Award, award, my kingdom for award

In his dotage Unspun forgets things and gets worked up with what he has forgotten.

What’s been making Unspun envious and full of FOOM the past two days is his timeline on Linked in and FB of colleagues in the PR Industry beating their chests in absolute humility and congratulating themselves, being grateful to their colleagues, cousin and their dogs for winning a REGIONAL PR AWARD!

Why aren’t we in the limelight, wearing decent clothes and tuxes receiving such awards. Did we even bother to enter for the prestigious award? In a foul mood Unspun rounded on the junior Mavbro who’s been charged with entering our work for PR Awards.

“Why aren’t we winning any of those awards?” Unspun bellowed. “Did we even submit any entries/”

The hapless junior stammered, “Well, we didn’t submit for it this year. We did but it ended in a bad way…”

Then it clicked. Unspun’s grey cells rallied for a reach into the distant past 12 months. Luckily he had chronicled the incident here.

It turns out that the whole enterprise had been a rapacious scheme to squeeze hard earned fees from PR firms. We were called early by he organizer to attend because we would win an award, but to attend it we had to pay. And pay for the award and the accompanying video.

We decided that it was not worth it. And time has proven us right. Our business has not suffered an iota without that award. In fact we have been doing very well, with an EBIDTA that would make some of the big boys green with envy.

So now Unspundoesn’t feel that bad anymore not being on stage, smiling the pepsodent smile, proclaiming to all the world how humbled I feel while blasting his humility all over social media, thanking colleagues and wonderful people whose support he could not have done without.

What this means at the end of the day, though, is that the tux would have to be mothballed  for another year, another award.

 

The Blogger, the Crowd, and the Prime Minister

One of the early promises of the Net was its ability to democratise, to level the playing field.

Then the Net became ubiquitious, Facebook and others let the barbarians and trolls in to play and many of us got disenchanted with it.

So it is particularly heartening then to read about the power of the Net to level the playing field between Singapore blogger Roy Ngerng in the David corner and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the Goliath corner.

Roy had been asking questions about how the Singapore Government has been using, or abusing, its funds. Lee didn’t like the criticism so he sued Roy.

The legal suit has been the Big Stick that governments and the rick can wield against pesky reporters and writers, who are usually not that well off financially. I remember many years ago in Malaysia when a tycoon took out a suit against one of the big names in journalism M.G.G. Pillay for something he wrote.

M.G.G. spiritedly tried to fight it but the pressure of having to pay something beyond what he could make if he lost the suit took its toll. I think it broke him to a certain extent.

But now, thanks to the Net, we have crowd funding, like what Roy has resorted to. The implications of his action, and his initial success at raising up to S$50,000 with little effort, has huge political implications.

It now means that writers and bloggers need no longer be that afraid of the crippling legal suit, especially if they are writing something critical about a government, institution or individual that is not publicly popular.

Sue me? I’ll crowd fund my law suit. let’s see you in court. Libel laws are still important, as with the principle of the right of the aggrieved party to sue for libel, but in this instance at least the scales of Justice have been tipped to be more even.

Published: 2 June 2014 | Updated: 3 June 2014 3:56 AM

A Singaporean blogger sued for damages by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (pic) said Monday he had successfully raised fees for his legal defence in just four days through crowdfunding.

Roy Ngerng Yi Ling, a government health worker who posts comments on social issues, said 1,104 people had so far contributed more than Sg$72,000 (RM184,900), exceeding his target of Sg$70,000 (RM179,700) when he launched the campaign Friday.

Ngerng published the transaction history of his bank account on his crowdfunding platform. Many of the donors registered comments criticising Lee and opposing the use of libel suits to silence government critics.

Singapore officials have long used defamation suits against printed publications to defend their reputations.

Ngerng was the first online critic brought to court by a Singaporean leader.

“Donations were mostly of small denominations, and ranged from one cent to two thousand dollars,” Ngerng, 33, told AFP.

“It reflects the people’s frustrations with the current situation,” added Ngerng, author of a blog called ‘The Heart Truths’..[continued…]

 

A cautionary tale for expats in Asia

Don’t shit where you live and work sounds like common sense. We all now, however, that common sense is not common. But when this surfeit is combined with the sensitivity of a prat, the mixture is disastrous.

Take the case of Anton Casey, a well-heeled expat banker in Singapore, who has been raising heckles in Singapore lately with his smug arrogance and insensitive remarks.

The story of how Casey almost singlehandedly manages to piss off a whole nation by calling them “poor” because they could not afford a Porsche, and then rubbed salt in the wound by posting a video blaming the Singapore’s parents for raising them as “wusses” is told in the Straits Times story below and other blog posting (see here and here), so Unspun does not need to delve into it.

