Saturday, June 23, 2007

Science and Journalism

Ever read a piece of scientific literature? It looks something like this :

T he first disease linked definitively to active
smoking was lung cancer. It is, therefore, not
surprising that the first disease identified as
caused by passive smoking was also lung cancer.1
Before the advent of mass-marketed cigarettes, lung
cancer was a rare disease. Because smoking is the
primary cause of lung cancer, identification of this
link - for both active2 and passive smoking3-was
relatively straightforward. This situation contrasts
with heart disease, which has many risk factors, and
unsurprisingly, the scientific community was longer in
concluding that active smoking caused heart disease.4
Once the link between smoking and heart disease
was established, smoking was found to kill more
people by causing or aggravating heart disease than
lung cancer. In fact, smoking is the most important,
preventable cause of coronary disease. Exposure to
environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) has now been
linked to heart disease in nonsmokers.5,6

1. US Public Health Service: The Health Consequences of Involuntary
Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon GeneraL DHS (CDC)
87-8398, 1986
2. Doll R, Hill AB: A study of the aetiology of carcinoma of the
lung. Br Med J 1952;2:1271-1286
3. Hirayama T: Nonsmoking wives of heavy smokers have a
higher risk of lung cancer: A study from Japan. Br Med J
4. US Public Health Service: The Health Consequences of Smoking:
Cardiovascular Disease: A Report of the Surgeon General.
DHHS (PHS) 84-50204, 1983
5. Wells A: An estimate of adult mortality in the United States
from passive smoking. Environ Int 1988;14:249-265
6. Kristensen T: Cardiovascular diseases and the work environment:
A critical review of the epidemiologic literature on
chemical factors. Scand J Work Environ Health 1989;15:

Notice the numbers behind many of the sentences. The purpose of those numbers is so that the reader can refer to the list of references listed at the end of the paper and look up the original papers that describes the experiment which led to that conclusion. For example, if you are interested in reading up how scientists concluded that passive smoking causes lung cancer, you can look up the paper "US Public Health Service: The Health Consequences of InvoluntarySmoking: A Report of the Surgeon GeneraL DHS (CDC)87-8398, 1986" .

In order words the assertion that "It is, therefore, not surprising that the first disease identified as caused by passive smoking was also lung cancer" is not simply an opinion. That assertion is backed up by data collected from an experiment conducted by scientists, with the experimental method documented as well. Should you disagree with the conclusion that passive smoking causes lung cancer, you may examine the experiment that led to that conclusion, point out the faults in that experiment and dispute its findings.

Now let's take a look at another article. The original link is here

SINGAPORE: 'Light touch' on new media, but government alert to radical websites

Government to restrict access to websites that might pose a threat to Singapore

Straits TimesThursday, June 21, 2007

By Leslie Goh

The Government is prepared to restrict access to any website with radical content that poses a threat to Singapore society, said Dr Lee Boon Yang, the Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts (Mica) yesterday.

Referring to the recent detention of a Muslim polytechnic lecturer for planning militant activities, he said it showed how self-radicalisation could take place on the Internet, even among well-educated individuals.
Governments had to be vigilant against this new threat, he said, adding that till now, Singapore had adopted a "light touch" when regulating new media.

"Despite the risks and threats, we believe that this is still the most practical approach to managing new media," he said.

However, the Government has to be alert and, "where necessary," would restrict access to websites which threaten society with an online "vortex of lies and distortion."

Speaking at the inaugural New Media @ Arts House forum, he raised the issue of the social impact of new media, and pointed out that radical sites posed as much of a problem as pornographic sites and sex predators in chatrooms.

The half-day forum, organised by the Media Development Authority (MDA), coincides with the Infocomm Media Business Exchange, the largest telco and media trade show now on.

The forum panel, comprising media specialists and Internet gurus, also took questions from the floor.
MDA's chief executive Christopher Chia, referring to the Government's "light touch," said there was no plan to "hire people to police websites."

His deputy, Mr Michael Yap, added that monitoring of the Web would be an ineffective exercise in any case, because "if one site was outlawed today, something would replace it the next day."

Responding to queries from The Straits Times later, an MDA spokesman confirmed that the Government did not maintain a list of websites with radical content.

But, picking up on the minister's point, the spokesman said MDA was "prepared to restrict access to websites that posed a threat to Singapore society with their radical online content."

