To cry or not to cry for retrenched SPH staff

Mothership.sg posted an article on a townhall meeting by Warren Fernandez, the editor in chief of SPH, to announce the retrenchment of 130 staff. The article said Fernandez said two things that infuriated or exasperated the staff at the meeting. One was to blame the IT department for locking out the staff from using the company's computer system and the other, the hiring of 10 foreign correspondence while talking about retrenching so many staff.

Fernandez also said SPH is still doing well with profit up by 32% to $350 million despite lowering revenue in some sectors. Some may want to question the need to resought to retrenching staff when the company is still growing its profits, but one thing that stood up like a sore thumb is the intent to hire 10 foreign correspondents.

Big question, who are these 10 foreign staff, from where, to do what that the retrenched staff cannot do or be trained to do? Are the skills requirement or expertise so special that none of the staff can do or can be trained to do? It would be criminal to hire foreigners and not retraining or redeploying retrenched staff if the new jobs can be done by these staff. Are there really jobs that are so specialised that only foreigners can do?

Are these foreigners from top notch foreign media from developed countries or 'foreign talents' from third world countries with top notch third world credentials and experienced to replace the retrenched staff? Or is this another sign of the Pinkerton Disease? Imagine Channel News Asia replacing its native staff with angmohs to report news from western perspective and interests? It would then be more appropriate to be renamed Channel News Angmoh. Where is ST heading, West or Third World?

Would SPH be transparent and enlighten on this hiring and would MOM be interested to know the details and could these 10 positions be saved for the retrenched staff?

Dunno want to cry or to pity the retrenched reporters. Hopefully they are not Singaporeans and to be replaced by foreigners in another case of Singaporeans got no talent or the required specialised skills of third world reporters.

Just wait and see how this case is developing and how it turns out to be.


World's Top 10 Spying Organisations

Bond, James Bond - 007


A spying organization, or intelligence agency, is an effective instrument of national power. Aggressive intelligence operation is its primary weapon to destabilize the target person, organization or country.

Actually, no one knows what the intelligence agencies actually do. So, figuring out who the best intelligence service is, can be quite difficult.

The very nature of intelligence operations often means that the successes will not be made public for years, whereas failures or controversial operations will be taken to the press almost immediately. This is because the failures of political leaders and military commanders are easily attributable to intelligence failures, never their own failures. It is, therefore, a thankless job.

Still, from what little has emerged, we still can have an idea of some of the better spying organizations out there, with the understanding that this is based on incomplete data. Here goes, not in the order of merits, my estimate of the best 10:

1. ASIS – Australia
Formed: 13 May 1952
Headquarters: Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
Annual Budget: $162.5m AUD (2007)
Minister responsible: The Hon. Stephen Smith MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs
Agency Executive: Nick Warner, Director-General

Australian Secret Intelligence Service is the Australian government intelligence agency responsible for collecting foreign intelligence, undertaking counter-intelligence activities and cooperation with other intelligence agencies overseas. For more than twenty years, the existence of the agency was a secret even from its own government. Its primary responsibility is gathering intelligence from mainly Asian and Pacific interests using agents stationed in a wide variety of areas. Its main purpose, as with most agencies, is to protect the country’s political and economic interests while ensuring safety for the people of Australia against national threats.

2. RAW – India
Formed: 21 September 1968
Headquarters: New Delhi, India
Agency Executive: K. C. Verma, Secretary (R)
Parent Agency: Prime Minister’s Office, GoI

The Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) is India’s external intelligence agency. It was formed in September 1968, after the newly independent Republic of India was faced with 2 consecutive wars, the Sino-Indian war of 1962 and the India-Pakistani war of 1965, as it was evident that a credible intelligence gathering setup was lacking. Its primary function is the collection of external intelligence, counter-terrorism, and covert operations. In addition, it is responsible for obtaining and analyzing information about foreign governments, corporations, and persons, in order to advise India's foreign policy decision-makers. Until the creation of R&AW, the Intelligence Bureau handled both internal and external intelligence.