Flash to yesterday. After, understandably, receiving death threats and wholesale abuse Casey finally wakes up to the fact that he’s done something not too clever. So what does he do?

He hires a PR firm to help him send an apology in the form oaf a press release to the Singaporean people in the Straits Times and, apparently, to do the dog’s work of contacting social media users to take down their postings about Casey.

Not a smart move. Especially when the PR agency can’t even write a proper press  release that sounds anything remotely like a contrite human being. The release apparently quoted casey saying: “I would like to extend a sincere apology to the people of Singapore.” (Italics mine)

Would like? To extend a sincere apology? Who talks like this? Would like signals his intention, doesn’t mean that he’s apologising. Extend a sincere (as opposed to insincere) apology.

How about: “I am deeply sorry” instead?

And what’s wrong with this man, who presumably has had more than rudimentary education, that he cannot write the letter himself and ask the PR company to use their contacts to send it to the paper’s editors?

It looks like Casey’s travails are not over as many Singaporeans won’t see this as enough contrition to forgive him. This is exacerbated by the fact that many Singaporans, except for the very well off, are feeling the economic pinch of escalating prices, limited professional opportunities and the pressure of keeping up with the pristine and success self-image that the Government carefully encourages and nurtures in its citizens.

All this has also bred envy and resentment against expats, euphemistically called foreign talents, in Singapore. The popular local perception is that all expats get lucrative and perk-filled work packages that most of the time are unjustified. This is not quite accurate although all it takes here is for a few rotten apples to spoil the whole basket.

And when rotten, boorish apples like Casey get on social media and trumpet their ignorance, the rest of the expats, many of whom are very professional, totally integrated into local society and very decent people, can only cringe.

Hopefully the rest of us would remember not to shit where we live and work.

British expat, husband of former Miss Singapore, apologises for calling commuters “poor people”.

An expatriate who referred to commuters on public transport as “poor people” in his Facebook post has apologised on Tuesday in a statement sent to the press.

British national Anton Casey, who is married to former Miss Singapore Universe Bernice Wong, added that he and his family had received death threats and that he had exercised “poor judgment” in his earlier comments.

In a statement issued through Fulford Public Relations, he said: “I would like to extend a sincere apology to the people of Singapore.”

Mr Casey, who apparently drives a Porsche, added: “In the past 24 hours due to a security breach of my personal Facebook page and the misuse of an old video by unknown sources, my family and especially my Singaporean son have suffered extreme emotional and verbal abuse online.”

The online roasting started following the circulation of a couple of Mr Anton Casey’s Facebook posts which sported insensitive comments. A YouTube video of him in what seemed like a taunting response to his detractors, was also blasted by netizens.

Who let the dogs out?

The phrase “dog in the manger” comes to mind. Rp 64 trillion investment could have helped cushion the Rupiah’s fall and checked some capital flight, reassuring investors that Indonesia is a good place to do business. And what for? Sabre rattling? National pride?

 

Bank Mandiri Says Indonesia Attractive as DBS Takeover Scuttled – The Jakarta Globe

People pass by a Bank Mandiri branch in Jakarta, Friday, August 2. (JG Photo/Jurnasyanto Sukarno)

People pass by a Bank Mandiri branch in Jakarta, Friday, August 2. (JG Photo/Jurnasyanto Sukarno)

Budi Gunadi Sadikin, the head of Indonesia’s largest bank, said his home market is more attractive than Singapore less than a month after Indonesian efforts to get access to the city state scuttled what would have been Southeast Asia’s biggest banking takeover.

“It is more important for the Singaporean banks to get into Indonesia” rather than the other way round, said Sadikin, president director of Bank Mandiri, referring to his country’s underpenetrated banking sector and Singapore’s smaller economy and population. “Singapore to us is a small opportunity,” he said in an interview last week.

Indonesia’s central bank has been seeking reciprocity in Singapore for the nation’s biggest banks, including Mandiri, the largest by assets. At the same time, Indonesia last year imposed foreign ownership limits that prompted Singapore’s DBS Group Holdings to drop its 66.4 trillion rupiah ($6 billion) acquisition of Bank Danamon Indonesia.

If the Monetary Authority of Singapore showed a “positive gesture” in granting greater access to Indonesian banks, “then the transaction would have gone smoothly,” Sadikin said.

He would still be “very happy” for Jakarta-based Mandiri to receive a full banking license in Singapore.

“I won’t open 25 branches in one year,” Sadikin said. “But at least I have the flexibility.”

