Writing

Sunday, April 12th, 2015

American Littoral Combat Ship to set sail to Singapore mid-April

In late February 2013, after months of speculation, a definitive timeline for the US Navy’s newest combat ship – the littoral combat ship – to be deployed overseas was unveiled at a press conference. Singapore would be the base for the LCS.

Ever since the former American defense secretary Robert Gates announced in 2011 that these ships would be based out of Singapore. His announcement came at a time where tensions between China and its neighours were rising over disputed claims of islands in the South China Sea.

The translated article and its original in Mandarin Chinese:

American Littoral Combat Ship to set sail to Singapore mid-April

Plans to deploy the United States Navy’s littoral combat ships to Singapore have finally materialised.

USS Freedom, the first littoral combat ship (LCS) to be constructed, will set sail tomorrow from San Diego, and will arrive in Singapore mid-April. This will be the first operational deployment for the American Navy’s LCS.

Freedom will also take part in the defence maritime show IMDEX Asia, in May.

During its time in Singapore, Freedom will also take part in naval exercises with regional navies.

Director of Navy Staff Vice Admiral Richard Hunt announced plans for Freedom’s deployment in a press conference held in San Diego about a week ago.

The warship would depart March 1 from San Diego for Singapore’s Changi Naval Base to commence its ten-month long deployment, stopping by Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and Guam en route.

In response to Lianhe Zaobao’s queries, a spokesperson from Singapore’s Defence Ministry said, “The LCS will not be based or homeported in Singapore. The amount of time that each LCS will spend in Singapore during each port call will vary, as we expect the LCS to call into and out of Singapore on a regular basis when they are deployed here.”

The spokesperson also added that Singapore will provide logistical support to the LCS while it is at Changi Naval Base.

Lianhe Zaobao understands that the US Navy will be issuing a press release later today detailing Freedom’s deployment.

The US Navy announced in 2001 that it would start construction of the LCS to replace its ageing frigate fleet. Freedom was the first LCS to be constructed. It entered the naval fleet in 2008.

The light-bodied LCS can operate in shallow waters, reaching speeds of up to 40 knots. It is capable of being affixed with different modules to conduct anti-submarine, anti-mine or anti-surface warfare.

Lianhe Zaobao also understands that Freedom will be taking part in the multi-national Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training Exercise (CARAT) during its deployment.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said during the 2011 Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore that the US was planning on deploying LCS to Singapore to enhance regional security.

美近海战舰 4 月中抵新部署
孙伟伦报道
soonwl@sph.com.sg

美国海军的近海战舰在我国部署的安排终于明朗化,首艘近海战舰“自由号”明天从加利福尼亚州圣迭戈起航,预计在 4 月中旬抵新,为美军最新一款战舰首次进行实地部署。

自由号(USS Freedom)也将在 5 月中旬于樟宜展览中心举行的亚洲国际海防展览及会议(IMDEX Asia)上亮相,展示近海战舰(littoral combat ship,简称 LCS)作战能力。自由号在新期间也将同本区域其他国家海军部队进行演习。

美国海军总参谋长亨特海军中将(Vice Admiral Richard Hunt)一周前在圣迭戈(San Diego)召开记者会,公布自由号起航后的部署安排。战舰 3 月 1 日离开圣迭戈后将途经夏威夷珍珠港和关岛,然后到新加坡,在我国展开十个月的部署。

不会以新加坡为基地

我国国防部回答本报询问说:“近海战舰将不会以新加坡为基地。我们相信战舰在新加坡时,将会定期进出军港,每次停靠我国的时间不定。”国防部也表示,军舰停靠樟宜军港时,我军将协助提供美军物流与补给服务。

据本报了解,美国海军将在今天发布文告,公布自由号在我国部署的详情。

美国海军在 2001 年宣布建造近海战舰,以取代老旧的护卫舰队。自由号是首艘建成的近海战舰,2008 年加入美国海军舰队。自由号在新加坡将是它首次进行实地部署。

近海战舰优点就是体型轻盈,能够在靠近岸边的海域行动,速度可达 40 节(时速 74 公里)。它也可以安装不同的作战组件,可按照作战需求,执行反潜、反水雷、反水面舰艇任务。

据本报了解,自由号将与多国军舰通过“联合备战与训练”(Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training Exercise,简称 CARAT)进行演习。

美国前国防部长盖茨曾在 2011 年的“香格里拉对话”上透露,美国打算在新加坡部署近海战舰,参与维护区域安全。


Sunday, April 12th, 2015

Four Internet giants criticise Singapore news website regulations

On July 3, 2013, I published an exclusive in Lianhe Zaobao on how the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) has written to Singapore’s government, expressing concerns about a new ruling requiring news websites of a certain reach to first seek licensing from the government before it can start operations.

