Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Taliban Tech

14 years after they were ousted by Western forces, the Taliban is back. Of course, they never really went away as the Taliban controls large areas of Afghanistan even when NATO troops were in Afghanistan. Now that NATO is gone, the Taliban wasted no time taking the northern Afghan city of Kunduz.

Afghan government forces have launched a counter-attack on the city and heavy fighting is continuing in the city but you know what really got my attention? How much the Taliban has changed! 

I mean the Taliban fighters are now taking selfies, some just after breaking out of jail! According to reports, the Taliban attacked Kunduz at night, taking the Afghan government forces by surprise. The Taliban fighters quickly overwhelmed several of the police checkpoints defending the perimeter of the town, captured key buildings, and freed about 500 prisoners from the city's jail.

The freed prisoners then promptly took selfies with the Taliban fighters who freed them and the pictures are now flooding Afghan social media. The capture of Kunduz may represent the Taliban's biggest victory since 2001 but it could be fleeting if they can’t hold on to the city. However, the pictures on social media?

That's different. Those selfies on the streets of Kunduz are some of the most striking and revealing moments of the assault on the city. They are there forever. The Taliban is back, and they are different from the Taliban we all remember. 

The New Minister of Transport

With the win in the General Elections (GE), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has announced his latest Cabinet. There's some strange decisions in this Cabinet, like the fact that there are now 2 Acting Ministers of Education, but what Singaporeans really want to know is this. Who's the unlucky chap who is going to be the next Minister of Transport? 

The answer is Khaw Boon Wan. The current Minister of National Development will take over from Lui Tuck Yew who did not contest in the latest GE after having a horrid time as the Transport Minister. Could Mr. Khaw Boon Wan do any better? Considering that the transport portfolio has claimed the political careers of 3 men (Yeo Cheow Tong, Raymond Lim and Lui Tuck Yew), the chances are not likely. 

In all fairness, Mr. Khaw probably have a better chance of getting things right than Mr. Lui as the Singapore government has been trying to fix the train breakdown problems for years. A lot of work has already been put in, and with his experience, Mr. Khaw will have a better chance than Mr. Lui to set things right. However the problems with the MRT is so huge it's a huge task no matter who takes over.

Now I'm not jumping on the bandwagon here, but good luck Mr. Khaw Boon Wan. You're going need it at your new job.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Comedy Injury

The Rugby World Cup is on right now in the U.K, and Japan just scored the biggest upset in the competition's history when they beat 2-time World Cup winners South Africa 34-32 victory last weekend. To show what a shock that was, Japan was then crushed by Scotland 45-10 in the very next game.

However Japan has a ready excuse for the defeat against Scotland; 2 exactly! First, they were still on the high after the win against South Africans. Second, their winger Akihito Yamadawas injured after being bitten by a weever fish. What?

In case you do not know, weever fish are fishes that bury themselves in sand during the day and catches passing prey with their poisonous dorsal fins and gills.Winger Akihito Yamadawas was part of the team that shocked South Africa but he was absent for the defeat against Scotland because he was stung by a weever fish when swimming off the sea in Brighton during a recovery session.

It seems that the Japanese team was doing a recovery session in the sea when he got stung and I have to say; this has to be the funniest injury in the history of the Rugby World Cup. Of course considering the crushing defeat by the Scots, missing the game might not be that bad of a thing for Yamadawas.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Super Haze This Year

For the past 3 weeks, the annual haze has descended on Singapore but to me, this year's haze seems extremely bad. Unlike previous years when the haze comes and goes, this year's haze seems to linger. And I'm not alone in feeling this. 

All primary and secondary schools in Singapore will be closed tomorrow and this is why. 

Just look at that! You can barely see the Parliament House and this is just across the Singapore River. The National Environment Agency (NEA) state that PSI (Pollutant Standards Index) reached a high of 317 today. That means Singapore's air quality reached "very unhealthy" levels but I honestly have to wonder about that. Based on previous experience, the haze today seems extremely bad and I have to wonder if 317 is too low. 

Worse is that the haze is believed to be here to stay till November due to the El Nino weather system. That means Singaporeans has another month of the haze to deal with! Good thing for the Singapore government the election is already over.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Comics this week

Astro City #27- Last issue, we celebrated 20 years of Astro City. In those 20 years, writer Kurt Busiek and artist Brent Anderson has been Astro City's dynamic duo. I can't even remember the last time they weren't the writer and artist of the series. The streak is broken in this issue where Joe Infurnari takes over as guest artist. It's was definitely a change in style as Infurnari's style is much darker than Anderson's but on the whole, I think he did a good job. The story on American Chibi was also quite surprising as it set the stage for her leaving Astro City. We barely knew her. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

4 Months?

As a Singaporean, I too have faced problems with foreigners coming into Singapore and completing with Singaporeans for jobs, housing and the general attitude of some foreigners to my follow Singaporeans. Having said that, 4 months for an online rant?

