On This Day 26 Feb

US President Woodrow Wilson learns of the Zimmermann Telegram
In a critical moment for U.S. participation in World War I, President Woodrow Wilson learns of the so-called Zimmermann Telegram, a communique from German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann to the German ambassador to Mexico suggesting a Mexican-German alliance in the event of war between the U.S. and Germany.
In the telegram, intercepted by British intelligence in late January, Zimmermann instructed his ambassador, in the event of a German war with the United States, to offer significant financial aid to Mexico if it entered the conflict as a German ally. Germany also promised to restore to Mexico the lost states of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

A political cartoon illustrating the German proposal for Americans.

Hitler organizes the Luftwaffe (German Air Force)
On February 26, 1935, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler signs a secret decree authorizing the founding of the Reich Luftwaffe as the air arm of the German military. In the same decree, Hitler appointed Hermann Goering, a German air hero from World War I and high-ranking Nazi, as commander in chief of the newly established German air force.
The Versailles Treaty that ended World War I prohibited military aviation in Germany, but a German civilian airline–Lufthansa–was founded in 1926 and provided training for the men who would later become Luftwaffe pilots. The Luftwaffe was to be gradually revealed so as not to alert foreign governments, and the size and composition of Luftwaffe units were to remain covert.

Hermann Goering congratulates German pilots who participated in the conquest of Poland.

First South Korean troops arrive in Vietnam
The first South Korean troops arrive in Saigon. Although assigned to non-combat duties, they came under fire on April 3. The South Korean contingent was part of the Free World Military Forces, an effort by President Lyndon B. Johnson to enlist allies for the United States and South Vietnam.
By securing support from other nations, Johnson hoped to build an international consensus behind his policies in Vietnam. The effort was also known as the “many flags” program. By the close of 1969, there were over 47,800 Korean soldiers actively involved in combat operations in South Vietnam. Seoul began to withdraw its troops in February 1972. The program was a valuable source of foreign exchange for South Korea, which was then underdeveloped.

South Korean troops land at Qui Nhon in Vietnam.

World Trade Center is bombed
A bomb explodes in the parking garage beneath the World Trade Center in New York City on this day in 1993. Six people were killed and 1,000 were injured by the powerful blast, which also caused the evacuation of thousands of people from the Twin Towers.
On September 11, 2001, the World Trade Center was again attacked, when terrorists linked to Osama bin Ladin and al-Qaida hijacked and flew one jetliner into each tower. Within hours, both towers had collapsed, killing almost 3,000 people. A third jet was crashed into the Pentagon, killing almost two hundred people, including those on board the plane.

The aftermath of the 1993 bombing at the World Trade Centre.

Week in Review – 19 Feb



15 February 2017

India Space Research Organisation (ISRO) creates world record by sending 104 satellites into space in a single rocket

PSLV_C37 launch. (Hindustan Times)

ISRO successful launched 104 nano satellites into space on the Indian rocket Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), breaking the record held by Russia which sent 37 satellites into space in 2014.

Out of the 104 nano satellites in the rocket’s payload, one of each was from Israel, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the UAE and 96 of them are from the US.

The push for space research and exploration has benefited India in several ways one of which is the Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) System allows India’s Department of Space (DOS) to monitor the environment and help farmers and fisherman increase their productivity by making optimal use of resources.


February 18 2017

Mid-East nations splurge on offensive weapons

A F/A-18E/F Super Hornets of Strike Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VFA-211) is lined up for take off on the flight deck of the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) aircraft carrier in the Gulf June 18, 2015. (REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed/File Photo)

Western-backed nations in the Middle East like Saudi Arabia have started to spend more money on purchasing offensive weapons programs to counter Iran.

Weapons purchased include items that boost the attack capabilities of warplanes such as precision air to ground missiles.

Combined military budget for the region is likely to reach USD 180 billion.

This is done likely in response to Iran growing economic and military strength, following the lifting of sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran.


19 February 2017

EU sees no U-turn for Brexit

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair delivers a keynote speech at a pro-Europe event in London, Britain, February 17, 2017. (REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Picture)


After the June referendum vote in 2016 to quit the EU, European leaders insisted that Britons were free to change their minds. Former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, back in October, said that a U-turn would be legal and that the 27 members of the EU would welcome it. However, he warned Britain that it would either be “Hard Brexit or no Brexit”.


While officially the door remains open for Britain to stay in the EU, many in Europe would not welcome a U-turn now. “No one is happy about it. But we have moved on and the last thing anyone wants now is to reopen the whole issue”, said one senior EU diplomat.