The coalition counts four Internet giants – Facebook, Google, Yahoo! and eBay – as its members.

The story quickly was picked up by Bloomberg, Reuters, Yahoo! News and several other Singaporean websites the same day after Zaobao hit newsstands. Major newspapers also carried the story the next day. It also provoked a debate at a parliament seating a few days later.

The story even later caught the attention of the American State Department. On July 8, at a daily press briefing, a spokesperson expressed the Department’s concerns on the new ruling, saying that Singapore should “… ensure that freedom of expression is protected in accordance with its international obligations and commitments”.

A good summary of my article can be found here.

Translated version of the article, and its original in Mandarin Chinese:

Four Internet giants criticise news website regulations; Singapore Government reiterates stance on introduction of regulations

Facebook, Google, Yahoo! and eBay have raised their concerns about Singapore’s latest move to tighten regulation of news websites, criticising the new legislation as one which has already “negatively impacted Singapore’s global image as an open and business-friendly country”.

Singapore’s Communications and Information Ministry, in a response released to the companies yesterday, reiterated its stance on introducing these measures. The ministry also invited these companies to provide their views on upcoming changes to the Broadcasting Act.

Displeasure against this new legislation in the city-state has largely been voiced by Singaporean bloggers, netizens and media companies. These four Internet giants’ concerns lend a new dimension to debate about this legislation, which came into effect June 1.

Lianhe Zaobao understands that lobby group Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), representing these four Internet companies, penned a letter on June 14, expressing its concerns to Communications and Information Minister, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim.

Dr John Ure, AIC’s executive director, writes in the letter that “this new regulation – and the regulatory trend that this may be indicative of – could unintentionally hamper Singapore’s ability to continue to drive innovation, develop key industries in the technology space and attract investment in this key sector. We also believe that the scope of the regulation and manner in which it was introduced have negatively impacted Singapore’s global image as an open and business-friendly country.”

Set up in 2011, Hong Kong-based AIC consults governments in the Asia-Pacific region on Internet policies.

A spokesperson for the ministry responded yesterday to Zaobao’s queries. He stated that, in its reply to AIC, also sent yesterday, the ministry reiterated its stance that these regulations were to ensure that news websites were subjected to the same regulatory standards as traditional media.

After the regulations were introduced in June, AIC has been in talks with the Media Development Authority (MDA), the regulator overseeing these regulations, to understand how they work. When asked why did AIC still deem it necessary to express its views to the minister, Dr Ure told Zaobao: “AIC was caught off guard by the MCI Minister’s announcement of new regulations. … It is always AIC’s position that changes of this kind are best done through industry consultation otherwise mistakes can be made.”

AIC, in its letter, explained how these regulations could affect the industry in two ways.

Firstly, it deems the regulation as “vague and broad”. Hence, successful implementation of it might entail curbing innovation, or impede the industry’s development. “These types of uncertainties have a significant chilling effect on innovation and negatively impact Singapore’s ability to attract investments, both of which are critical to the healthy development of the infocomm and media sector in Singapore.”

Secondly, AIC believes that “additional licensing conditions are onerous, regressive and untenable in practice” for the industry. In particular, AIC believes that the requirement for news websites to take down, within 24 hours, any story that authorities deem objectionable is too onerous. It suggests that “… this provision is removed and replaced with a ‘best endeavours’ response within a reasonable timeframe taking into account all of the circumstances.”

AIC also appealed to the Singapore Government to reconsider the necessity of the regulation a year or two after implementation.

The ministry’s spokesperson, in responding to AIC’s views on the 24-hour take-down requirement, said that the ministry has already taken into account on how quickly information can spread online, thus “…is important in the management of false news information that may cause mass panic.”

The spokesperson said the government welcomed AIC’s views on proposed changes to the Broadcasting Act.

Dr Ure told Zaobao last night that he thanked the ministry for its response, and looked forward to continued dialogue with the government on this matter.

Baey Yam Keng, vice chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee on Communications and Information, said that concerns raised by these Internet companies should not be brushed aside. “These are mainstream Internet companies. If we don’t allay their concerns, it would definitely affect our country’s reputation as a business-friendly hub. But everyone should also realise any effect brought about by these new regulations will need time to materialise, and only then can we see how big of an impact it has on Singapore.”