3. DGSE – France
Formed: April 2, 1982
Preceding Agency: External Documentation and Counter-Espionage Service
Minister responsible: Hervé Morin, Minister of Defence
Agency Executive: Erard Corbin de Mangoux, Director

Directorate General for External Security is France’s external intelligence agency.

Operating under the direction of the French ministry of defense, the agency works alongside the DCRI (the Central Directorate of Interior Intelligence) in providing intelligence and national security, notably by performing paramilitary and counterintelligence operations abroad.

The General Directorate for External Security (DGSE) of France has a rather short history compared to other intelligence agencies in the region. It was officially founded in 1982 from a multitude of prior intelligence agencies in the country. Its primary focus is to gather intelligence from foreign sources to assist in military and strategic decisions for the country.

The agency employs more than five thousand people.

4. FSB – Russia
Formed: 3 April 1995
Employees: 350,000
Headquarters: Lubyanka Square
Preceding agency: KGB

The Federal Security Service of Russian Federation (FSD) is the main domestic security agency of the Russian Federation and the main successor agency of the Soviet-era Cheka, NKVD, and KGB. The FSB is involved in counter-intelligence, internal and border security, counter-terrorism, and surveillance. Its headquarters are in Lubyanka Square, downtown Moscow, the same location as the former headquarters of the KGB.

All law enforcement and intelligence agencies in Russia work under the guidance of FSB, if needed. For example, the GRU, Spetsnaz and Internal Troops detachments of Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs work together with the FSB in Chechnya. The FSB is responsible for internal security of the Russian state, counterespionage, and the fight against organized crime, terrorism, and drug smuggling.

The number of FSB personnel and its budget remain state secrets, although the budget was reported to jump nearly 40% in 2006.

5. BND – Germany
Formed: 1 April 1956
Employees: 6,050
Agency Executive: Gehlen Organization
Parent Agency: Central Intelligence Group

The Bundesnachrichtendienst is the foreign intelligence agency of the German government, under the control of the Chancellor’s Office. The BND acts as an early warning system to alert the German government to threats to German interests from abroad. It depends heavily on wiretapping and electronic surveillance of communications. It collects and evaluates information on a variety of areas such as international terrorism, WMD proliferation and illegal transfer of technology, organized crime, weapons and drug trafficking, money laundering, illegal migration and information warfare. As Germany’s only overseas intelligence service, the BND gathers both military and civil intelligence.

6. MSS – China
Jurisdiction: People’s Republic of China
Headquarters: Beijing
Agency Executive: Geng Huichang, Minister of State Security
Parent Agency: State Council

Ministry of State Security is the security agency of the People’s Republic of China. It is also probably the Chinese government’s largest and most active foreign intelligence agency, though it is also involved in domestic security matters.

Article 4 of the Criminal Procedure Law gives the MSS the same authority to arrest or detain people as regular police for crimes involving state security with identical supervision by the procuratorates and the courts. It is headquartered near the Ministry of Public Security of the People’s Republic of China in Beijing.

According to Liu Fuzhi, Secretary-General of the Commission for Politics and Law under the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and Minister of Public Security, the mission of the MSS is to ensure “the security of the state through effective measures against enemy agents, spies, and counter-revolutionary activities designed to sabotage or overthrow China’s socialist system.”

One of the primary missions of the MSS is no doubt to gather foreign intelligence from targets in various countries overseas.

Many MSS agents are said to have operated in the Greater China region (Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan) and to have integrated themselves into the world’s numerous overseas Chinese communities.

At one point, nearly 120 agents who had been operating under non-official cover in the U.S., Canada, Western and Northern Europe, and Japan as businessmen, bankers, scholars, and journalists were recalled to China, a fact that demonstrates the broad geographical scope of MSS agent coverage.