The other panellists welcomed the opportunities provided by new media but also highlighted the dangers posed by it.

Professor Kishore Mahbubani, the dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, said that instead of bringing the world together and promoting understanding, the Web could lead to greater divisions.

For example, if right-wing people visited only right-wing websites and blogs, they would not be exposed to other views, and would become a closed community.

Film director Shekhar Kapur warned of the "rise of cultism."

He also feared that individuals who spent hours on their PC keyboards instead of going for face-to-face interactions could develop long-term psychological problems.

Mr Cheong Yip Seng, who chairs the Advisory Council on the Impact of New Media on Society, noted the different views on regulation of the Internet.

Some people wanted it to be free of legislation, others preferred some form of it to set a "moral marker."
But, he said, legislation had to be practical, because it would be "a lost cause if it could not be enforced."
MDA announced yesterday that its Media 21 masterplan for the interactive digital media industry would be updated before the year end, and renamed Media Fusion 2015.

Eight recommendations put forward by MDA's International Advisory Panel, which had met over the last two days, would be considered for the masterplan.

Some of the recommendations are that Singapore should:
  • Adapt content from films, TV programmes, music and published material for use in traditional and digital formats and platforms;
  • Identify a few national-level digital media projects;
  • Continue to invest in infrastructure, attract talent, and create an environment for creativity to flourish;
  • Leverage on its role as a gateway between the East and the West to be a centre for global enterprises; and
  • Enhance the use of digital media technologies and tools in the education, medicine and science sectors.


Now have a good laugh. Especially this : "Film director Shekhar Kapur warned of the "rise of cultism." He also feared that individuals who spent hours on their PC keyboards instead of going for face-to-face interactions could develop long-term psychological problems." I don't mean to be rude. BUT WTF??!!!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Late Calvers

May 11, 2007, 4.14 pm (Singapore time) 2 S'poreans killed in fighter jet crash in Taiwan The two injured Singaporeans, said to be in critical condition, have been sent to the Taipei's Tri-Service General Hospital. -- TVBS TAIPEI - A MILITARY exercise in northern Taiwan turned tragic when two Singaporean soldiers were killed and nine others were left injured. The accident, which happened on Friday morning also left two Taiwanese fighter pilots dead. According to Taiwan's defence ministry, an F-5F jet crashed into a military compound in Hsinchun county during its annual 'Han Kuang' military exercise. The two SAF servicemen who died in the crash are 19-year-old Corporal Isz Sazli Sapari and 22-year-old Private Fan Yao Jin. The two-seat warplane crashed at 9.38am, 30 minutes after take-off from an air base in Taitong, south-east of the island during a simulation of a ground attack, according to the defence ministry. The cause of the crash at the Hu-kou military base was not immediately known, the island’s defence ministry said in a statement. But Taiwan's Ministry of National Defence spokesman, Rear-Admiral Wu Chi Fang said the pair killed were not taking part in Friday’s drill, adding that the cause of the crash was under investigation. In a statement, Singapore's defence ministry, MINDEF, said that the Taiwan Air Force F-5F aircraft crashed into a storeroom which was gutted by a fire. The servicemen, including Full-Time National Servicemen (NSF), were present at the storeroom at that time. The bodies of the Corporal Isz Sazli and Private Fan were flown to a mortuary in Taoyuan, north of Taiwan, while the two injured Singaporeans, said to be in critical condition,have been sent to the Taipei's Tri-Service General Hospital. Reports say the two suffered 60 to 70 per cent burns on their bodies. A team of five SAF doctors are now in Taiwan to help stabalise the conditions the two servicemen. Meanwhile, the SAF and Mindef extended their condolences to the families of the pair who died and will fly them to Taiwan. Singapore's Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean has expressed his deep concern for affected servicemen and their families. [b]He said that Mindef and the SAF will 'do all they can to look after their well-being' but the victims' families need to be 'realistic' on amount of compensation they can get. Mr Teo, who is in touch with Taiwanese authorities, said Mindef and the SAF will be investigating the incident. The two pilots who died in the crash were an instructor and intelligence officer. All remaining F-5F fighters participating in the drill — 60 or so — were immediately grounded for safety inspections, together with all F-5Es in the fleet. The Air Force has also grounded F-Es for safety inspections. Mr Lee however said the live-fire “Han Kuang (Han Glory) 23” manoeuvres would go on as scheduled next week. Taiwan prepares to showcase its military strength, beginning next Monday, in five days of exercises designed to test its defence capabilities. -- Additional sources from AFP, AP[/b]

This is the only copy of this article i found on the net, post on But i'm sure many of you do remember reading the original article on the net.