Bloomberg

Inside the mind of the self-censors

Unspun‘s often wondered what makes a self-perceived journalist want to be a practicing journalist in Singapore or Malaysia today, when you know before you plunge in that you will have to self-censor or be censored.

Why go in to the lion’s den and then after that complain about the nature of the lion? Is it masochism or idealism, of the highest order of bravery or misplacement, that spurs these young men and women to take up the calling?

Unspun was once in the former category as a journalist in Malaysia but that was before Operasi Lallang, when the Press was emasculated and there was still room to maneuver in spite of the attempts of self-censorship.

But one wonders these days how much room there is left to rage against the dying of the light of press freedom in those countries?

Singapore journalist on self-censorship: we can’t be controversial, we have to play the game 

In this interview, a former reporter for broadcaster and publisher MediaCorp, who wished to remain anonymous, talks to Mumbrella about one of the most sensitive issues for the media in Singapore – self-censorship.

Mumbrella’s Asia editor Robin Hicks spoke to a reporter who covered the last elections about how to play the news-getting game in Singapore, being labelled a ‘government mouthpiece’, and what the new regime for news websites really means.

It is said that Singaporeans learn from a very early age what what is politically acceptable to say in public. If true, would you say that this self-censorship is taken by young journalists into news rooms in Singapore?

George Yeo: founding father of Singapore's 'OB markers'

A long-standing part of our social education is that there are certain things you have to treat sensitively, for the sake of racial harmony and societal stability. But at school, we were never told in an overt way that we could not comment on race or religion. It was only after I had studied overseas, in Australia, that I really became aware that there was such a thing as ‘OB markers’ [a term first used in 1991 by the then foreign minister George Yeo, to describe the boundaries for political discourse in Singapore].

The internet changed everything. Singaporeans were shown a different view of our media and how it works. Foreign commentators were saying our media is repressed. That it’s a government controlled monopoly. But I already knew, as most people did, that there was a gap in how our political news was being reported.

As a young reporter starting out, I was conscious that I might be controlled. I was concerned that I would not be able to do good journalism. But I had come back to Singapore from overseas because I felt that I could not change the country I love as an outsider. And I guess I was quite idealistic then, as were many of my peers. I was determined not to self-censor. But with the way the mainstream press works in Singapore, in some ways self-censorship is inevitable.

Read more

In a haze over forest fires

“What we know is that there are several foreign investors from Singapore involved. But we can’t just blame them for this since we still need to investigate this further,” said Hadi Daryanto, a senior official at Indonesia’s Forestry Ministry.

In this age of satellite imagery what further investigation is needed to zoom in on the plantations with forest fires and punish them? What fumes is the Forestry Ministry and other Indonesian officials inhaling?

Singapore’s air turns “hazardous” as Indonesian fires rage
20-Jun-2013 00:31

Pollution index tops 300, indicating hazardous air quality Singapore sending delegation to Indonesia on Thursday Indonesia suggests Singapore companies partly to blame

By Kevin Lim and Eveline Danubrata
SINGAPORE, June 19 (Reuters) – Singapore’s air quality deteriorated to “hazardous” levels late on Wednesday as smoke from slash-and-burn land clearing in Indonesia enveloped the city-state, inflaming tensions between the Southeast Asian neighbours.
Singapore, a major financial centre, will send a delegation to Jakarta on Thursday to discuss the smog that has turned its usually clear skies grey, Environment Minister Vivian Balakrishnan told a news conference.
The outlines of skyscrapers were barely visible in the central core of the bustling city-state and the smell of burnt wood permeated the air.
“Things will get worse before getting better,” the Today newspaper quoted Balakrishnan as saying on its Twitter feed.
The Pollution Standards Index (PSI) soared to a record high of 321 at 10 p.m., up from 290 just an hour earlier and below 200 earlier in the day. The haze has also shrouded some parts of Malaysia.
A PSI reading above 300 indicates “hazardous” air quality, while a reading between 201 and 300 means “very unhealthy”.
The 321 level smashed the previous record of 226 reached in Singapore in 1997 when smoke from Indonesian fires disrupted shipping and air travel across Southeast Asia.
Operations at Singapore’s Changi Airport, an Asian aviation hub, have not been affected so far but work at some construction sites appeared to have stopped or slowed.
Drug stores and supermarkets ran out of face masks and people queued in long lines to buy multiple boxes of them when fresh supplies came in.
Raffles Quay Asset Management, which manages the Marina Bay Financial Centre complex that houses many of the banks operating in Singapore, said it has issued face masks to security staff.
“They are stationed outdoors for long hours and directly exposed to the haze,” it said.
The illegal burning of forests to clear land for palm plantations is a recurring problem in Indonesia, particularly during the annual dry season from June to September.
Indonesian officials have suggested companies based in Singapore may be partly to blame for the blazes. Singapore has said it wants Indonesia to provide maps of land concessions so it can act against firms that allow slash-and-burn farming.
“What we know is that there are several foreign investors from Singapore involved. But we can’t just blame them for this since we still need to investigate this further,” said Hadi Daryanto, a senior official at Indonesia’s Forestry Ministry.
Singapore-based palm oil companies with land concessions in Indonesia include Wilmar International Ltd WLIL.SI, Golden Agri-Resources Ltd GAGR.SI and First Resources Ltd FRLD.SI.
Wilmar, Golden-Agri and First Resources said on Wednesday they had a “zero burning” policies and used only mechanical means to clear land. Cargill, whose Asia-Pacific regional hub is in Singapore, said there were no hotspots nor fire on its plantations in South Sumatra and West Kalimantan.