7. ISI – Pakistan
Formed: 1948
Jurisdiction: Government of Pakistan
Headquarters: Islamabad, Pakistan
Agency Executive: Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, PA Director General

With the lengthiest track record of success, the best-known Intelligence agency so far on the scale of records is Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, which was created as an independent unit in 1948 in order to strengthen the performance of Pakistan’s Military Intelligence during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947. Its success in achieving its goal without leading to a full-scale invasion of Pakistan by the Soviet Union is a feat unmatched by any other, throughout the intelligence world.

KGB, the best of its time, failed to counter ISI and protect Soviet interests in Central Asia. It has had ZERO double agents or Defectors throughout its history, considering that in light of the whole war campaign it carried out from money earned by selling drugs bought from the very people it was bleeding - The Soviets.

It has protected its Nuclear Weapons since the beginning. and it has foiled Indian attempts to attain ultimate supremacy in the South-Asian theatres through internal destabilization of India.

It is above All laws in Pakistan - ‘a State within a State’. Its policies are made ‘outside’ of all other institutions with the exception of The Army.

Its personnel have never been caught on camera. It is believed to have the highest number of agents worldwide, close to 10,000.

The most striking thing is that its one of the least funded Intelligence agency out of the top 10.

8. M1-6 – United Kingdom
Formed: 1909 as the Secret Service Bureau
Jurisdiction: Government of the United Kingdom
Headquarters: Vauxhall Cross, London
Minister responsible: The Rt Hon. William Hague MP, Foreign Secretary
Agency Executive: Sir John Sawers KCMG, Director General
Parent Agency: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

The British have had a long public perception of an effective intelligence agency (due to the success of the James Bond movies). This perception matches reality.

MI6, the British equivalent of the CIA, has had two big advantages in staying effective: The British Official Secrets Act and D notices can often prevent leaks (which have been the bane of the CIA’s existence).

Some stories have emerged. In the Cold War, MI6 recruited Oleg Penkovsky, who played a key part in the favorable resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Oleg Gordievsky, who operated for a decade before MI6 extracted him via Finland. The British were even aware of Norwood’s activities but made the decision not to tip their hand.

MI6 also is rumored to have sabotaged the Tu-144 supersonic airliner program by altering documents and making sure they fell into the hands of the KGB.

9. Mossad – Israel
Formed: December 13, 1949, as the Central Institute for Coordination
Employees: 1,200 (est)
Agency Executive: Meir Dagan, Director
Parent Agency: Office of the Prime Minister

The Mossad is responsible for intelligence collection and covert operations including paramilitary activities. It is one of the main entities in the Israeli Intelligence Community, along with Aman (military intelligence) and Shin Bet (internal security), but its director reports directly to the Prime Minister. The list of its successes is long. Israel’s intelligence agency is most famous for having taken out a number of PLO operatives in retaliation for the attack that killed eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic games in Munich. However, this agency has other success to its name, including the acquisition of a MiG-21 prior to the Six-Day war of 1967 and the theft of the plans for the Mirage 5 after the deal with France went sour. Mossad also assisted the United States in supporting Solidarity in Poland during the 1980s.

10. CIA – USA
Formed: September 18, 1947
Employees: 20,000 (official figures but actually much more)
Annual Budget: Secret.
Agency Executive: Leon Panetta, Director
Parent Agency: Central Intelligence Group

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is the largest of the intelligence agencies in the world and is responsible for gathering data from other countries that could impact US policy. It is a civilian intelligence agency of the US government responsible for providing national security intelligence to senior US policymakers.

CIA’s primary function is to collect information about foreign governments, corporations, and individuals, and to advise public policymakers.

CIA also engages in covert activities at the request of the President of the USA.

CIA conducts covert operations and paramilitary actions and exerts foreign political influence through its Special Activities Division. It has failed to control terrorism activities including 9/11, Not even a single top-level Al-Queda leader captured own its own in the past 9 years – ‘they missed 1 Million’ Soviet troops marching into Afghanistan’. Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction, Have they found them yet?

The number of defectors / double agents is close to a thousand.

