      • Review suggested answers (30 mins)
      • Notes Update