For those of you who are wondering; a Filipino nurse, Ello Ed Mundsel Bello, posted comments on Facebook insulting Singaporeans and calling for the takeover of the city-state by his countrymen. A police investigation was launched and he was questioned by the police. 

Today, a Singapore court sentenced Mr. Bello to four months in prison. 3 months for posting inflammatory comments on Facebook against Singaporeans and 1 month for lying to police investigators. Ello had claimed to the police that his account had been hacked by an unknown person before admitting to posting the comments. In his sentencing remarks, the judge said Ello's postings had "the potential to harm relations between Singaporeans and Filipinos in Singapore."

Seriously? Honestly, if one silly online rant from an idiot as stupid as Ello Ed Mundsel Bello could harm relations between Singaporeans and Filipinos, that tell you a lot about the current relation between out two people right? 

The guy is a moron. He works in Singapore and still insult Singaporeans? Moronic at best, but 4 months in jail for an online rant is way too much. Give him a few weeks and then deport him. No need to keep him in Singapore for 4 months. The sooner he's gone, the better it is for everyone. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Another Missing Billion

10 days ago, the respected Wall Street Journal reported that US$1.4 billion (RM6.02 billion) was missing from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). The money was supposed to be payment from 1MDB to an Abu Dhabi state investor’s subsidiary, but the payment in November 2014 was missing.

Today The Wall Street Journal reported that another US$1 billion is missing. 

According to the newspaper, IPIC (a United Arab Emirates state investment vehicle) had guaranteed US$3.5 billion in bonds that 1MDB issued to finance the purchase of power plants in 2012. In return for the guarantee, IPIC got an option to buy a 49% stake in the power plants as well as collateral for the bond. 

1MDB reported it repaid IPIC US$1 billion for the guarantee, but IPIC insist it never receive the payment. Officers in the UAE are now trying to trace the US$993 million that 1MDB reportedly paid to IPIC. This on top of the missing US$1.4 billion means a total of US$2.4 billion are missing.

Wait a minute; didn't Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak say that the RM2.6 billion deposited into his personal accounts ahead of the 2013 general election was "donated" by a Middle-Eastern donor? The currency used is different but the numbers match (2.4 vs 2.6). So does that means we now know who this donor from the Middle-East is?

Unfortunately, the UAE is saying the money wasn't "donated" but is "missing". It is any surprise that UAE are now trying desperately to get out of their deals with Malaysia and 1MDB? Seems the 1MDB fiasco has caused Malaysia a friend in the Middle-East. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Review of Inside Out

The race for this year's Oscar of Best Animated Feature Film is over. Pixar has won the award many times before with films like Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, WALL-E and several others; they are going to get another one this year with Inside Out.

Inside Out is set in the mind of 11 year old, Riley Andersen (Kaitlyn Dias). Five emotions, Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling), lead Riley through life as they influence Riley's actions and memories. Joy is the chief and this cause Riley to be a bubbly happy young girl.

Things change when Riley's parents (Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan) moved to San Francisco and this caused changes in Riley's personality. As Joy tries to maintain Riley's bubbly outlook, Sadness began to grow more powerful, changing Riley's outlook in life.

Now growing up can be a bumpy road and in Inside Out, we have one of the best film ever made showing the joy and sadness of growing pains. As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, viewers get a front row seat on the turmoil that goes on inside her mind.

This film is without question close to the heart of director Pete Docter who has publicly said that he too faced problems when his family relocated to Denmark when he was young. The experience must have been a great help to the director because the heart of this film shines brightly. The story may be simple but it was touching as hell with adults more than likely to shed a tear or two as the film progresses.

I loved the way the film didn't try to dumb things down. Inside Out is smart and pull no punches as it shows the innocence that is lost as one grows up. What's more, the film wasn't shy about it's message that even "bad" emotions like anger and sadness are needed for a child to grow up to be a well-adjusted person. Now that's takes courage, especially for a animated movie.

Yes, I will admit that the kids may have some problem understanding this film. The film also takes a little while to get going but that's about it. Outside those minor details, the rest of the film is just pure gold.