The UK Treasury has said that a “Hard Brexit” could cost up to £66 billion and slash UK GDP by 10%.

19 February 2017

USS Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group Patrolling South China Sea

USS Carl Vinson underway in the Pacific Ocean. (Maritimematters.com)

The United States deployed the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson to disputed waters in the South China sea as part of routine maritime operations.

Other ships in the strike group include the guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer, the US Navy said in a statement. The Vinson carriers a flight group of more than 60 aircrafts onboard which includes F/A-18 jet fighters.

The US Navy has frequently sailed into the South China Sea for Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOP) in which US warships assert maritime transit rights against coastal states that impose restrictions on vessels that are inconsistent with the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.




February 16 2017

Median household income from work in Singapore up 2.6% in real terms in 2016

Income in Singapore has risen. Data released by the Singapore Department of Statistics (DOS) revealed that median household income among resident employed households have risen by 2.6 percent in real terms, from $8 666 to $8 846 from 2015 to 2016.

The Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality, fell to 0.402 in 2016 from 0.409 in 2015,


February 18 2017

Companies recognised for efforts to develop staff

A total of 74 employers were awarded the Human Capital Partner symbol.

The Human Capital Partner symbol was launched to encourage companies to develop a “strong Singaporean core”.

Benefits of having the Human Capital Partner symbol for companies include having a dedicated hotline to reach the Ministry of Manpower, being fast-traced when applying to MOM for grants and foreign worker passes.

In order to qualify for the Human Capital Partner symbol, companies need to build a strong Singaporean core by proactively transferring expertise from foreign professional to local Singaporeans and select foreigners who complement instead of substituting local Singaporeans.

Week in Review – Feb 12

10 February

Phillipines hit by 6.5 magnitude earthquake leaving six dead and more than 120 injured

The earthquake occurred 18km from Surigao City on Friday 10 Feb at 10:03 pm while residents were asleep. Mr Renato Solidum from the Philippine Institute of Seismology and Volcanology said that the quake was set off by movement in the Philippine fault, which sits in the Pacific “Ring of Fire” – a major area in the basin of the Pacific Ocean where a large number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.

Schools were reopened for use as evacuation centres as village leaders urged residents to evacuate to a school building built on higher ground. The last major earthquake that struct Surigao was in the 1800s. Aftershocks are expected after such a strong earthquake.

Debris falls on a car after a strong earthquake hit Surigao city, southern Philippines February 11, 2017. (REUTERS/Stringer)


Eight countries sign up to counter Trump’s reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy

The Mexico City policy instituted by U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1984 which prohibits US Federal funding of any foreign NGO that promotes abortion. Eight countries have joined an initiative to raise millions of dollars to help affected NGOs that refuse to abide by the policy.

The Netherlands announced in January that it will set up a global fund to help women around the world access abortion services. So far, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Luxemburg, Finland, Canada and Cape Verde have lent their support.

According to the World Health Organisation, 21.6 milion women around the world have unsafe abortions each year and 18.5 million of them come from developing countries. 13% of all maternal deaths are attributed to unsafe abortions.


7 February 2017

Half of job vacancies in 2016 were for PMETs

The latest report released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Tuesday showed that the number of vacancies for professionals, managers, executive sand technicians (PMETs) took up half of job vacancies in 2016, up 8 percent to 48 percent from 40 percent in 2013.

“Four in ten of job vacancies were for professionals, managers, executives and technicians (23,220 or 43% of total vacancies) such as teaching & training professionalsmanagement executives, commercial & marketing sales executives and software, web & multimedia developers.”according to the Ministry’s report

Job vacancies requiring university degree qualifications (13,150 or 24% of vacancies) were one of the most in demand.

Fewer job vacancies but more openings for PMET.  (Straits Times)

February 7 2017

Singapore has options despite US TPP withdrawal: Minister

Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang said in parliament that despite the United States withdrawal from the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), Singapore still has other options available.

He pointed out that the remaining 11 countries may choose to still ratify the TPP but exclude the United States. Singapore would also enhance trade linkages with its regional partners through the ASEAN Economic Community and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

The RCEP is an Asia-Pacific trade liberalisation initiative led by China that includes Australia, the 10 ASEAN countries, Japan, South Korea, India and New Zealand.

The TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) is a massive trade deal between 11 countries, Australia, Singapore, Canada, Brunei, Peru, New Zealand, The United States, Vietnam. This trade deal contains measures to establish an investor state dispute settlement mechanism and both tariff and tariff barriers to trade. However, the new United States President Donald Trump has formally scrapped the TPP.

February 8 2017

Surbana chided for publicly labelling laid-off workers as poor performers

The Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say has criticised Surbana Jurong, an infrastructure consultancy, for publicly labelling its employees as “poor performers” when firing these employees. 54 employees were fired by Surbana after being labelled as “poor performers”.

The manpower minister had criticised Surbana Jurong through a statement to the media and a strongly worded letter to the staff of Surbana.

It should also be noted that the management and unions of Surbana have reached a settlement. The affected workers will receive an ex gratia payment.

February 9 2017

Committee on the Future Economy outlines direction for Singapore economic development

The committee on the Future Economy (CFE) has released its report on this Thursday (9 February 2017).

The CFE report noted that in order for Singapore to survive, Singaporeans must have deep skills, embrace overseas assignments and be prepared to learn throughout their lives. Singapore businesses must embrace technology, innovate, improve their productivity and expand their operations overseas by taking advantage of trade initiatives like the ASEAN Economic Community and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

Singapore must also boldly develop plans for city rejuvenation and create new spaces to ensure that Singapore is able to flourish in the global economy and is well-connected externally.

Week in Review – Feb 5


January 30 2017

Trump defends travel curbs despite outcry

United States President Donald Trumps defended his executive order to ban citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries-Iran, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Libya and Yemen from entering the United States for at least 90 days.

Refugees from Syria are banned from entering the United States indefinitely.

Mr Trump said that the goal was to give priority for admission to Christians and to screen out and block radical Islamic terrorists from entering the United States.

Technology executives, Muslim leaders and human executives spoke out against the executive order. However Mr Trump supporters argue that this ban was necessary to protect the United States from potential terrorist attacks.

January 31 2017

Manila suspends war on drugs to purge rogue cops

The Philippine National Police (PNP) has suspended the war on drugs in order to focus its effect on purging rouge officers from its ranks.

The PNP chief has stated that after the PNP has “cleaned their own ranks”, they would resume the war on drugs in the Philippines which has claimed thousands of lives so far.

The move comes as the PNP was shaken by a scandal in which a South Korean man was abducted and murdered by rouge police officers. It should be noted that corrupted police officers committing crimes is nothing new in the Philippines, the PNP is regarded internationally as one of the world most corrupted institution.

Philippines President, Rodrigo Duterte, meanwhile, has stated that the crackdown on illegal drugs would continue until 2022.

February 1 2017

Quebec mosque rampage: University student charged

A Canadian university student, Bissonnette, has been charged for opening fire on congregants in a mosque in Quebec City shortly before 8pm. The attack has left 6 people dead. The 6 victims were all males, aged from 39 to 60.

The killings have exposed intolerance in Canada. The Canada government open door immigration policies stand in contrast to those of the United States under President Trump.

Bissonnette has frequently posted anti-Muslim comments, however he is not known to be affiliated with any of Canada far right groups. It should also be noted that he is a vocal supporter of France far-right leader Ms Marine Le Pen.


January 30 2017

SAF Terrex vehicles seized in November returns home

The nine SAF Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicle (ICV) and other equipment seized on Nov 23 in Hong Kong has returned after two months. The Ministry of Defence said in a statement that the vehicles arrived at 2:40pm on 30 Jan and would be transported to an SAF camp for post-training administration.

The vehicles were shipped back to Singapore by APL, the same shipping company from which the Terrex was seized from by Hong Kong officials. APL was shipping the Terrex vehicles back to Singapore after an SAF exercise in Taiwan when the vessel containing the vehicles were stopped by Hong Kong officials for “routine inspections”.

February 3 2017

Kovan double murder, former policeman to hang after appeal dismissed

Former policeman Iskandar Rahmat who was found guilty of stabbing to death Mr Tan Boon Sin ,67, and his 42-year old son Chee Heong will not be spared the noose. The Court of Appeal upheld his two death sentences on Friday (Feb 3).

At his appeal in October of last year, Iskandar’s defence urged the court ot consider new evidence which include a psychiatric report. It started that Iskandar was afflicted with two mental illnesses at the time – adjustment disorder and acute stress reaction.

It was also accompanied by forensic pathology reports which said that Iskandar suffered defensive injuries, giving credence to the defence’s case that Mr Tan Boon Sin was the aggressor and that Iskandar killed him in self-defence.