A bypass in life II – the second and third opinion

The adventures of Unspun’s heart problems…continued from A bypass in life – the discovery. Speaking with a friend in Singapore I also learned of another blogger with a heart problem. He’s none other than Singapore’s Khaw Boon Wan who apparently also, like Unspun, showed almost no symptoms of heart disease yet had to undergo a bypass. He’s blogged about it here so maybe he and Unspun could form a Bypassed Bloggers Club sometime (or maybe he could come to Pesta Blogger and we can share experiences and knowledge to heart patients)

…I had more blood drawn out of me.

This time they were for testing with cancer markers to determine if the “white” spot on my lung was actually a tumor. My mind thought that cancer must be one of the worst things to happen to someone as it brings a lot of suffering.

Years ago I remember visiting my Godmother for the last time in Ipoh. When I was still a kid she took a liking to me and insisted on being my godmother. She had always been full of life and had a way with people. She was also very pretty and had a winning smile that would make all the expletives and double entandres she was so fond of like a good-natured joke. She embraced life to the fullest.

But she had been stricken by cancer for many years and was now nearing the end of her life. I returned from Indonesia and paid her a visit. She had been reduced to skin and bones and lay in a coma. We all weren’t sure if she was still conscious.  I went and sat by her and tried talking to her. She remained motionless and expressionless but a tear formed in her eye and rolled down her cheek. It was the most heartrending moment of my life. When I took my leave her husband, who had faithfully took care of her all these years and is my role model for a loving husband, gave me one of her rings. He said she had wanted me to have it. I was devastated.

I digress though…

I was fortunate in that I had brought an X-Ray film of my lungs that I had taken recently in Jakarta because of another ailment a few weeks back. The doctor looked at that X-Ray and told me to relax. The Jakarta X-Ray was clear of any white spots, meaning that I did not have a tumor as none could have developed to the size of the white spot in a few weeks. It had to be an infection. I breathed a sigh of relief.

The other upside of the infection was that they could not operate on me until the infection cleared. So they discharged me for the meantime. When I got back to my mother’s house, where I was staying in KL, I started thinking that I needed a second opinion. What if the cardiologist was wrong? I could be cut up for nothing.

I called around and found an old friend who was a doctor in a reputable hospital. He knew a cardiologist, one of the best in Malaysia, but he was on Christmas vacation overseas. Di he know any other good doctors. He recommended Cardiologist #2, who scruninized the results of my tredmill test, a CD of my angiogram and said that he could not make a decisive conclusion since the crucial part of my left main artery was not captured properly in the angiogram.

He said because I was relatively healthy and the heartbeat lines of my treadmill test began to separate only when I had a big strain, and the angiogram not being conclusive, I should just take some medication to lower my cholesterol, a cardiac aspirin a day and come back in six months for another test. But he would like to confer with his colleagues before making a final diagnosis. His colleagues, including the original one I was supposed to see, was, however, on holidays. So Unspun waited out the Christmas in no mood to celebrate  for the doctor to come back to from his vacation.

Nothing to do but to try to divert the mind and Unspun was lucky to have a wife who planned a diversion to Malacca, Malaysia’s historic town for a couple of days. While there, however, Cardiologist #2 called and said he had conferred with is colleague and they had come to the conclusion that I did not merit a bypass there and then. I should come back in six months. The fact that Cardiologist #2 had the bedside manner and communication skills of a bear in hibernation did not help. He told me to take some medication and come back in six months. Full stop. I did not need to know more.