On the 50th anniversary of CIA, President Clinton said ”By necessity, the American people will never know the full story of your courage. Indeed, no one knows what CIA really does”. Highly funded and technologically most advanced Intelligence set-up in the world.

The US does not only have the CIA. Here is what you need to know about US Intelligence agencies and what they do:

The Best-Known Agencies

When you think of a spy slipping into a darkened safe house to meet an informant, or furtively taking out an Islamist militant leader, you are thinking of someone who works for the CIA. It is the best-known US intelligence agency, and it conducts most of the country’s human intelligence and runs most covert operations. It also includes thousands of analysts whose job is to decipher foreign events for American leaders

The National Security Agency (NSA), where Edward J. Snowden worked, eavesdrops on calls and emails. Its bailiwick is what is known as signals intelligence — known among spies simply as “Sigint” — and other forms of electronic spying, such as creating computer viruses that caused Iranian nuclear centrifuges to spin out of control or some North Korean missiles to veer off course.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) enforces federal law, as any good mobster knows. But it also has a role in the intelligence world, leading counterintelligence operations, which are efforts to understand and stop foreign espionage.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ONI) was created after the Sept. 11 attacks to coordinate the efforts of all the parts of the intelligence community. The idea was to ensure that the agencies were working together to avoid future attacks.

Smaller Parts of Big Agencies

A number of widely known government agencies have their own intelligence arms. The Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the State Department, for instance, helps American diplomats understand the world.

The Department of Energy’s Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence helps protect sensitive laboratories and nuclear facilities. 

At the Department of Homeland Security, the Office of Intelligence and Analysis looks out for threats to the United States. Whereas the Department of Defense is charged with military actions abroad, the Department of Homeland Security works in the civilian sphere to protect the United States within, at, and outside its borders. Its stated goal is to prepare for, prevent, and respond to domestic emergencies, particularly terrorism.

The Office of National Security Intelligence at the Drug Enforcement Administration brings together intelligence from around the government to help stop drug smuggling. 

The Treasury Department has the Office of Intelligence and Analysis to help cut the flow of money to terrorist groups, drug lords and other criminals who operate internationally.

Then there is the Pentagon. Its main intelligence arm is the Defense Intelligence Agency, which is the third-largest intelligence agency. 

The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard also all have their own intelligence departments (five different intelligence organizations, apart from the Defense Intelligence Agency).

The Little-Known Agencies

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency decides what do with the images captured by American spy satellites. 

The National Reconnaissance Office designs, builds, and operates the satellites.

The work can be tricky. In 1999, a predecessor to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency incorrectly marked the Chinese embassy on maps of Belgrade, Serbia, which was 'deliberately' bombed by US warplanes, killing three and wounding 20. 

And in 2013, the agency incorrectly misplaced a reef by eight miles, leading to the grounding of the Guardian, a naval minesweeper.

Lessons from Selling Fake Rolex

Lessons from Selling Fake Rolex in Singapore NTU

An Incredible Entrepreneurship Case Study

I first met Tah-Nan (not his real name) before 2010; a young Singaporean of mixed ethnic origins.  I had spotted him in some of my lectures but could not recall seeing him in any tutorial class. A couple of years later, at the end of an MBA session where he had participated actively, he approached me.  Tall with black bushy hair and a perennial smile on his face, he communicates firmly and inspires his listeners easily to persuasion. He said he was interested in my watch and asked to have a closer look. He examined my watch, seems surprised, and handed it back to me, with a wry smile, saying “omg, it’s a genuine Rolex!”  I was amazed by his remarks and told him: “It’s a vintage Rolex with a Roman numeral face. I bought it about 20 years ago in Bern, Switzerland. Why are you so surprised?” We proceeded to The Coffee Club to continue the conversations, which led to the astonishing discovery of the existence of the most lucrative business enterprise operating openly in secret on NTU Campus – the sale of Replica Rolex watches.   