The Communications and Information Ministry announced earlier that effective June 1, websites which see more than 50,000 unique visitors per month, and carry more than one news story per week, must obtain an individual licence before they can publish.

These licensees would also have to put up a S$50,000 performance bond. Should authorities deem an article objectionable, these licensees would have to take down the said article within 24 hours. Ten websites, including Yahoo’s popular Singapore news site, were required by authorities to be licensed.

The government also plans on updating the Broadcasting Act. It will require foreign media companies with data servers hosted overseas to have to adhere local media regulations should they want to operate in Singapore’s market.

Bloggers and netizens came out strongly against the regulations on news sites. Alan Soon, Yahoo’s Singapore country director, earlier posted a public blog post stating that these regulations were “redundant”. He also mentioned that Yahoo was studying the regulations carefully, and that Yahoo has not decided if it would apply for such a license.

就新闻网站新执照条例 四网络巨头致函部长表担忧 通讯及新闻部回应并重申推行立场

孙伟伦报道

面簿(Facebook)、谷歌(Google)、雅虎(Yahoo!)和eBay日前致函我国通讯及新闻部长雅国博士,表示刚生效的新闻网站新执照框架条例已损害新加坡亲商的国家形象。

通讯及新闻部昨天回应它们所提出的担忧,并重申推行新条例的立场,也欢迎公司代表参与即将展开的修改《广播法令》公共咨询,提出看法。

这四家网络巨头的诉求,是继本地媒体公司、网民、博客管理者等连日来所提出的请愿和不满之后,针对新条例发声。它们都在本地设有办事处,甚至区域总部。

本报了解到,代表四家网络公司的游说团体“亚洲互联网政策组织”(Asia Internet Coalition,简称AIC),上个月14日在获得四家公司的同意后致函雅国,提出对新条例的关注。

AIC在这封由执行董事尤尔(John Ure)起草的信中写道:“新条例及它所可能延伸出来的政策发展趋势,将无形中抑制新加坡继续创新的能力,或者阻碍科技业的发展,外来投资也可能会减少。我们也相信新条例的涵盖范围,以及推出条例的方式,将对新加坡作为一个开放、对企业友好的国家形象起到负面影响。”

AIC于2011年在香港正式成立,是亚洲区域政府在推出影响互联网的管制政策方面的咨询组织。这两年来,它已经同香港、菲律宾、越南,以及我国政府进行交涉。

通讯及新闻部发言人昨天回复本报的询问时表示,该部在昨天给予AIC的回函中,重申了推出新条例是要统一网络新闻媒体与传统媒体的管理标准的立场。

AIC已在6月初与媒体发展管理局就新条例进行对话。至于为何要致函雅国,尤尔受访时说:“新条例让AIC大感意外,也让我们很担心……我们的一贯立场是,这类政策改变最好是经过业界咨询后才进行,要不然很容易产生问题。”

AIC在信中提出新条例将从两方面影响企业。

首先,它认为条例行文抽象,一旦实施会抑制创新、阻碍企业发展。企业今后在新加坡设立公司、数据中心时会再三考虑。“条例中的种种不确定性将为创新,以及新加坡在吸引投资方面带来‘寒蝉效应’,阻碍新加坡资讯通信媒体业的健康发展。”

其次,AIC认为新条例所附加的发放执照要求在现实生活中是“繁重、阻碍发展,甚至是站不住脚的。”对于这一点,它认为“有关不当内容的条例很抽象,要对方在24小时内取下这些言论,时间上是不足够的”。它建议把条文修改为,公司应该“尽所能”地在最短时间内取下内容。

AIC也希望政府可以考虑在一两年内检讨新条例的必要性。

针对AIC对于修改24小时内删除不当内容的条例的建议,通讯及新闻部发言人表示,政府已经考虑到资讯是如何在网络上迅速传播,因此“这项规定对管理不真实资讯是很重要的,尤其是那些可能造成群众恐慌的不真实资讯。”

欢迎公司在公共咨询中提意见

发言人也表示,政府欢迎AIC在修改《广播法令》的公共咨询中提供意见。

尤尔昨晚对本报说感谢通讯及新闻部的回复,并表示组织将继续与政府进行对话。

政府国会通讯及资信委员会副主席马炎庆认为,四家网络公司的顾虑不容忽视。他说:“它们都是主流的网络公司,如果没有正视这些问题让它们放下心,的确会影响我国的形象。不过也希望大家了解到,必须给新条例一段时间来落实,才能真正看到它的影响有多大。”