So there I was stuck with what seemed two extreme medical opinions: Cardiologist #1 who seems to think that I could die of a heart attack at any moment and therefore needed to have a bypass soonest and Cardiologist #2 and friends who seem to think that I should pop a few aspirins, a Lipitor or two and stroll back six months later for an examination.

Since I suffered from no cardiac disease symptoms whatsoever, I opted to go for Cardiologist #2’s. I came back to Jakarta and tried to get on for six months before the next examination. Then the Missus found me a doctor who had been trained in Western Medicine but was now practicing Traditional Chinese Medicine.

I went to see him about the heart but since I was there, and I was kiasu, I also asked him to treat my snoring problem. My snoring had got so bad over the years that once I was kicked out by my roomate during a liveaboard dive trip. He told me that he couldn’t sleep because of my snoring and when I turned over to my side and still kept snoring he knew that there was no hope of me shutting up. It was embarrassing but I had gotten used to that. I would usually start to snore loudly at massage spas, disrupting the relaxation of everyone else but me. The snore was also so bad that I suffered from sleep apnea – the condition where you choke yourself because of snoring. This prevents you from going into full sleep and rest mode and causes sufferers to be irritable and tired (so now you know why I was grumpy and sleepy).

The doctor was a skeptic of Western medicine and he had interesting views about statins, the class of drugs like Lipitor and Crestor, that Western-trained doctors prescribe to lower your blood cholesterol level. His view is that statins did more harm than good and you should avoid them as much as possible.

He prescribed instead lichitin injections and consumption of huge doses of fish oil and lichitin. Lichitin is an interesting substance, naturally found in the fatty tissues of animals. It is extracted from soy beans and it acts as a solvent of sorts. Sometimes it is used for cosmetic surgery where lichitin is injected to “dissolve” the fat in certain areas. A bit like liposuction without the pain.

He pumped me full of lichitin and gave me acupuncture about once a week for four months. One thing that happened very early, from the second visit actually, was that my snoring problem was cured. Where Unspun was once a lion in full roar when asleep, he was now a silent as a babe. The doctor explained that according to Chinese medical belief snoring is caused by the disruption of flow of forces in the area near the mouth/nose. If you smoothen the flow then the snoring would stop. His needles at somewhere on the top half of my shin was designed to do that and it apparently stopped my snoring.

He wasn’t so successful with my heart though and after four to five months of acupuncture and lechitin (during which Unspun regularly worked out in the gym with no heart aches whatsoever) Unspun went back to KL to find Cardiologist #3, the cardiologist my friend had wanted me to see in the first place. He had qualifications from various reputable hospitals up the wazoo and was (I Googled him) considered one of the best in Malaysia. He put me through a state-of-the-art MRI scanner as he too could not tell from my angiogram whether the narrowing of my left main artery was naturally occuring (at which case we need not do nothing) or whether it was caused by plaque buildup.

10 seconds was all it took for them to gather enough information that would render my heart in 3D on the terminal screen of the MRI scanner. There they showed Unspun his heart, in color, and the technology was so fantastic that when they moved the sursor along an artery there was a side window showing the cross section of the artery as we went along.

The MRI scan was pretty conclusive: Unspun apparently has four blockages, with the most severe being in he left main artery.There was also some calcification of the artery. That settled it. I had to go for a bypass. But which procedure?

The cardiologist told me that there has been a lot of hullabaloo recently about keyhole surgery. many medical organizations, even in KL, were claiming that they could perform key hole surgeries for conditions like mine. What they do is make a couple of holes in your chest, one above your rib cage, another below, and perform a bypass operation from there. The claim is that since it is less intrusive than a bypass surgery, you’d be abl to heal faster and suffer much less pain.

My cardiologist was, however, very vehement that I do not choose this option. “The technology is still not here for anyone, no matter how skilled, to perform a keyhole surgery well,” he said, adding that he’s seen many patients running into problems as early as six months after the keyhole surgery.

The only safe and lasting alternative for now, he said, was still open heart surgery because the surgeon could graft the replacement artery properly. “If you have it done by a good surgeon you’re virtually guaranteed that you don’t need to do another operation in the same area for the next 20 years.”

So he sent Unspun to the heart surgeon, who apparently is the best in Malaysia who had operated on Mahathir before. Unspun thought that what is good enough for Mahathir was good enough for him so agreed to be cut up, but could he wait for a couple of months so that Unspun could get on and finish some projects for clients? He said no, my blockage was actually quite severe. I may look and feel fine but if there should be a blood clot it could be the unspinning of Unspun. So he scheduled the operation for June 14.

Next: What one learns and goes through the mind when one has a heart condition