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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Freedom House


Over the past five years, the Asia-Pacific region has been the only one to record steady gains in political rights and civil liberties as measured by Freedom House. Although it is home to China, where over half the world’s Not Free population lives, and North Korea, the least free country in the world, a number of Asia-Pacific countries have made impressive gains in the institutions of electoral democracy—elections, political parties, pluralism—and in freedom of association. Nonetheless, problems persist regarding many fundamental rights, and Freedom House supports local civil society groups throughout Southeast Asia in promoting and advocating the work of human rights defenders.


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News & Updates

Freedom House condemns the violent crackdown against peaceful protesters at the Letpadaung copper mining site in Sagaing Division, Burma and calls on the government of Burma to immediately halt its use of violence and arbitrary detention against peoples exercising their right to peacefully assemble.
In the following letter, Freedom House and other key human rights groups express concern to President Barack Obama about the possibility that the administration will soon relax the import ban on Burma before proper safeguards are in place.
Projects to monitor internet censorship in Myanmar and to create a secure connection to the internet in Syria were selected as the winners of Freedom House's IGF Incubator Challenge, an international competition for new internet freedom initiatives.
Freedom House urges President Obama to highlight ongoing human rights issues and to meet with civil society during his upcoming trip to Southeast Asia, which includes visits to Cambodia, Burma, and Thailand. These stops are scheduled during the President’s travel to the region November 17-20, where he will attend the East Asia Summit and meet with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Phnom Penh. It will be the first time a sitting United States President will visit Cambodia and Burma.

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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Singapore’s press freedom index drops 14 positions to 149

Singapore’s press freedom index drops 14 positions to 149th

>Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières, or RSF) has just released its annual press freedom ranking – “World Press Freedom Index 2013″ last month [Link].

Singapore’s ranking has dropped 14 positions from 135 last year to 149 now. Singapore’s ranking has been getting worse over the years:
  • 2009 – 133
  • 2010 – 136
  • 2011/12 – 135
  • 2013 – 149
At 149, Singapore’s ranking is worse than countries like Cambodia (143), Congo (142), Ethiopia (137), Zimbabwe (133), Libya (131), Angola (130), Algeria (125).
Singapore is only slightly better than Myanmar (151). And of course, compared to China (173) where new citizen Li Yeming came from, Singapore is a lot better.

The Press Freedom Index is an annual ranking of countries compiled and published by RSF based upon the organization’s assessment of the countries’ press freedom records in the previous year. It reflects the degree of freedom that journalists, news organizations, and citizens enjoy in each country, and the efforts made by the authorities to respect and ensure respect for this freedom. The index only deals with press freedom and does not measure the quality of journalism nor does it look at human rights violations in general.
RSF is a French-based international non-governmental organization that advocates freedom of the press and freedom of information. This organization, which has consultant status at the United Nations, was founded in 1985.
RSF’s stated missions are:
  • To continuously monitor attacks on freedom of information worldwide;
  • To denounce any such attacks in the media;
  • To act in cooperation with governments to fight censorship and laws aimed at restricting freedom of information;
  • To morally and financially assist persecuted journalists, as well as their families.
  • To offer material assistance to war correspondents in order to enhance their safety.
In another press freedom ranking by another international organization, Freedom House, Singapore was ranked 150th (‘Singapore ranks 150th in 2012 Freedom of the Press World Ranking‘). The report classified Singapore’s level of press freedom as “Not Free”.
Ref: TRemeritus

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About Freedom House

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom around the world.

Today, as more than two billion people live under oppressive rule, Freedom House speaks out against the main threats to democracy and empowers citizens to exercise their fundamental rights. We analyze the challenges to freedom; advocate for greater political and civil liberties; and support frontline activists to defend human rights and promote democratic change. Founded in 1941, Freedom House was the first American organization to champion the advancement of freedom globally.

Our Mission

Freedom is possible only in democratic political environments where governments are accountable to their own people; the rule of law prevails; and freedoms of expression, association, and belief, as well as respect for the rights of minorities and women, are guaranteed. Freedom ultimately depends on the actions of committed and courageous men and women. We support non-violent civic initiatives in societies where freedom is denied or under threat and promote the right of all people to be free.

Our Work

Freedom House acts as a catalyst for freedom through a combination of analysis, advocacy, and action. Our research and analysis frames the policy debate in the United States and abroad on the progress and decline of freedom. Leading experts on democracy have called our flagship publication, Freedom in the World, an “essential source” and “indispensable guide” to democracy’s development.

We advocate for U.S. leadership and collaboration with like-minded governments to vigorously oppose dictators and oppression. We amplify the voices of those struggling for freedom in repressive societies and counter authoritarian efforts to weaken international scrutiny of their regimes.