In his early 30’s, Tah-Nan graduated from the prestigious NTU Nanyang Business School (NBS) with business and finance degrees before entering the Technopreneurship program at the Nanyang Technopreneurship Centre (NTC). 

Excerpts of our conversations:

Tah-Nan: I was already trading in leather bags, electronics and wine from my suppliers in China, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.  I don’t like the word “fake” since the products are very real.  Some are really replicas or imitation of better known or famous brands. Others are genuine factory surplus production. During the NTC Program, I began to develop a unique Replica Business that would be exceptional in their marketing and distribution impact.  In just 6 years, the business has grown to $9 million annually and nothing is slowing the momentum.

Me: So why are you still in NTU?  Surely, it’s time to leave the nest and internationalise or globalize?   

Tah-Nan: Actually, I work in NTU in the President’s Office responsible for market development and students mentoring. No fanciful job title. Just maintaining a low profile, and provide my bosses with good optics and credits from my performance impact.  I am nobody, and nobody will look for me there, here or anywhere on campus.

Me: I see, the hiding-in-plain-sight strategy?

Tah-Nan: Well, I am certainly not hiding. I manage my supply and value chains through the internet and co-ordinate my sales teams using social media and mobile apps.  Drop boxes facilitate convenient pickup for delivery to customers. Singapore Posts is used for express and home delivery with no shipping charge.  This is a cash-only business and therefore has no receivable issues.  Inventory is distributed at strategic locations known only to me.  Sale team-leaders receive their goods via a 3rd party logistic network. 

Me: Why and how is your business sustainable?  What are the key sustainability factors?

Tah-Nan: The key lies in brand correspondence.

Me: Brand correspondence?  That’s not in any marketing literature.

Tah-Nan: It’s my perversion of brand mapping.  That is, creating a trust and reliable brand in the buyers’ mind by projecting a profound sense of brand layers.  A good example would be, say, a “Kobe Ham” sandwich wrapped in Gardenia bread and packed in a MacDonald box.  The sandwich is called The McKobe, of course! And it will start its product life as a credible trusted product when sold at MacDonald’s or from the shelves of Fairprice, Sheng Siong and 7-Eleven! No one would even know that Kobe only produces beef and not ham (or pork).

Me: Interesting.  Tell me your inspirational sources and case studies, of any. 

Tah-Nan: NTU is my main inspiration, seriously!  I was working in NTU in 2008 when NTU’s fall from greatness, fully 29 places from 2003, was reported. NTU in 2003 was ranked 48 by a major University Rankings Standard. In 2006, NTU “slides” to 61 and by 2008 has “plunged” to 77! Panic and pandemonium broke out in the President’s Office that morning, enjoined later by NTU senior Professors, Managers and student leaders.

Me: I remember that day too.  I am still baffled why none of the esteemed Professors in our Universities had bothered to examine the validity and reliability of the presumptuous “World Rankings Standard”. Many higher education experts, Professors and research scientists by that time had already questioned and condemned the dubious nature of the Standards and the spurious relationships of its various measurements.  Anyway, what happened next?

Tah-Nan: It was obvious to many NTU Professors and graduates that the relegation of NTU to pariah status made no sense at all, especially when we saw the many Universities who were ranked higher and supposedly better than us!  The Rankings were as bogus and fake as my replica Rolex. However, my products are replicas of the real Rolex, which is a genuine brand.  The World University Rankings standards are essentially fake, fraudulent, unreliable and a scam.  Their criteria have no validity.  They are simply empty nothingness, really!

Me: Yes, the World University Ranking standards have since been condemned by the United Nations, UK Government and the EU Nations, in addition to several distinguished Professors who are eminent authorities on Higher Education.

Tah-Nan: In the days and weeks immediately following, meetings and brainstorming sessions were held on how to “game” the fraudulent World University Rankings. NTU needed more foreign Professors and many, many more foreign students in order to rank ahead. Strangely, teaching and learning were immaterial and irrelevant for a better University ranking!  