通讯及新闻部属下的媒发局日前宣布从6月1日起,任何新闻网站只要在连续两个月内,平均每周发表一则本地新闻或时事报道,并在这两个月内每月吸引至少五万个不同的本地网络IP地址点阅,就得申请执照。

网站也得按照新条例缴付5万元履约保证金,以及在接获内容违反媒发局条例的通知时,在24小时内删除。

共有10个互联网新闻平台受条例影响,其中包括雅虎新加坡新闻网。

政府也将在明年探讨修改《广播法令》,以确保其他使用外国服务器但却主要针对本地市场的外国业者,能被纳入执照管制框架内。

政府公布新条例后,引来网民和博客管理者的强烈反弹,雅虎新加坡的经理全德运日前更表示新条例是“多余”的,不过还在解读条例细节,无法确定会否申请执照。


Friday, August 20th, 2010

Lloyd’s List: How timing is the key to a history of success

In conjunction with Singapore’s national day, international maritime industry publication Lloyd’s List was arranging a supplement, published on Aug. 5, that took an overview on Singapore’s maritime industry.  I contributed on the part on Singapore’s maritime history.

Lloyds List – Singapore


Friday, March 26th, 2010

Digital Media Master’s Project: The Last American Grand

The Last American Grand screen shot

The Last American Grand screen shot

“The Last American Grand” is a journalistic, multimedia project, produced by team mate Paula Neudorf and me, digital media students at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

The result of seven months’ worth of research and reporting, this Web site was submitted as our master’s project in March 2010.

We shared the responsibility of filming versus interviewing, and found that it made us a better team. We switched off who controlled the camera while the other interviewed a subject. We also took turns shooting B-roll, calling our sources, etc. We each had “our” sources, so that each source dealt mostly with one person, though we’d often switch off who contacted who, so that we hope our sources came to think of us as a single journalistic unit. Splitting things fifty-fifty helps both pragmatically and emotionally.

When it came to assembling our final project, each of us played to our strengths: Paula focused on the text piece and lent her editorial judgment to the Web site, while I focused on the visuals and the site’s construction. We each edited two of our four main videos, with me editing “The Restorer” and “The Polisher” videos, and Paula, the trailer, “The Tone Regulator” and “Pianists on Pianos.” Outside of the videos, Paula wrote the text piece, assembling information we had both gathered from our reporting, while I assembled the text and videos for the timeline. I also constructed and designed the website from scratch.

For more information, email thelastamericangrand@gmail.com.


Monday, January 25th, 2010

Multimedia: Midtown Pedicab Boss Rides On Leaky Tires

For my course, Digital Media Newsroom, a team mate and I had to profile a small-business owner in New York for a semester. Gregg Zukowski, owner of Revolution Rickshaws, was our profiled character. In the course of reporting, we produced a text piece, audio slideshows, Google Maps, Flash and videos for the story, some of which can be found on the website, “The Big Hurt.”

The published work consists a text piece (of which I was the main writer), an audio slideshow (which I took photos for and produced) and a video. As a classroom assignment that did not end up published, I also took photos for, and produced another audio slideshow that involved another pedicab-rental business owner.

The story is part of “The Big Hurt” website, and can be found here.


Saturday, December 19th, 2009

A Tale of Two Villes

Manhattanville, New York City

The final Reporting and Writing I story I did at Journalism School in Dec. 2009.

Hidden in the shadows of tall buildings, two gas stations stake their claim on a triangular parcel of land just off West 125th Street as it runs towards the Hudson River.

To the stations’ south, windows of an apartment building catch the morning sun, beaming it onto the gas stations, which would otherwise be hiding in the shadows. To their north, West 129th Street has been parceled off by wooden boards, shielding off the prying eye from the construction and renovation of buildings that are taking place within.

“Look at that,” said Amrik Singh, manager of the two gas stations for 14 years, pointing to the streets surrounding his workplace. “Businesses are still running. Sidewalk ok. How can they say it’s blighted?”

The debate over the state’s designation of the West Harlem neighborhood as blighted erupted anew earlier this month when a state appellate court declared the description “idiocy.”

The 17-acre site is currently a war zone between Columbia University, which wants to expand there, and property owners, who don’t want to give up their businesses. Columbia won a critical battle last year when a report commissioned by the Empire State Development Corporation said the area known as Manhattanville is blighted. It suffered from “long-term poor maintenance, lack of development and disinvestment,” according to the report.

This designation was a crucial crucial step to the state taking over property on behalf of the university by invoking eminent domain. Columbia needs the state’s help to gain control of six remaining buildings for its $6.3 billion plan to build a satellite campus there.

