Periscope August Summary 2021

Written by: Emma Shuen Lee (21-O1), Katelyn Joshy (21-U1), He Jizhao (21-U5), Zuo Yuning (21-A1), Zexel (21-E2), Lay Kai En, Ashley (21-O1)

Designed by: Lay Kai En, Ashley (21-O1)

Here’s August’s edition of bite size current affairs, a monthly summary of the happenings around the world! From USA’s withdrawal from Afghanistan to NUH’s smallest baby, we have all the news for you.

Global

USA’s withdrawal from Afghanistan 

Following through on his campaign promises, President Biden has been keen on removing the USA from conflicts overseas, including that in Afghanistan. Adopting the deal negotiated by his predecessors, Biden announced that the USA will complete its withdrawal from Afghanistan by 11 September, just in time to commemorate 20 years after the 9/11 attacks. 

This move comes after many years of fighting an unwinnable war in Afghanistan, one which cost trillions of dollars and had united both the left and right in their desire for American withdrawal. Thus, the withdrawal was highly needed, though Biden has been criticised by both political allies and rivals alike for the hastiness of it, which has left disastrous repercussions on locals and US citizens who are based in Afghanistan. 

Several human rights organisations worry for the future of the situation, expecting a great exodus of refugees, especially given the Taliban’s human rights records. Women are especially at risk. 

The world also witnessed the futility of US intervention in the Middle East —the Afghanistan government fell almost immediately after the US withdrawal. This sufficiently showed that US intervention was never about building long term foundations for democracy to flourish overseas, but simply short term solutions to temporarily benefit the superpower itself, giving it strategic gains in the territory. 

UN Report Stern Warning for Humanity

Humans are altering the climate in unprecedented and irreversible ways, a UN scientific report asserts. The study warns of increasingly extreme heatwaves, droughts and flooding, and a temperature cap being broken in just over ten years.The report “is a code red for humanity”, showing the severity of the situation.

The solemn assessment of our planet’s future has been delivered by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group whose findings are endorsed by governments worldwide. In strong, confident tones, the IPCC’s document says “it is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, oceans and land”.

Nevertheless, scientists say we can be saved if the world acts fast. Hopefully, deep reduction in greenhouse gas emissions can stabilise rising temperatures. Similarly, UN Secretary General António Guterres said: “If we combine forces now, we can avert climate catastrophe. But, as today’s report makes clear, there is no time for delay and no room for excuses. I count on government leaders and all stakeholders to ensure COP26 is a success.”

It is clear that if we do not act fast, the only ones to suffer are ourselves.

Regional

Alibaba rape allegation and toxic work culture

Two former employees of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba were detained by the police after being accused of sexually assaulting a female colleague at a work event. While the Chinese tech industry and the general public may have been taken aback by the allegations, women have long suffered the constant objectification and sexual violence in the male-dominated sector. For instance, not long ago, Chinese tech companies invited popular Japanese porn stars to their events to boost publicity. Qihoo 360, a cybersecurity company, had a Japanese porn star dance with its programmers in 2014 while some of its female employees wore revealing outfits. 

Worse, when women are brave enough to speak out about it they are immediately shot down and shunned by society. Three years ago, a student at the University of Minnesota accused Richard Liu, the founder of one of China’s biggest conglomerates, JD.com, of raping her after being forced to drink at a business meal. When Mr Liu denied the allegations and the police remained silent, the Chinese internet and tech industry supported him and denounced her as a gold digger.

However, the fact that the police took action to these public accusations has rekindled hope for China’s #MeToo movement, which seemed to have lost steam due to censorship and nationalist attacks from the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Flooding in Hubei province

Just as people breathed a sigh of relief after the “once in a millennium” rainfall in Zhengzhou, heavy downpours struck China’s Hubei province. In Hubei, torrential rains caused power cuts and landslides destroying hundreds of homes and forcing the evacuation of over 6000 people. It was reported by Xinhua that 21 people were killed and four others are missing as heavy rain lashed townships. Hundreds of firefighters, police and military have been dispatched to the worst affected areas. 

What is more alarming is that as many as 774 reservoirs in Hubei had exceeded their flooding warning levels on the evening of 12 August. So far, the extreme weather in the province has already damaged more than 3600 houses and 8110ha of crops, with total losses estimated at 108 million yuan. 