Me: Yes, by 2014, NTU was ranked as the Top Youngest University in the World by QS Ranker, and ranking just 39th Worldwide.  Indeed, what a “climb” from 77th in 2008!  So what are the lessons for your business?

Tah-Nan: To me, the main critical lesson from NTU is that a fake and bogus brand is better than no brand at all.  We became a replica of fake, bogus quality excellence!

Me: I believe NTU was already arguably among the top best Universities in the region before we encountered the bogus fraudsters calling themselves University Rankers.  By April 2001, NTU's research had resulted in 20 spin-off companies, many of whom funded by venture firms, and 150 disclosures, 76 patents filed and 30 patents granted. The research papers of its staff and students in refereed international journals also won numerous awards in international competitions and conferences. 

Tah-Nan: Sure, we had some impact, but no branding!  Most of the senior Professors had no confidence and very low self-esteem since their boast of having high journal and research paper outputs belied the underlying practice of false authorship.  Subordinate and junior Professors are “persuaded” to include their supervisory seniors as main authors on journal papers which they did not contribute to. Other than fake publications, they had no other impact evidenced by consulting with industry players or innovations or startup ventures.  

Me: Sounds like Harvey Weinstein’s sexual demands to budding actresses before he cast them in his movies!

Tah-Nam: Essentially the same, I think. Perhaps that’s why we did not dare to denounce the results of the World University Rankers. Our NTU leaders and senior Professors probably were afraid that the Rankers were correct, and that they knew most of our research papers and their authorships were fraudulent. 

Me: I see now!  Brand Correspondence!  Brand Mapping! Use a fake and bogus Brand to wrap our excellence, and pack it into an authentic Singapore box!  What a brilliant idea, indeed!

Tah-Nan: Before they came to Singapore, the World University Rankings were already suffering from real serious validity and reliability issues to render them impotent and as meaningless as beauty contests. Their acceptance by the only 2 premier excellent Singapore Universities, NTU and NUS, gave them a much needed credibility boost.  
"We confer credibility and legitimacy to the World University Rankers so that they in turn would provide us a “World” Brand of Quality albeit a questionable, meaningless one without validity.  Awesome!"
Me: So you concluded that having NTU as your business base together with the Rolex box, logo and name would provide a greater sense of “credibility” to your Replica Rolex watches, in a similar way that we confer credibility and legitimacy to the World University Rankers so that they in turn would provide us a “World” Brand of Quality albeit a questionable, meaningless one without validity. Really superb! Simply awesome!

Tah-Nan: Now you understand why I use NTU as my base for the Replica Rolex business.  It provides a great façade and cover for credibility.  I have students, staff and Professors as Sales point facilitators. They are rewarded and incentivized by quarterly cash and Original Rolex watches.  Many of my Sales people wear Original Rolex watches even as they persuade others to buy the cheaper Replica versions. The conflation of Original and Replica Rolex watches in marketing completes my understanding of brand correspondence using brand layers. If discovered, NTU is unlikely do anything to me since I am simply learning and imitating her strategy!    

Me: That’s quite original, man!

Tah-Nan: Let me tell you a bit more about Replica Rolex buyers. They are responsible for some 30% of internet searches on watches. Some years ago, a consortium of high-end Swiss watch brands known as the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH) mounted a public relations campaign with the message that "Fake Watches Are For Fake People" to educate people into buying the real thing, with little impact. Fact is that replica or imitation watches exist to satisfy the desires of people who cannot afford "the real thing" but want to portray the same status symbols as those who can. It’s stupidly ironic.  The notion behind the desire to wear a status symbol that you know is not authentic but would appear authentic to ill-informed people and those of low self-esteem. That’s why I only reward my top sales people with Original Rolex watches.