Hell, forget about the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film. Inside Out is bold, sweet, funny, sad, and heartbreaking. Even the accompany short animated film, titled Lava, was great. Forget about the Animated Oscar, this film deserves at least a nomination for Best Picture. It is that good!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Comics this week

Paybacks #1- How much money is there is being a superhero? Not much if you really think about it. Being a villain has it's rewards because if you score a big heist or do a good job, you got it made. Being a hero...there's no finance rewards in it right? That's the premise in this new series by Dark Horse where super-powered repo-man go into the homes and lairs of superheroes to repossess their (and I quote) crime-fighting gadgets, invisible jets, or suits of armor. If you consider the amount of cash Batman throws away every time he goes on patrol, this new series by writer Donny Cates and Eliot Rahal is going to have of material to play with. 

Rai #10- I must say, this 2 thread story line writer Matt Kindt is on after coming back from the break is showing a lot of promise. We have Rai on Earth where he is travelling and slowly gathering allies, and at the same time, the remaining rebels on New Japan are picking up the pieces after their defeat. We even has a great mini arc on Spylocke and how Lula, even if both he and her do not know it yet, has been positioned to be Spylocke's successor since she was a child. Of course, everything under the expert art of Clayton Crain. Great! 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Windows 10 Sucks!

Like most people. I upgraded my Windows to Windows 10 recently. Like most people, I am regretting it! Before my "upgrade", I was using Windows 8.1. It wasn't perfect but there is one thing 8.1 is definetly better than 10. It doesn't forced me to update my Windows!

In case you do not know, Windows 10 force users to always install the latest updates. And I mean FORCED! Since I got the Windows 10, I must had over 5 updates already and I only got it for about 2 months. Worse, I can't turn it off and I can't tell Windows to eve delay the update. There had been times when I'm doing something and the system came to a crawl due to the update.

Also I can't control what is updated. The update is automatic and it doesn't give me any option on what to update or what not to update. Windows 10 system doesn't even tell me when it is updating. I discovered it when my system comes to a crawl.

So after using Windows 10 for 2 months, I will say this. Windows 10 sucks!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Results of GE 2015

3 days after after General Election (GE) 2015, a few things can be gleamed from the results.

1) Preparation is everything.
Since the start of the year, the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) has been throwing goodies at Singaporeans like there's no tomorrow. Everything from Road Tax rebates to Pioneer Packages has been thrown at Singaporeans, and it worked!

2) Lee Kuan Yew is still a factor
A ruthless political operator who led Singapore to independence, Mr. Lee led the PAP to decisive victories in every election since the 1968 general elections, and he died this year in March. Singaporeans withstand 7 hours waiting lines to pay their respect to the man at his wake, and his death played a big part in the PAP victory this year. The sympathy was clearly with the PAP this year and that's not something the PAP usually has. He may be gone, but Mr. Lee Kuan Yew has left his mark on Singapore and his influence is not going away anytime soon.

3) Rally size means nothing
I have told many people that the number of people at political rallies means nothing in Singapore and I like to think the results this year show me to be right. The thing is the sheer domination of the press by the PAP. Most people has no access to the opposition outside election time, so when election season comes around, Singaporeans go to the rallies to hear them speak. That's why the size at opposition rallies is so big. It however does not mean the people at the rallies will vote the opposition. It is two different things.

4) The Worker's Party (WP) are on the rise
I know it may not look that way after the results of GE 2015, but I thought the WP did great this GE. There's a 10% swing against the opposition, but the WP still managed to hold on to the 6 seats they won in 2011. The only seat they lost was in Punggol East which they won in a by-election in 2013 and even then, the PAP only won that by a 2% margin. Compare that to the rest of the opposition, that's great.

5) Tan Hui Hui have a political future
In Singapore, people running as independents don't usually do well. Samir Salim Neji got just 0.6% of the vote in Bukit Panjang running as an independent. Tan Hui Hui, running in Radin Mas, got over 10%! For an independent, that's an amazing result. Ms. Tan was energetic and more importantly, she has a cause she firmly believes in. If you saw her posters around Radin Mas, you will her face on the posters along with #RETURNOURCPF below it. That seems to have resonated with voters. If Ms. Tan is willing to join a political party (one willing to raise the CPF issue) and come back for the next GE, she will have a good long political future.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Status Quo

With the results of the General Election (GE) in, many Singaporeans say saying this was a great election for the ruling People's Action Party (PAP). On paper, it seems that way as the PAP got more votes than they did in 2011 when they won with 60% of the popular vote.