Even though China regularly experiences flooding during its wet summer months, the scales of and damages by recent torrential rains are unprecedented. China is now facing the daunting challenges of climate change after modernizing at a time when its leaders favoured economic growth over climate resilience. As such, many cities are ill-equipped to absorb water from heavy downpours.

Local

Flash flood at Tampines and Pasir Ris

Water levels rose rapidly during a heavy rain shower in the early hours of Friday morning, August 20th, along the junction of Tampines Avenue 10 and Pasir Ris Drive 12.  The pooling waters quickly swelled into a flash flood, stretching as far as the Tampines Expressway entrance by 7:58 A.M. When the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) arrived at the site, at least 13 vehicles were found stationary and partially submerged in the floodwaters, with 25 people having been evacuated prior. In a statement released by the SCDF, one person who complained of leg pains was taken to the Changi General Hospital. The SCDF also took five other people to nearby sheltered areas for safety. The flood finally subsided around 9:40 A.M.

The Public Utilities Board (PUB) is currently investigating the cause of flooding, with nearby construction work falling under suspicion. Several of those affected by the flood claimed the authorities said that a drain was blocked. It is believed that a roadside drain is of key interest in ongoing investigations.

NUH’s smallest baby 

Kwek Yu Xuan was born on June 9 last year at the National University Hospital. She was born four months earlier than expected. Doctors expected her weight to be at least 400g. However, Kwek was only 212g at birth, which is about the weight of an apple. She spent 13 months at the hospital and was discharged on July 9. Yu Xuan is now a healthy 6.3kg baby. She is believed to be the world’s smallest baby to survive a premature baby.

Her birth came as a shock to both parents and the care team for the infant. Ms Zhang is a nurse clinician and became part of the care team said in her 22 years of being a nurse, she has not seen such a small newborn baby. Yu Xuan’s parents had planned to return to Malaysia for the birth so they could reunite with their four-year-old son, who is under the care of Mr Kwek’s parents.

The family has no intention to return to Malaysia as Yu Xuan requires follow-up care from the hospital. Yu Xuan’s discharge was a joyous occasion and the family are thankful for the nurses who took care of Yu Xuan.

Bibliography 

  1. SUN, D., 2021. PUB investigating if construction works caused flood at Pasir Ris-Tampines junction. [online] The Straits Times. Available at: <https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/pub-investigating-if-construction-works-caused-flood-at-pasir-ris-tampines-junction> [Accessed 20 August 2021] 
  1. CNA. 2021. SCDF evacuates 5 people after vehicles were stuck in flash floods at Pasir Ris; 1 person taken to hospital. [online] Available at: <https://www.channelnewsasia.com/singapore/scdf-evacuates-5-people-after-vehicles-were-stuck-flash-floods-pasir-ris-1-person-taken-hospital-2124966> [Accessed 20 August 2021].
  1. LIEW, I., 2021. Pasir Ris flood: 1 person taken to hospital, 5 others rescued from vehicles by SCDF. [online] The Straits Times. Available at: <https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/environment/heavy-rain-leads-to-flash-floods-and-traffic-snarls-in-parts-of-singapore> [Accessed 20 August 2021].
  2. Yuan, L. (2021, August 12). Alibaba rape Allegation Reveals China Tech’s seamy side. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/12/technology/china-alibaba-technology-sexual-assault.html
  3. Shepherd, C. (2021, August 21). High-profile rape Allegations Revive CHINA’S #MeToo movement. Subscribe to read | Financial Times. https://www.ft.com/content/414d7956-5341-4d6d-8c02-95daaadfc002
  4. Former Alibaba employee detained in China over sexual assault allegations. South China Morning Post. (2021, August 15). https://www.scmp.com/news/china/politics/article/3145075/former-alibaba-employee-detained-china-over-sexual-assault
  5. Victor, D. (2021, August 13). Flooding in China Kills 21, as THOUSANDS escape to shelters. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/13/world/asia/china-flooding-evacuations.html
  6. Hermesauto. (2021, August 13). 21 killed, 4 missing as heavy rain HITS central China. The Straits Times. https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/china-cities-declare-rain-red-alerts-amid-power-cuts-floods
  7. Tan, A. (2021, August 7). Discharged after 13 months at NUH, world’s tiniest baby is now a healthy 6.3kg. The Straits Times. https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/baby-believed-to-be-worlds-smallest-discharged-from-nuh-after-13-month-stay
  8. Martinez, L., Conor Finnegan, Theodorou, C., Cathey, L., King, L., Winsor, M., Seyler, M., Lenthang, M., Deliso, M., & Hutchinson, B. (2021, August 23). Afghanistan updates: Taliban warns US withdrawal deadline is “a red line.” ABC News; ABC News. https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/live-updates/afghanistan-withdrawal-live-updates/?id=79482353 
  9. Pannett, R. (2021, August 23). Live updates: Taliban rejects extending Aug. 31 U.S. pullout, calling it a “red line.” Washington Post; The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2021/08/23/afghanistan-kabul-taliban-live-updates/ 

