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NUS University Cultural Centre becomes White Elelphant again in 2013

NUS University Cultural Centre becomes White Elelphant again in 2013

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This after the National Day Rally 2013 moved to ITE College Central instead.

nus-ucc

In an unexpected twist of fate, the NUS University Cultural Centre (NUS UCC) has once again become a White Elephant this year.

This after the National Day Rally 2013 was held at the ITE College Centre.

The National Day Rally has been held every year at the NUS UCC since 2001.

NUS UCC was opened in September 2000.

And the purpose for the National Day Rally to be held at the NUS UCC every year is meant to warm the seats and fill the air with some warmth from humanity as the place is used for nothing much throughout the year.

One NUS passer-by, Kang Jing Guo, said: “This place sees very little activity every year already. Without the National Day Rally held here, the total number of visitors to this place would have fallen by 95 percent.”

“If the UCC was a live pet dog, it would be more humane to just shoot it to put it down.”

Others, however, take a different view.

Jiang Zhen De, a local, said: “If PM Lee going to give the rally at an ITE can even be considered news, then it must say a lot about our priorities.”

Former MM Lee Kuan Yew: The Singapore vision is your vision, not my vision

Former MM Lee Kuan Yew: The Singapore vision is your vision, not my vision

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You know guys, The Old Man really just wants to retire. Cut him some slack.

By Fang Shihan

He came, he croaked and he curtly rasped his way around questions from all directions. Not that you would expect anything less from Former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, who was at the receiving end of the Q&A session organized by the Lee Kuan Yew School of public policy on Wednesday.

The grandfather of Singapore stands tall at 88 years old this year and is clearly still very influential as an international thinker – but reluctantly so.

This was Lee just three years ago with Fareed Zakaria:

A far cry from the disengaged grandaddy that he personified during the Q&A when answers were filled with awkward silences as moderator Kishore Mahbubani struggled to figure out if he’d actually finished his answer.

Arriving onstage with a bandage on his middle finger (we figure he cut  himself while giving the finger to hordes of mangy journalists. Just because he’s badass), wearing office socks paired with a pair of Nike Free running shoes, The Old Man, as he’s fondly known, candidly batted off questions he thought were irrelevant and gave his honest disclaimer about issues he felt he wouldn’t be an expert on.

“If he’s from Sri Lanka then he’ll know more about Sri Lanka than I do,” he replied to a person who wrote in asking about the post-conflict country.

Still, the questions on international relations kept coming, and the fortune cookie insights from the oracle who transformed a tiny rock to a metropolitan city, continued to wow the audience and created headlines.

Not that he appreciated it. At one point, it almost felt like he became increasingly exasperated with the adulation – or maybe it was a case of same set of shitty questions on a different day.

He did however, confidently say that he was an expert on Singapore issues. And this is where New Nation comes in.

We asked him if his public appearances during the general elections affected PM Lee’s chances of winning. To which he chuckled:

wHy dO YoU ALL tHiNk I hAvE aLL tHe AnsWeRs???

“I did not appear so often anyway. I have stood down and I don’t know who gave you the impression I appeared so frequently. I have stood down and I am off the press as a focus of attention, and off the electronic media.”

Now the written word doesn’t do him justice. He might sound pompous or even scathing in the reply but in reality, Big Scary former MM Lee Kuan Yew was just one “Girl ar…” short of sounding like any other 88 year old grandfather.

A grandfather that has seen a country from its squalid post-war beginnings to its current cosmopolitan state. Oh and a grandfather that single-handedly destroyed Singapore’s opposition prior to independence.

“Conditions change,” he says. “After long period of quiet, confident rule, a generation that grows up in a period of affluence believes that we have arrived. And as the saying goes, a first world parliament must have a first world opposition. So the restlessness. whether that leads to better governance we have to wait and see.”

So the old man still has problems with a non-one party state, saying that Singapore does not have the critical mass to produce two A-grade political teams.

But grumble as he may – and with that growl of a voice, amplified by the microphone close to his throat it certainly sounded unhappy – he made it clear that his time is over and that Singapore is in the hands of the next generation.

He says, “The vision has to be your vision, not my vision. I’ve lived my life, I’m 88. I’m strolling into the sunset, maybe I’ll stumble towards the end. But you have to have a vision of the kind of Singapore you want and you got to crystallize that and get your leaders to adopt your vision.”

