I have seen a number of arguments against mandating the reporting of hourly spot PSI or PM10/PM2.5 concentration levels. One popular argument typically goes that spot readings fluctuate wildly and can thus cause panic amongst the general population when readings spike. A 3-hour PSI reading, the argument goes would smoothen out fluctuations and allow the authorities to issue recommendations which remain valid over the course of a day instead of over-reacting to spikes and fluctuations in PSI levels.
However, let’s take a step back and ask yourselves. How many Singaporeans have looked at the 3-hour PSI reading in the past week and then outside the window and doubted the official NEA numbers? How many of us have woken up to a PSI reading of just over 100 then looked out the window to realise the outline of the neighbouring block remains barely visible? Or when the smog suddenly cleared the last few days but the 3-hour PSI reading still hovered above 200?
If I wanted to head outside to the market or hawker centre these few days, the first thing I would do is to look outside the window. Then I would check the PSI levels. If they agreed, I would have little difficulty deciding between putting on the tight-fitting and uncomfortable N95 mask before heading downstairs or simply going there. But what if what I saw outside conflicts with reported PSI values? How would I then decide? My previous post (point 2 here) also highlighted a real-world example of how delayed air quality reporting in Hong Kong resulted in a 10-km race organisers deciding to go ahead with the race simply because the AQI was merely 52 even though skies were clearly hazy. As a result, dozens reported discomfort with 5 runners admitted to hospital for treatment.
Update: Re-wrote a bit and added screenshot and a few links for clearer picture
Recently the blog The Heart Truths published a post questioning statements made by minister Vivian Balakrishnan that Singapore is probably the only country which reports 3-hourly average PSI with most other countries going by a much longer 24-hour averaging time was accurate. Within hours, the blog was rebutted by commenters as well as the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) Facebook page rebutting the blogger’s claim in a note here (also as a press release here). While Roy, the blogger has since updated his post, some issues bear addressing. Here they are in no particular order.
The year was 1981. Against impossible odds, Harbans Singh of the United People’s Front threw his hat into the Anson by-election ring, together with WP’s Joshua Bin Jeyaretnam (JBJ) and the PAP candidate, with Chiam See Tong’s SDP withdrawing only on Nomination Day itself. Though Harbans Singh ultimately lost, his party UPF soon became a household name and a force to be reckoned with in Singapore’s political landscape, opening the doors and ushering in multi-party parliamentary democracy in Singapore for the next three decades.
Unfortunately this never happened. History remembers Harbans Singh as a potential vote-spoiler, whose vote share of 1% consigned both the party and its leader to oblivion. Ask most Singaporeans today why JBJ’s legacy was significant and they’ll say he was the first opposition candidate to win a parliamentary seat since Singapore’s independence. Few remember that JBJ did so despite a three-cornered fight, and even fewer (if at all) remember the party and the candidate which nearly caused JBJ to lose.
Update June 12th: Via the Straits Times, NUS and Yale has denied the $300m deal. Unfortunately the article is truncated, so we’ll have to wait till it becomes available elsewhere.
Yesterday, Jim Sleeper of the Huffington Post authored a long post criticising Yale’s partnership with NUS here. The article is very lengthy, and much of it rehashes topics such as human rights and freedom of speech. However, what caught my attention were the following paragraphs:
As Amsterdam was being denied entry into Singapore last month, I was seated at a dinner in Germany next to a very high official of a European university who’d been to Singapore a few times himself. “There’s $300 million for Yale in its deal with NUS,” he confided to me.
“What? How do you know that?” I asked. “Yale claims it’s not getting a dime from Singapore, although Singapore is paying all the costs of constructing and staffing the college itself.”
“Oh, it’s not a direct payment,” my interlocutor explained. “It’s what you call insider trading: Yale will be cut in on prime investments that Singapore controls and restricts through its sovereign wealth fund. These will be only investments, not payments, so there’s some risk. But you’ll [see] Yale’s endowment will swell by several hundred million in consequence of its getting in on these ventures.”
I’m not sure what to make of counter protests by the Straits Times and its apologists that it reported the Hougang by-election coverage objectively and dispassionately. Yes those are the words used by the Straits Times editor in its reply to WP’s Low here. As previously written, when then MM Lee Kuan Yew slipped up under oath in 2008, the Straits Times could have spun the headline the same way it did for the by-election such as MM Lee made misstatement under oath, or as it did to WP even something like MM Lee faces allegations of perjury.
But what did Straits Times choose to go with instead? A headline firmly on the MM and PAP’s side: Govt rebuts law group’s attack on S’pore judiciary. Why the inconsistency, Straits Times?
Png Eng Huat, the WP candidate for MP in the Hougang By-election 2012 recently came under fire when DPM Teo Chee Hean said WP was not being truthful. Png had earlier said that he had taken out his name from the WP CEC NCMP ballot, but this appeared to have contradicted by a leaked minutes of the 2011 CEC minutes which saw one vote recorded for him. Png later clarified that he had misspoke and merely his preference that he should not be selected as NCMP.
The Straits Times, long known to be sympathetic to the ruling party, wasted no time in printing the front page headline as follows, juxtaposing a picture of WP’s Low and Sylvia Lim whispering over Png Eng Huat, as if reinforcing the idea that the allegations are true:
Why does Singapore have one of the lowest crime rates in the world? What is responsible for such a phenomena? Of course the usual PAP establishment apologists attribute this to the government’s policies on crime, which they argued have kept Singapore as one of the safest cities in the world. But is there all there is to it? How exactly did the PAP do it?
Let us first examine the trend of overall crime decline. Looking at old articles, the crime rate began falling in 1989 as stated in this 1991 ST article:
Senior Assistant Commissioner Khoo Boon Hui said yesterday: “The decline in the overall crime this year is particularly heartening as it indicates that the police have successfully sustained the falling crime trend of the past 2 1/2 years.”
What could account for such a steady drop in committed crimes? Kishore Mahbubani, a Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy professor attributed it to policies such as the high level of trust between the public and police, tough laws, economic growth and development as well universal education. But is that all?