Now kids, let uncle teach you all a few things. Firstly, let uncle introduce himself. Uncle here is a farmer, the real kind of farmer you know? The kind that milk the cow kind of farmer, not the SAF farmer captain kind of farmer. Don't be mistaken hor. What us farmers do is feed the cows, breed the cows so that they give birth and can produce milk and then we milk them and sell the milk. We try to let the mother cows give birth in spring so that they produce milk for the next 10 months and feed on the high quality grass that grows in spring. Since cows need to eat more to produce milk, if the cow give birth too late into spring, they will not be able to utilise the nice good grass early in spring and when summer comes, the grass will dry off and so the cow will produce less milk for that year. This is called late calving. On top of producing less milk this year, the cow will tend to calve late the next year and will produce less milk again. This one the vicious cycle ah. So what uncle usually do with cows like this is to sell them to the slaughter house. Uncle very pragmatic one. The cow don't produce enough milk for me, then i sent the cow to the slaughter house. You think us farmers treat cows like pets ah?

So when uncle see you kids serve National Service, uncle cannot help but think that you kids are like uncle's cows!! Why? Because when u all serve for the 2 years, it's like producing less milk already (earning peanuts as some might as). Then when you all finishing serving, you all 2 year behind all the foreign talents already. And that's not all, you all still must do reservist. If i am your boss, i will also send you to the slaughter house, nono opps so sorry i mean i will sack you and hire the foreign talent. As uncle's veterinarian says : late calvers tend to be late calvers for life and will produce less milk. Off to the abattoir these cows go and dun cow pay cow bull.

The next lesson uncle wanna teach you kids is some "Asian value" called fillial piety. Your parents feed and care for you for 18 years before you go serve National Service not cheap ok! You go add up the Obstetrician fees, the hospital fees, the milk powder money, the diapers money, your pocket money all throughout your schooling years, your school fees, the room which you lived in which could have been rented out for more money, not cheap ok? And don't forget to compound that sum of money over the years ok? Now that you are 18 and go serve NS, better not be too garang. Later you die already then how? Die still not so bad. Paralysed already then you know. Then you will be compensated a grand total of $500 a month. Which is not even enough to hire a maid to care for you which is besides the point anyway. The point is you garang, training time chiong like mad man then got accidental just because you want to be patriotic and serve national service, your parents will suffer as you will not be there to care for them when they are old. Then they will be unable to make ends meet. Then they will try to ask the Government for welfare. Then people will label your parent as "overassuming leeches" who need to "get out of their uncaring elite face". Not very filial right kids? After all your Defence Minister said your parents "need to be 'realistic' on amount of compensation they can get" ok? So please jolly well learn to be realistic.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Price increases

With the booming economy, prices should be expected to increase as people are earning more and their pay increase are tied to the ultimate scale for measurement of a country's economic growth, the GDP. We should not feel unhappy over these prices increases as these increases goes to show how we have progressed. Being rank in one of the top 30 most expensive country is an honour to have and why are we still complaining? We, as the prestige country, should be proud of it, and we shouldn't be having this outcry for price increase, we should advocate it. Prada never gives discounts, why should we?

The nature of wealth and university places

Ever wondered why some countries are richer than others? Or for that matter, what is wealth in the first place? What is money? Pieces of paper that everyone is dying to have? Is wealth something one attains at the expense of the other, which is why the rich is frequently associated with villains in movies?

Let's consider this question: Compared with 100 years ago, is the world wealthier now?

The answer is obvious. We are obviously richer. But I am too lazy to find data to back it up anyway.

Then the next question is : How did that happen? How could everyone be richer at the same time?

To answer that, let's examine the achievements of Henry Ford. Henry Ford is also known as the father of modern assembly lines used in mass production. What he did was make more cars than anyone else, faster than anyone else, cheaper than anyone else. Before Henry Ford, cars were only affordable to the rich. It was simply priced out of reach to the common folk. The superior production speed and cost made possible by the modern assembly lines meant that the real price of cars fell dramatically such that the working class could afford it. By 1927, 15 million Ford T models were sold, a record that stood for the next 45 years.