We also empower frontline human rights defenders and civic activists to uphold fundamental rights and to advance democratic change. With Freedom House’s support, these activists expand the boundaries of freedom in repressive societies and hold their governments to account.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Real median monthly income higher but bottom 10% see real average income slip

Neo Chai Chin | 21 Feb, 2013 12:00 PM

SINGAPORE - Nine in 10 Singaporean households with at least one working member saw increases in income last year, after taking into account inflation, even though the income gap continued to widen, a government report released yesterday showed.

Real median monthly income from work rose 2.7 per cent to S$7,570 last year.

Per household member, the increase was 1.9 per cent in real terms.

At the two ends of the income spectrum, however, the bottom 10 per cent saw real average earnings - which accounts for inflation - from work per household member slipping by 1.2 per cent, while the top 10 per cent of households experienced a 5.1-per-cent increase per household member.

The income groups in between had average real monthly household income increases of 1 to 2.3 per cent from work per household member last year.

The Key Household Income Trends 2012 report released by the Department of Statistics noted the real income decline for the lowest tier last year, but added that when adjusted for inflation that excludes rentals from owner-occupied accommodation, which have no impact on cash expenditures, their real earnings actually rose 0.8 per cent.

Over a longer time horizon of five years from 2007 to 2012, this group's real incomes went up by 1.1 per cent on an annualised basis.

"It is important to recognise that not all households are consistently in the same decile group from one year to the next," the report added.

A household member may be temporarily unemployed and find work in the subsequent year, for instance.

The report, derived from surveys done on 30,000 households headed by either Singaporeans or permanent residents, also found that the Gini coefficient - an indicator of income inequality - rose from 0.473 in 2011 to 0.478 last year.

After government transfers and taxes, which have a redistributive effect, the Gini coefficient last year was 0.459, higher than 2011's 0.448.

Experts told TODAY that Singapore is not the only country with increasing income disparity, and that retraining of workers and raising productivity are key to helping the lower-income group.

Income increases usually arise from better technology and higher productivity, which tend to favour the higher-income group, said economist Tan Khay Boon, senior lecturer at SIM Global Education. The lower-income may be unable to capitalise on technological changes due to "insufficient education and training", and face challenges of competition from foreign labour and replacement by capital, he added.

"The restriction of foreign labour quota will in some ways create more job opportunities with higher income for the local workers who hold the same skills," Dr Tan said.

Increasing Government transfers and raising taxes of the higher-income are also options, but raising incomes at the lower end and facilitating skills upgrading and productivity are probably preferred approaches, said National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser.

Asked why the increase in Gini coefficient from 2011 to 2012 after accounting for Government transfers and taxes was greater than before transfers and taxes were taken into account, UOB senior economist Alvin Liew said it could be due to less transfers last year, compared to 2011.

On average, resident households (including unemployed ones) received S$1,340 per member through various Government schemes last year, down from S$1,660 in 2011, according to the 2012 and 2011 Household Income Trends reports. Households without working persons living in one- to two-room HDB flats received the most - over S$8,000 in Government transfers last year.

The experts sounded a cautious note on last year's higher household incomes and called for a greater breakdown of statistics. SIM's Dr Tan said the tight labour market creates the upward trend in wage growth and warned that this "may not be sustainable without significant GDP (gross domestic product) increase".

"In fact, the wage growth appears to have slowed down and this can be attributed to slower GDP growth in 2012," he said. The 2.7 per cent real growth in median monthly household income from work among resident employed households last year is lower than the 5.6 per cent growth in 2011; the economy is estimated to have grown about 1.2 per cent last year, lower than the 4.9 per cent growth in 2011.

NUS' Associate Professor Tan suggested also releasing household income figures for Singapore citizens alone. "Is income disparity greater among citizens, if we exclude permanent residents?" he wondered. "I would also like to see how the situation would pan out if we include non-working households. If the report is a 'report card' on how Singaporeans are doing, then we ought to have figures on Singapore citizens.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

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Recreate this textured crop in-salon with a detailed step-by-step from TIGI:

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It's a conventional life for a well-to-do Singaporean businessman: he lives in a condo, drives a BMW and enjoys trips to the casino, according to people familiar with his routine.
The difference is that Tan Seet Eng -- better known in global law-enforcement circles as Dan Tan -- is the key suspect in what could be the biggest match-fixing scandal in football history.
When news broke this week that nearly 700 games, mainly in Europe, had been targeted by Singaporean-linked fixers, questions were immediately raised about Tan, who has been in the spotlight for the past 18 months.
His name has cropped up in multiple investigations. In the latest probe revealed by Europol, hundreds of players and officials are under suspicion, 14 people have been sentenced and more than 100 prosecutions are expected.
But the head of Interpol complains that, while the integrity of the world's most popular sport is under threat, the alleged ringleaders are living freely.
Tan, in a rare interview in 2011, vigorously protested his innocence and said he was mystified as to why he had been accused.
"Why I'm suddenly described as a match-fixer, I don't know. I'm innocent," he told Singapore's The New Paper. "If there's anything against me, I can take it to court and fight it."
Tan, an ethnic Chinese man in his forties, first reached public attention in 2011, when his alleged partner and fellow Singaporean Wilson Raj Perumal was arrested in Finland, convicted of match-fixing and jailed.
Perumal, believed to be a key source for blowing open the "calcioscommesse" scandal in Italy, as well as this week's Europol revelations, maintains he was double-crossed by Tan and named him as a key figure in his fixing syndicate.
Italian police have issued an arrest warrant for Tan, and court papers quoted by The New Paper called him the "leader" of an international fixing ring.
Reports have named him in a German court case and police probes in several countries. According to Perumal, who spoke to the "Invisible Dog" investigative website last year, Tan was still active as recently as June.
"If you arrest Dan Tan, the signal it gives is that investigators can reach out and touch you," said Zaihan Mohamed Yusof, The New Paper's investigative reporter who interviewed Tan.
But Tan appears to feel secure in Singapore, according to Zaihan, who recounted his routines including trips to the casino.
"It doesn't make any sense for him to leave the country, he could be arrested. It's safer for him to be in Singapore," the reporter told AFP.
Attempts to contact Tan this week failed. His listed phone numbers are disconnected, and a visit to his home, a run-down condominium next to a suburban shopping mall, proved fruitless.
Singapore is considered the nexus of global match-rigging after fixers learned their trade in the local leagues and neighbouring Malaysia.
With the birth of online gambling, Singaporean fixers were perfectly placed to take advantage, with contacts in the European leagues and criminal gangs, and in the underworlds of Asia where illicit betting is possible on a huge scale.
Last month, Interpol secretary-general Ronald Noble said match-fixing generates hundreds of billions of dollars around the world each year, comparing the revenues to multinationals such as drinks giant Coca-Cola.
With enormous pressure now on to smash the match-fixing syndicates, Singapore, a wealthy island state known for its low crime and low corruption, is squirming in the glare of attention.
Its powerful Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) said "match-fixing of any form is not condoned in Singapore" and that it investigates allegations of game-rigging through bribery.
Since 2005, the CPIB has investigated eight such cases in Singapore, with 11 individuals charged and convicted, it said in a statement. However, the CPIB also told AFP it was not involved in matters concerning Interpol.
Singapore's police force has confined its comments to a few terse statements saying it is cooperating with Europol and Interpol, including handing over information about Tan. But it said it needed hard evidence to make arrests.
"A question that really must be asked is why so little is being done to question Singaporean individuals allegedly involved in such a global match-fixing operation," Neil Humphreys, a Singapore-based football columnist and author of the novel, "Match Fixer", told AFP.
Interpol chief Noble told the Straits Times: "Until arrests are made in Singapore and until actual names, dates and specific match-fixing details are given, these organised criminals will appear above the law and Singapore's reputation will continue to suffer."
Source: AFP

Employers hire FTs because of poor quality of local grads

[This letter was first published in ST Forum on 14 Feb
We often hear that Singapore needs to bring in foreigners for the growth of the country.
I agree that we have little choice in the matter if we are referring to jobs Singaporeans do not want. But how about jobs that Singaporeans do want?
It would be good to find out the real reasons why employers hire foreigners instead of Singaporeans for such jobs, whether they be in banking, information technology or marketing.
A Singaporean friend of mine, who was then a director in a European multinational corporation located here, told me a few years ago that he specifically directed his human resource department not to hire any graduate from our local universities unless absolutely necessary.
His view was that local graduates lacked the necessary mindset and attitude to do a job well. In contrast, graduates of foreign universities, Singaporean or otherwise, tended to be more independent, streetwise, resilient and self-driven.
According to him, the only positive thing about local graduates was that they were book-smart.
At another function where lecturers and heads of department – both Singaporean and foreign – from local universities were present, the bulk of the conversation was on our university students – they lacked independent thought, needed spoon-feeding, were whiny and complained about everything but did not do anything to improve the situation.
We have a sizeable number of tertiary graduates every year. So why is it that some employers still seek to employ foreigners instead of Singaporeans?
Some of my friends who are employers tell me that cost is often not the issue. They are willing to, and actually do, pay these foreigners more for no reason other than that they can do a better job.
As an educator, I have encountered many students who display the traits cited above.
What we need to do is obvious – improve the quality of our graduates, thereby making them more attractive to hire and consequently reducing the need to hire foreigners.
Alex Yeo


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