Tah-Nan: Of course! It is disgusting! A bogus brand is worn to impress plastic minds. The only objective to use a bogus brand is to fool others.  It is dishonest. A fake is and will always be a fake, and so is the person or the organisation who owns one.  And those who persist in wearing a bogus brand cannot be taken seriously and so their reputation will suffer in the long run. No wonder ever since NTU began to pursue the Rankings, she had also ceased having new ideas to patent, or creating innovations and spinoff ventures with her students. If NTU seriously care that the world should think positively and highly about us, NTU should stop brandishing and flaunting the fake and bogus World University Rankings brand as our quality standard. Take this advice from one NTU-trained entrepreneur with a successful replica Rolex business!

Me: I think you would qualify to be the Most Distinguished Young NTU Alumni!  Your nomination and citation may however be quite controversial and contentious though.

Tah-Nan: Thank you.  Would you want to invest in me? 

All of a sudden, I found myself in a familiar place – on my bed.  It was a strange dream, or was it a real journey to the future in the past, I wonder?  What is Tah-Nan doing now?  Is he genuine and for real, I wonder?  Would he become the Jack Ma of Singapore?  Time will tell, I am sure, by my Original Rolex. 


SMRT taking proactive action in sacking senior executive

The recent one hour heavy rain in Bishan led to a ponding situation in the Bishan/Ang Mo Kio stations and causing a 20 hour stoppage of train service at the two stations. SMRT has promptly took action to sack the vice president of maintenance for failures of pump supposedly installed to pump out the rain water in the tunnel. With the rising waters, the trains all became to look more like canoes floating in the tunnel and to make them move probably they would need to install paddles or propellers at the back of the trains.

This experience of ponding in MRT tunnels could be a once in 50 years experience and unlikely to happen again for the next 50 years. But to make sure that more proactive actions would be taken just in case, SMRT is going to make sure that the pumps would work the next time.

And for good measure, I think they SMRT should seriously consider sealing the train compartments to make them water tight. And yes, maybe attaching a propeller to each train would come in handy should all else fails.

What else should be included? How about a wearing the life jacket drill just like in the aircraft so that in case of ponding passengers would know how to put on the life jackets. And oops, must also provide life jackets under the seats for this purpose. The safety of the passengers cannot be taken lightly.

Oh, each train cabin should have a few pails as well for bailing out the waters that seeped in during ponding. I think there must be many other things to think about and to provide for, just in case. This is the time to be proactive and not to wait till ponding happens or when there is a fire in the tunnel and what to do.

PS. Would write about the DTL open house inn my next article.


Trump The Tyrant?

Bust of Commodus dressed as Hercules, in the Capitoline Museum, Rome.
Photograph: Alinari via Getty Images

He looks like a strong man – the strongest. Holding a huge club to beat his enemies with, the Roman emperor Commodus wears a lion skin over his bearded, empty-looking face in a marble portrait bust made in the second century AD, which is one of the treasures of Rome’s Capitoline Museum. He is posing as the mythic hero Hercules, whose muscular might made him victorious in one spectacular fight after another. The portrait literally equates the strength of Hercules with the power of the emperor.

Trump's Opulent Living in a Golden Palace

This is an idea Donald Trump might like. He surrounds himself with gold as lavishly as any tyrant. Why not commission a portrait of himself as Hercules for the Oval Office instead of just moving around busts of Winston Churchill and Martin Luther King?

Trump and Wife at the Golden Dump

The way the worst Roman emperors are portrayed in the art can help us to see Trump more clearly. When we look at the face of Commodus in this eerie portrait, we are staring into the eyes of unhinged, utterly perverse tyranny. When this son of the respected emperor Marcus Aurelius took control of the vast Roman empire in AD161 he embarked on a career of bizarre folly and monstrous cruelty. As well as executing his enemies and perceived enemies, he liked to fight in the arena, killing gladiators with his own hands in a spectacle that educated Romans found shameful and disturbing.

Remind you of anyone?

Donald Trump prefers to carry out his gladiatorial combats via Twitter. He hurls words instead of javelins. Give him four years, though, and who knows – perhaps he will be chasing Meryl Streep around the stadium in his chariot before the SuperBowl.