Prosecutors however argued that the reports were unreliable as it was prepared three years after the murders and more than eight months after Iskandar was sentenced to death.

Week in Review – Jan 18


Chinese Aircraft Carrier sails into Taiwan Straits
Taiwanese fighter jets were scrambled as China’s Aircraft Carrier sailed into the Taiwan Straits.

The Liaoning – the only Aircraft Carrier owned by China – was accompanied by Chinese warships and is on a course due north after a recent exercises in the South China Sea.

Tensions between Taipei and Beijing are high due to an unprecedented phone call between President-Elect Donald Trump and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.

President Tsai also transited in the United States on Jan 7 while on her way to Central America.

SpaceX to resume flights

The Falcon 9 suffered a launchpad mishap in September last year – an explosion destroyed its Amos-6 satellite payload.

An investigation into the incident has allowed SpaceX to make corrective actions ano Falcon 9 has resumed operations.

The Falcon 9 will be launched again on January 14th.

Taiwan confirms new bird flu case
A new bird flu case was confirmed by Taiwan, making it the fourth case this year.

More than 43,000 birds have been culled in the country so far. South Korea, Japan and mainland China have also been hit by outbreaks of avian flu.

The last major outbreak in China claimed 36 lives.


Singaporeans not getting enough sleep

More than 40% of Singaporeans are not getting enough sleep each week, according to a study by SingHealth Polyclinics.

The findings come after a study from February to June 2015, during which the team surveyed a total of 350 adults at the Sengkang and Bukit Merah polyclinics.

Sleeping less than seven hours was considered insufficient, which in the long run can affect the body’s immune system, memory, concentration and daily functioning.

Respondents who used computers or laptops to surf the web of play games in their bedrooms were found to be more likely to lack sleep on weekdays. However, more people who used mobiles devices in bed were able to get enough sleep on weekends, compared with those who do not.


Students who are called up for questioning by police to be accompanied by an adult
Students who are summoned to police stations for interviews while they are in school will be accompanied by a school officer familiar to them.

The changes come after the suicide of North View Secondary School student Benjamin Lim on 26th January last year. He was accused of molesting an 11-year-old girl. At the time, it was not the practice for juvenile suspects to be accompanied by school officers.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) announced last week a new scheme that will enable “Appropriate Adults” who are independent, trained volunteers, to accompany young suspects during police interviews.

The measures will come into effect next month in all primary and secondary schools, as well as junior colleges.

On This Day (Jan 22)

On This Day (January 22)


The first British colonists arrive in New Zealand

Following the accounts of the English captain James Cook, who travelled through the region in the late 18th century, Britain formally annexes New Zealand in 1840 and establishes the first permanent European settlement at Wellington, on the South Island. However, the first British settlers, led by the British statesman Edward G. Wakefield, arrive in Auckland, on the North Island, instead. Armed conflict between the British and the native Maoris would last until 1870, when there was no longer a significant Maori presence left. The legacy of colonialism continues to affect race relations in New Zealand to this day, often straining ties between the largely White European population and the indigenous Maori minority.

A postage stamp commemorating the arrival of the first British settlers in New Zealand.



The Bloody Sunday Massacre, St Petersburg

On the brink of losing to Japan in a war in the Far East, Russia is convulsed by unrest as Imperial Russian troops open fire on peaceful protesters demanding reforms in front of the Tsar’s Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, leaving hundreds dead. This would cause a drastic change in the attitudes of peasants towards the Tsar; where he had once been their champion, he was now indisputably their oppressor, delegitimizing his position as the ruler of Russia, setting the stage for the Russian Revolution. This tradition of revolution and authoritarianism in Russia holds true even today, as the current authoritarian state in Russia, led by an ex-KGB officer no less, emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union.

A dramatization of the events of the Bloody Sunday Massacre.



Roe v. Wade

The US Supreme Court decides in a historic ruling that women can terminate a pregnancy during its first two trimesters, as part of their constitutional right to privacy, following a concerted campaign by American women to obtain autonomy over their own reproductive processes. This reversed a century of anti-abortion legislation in the US. However, despite multiple occasions where the US Supreme Court has upheld this landmark decision, Republican presidents and anti-abortion activists have been strident in their opposition to it, the latter occasionally resorting to violence to do so. It remains to be seen whether the newly elected President, Donald Trump, will attempt to overturn this decision, although the opportunity has presented itself in the form of a vacant Supreme Court position.

The New York Times article carrying the headline about the Roe v. Wade decision.