Paraphrased: “I’m done with this shit. It’s your problem now. Let me retire in peace.”

So cut him some slack guys.

Message for US this week: Go green or be owned by China

Message for US this week: Go green or be owned by China

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The world is hot, flat, crowded… and innovation flocks over to the East.

By Fang Shihan

Get naughty and go green at the same time: here's a vibrator powered by the sun. LIBIDA.COM

SO YOU think you’re going green. You’re eating tofu, you’re building your little attap house in the park while thumbing your nose at pretentious ‘campers’ using plasticky environmentally-unfriendly tents.

You may even have started using vegan condoms and/or solar vibrators. But according to Pulitzer Prize winning author Thomas Friedman, who recently spoke at the University Cultural Centre in NUS, that’s far from being part of a Green Revolution.

That’s just a party.

Of course we’ve all heard the same tired story before. How we can be greener and cleaner; how companies like BP and Exxon Mobil pay lip service to environmentalists while they slowly pollute the sea and whine about not having an off-day (check); how governments must ‘care’ more for mother earth instead of focusing on narrow nationalist interests.

Do I hear you yawning? Yeah, curse those green tree-huggers and their moral high ground.

But what if being Green now meant something concrete: quantifiable in jobs, dollars, and cents?

That was the take home message this week, both from Friedman and Obama, the latter in his state-of the union address.

There is economic and political sense in Green. In Friedman’s words:

“The country that masters Green technology first will control the future of energy production.”

Renewable energy too was mentioned nine times in Obama’s speech, more than twice that of the word “China”, which was mentioned 4 times.

“Clean energy technology”, he says, is “an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.”

Yet he cautions that China and India were real competitors for those coveted jobs (the U.S. unemployment rate still stands at a worrying 9%) and China surprisingly, appears to be even Greener than First World USA, scoring vegan brownie points by hosting the world’s largest private solar research facility.

Wait. Really? Those Chinamen? Those sidewalk-spitting, money-grubbing, melamine producing, known-for-being-unethical Chinamen?

Green has ceased to be merely a moral issue. Being the first to own sustainable energy production knowledge, is very concretely monetary and in today’s world, he who hath the dollars, hath the power to shape the world order.

There needn’t be such a disconnect. Gone are the days when the Greens were those who a) wanted to show that they could afford to care about the planet, or b) wanted to show that they had a moral upper hand over capitalist oil-guzzling, meat-eating creeps.

If the drive for renewable energy is powered by business and innovation instead of angst, then there should be no reason why green companies and toxic toy makers shouldn’t exist side by side, in a country that is generally friendly towards businesses. Exactly like China today.

“If only we became China for a day”, laments Friedman, noting that America just needed a kick in the butt, top-down, to start the downward price spiral for green energy.

Commodities like coal and oil can only increase in price as demand increases but technology-based green energy sources like solar and wind power, can only decrease in price as their take-up rate rises.

So how does Singapore fare in the race to create the next Green Google?

Chris Tobias is the managing director of Forward, an enterprise dedicated to sustainability focused projects. He relocated business operations to Singapore, anticipating significant traction in the region in areas like cleantech, food security, and climate change.

In the U.S. you have entrenched industry stalwarts holding up progress, and even in ‘green’ countries like New Zealand there’s a death-by-consensus snailing visionary projects. Singapore is gratefully without many of these obstacles,” he said.

Another innovator, Darrell Zhang, founder of local startup Optiras Pte Ltd, builds energy optimising solutions. His company was funded under a scheme administered by the National Research Foundation (NRF) starting 2010.

“Three out of seven of the NRF-Appointed Incubators offer funding for cleantech-based projects and it definitely bodes well for the potential of this space” he says.

But he also adds that Singapore still lags behind America in terms of innovation, partly because startups here lack mentorship.

Innovation seems to be drifting out from the West to the East. If I could hedge a bet, I’d say Green energy, a sector heavily driven by innovation, would emerge not from the mature startup market in America, but from a country in the grant-rich East with the right ecosystem.

Winning the race to export green energy will determine which powerhouse will win the global economic war. Why? Because Green has ceased to be merely a moral issue. Being the first to own sustainable energy production knowledge, is very concretely monetary and in today’s world, he who hath the dollars, hath the power to shape the world order.