Something similar happened to the poultry industry. Tremendous genetic gain was achieved through breeding, enabling chickens to lay twice as many eggs, grow twice as large while consuming half the feed (abit exaggerated but the idea is there). The switch from backyard chicken farmers to the modern day chicken farms easily housing a million chickens resulted in reduced production costs and partly contributed to the decline is real price for eggs and chicken meat.

But this is only half the story. Lowering the cost of input and increasing the efficiency of the transformation process alone is not sufficient to create a wealthy world. For what's the use of producing goods that nobody wants? This is a waste of time and time is actually money in disguise. Money is actually time converted to a physical form. You spend time to work for your boss and in exchange for your time, he gives u money. Similarly, producing too few of goods that people want or need is also a waste of time. Why? It's because the price of the goods will be unnecessarily inflated. The real price of the goods will be increased and if you pay more money, you are paying out more time. Imagine a situation with a shortage of food supply. You will need to pay twice as much time to get half the amount of food.

So after all this rambling, what's the link about all these to university places? Recently, there was a minor outcry over the perceived lack of university places allocated for Singapore students.
Before an analysis is made on the issue of whether there should be more places more places of Singaporean students in Singapore universities, let's revisit the current situation on medical and law industries in Singapore.

On 30th March 2007, the Ministry of Health released a press statement regarding the "Expansion in the number of recognised Foreign Medical Schools". Therefore, it is save to assume that Singapore faces a shortage in doctors. This in turn means that 7 years ago (5 years of medical training + 2 years of internship) and before that, Singapore was training too few doctors. How many straight As students were rejected from the medical course in Singapore? And what's the effect of this? I suppose those rejected from medical course took up and engineering course or business course instead, displacing other students who wanted to do these courses but were at the lower end in the results spectrum. A top down effect, rather like dominoes ensues with the students right at the bottom of the chain left without a place in University. And what are the options left for such students? Retake their A'levels? Get a place in a polytechnic? Or maybe go overseas for a tertiary education if they can afford it?

Improper allocation of resources would have occured in such a situation, at many levels. Many potential doctors miss out on the chance to be one. Too many engineers taken in as a result? And those at the bottom end of the A'level results spectrum go without a place in a university.
And with the shortage of doctors, everyone pays more for medical care, perhaps too much. And with the excessive numbers of engineers, isn't this a case with excessive "goods" that's unwanted? And how about those with the ability to complete a so-called "easier" course in the university but missed out on the opportunity to do so?

The same has happened to the law industry. And with Singapore's obsession with paper qualifications, perhaps we will have too many waiters, cleaners, construction workers etc. (those without sufficient paper qualifications) Or is that already happening?

And all the parroting about human resources being the only resource Singapore has, perhaps more needs to be done to develop Singapore's people as efficiency and productivity alone cannot lead to great wealth.

CPF Minimum Sum withdrawal age may be raised to 65

After reading this piece of news on the possible upcoming changes on CPF, here's something to chew on. For those clueless on what is CPF, CPF stand for Central Provident Fund, a form of social security for Singaporeans to accumulate a retirement fund by depositing a portion of their monthly salary into an account with the government. For more details, you can read up on it at the CPF website

1) The CPF is actually a loan from the citizens to the gov at 2.5% pa; no bank in Singapore lends money at such a low rate.

2) Is the situation of insufficient retirement fund related to the influx of foreign low wage workers, which serves to depress the already low wages of the low income earner

3) If a large majority of Singaporeans are unable to have enough savings to retire and own a fully paid for flat after 40 year career (22 -62 yrs old) despite a total CPF contribution rate of 34.5% (14.5% employer rate + 20% employee rate), something is wrong

4) Can the elderly workers find employment?

5) The present $80,000 minimum sum would pay a monthly sum of $333.33 for 20 years ( 62-82) . Can one survive on that sum in Singapore? If not then what's the purpose of CPF? To lure Singaporeans in to a false sense of security?

6) To be able to reach the new minimum sum of $120,000 after working for 40 years, one would need to earn more than $725 a month. Given that some of the people working as cleaners earn less than that figure, how will they be able to reach the new $120,000 minimum sum? Here's a look at the income distribution in Singapore

7) $100 compounded at 2.5% pa over 40 years = $269
$100 compounded at 5% pa over 40 years = $704
5% investment return is easily achieved. Take a look at the S&P 500 index.

Is this why Singaporeans do not have enough money to retire?

8) So is CPF the problem or the cure?