Right Libertarianism

Written by: Lay Kai En, Ashley (21-O1) 

Designed by: Lay Kai En, Ashley (21-O1)

Introduction 

This article will be aiming to break down right libertarianism and provide some insight on the ideology and its main drivers. Right libertarianism, or the libertarian right, is a political ideology that is mainly advocated by members of the business elite. If you need help to conceptualise this ideology, think of the Republican Party of the USA, who mainly believe in small government and non-intervention in the economy. This article is particularly aimed at breaking down the political ideology of right libertarianism from a more centre-left or even left wing perspective, where I will be talking about what is right libertarianism and why I think that it is deplorable and selfish. 

What Right Libertarianism as an ideology entails 

Breaking the term “right libertarianism” down, we have two keywords–“right” and “libertarianism”. Now, let’s look at what “right” and “libertarianism” each mean separately. 

According to the Collins Dictionary, “A right-wing person or group has conservative or capitalist views.” Such a person will be an avid supporter of a laissez-faire economy, directly opposing policies such as income redistribution. At the same time, in terms of “conservatism”, they also have a more traditional approach towards politics, think the pro-life movement and Religious Freedom bill which sought to restrict the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals. Such an ideology seems pretty widespread in today’s world, with the election of former President Trump in 2016 and growth of right-wing politicians in Germany. It is an ideology that is easy to understand (though not justifiable). However, the confusing part comes in at the addition of the “libertarianism” clause. Libertarianism, as defined by Britannica, is the “political philosophy that takes individual liberty to be the primary political value.” This entails the emphasis on personal freedoms over politics and regulations. 

See the contradiction yet? Right-wing ideology places emphasis on regulation of others, and in many cases the marginalised, yet libertarianism advocates for civil liberties. The Pro-life cause is perhaps the best example–at one end, it suits the right wing cause. However, at the same time, it is regulating the bodies of women, contradicting civil liberties and freedom. When broken down into its fundamentals, right libertarianism entails freedom in the business arena (often benefitting only the rich as corporations are awarded excessive liberties in business, paying little to no taxes and allowed immoral business practices) and increased regulation in other aspects (such as in the rights of marginalised as in the pro-life movement). 

Thus, right libertarianism basically entails freedom for the free and oppression for the oppressed. 

Ideologically, right libertarianism can also be observed on a ideological scale as follows: 

Core beliefs of right libertarianism would include little taxes and regulations in terms of business practises. For instance, they would be inclined to think that the government should not intervene when oil corporations were to pollute lakes or even when white-collar crimes such as insider trading are committed (as mentioned by Harry Browne, Libertarian Party Presidential candidate in 1996 and 2000).

 

Key figures  

For the sake of simplicity, this article will mainly be examining right libertarianism from the context of the USA, where right libertarianism is undoubtedly the most influential, though you can also consider looking at the United Kingdom’s Conservative Party as well. 

As mentioned earlier, the main perpetrators of the ideology in the government is the Republican Party, including people such as Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell, who you often see introduce tax cut bills but at the same time take a more conservative approach to social issues such as minority’s rights. 

However, other key drivers of the ideology in the political sphere include Richard Mellon Scaife, John M. Olin, Edgar Prince (Betsy DeVos’ father) and of course, the Koch brothers. Hearing such names, you can automatically conclude that all of them are White. And yes, all of them are rich. 

Actions 

As with all political schools of thought, there is a need to lobby for support. However, this group does not do so with letters or protests, not hashtag campaigns or any of that “making their voices heard” stuff. They simply do not need to do so. Instead, they finance campaigns in order to infiltrate politics and have prominent politicians institute policies favourable to them when they are elected. 