There's only 1 problem with that belief. In Singapore, the popular vote doesn't matter.

In the 2011 GE, the PAP won 81 seats with the opposition, Worker's Party (WP), winning the other 6. You look at the results yesterday and you see the PAP winning 83 seats with the WP winning the other 6. So in 2011, the PAP lost 6 seats with 60% of the vote. In 2015, the PAP lost 6 sets with 69.86% of the vote. I don't see that as a great result for the PAP.

The only seat the PAP gained yesterday was the one in Punggol East which the PAP also won in 2011. The WP only got the seat in a 2013 by-election and the seat was always in danger when the PAP announced that veteran Charles Chong is going to put off retirement to contest the seat. Even then, he won with just 51% of the vote. You take things as they are and you will understand why WP chief Low Thia Khiang said he was satisfied with his party's performance.

For the WP, there's no change! The results in 2015 mirrors those in 2011. Yes, the PAP got more votes this time but again; that does not matter! Singaporean obsessed over the vote count but in Singapore, it is the number of seats you win that's important and in that count, the WP did as well in 2015 as they did in 2011.  

The end results of GE 2015 is this; there is no change. The PAP got more votes but did not get more seats than they did in 2011. This is a status quo election. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Comics this week

Deadly Class #16- Good news, bad news time! Bad news; this series is taking another break and will only return in December. Good news; the return is going to be killer! After some issues treading water, writer Rick Remender finally put the hammer down as the teachers of the academy free the handle bars and allow these murderous kids to prove they have what it takes to go on to the second year of the academy. Unfortunately, we need to wait till December to see the fallout but when it gets here; I will be there. 

Injection #5- The opening arc of Injection comes to an end as writer Warren Ellis reveals the birth of the Injection, what it was designed to do, and what it is now. Anyone reading the series from the beginning will not be too surprised by the reveal as Ellis has been dropping hints about the Injection since #2, but it does seem like we will be seeing more of the members of the CCCU outside Maria Kilbride from now on. Two members are working together and Robin Morel was basically told by a spirit he summoned to man up and embrace his magical heritage. To me, that's a good thing. Keep it coming!  

Ms. Marvel #18- One issue to go before the series ends and go into reboot mode, writer G. Willow Wilson deals with the family dynamics of the Khan family as Kamala's brother gains superpowers and we discovered that her mother knew about her being a superhero. I love this issue! Part of the charm of Kamala Khan is the fact that she's very unsure about her role in life. She wants to be a superhero but isn't always sure what that means. At the same time, she wants to be a good daughter but isn't sure being a superhero is something her parents will approve of. Wilson again proves she's the perfect writer for the character as it looks like we will be gaining closure on some of these questions. Great issue!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Riot In Shah Alam Stadium

Just when it seems it can't get any worse for Malaysia, now their football fans have rioted! Malaysia’s World Cup qualifier with Saudi Arabia on Tuesday was halted when fans threw flares onto the pitch. Malaysia was trailing 2-1 when the game was suspended in the 88th min. 

Fans has been unhappy since last week's 10-0 defeat to UAE which caused former coach Dollah Salleh to resign, but that does not give them any right to riot. As unhappy as the fans are, they need to understand the simple fact that they were facing one of Asia's top teams. Saudi Arabia is ranked much higher than Malaysia and a 2-1 defeat to them is hardly a disgrace. I will admit I did not see the game but even at home, a 2-1 loss is not a reason for a riot. 

Worse is the fact that the fans even attacked Saudi supporters at the match. Unconfirmed reports said two Saudi supporters were attacked. Malaysian Police had said that 11 people had been arrested on charges of rioting. That's good and well but things may get a lot worse for Malaysian football once the Asian Football Confederation gets a report on the riot. 

And honestly, the Malaysian will have no one to blame but themselves. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

No Effect

With Polling Day in 3 days, this may be he worst time for the MRT to suffer another breakdown. With the North-East Line having another breakdown, some people are wondering if this latest breakdown will cause Singaporeans to vote against the People's Action Party (PAP).

Not likely. 

I think the breakdown will have absolutely no effect on how Singaporeans will vote on Friday. Not because of how mature Singaporeans are, but because Singaporeans are so used to the breakdowns, no one even care anymore. Our MRT suffer so many breakdowns, it's almost normal. 

So come Friday, the latest MRT breakdown today will have no affect. It is so common, Singaporeans have already factor the breakdowns into their daily lives already.  