 Mike Pence and Reince Priebus look on as Donald Trump shows off an executive order to withdraw the US from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.
Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

Of course, Trump is not the same as the Roman tyrant Commodus. But he is not exactly like a normal democratic leader either. In a variety of ways – attempting to obscure the fact about the size of his inauguration crowd, claiming without evidence that illegal voting denied him a popular vote victory – he shows a disdain for orthodox democracy.

The problem lies in defining exactly what Trump is likely to act and how dangerous he will prove to democracy in the world – this is where Roman art and history can help. We lack diversity in our examples of tyrants. Modern history has given us a stark, black and white contrast between fascism and democracy. When something doesn’t fit into the democratic norms, people usually use Hitler for comparison, but when that doesn’t work, they give up. Our memory is too short, and that leaves us without any analogies for someone like Trump. This makes Roman portraits of Emperors relevant. For instead of offering a simplistic binary image of democracy versus fascism, ancient Rome created a rich gallery of tyrants who were all different, all monstrously unique. The bad emperors of Rome were horribly original in their sicknesses and crimes.

Nero - The Mad Emperor - 60 AD, an engraving by Armand Durand.
Photo: Kean Collection/Getty Images

Commodus is just one of the faces of tyranny that look back at us from Roman art. The most famous and recognizable image of Roman imperial mayhem is the plump childish face of Nero, who became Emperor in AD54. Nero’s self-indulgent face mirrors his madness. He made people listen to him play the lyre and sing, in the midst of the many murders and assassinations he ordered. When he eventually killed himself he is said to have lamented, “what an artist I die.”

Commodus and Nero offer two very different images of excess and cruelty in high office. The strong man who fights in the arena and the tyrant who claims to be an artist are much richer, more pathetic images of the dictatorship than present-day history offers.

Tiberius - The Pervert who used his Side-kicks to Eliminate His Dissenters
There are more. The Twelve Caesars by the historian Suetonius, written in the reign of the “good” Emperor Hadrian, is a collection of monsters. There was Tiberius, who came to the throne too old and rapidly descended into murderous paranoia. Tiberius was not mad – just profoundly misanthropic and mistrustful, authorizing his lieutenant Sejanus to torture and kill anyone who might possibly threaten him. He was also a colossal pervert.

Suetonius tells how he retreated to his private palace on the island of Capri where he indulged his most horrible sexual caprices. Tiberius was followed by Caligula, who made his horse a senator and waged war on the Atlantic ocean, among other idiosyncrasies.

You get the drift?

The Romans did not see tyranny as a single fixed set of symptoms. Tiberius, Caligula, Nero, Commodus and the many freakish rulers thrown up by the  Roman history are all different - all singular. When we look at Donald Trump, when we try to get the measure of the World’s most powerful man, we could compare him with these odd and extremely dangerous characters. You don’t have to be a Hitler to threaten democracy and peace, a look at Roman art and history reveals: a Caligula or Commodus is equally frightening.

Donald Trump's Effigy
To conclude, all tyrants are different – mad, bad, stupid or sick, they tend to be wild and uninhibited characters who are highly original in their excesses. So is the 45th president of the United States.

Trump angry with the press

‘It is frankly disgusting the press is able to write whatever it wants to write’. Trump.

Would anyone think it is disgusting for Trump, the President of the USA, to say whatever it wants, like conducting regime change, provoking wars, inciting wars, and wanting to nuke 25m North Koreans to ashes? Trump is trying to start a war with the North Koreans, with the Iranians, with the Venezuelans, with China and with Russia.

What kind of irresponsible and warmongering nation is the USA that can go around trying to start World War 3? It is not frankly disgusting?

I am asking the daft of the world, why are they so quiet when this mad man and his equally mad peers are trying to commit genocide to bring an end to human civilization on earth?

Don’t they feel equally angry and disgusted with Trump and his gangsters going to turn murderers of the innocents by the hundreds of millions?