Prominently, you may have heard of the Citizens United v. Federal Election Committee Supreme Court case. For those who have not, Citizens United is essentially a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) where people can donate money to and have them donate the money to another NGO anonymously. Remember, when you donate money, you get tax cuts. However, the problem comes when these billionaires get tax cuts through donating when the causes they donate actually benefit them, be it in the long or short term. For example, Charles Koch heavily donated to right libertarian think tanks in Washington, which then benefits him again as right libertarian ideas get circulated in the political sphere. Thus, when someone like him gets tax cuts from making “charitable contributions”, those donations are not really “charitable” at all. They are selfish. Thus, not only does this mean less donations go to people who actually need it, it also calls into question the entire idea of donating for charity. 

I cannot cover all the things that the right libertarians have done, but this one I really wanted to talk about, because of how genius yet dishonourable it is. The Tea Party movement was a Republican movement that occurred right after former President Obama was elected in 2008, as conservatives were shocked by the sudden election of a leader who at the time was considered to be extremely progressive. The movement, which carried racist undertones, lobbied for small government, little taxes, and reduction of national debt through less government spending. When the movement began, it looked like an actual grassroots movement where people were genuinely concerned about their place in a society that was anticipating a lot of changes. 

However, many academics who studied the movement, including Jane Mayer, who wrote the book Dark Money on lobbying by right libertarians, concluded that the movement was mostly orchestrated by a few billionaires such as Charles and David Koch. These individuals were dissatisfied with Obama’s stance on the economy and wanted to go back to their ideals of less regulations and intervention in the economy. They then organised the Tea Party movement through Americans For Prosperity (AFP), an advocacy group that was right libertarian in principle and a driver of the movement. 

There were even reports revealing that people who were protesting on the streets during the movement were paid to do so, and that the advertisements aired by “grassroots organisations” were paid for by the super-rich who were the main beneficiaries of the movement. The Tea Party movement that was started from the efforts of these billionaires were then able to gain some support from the actual population, mostly in Republican-dominated states such as Texas. 

The movement, with AFP’s help, was quite successful. Many Tea Party-backed candidates in the 2010 midterm elections were able to win despite lack of experience and concrete action plans, yet 32% of the candidates who identified with the movement won their respective elections. Though they were largely unsuccessful in 2012 when they attempted to unseat Obama, many, including Sarah Palin, claimed that Trump’s success in the 2016 were due to the efforts of the Tea Party movement which cultivated an attitude of anti-establishment and small government among Republicans. 

Implications

Among the implications of right libertarianism is the severe damage inflicted on the environment. Going back to the principles of right libertarianism, it argues for little regulations in business, thus forgoing a carbon tax and enabling oil companies to dump oil in water bodies. Undoubtedly, this will lead to degradation of the environment. 

Yet, the key concern is the rich-poor disparity. This not only happens in the fact that richer people can more easily get their voices heard, but their advocacy for less government spending also means that less resources go to the poor, even when the government can afford spending that money. For example, right libertarians were extremely angered by the Affordable Care Act, arguing that it drained the country’s resources unnecessarily, but the Act was instrumental in helping lower income groups obtain the healthcare that they need. 

Conclusion 

To conclude, I hope reading this article has introduced you to the concepts of right libertarianism and that you learnt something new. Ultimately, right libertarianism is an ideology that really only the rich are able to stand up for. Its effects on the less economically sufficient parts of the population is damaging, yet people such as Charles Koch continue to expand the ideology’s influence and politicians like Trump continue to accept the influence of the rich in exchange for campaign money. We can only hope that the lower and middle class supporters of right libertarianism can one day realise the true implications of the ideology on them. 