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Not A Chance

Drop it? Not a chance!

That's seems to be the word from the Worker's Party (WP) on the Aljunied-Hougang Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) issue. For years, the WP has been under attack from the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) on the AHPETC and I will say now what I said then; Singaporeans don't care!

As long as my bills do not increase and the garbage get cleared on time, who cares how much it cost the town council to do the job. Honestly, I have no idea how much money my town council uses to run my ward and I'm sure I'm not alone in this. The attacks by the PAP on the WP on the AHPETC issue was stupid from the get-go and now that they realized there's no traction n the ground, the PAP want to move on to other tropics. 

"Not a chance," says the WP. Sensing the mood on the ground, the WP now will not let the matter rest, worse they are going on the counterattack! WP chief Low Thia Khiang said in a rally speech on Saturday night that in 2013 when they took over the Punggol East ward after the by-election, the ward had a deficit of $280,000.

Now, Mr. Low may have smudged the truth a little as the PAP say although there was a deficit in the fund to the tune of $282,009, the amount could be claimed as reimbursement from the CIPC fund. However the point has been made; there was a deficit and it happened during the PAP watch. 

So let the AHPETC saga drop? Not if the WP can help it.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Comics this week

Plutona #1- In the world of comics, artists and writers are the stars of the industry. Colorists comes a distant third in the pecking order, but Jordie Bellaire is doing her damm best to upend the established order by putting out some amazing work.  Writers Jeff Lemire and Emi Lenox may get the majority of the applauses for this inviting story but I thought Bellaire was the one who made the story work. The change of colors from normal life to the eerily darkness was superb and if this keeps up, I foresee a great series similar to Astro City.

We Stand On Guard #3- Writer Brian K. Vaughan proves in the previous issue that he is going to push the envelope and it is still the case here as the captured Mcfadden undergoes torture by the American military on the whereabouts of the Two-Four. However the main star of this issue has to be artist Steve Skroce. Skroce's art is great from start to finish and the final page reveal showing in no doubt the odds the Two-Four faces. I’m less sure about the flashback of Amber and her brother; so far it doesn’t seem to have much effect on the main story. This is not help by the fact that Amber is not even the main character in the Two-Four; she just our window into the militia. Less flashback, more Two-Four, and this series will be great. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Boring Contest?

With 181 candidates, 9 political parties and 2 independents contesting for all 89 seats in Parliament, some have called this the most keenly contested election in Singapore's history. Others have began calling it the most boring.

After looking at the facts, I have to say both sides are right.

Although all seats are contested this round, the simple fact is that the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) are the overwhelming favorite in the vast majority of these contests. The biggest opposition party, Worker's Party (WP), seems more interested in retaining the seats they won in 2011 than making any new headway. There is no "all-in" gamble like Aljunied GRC.

Having said that, the PAP also seems more interested in retaining their majority in Parliament than anything else. Without question, the PAP's strategy is to prevent the loss of another GRC. The team they fielded in Aljunied GRC seems lightweight, and even the most hardcore opposition supporter has to feel a little sorry for Cheryl Chin. The PAP newcomer has been thrown into Fengshan SMC which voted 48.1% for the WP in 2011; all in the name of saving East Coast. Without question, Lim Swee Say now has an easier task in East coast without having to worry about Fengshan.

With the 2 biggest parties in Singapore holding ground, any fireworks in this election must be provided by the other opposition parties, chiefly the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP). After their better-than-expected showing in 2011, the SDP is now back in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC. Headed by its secretary-general, Dr Chee Soon Juan, the SDP team has put it's A-team in Holland-Bukit Timah and it seems to me this is the GRC most likely to fall to the opposition.

Can they do it? Honestly, the odds are not good for the SDP. So both sides are right. This is the most keenly contested election in Singapore's history, but it will also be its most boring.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

All Seats Are In Contest

The nominations are done and for the first time since independence 50 years ago, the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) will face a fight from opposition candidates in all parliamentary seats. 89 seats are on offer this year and all of them will be contested. 

Although the PAP will return to power on Sept. 11, I must say I'm kind of surprise by the fact that all the seats are contested in this election. The PAP has the feel-good factor this time with Singapore's 50th birthday last month and even the sympathy vote with the death of the late Lee Kuan Yew. As such, I didn't think all the seats will be contested this round. This didn't happen even in the last election when the mood for the opposition was much better. 

I guess maybe the opposition parties know something I don't. Hopefully...