But just whether the area is blighted was called into question earlier this month, when the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court, in a 3-2 vote, annulled the state’s condemnation of the property. Declaring the move unconstitutional, the court called the study “mere sophistry.”

“Idiocy” and “sophistry” are what the victorious plaintiffs, Nicholas Sprayregen of Tuck-it-Away storage and Gurnam Singh, owner of the two gas stations and Amrik Singh’s employer, see in Columbia University’s plans of taking over property. According to Gurnam Singh, the university left these buildings “empty with a lot of violations to show them as blighted.”

The Singhs, who are not related, contend that though the area was a backwater in the late 1980s, it was already gentrifying before Columbia University established its presence just a couple of years ago.

“Before, no one comes to Harlem. Everyone afraid to come to Harlem, there were robberies in daytime,” said Gurnam Singh, recalling the time when he purchased the gas station from its previous owner in 1987. “Since then, because everyone’s spending money, it’s making everything new here.”

Sprayregen is the other stalwart in the tussle. President of Tuck-it-Away, Sprayregen took over the business from his father in 1990. Having been in the neighborhood for close to 20 years, he thinks that Columbia’s purchase of property in Manhattanville is driving shops out of business.

“If there are any blighting conditions, they’re of Columbia’s doing,” said Sprayregen. “Should Columbia really be the beneficiary of a blight designation when they themselves have caused the negative trends here?”

Ramon Dias, owner of Floridita, a 34 year-old family-run food and beverage chain, found himself caught in that “negative trend” of being driven out of business. Columbia had already bought the property rights of the building that Floridita occupied on a Broadway stretch between West 125th and 129th Streets, and had offered him “a new lease with a relocation clause.”

“I was very pro-expansion based on what Columbia was representing,” said Dias. “But as soon as they got everything they wanted, they turned the guns on me by saying ‘Sorry, there’s no space for you, there’s nowhere we can relocate you.’”

With the strong emotional and generational ties to his Manhattanville business, Dias has no current plan to find a new location for his restaurant, as it would “not be Floridita anymore.”

Asked to comment on the blighted conditions being Columbia’s doing, Victoria Benitez, the university’s senior public affairs officer, referred to an op-ed published on Crain’s New York Business’ Web site on Dec. 13 that said the judges who voted for revoking the blight study had “disparaged the public benefit of the Columbia project and clearly second-guessed the blight finding in a way that would seem to directly contravene the instructions of the higher court.” Benitez declined further comment.

Relocation woes and “manufactured” blight aside, some residents and community leaders do think that Columbia’s entrance into Manhattanville has helped the neighborhood shake off long-term unemployment and crime, both contributing factors to blight, in the area.

Several long-term residents interviewed said they appreciate Columbia’s presence in the neighborhood.

“It’s good,” said Liana Santana, who was born and raised in Manhattanville. “I see more white people coming in, have richer neighbors, rental prices are going up.”

Said Rocki Brown, a Manhattanville resident of 29 years: “Some supers have problems keeping their buildings up, the elevators, the windows all need working on, but generally it’s very safe. After Columbia came in, there’re lesser guys on the streets doing drugs.”

While word is still out on the final decision on the case as the development corporation seeks to bring it to the Court of Appeals, residents and parties involved in the lawsuit think that a more amicable solution must be reached to achieve a desirable outcome

“One person’s blight is another person’s luxury, another person’s need that is being denigrated as unworthy,” said New York State Senator Bill Perkins in an interview. “This is a decision, unfortunately, that was contrived not because of blight, but because of the interest of Columbia to expand without regard to the victims of the expansion. ‘Urban renewal’ has come to be known as ‘people removal.’”

Benitez reiterated that Columbia is not a party in the litigation, but stands behind the development corporation’s decision to appeal. Perkins has already issued an open letter to Gov. David Paterson, who supports Columbia’s expansion, to not appeal the decision and call for a state-wide moratorium on eminent domain.

Sprayregen and the Singhs noticed that the neighborhood was already in the upswing in recent years; it was Columbia who had “manufactured” much of the blight in the study. The issue at heart, they believe, is the need for Columbia and the community to come to a mutually satisfactory agreement of the university’s expansion in the neighborhood.

“Eminent domain is like a gun,” said Gurnam Singh, sitting in his office. “Somebody comes to your home, says he wants to buy your home, you say you’re not selling, he says, ‘Look, here’s a gun.’ You have to sell.”

Shifting his gaze from the construction surrounding West 125th and 129th Streets to his gas stations, Gurnam Singh adds: “Just leave me alone. I’m very happy we won. This is my heart.”



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