Bibliography

  1. Boaz, D. (2019). libertarianism | Definition, Doctrines, History, & Facts | Britannica. In Encyclopædia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/libertarianism-politics 
  2. Director, J. A., CNN Polling. (2016, January 26). Donald Trump dominates GOP field, hits 41% – CNNPolitics. CNN. https://edition.cnn.com/2016/01/26/politics/donald-trump-ted-cruz-polling/ 
  3. Mayer, J. (2017). Dark money : the hidden history of the billionaires behind the rise of the radical right. Anchor Books, A Division Of Penguin Random House Llc.
  4. Right-wing definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary. (n.d.). Www.collinsdictionary.com. https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/right-wing 

Aunt Agatha Advocates: Effective Studying Methods

Written by: Liew Yi Xuan (21-E1), Jervis Ch’ng Yun Ping (21-U5), Jolina Prisha Nair (21-E5)

Designed by: Jervis Ch’ng Yun Ping (21-U5)


Exam season is nearing with full steam ahead. It may seem daunting, but fret not as Aunt Agatha is here to share our tips and tricks! The key to studying is not how much you study, but rather how you study. Your study methods will set the stage for your ability to apply all you have learnt. Our job is to ensure that you fully utilise your resources and maximise your capabilities. Read on ahead to find out about some scientifically proven study methods. 

Effective study methods

One effective study method is the ‘Pomodoro’ technique. One of the more widely known and used time management techniques, the ‘Pomodoro’ technique can also be used for studying, and can be very effective. Using this technique, one breaks up their time into smaller timed units of 25 minutes, also known as “pomodoros”, with a 5 minute break in between each timed unit. After about three to four of these timed units, one then takes a longer break of about 15 to 20 minutes.

This method of studying is effective as it allows our brains to take a break, assimilating the new information and resting for the next round of studying (CNC, n.d), which in turn allows us to retain information better. This technique can help improve concentration and time management with enough practice.

Another effective studying technique to use is retrieval practice, also known as ‘Active Recall’. This involves actively trying to recall information and knowledge that you have learned in previous lessons and classes. The act of revisiting the information that we have previously learnt helps us retain and remember it better, and thus makes it effective in learning. One thing to note, however, is that it is not the same as repetition. Repetition is repeatedly reading information, while retrieval practice is forcing yourself to recall information that you have previously learnt. It helps shift information into your long term memory for you to access whenever needed.

Healthy study habits to have 

Here are the five most important study habits we recommend for more productive days ahead.

  1. Keep your phones away! 

This may seem to be a tough feat seeing as to how you would have to give up your source of entertainment, but trust us when we say it will be worth it in the long haul. A #protip is to switch off your phone or put it on silent mode, keeping it out of sight and out of mind so that there are no distractions in the way.

  1. Planning ahead

Make to-do lists for every study session you have and ensure that it is an achievable goal so you don’t overestimate yourself and end up not completing some tasks! Having this checklist by your side may incentivise you to complete the tasks in your list, providing a source of motivation for you to push on.

  1. Consistent study sessions

It is not only imperative that you plan ahead, it’s also just as important for you to create a consistent, daily study schedule. Doing the same thing at the same time on a daily basis will train your brain into treating this as a routine. Your body will work like clockwork, and this allows you to be more emotionally and mentally prepared for each session, leading to more productive days!

  1. Take a break, have a Kit Kat! (or a chit-chat)

It’s important to learn how to take small breaks in between so you don’t end up suffering from burnout. Make use of the aforementioned ‘Pomodoro’ method and take sufficient breaks, but make sure you don’t get sidetracked by your devices!

  1. Review and redo

After every study session, review what you’ve learned, and practise ‘Active Recall’. This would ensure you have internalised the information you need to know and test yourself on your retrieval abilities. Do this every session and build on the information you learn each time, drawing connections and links to the things you’ve learned, and you will build a ‘tree of knowledge’ (or ‘The Wisdom Tree’, as Elon Musk would describe it) that’s fully interconnected and filled with information you can retrieve anytime. 

Conclusion

Studying can either be a chore or a pleasure depending on how we choose to see it. The way we approach our studies will directly affect the benefits we reap from them. There are dozens of study methods that can be adopted but none are one size fits all. Thus, it is important that we allow ourselves to experiment and find out what fits us best. Always remember, it is never too late to start. Aunt Agatha wishes you a happy and productive study session!

Bibliography

  1. Study Efficiently Using the Pomodoro Technique. (n.d.). College of New Caledonia. Retrieved August 23, 2021, from https://cnc.bc.ca/services/prince-george/testing-tutoring/student-support-advice/pomodoro-technique 
  2. Loveless, B. (n.d.). Study Habits of Highly Effective Students. Education Corner. Retrieved August 23, 2021, from https://www.educationcorner.com/habits-of-successful-students.html