Volocopter takes to Singapore sky, but can air taxis take off?

German aviation start-up Volocopter conducts urban air taxi test flight, but questions abound over emerging technology.

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By Tom Benner

Published by Al Jazeera English, Oct, 22, 2019

Singapore – Singaporeans got their first glimpse of a flying taxi on Tuesday, however fleeting, with a public demonstration of what its designers hope could become a new way to get around urban centres far above congested roads.

The air taxi’s maiden flight above Singapore’s Marina Bay lasted about two minutes – a minute short of the advertised three-minute test run – perhaps because the thunder had begun to rumble. It was manned by a pilot, although future flights are expected to be fully autonomous.

The air taxi’s maker, German aviation start-up Volocopter, has previously conducted public demonstration flights in Germany, Dubai and Finland.

“[This] is an important milestone for the introduction of urban air mobility, simply because we give people the image in their mind and the opportunity to see how the vehicle behaves in the air, and how quiet it is in full flight,” Volocopter CEO Florian Reuter told Al Jazeera after the test run. Continue reading …

Hong Kong’s losses may be Singapore’s gain, new survey shows

As the rivals compete to be Asia’s top financial hub, fallout from protests in Hong Kong is seen as helping Singapore.

Published by Al Jazeera English, Sept. 13, 2019

By Tom Benner

Singapore – Business confidence in Hong Kong is being hurt by ongoing protests in the Chinese city, and Singapore – Hong Kong’s long-time rival – stands to become Asia’s leading financial hub and is likely to see economic gains as a result.

That’s the finding of a survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore released this week. But analysts say it’s too soon to write Hong Kong off as an important Asian business centre.

Enormous and sometimes violent protests, now in their 14th week, have at times paralysed Hong Kong’s streets, mass transit system and airport. That is prompting employers in sectors such as banking, financial services, and hospitality to weigh the costs of doing business in that city and to consider relocation to other Asian cities, business analysts say. Continue reading …

The challenges facing India’s media landscape: Shouting on TV news, a social media cesspit, and broken business models

Here’s a story I wrote for N3Magazine, an interview with James Crabtree, author of “The Billionaire Raj,” for the annual magazine of the Asian American Journalists Association’s Asia conference, held in May 2019 at Hong Kong University.

By Tom Benner

India’s media market remains strong, at least when compared to many other countries in Asia.

Yet James Crabtree, a former Financial Times journalist previously based in Mumbai, sees three large shifts affecting India’s vast media landscape — worrisome trends that will continue to have a coarsening effect on the state of the media in the world’s largest democracy.

The rising popularity of raucous television news, which comes at the expense of more civil discourse and public interest programming, combined with a lack of gatekeeping policies to prevent the spread of misinformation on social media, has contributed to a rise in nationalistic and anti-minority rhetoric in India. Similarly, the country’s shift from print to digital advertising signals a decline in print media’s influence on the general population. Continue reading …

Singapore’s answer to fake news: correction and takedown orders, fines and jail

Here’s a story I wrote for N3Magazine, the annual magazine of the Asian American Journalists Association’s Asia conference, held in May 2019 at Hong Kong University.

By Tom Benner

Singapore passed a far-reaching new law on May 9 to combat the problem of online falsehoods.

Singaporean lawmakers voted to grant government ministers broad powers such as the ability to demand corrections, order the removal of content, or block websites deemed to be propagating falsehoods contrary to the public interest.

Penalties for not complying with orders include steep fines and jail time.

While Germany has passed a law allowing for takedown orders on social media sites, that law is specifically focused on hate speech.

Singapore’s law goes further, allowing government ministers to singlehandedly decide if an online post is factually incorrect and contrary to the public interest. Read more …

New Singapore opposition party backed by PM’s brother launched

Tan Cheng Bock, a retired medical doctor, launches Progress Singapore Party amid speculation of early general election.

Published by Al Jazeera English, August 3, 2019.

Dr Tan Cheng Bock

Photo: Dr. Tan Cheng Bock, Aug, 3, 2019.

By Tom Benner

Singapore – A new opposition party seeking to challenge the government in Singapore has been launched amid speculation that a general election due by 2021 could be announced earlier.

Politician Tan Cheng Bock, a 79-year-old retired medical doctor, on Saturday launched the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), which is backed by the estranged brother of the country’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

“The style of government has changed, the processes of government have gone astray, because there has been an erosion of the three pillars of good governance – transparency, independence, and accountability,” Tan told a group of supporters.

He said there was a lack of “open political discourse” and claimed people were “fearful of publicly criticising the government”. Continue reading …

 

N3 Magazine, the 2019 magazine for the Asian American Journalists Association’s annual Asia conference

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I served as Editor-in-Chief for the 2019 issue of N3 Magazine, the official magazine for the New. Now. Next Media Conference hosted by the Asian American Journalists Association’s Asia Chapter, held in Hong Kong from May 30-June 2, 2019. This year’s conference theme was Covering Asia’s New Order.

This year’s magazine included stories on startups, entrepreneurship, and new ways to make it in media; the changing media landscape across Asia, including recent challenges in Hong Kong and the Philippines; a look at Hollywood’s view of Crazy Rich Asians; and a fun story on emojis, the little ideogram that could.

These and many more articles are here, N3Mag 2019 PDF version

N3Mag stories also are posted here.

US-China competition to loom over key defence gathering

Beijing dispatches top military brass to Singapore to deliver ‘highly anticipated’ speech at annual Shangri-La Dialogue.

Published by Al Jazeera English, May 31, 2019.

By Tom Benner

Singapore – Growing competition and ratcheting hostilities between the United States and China promise to dominate a key Asian security summit this weekend, with Beijing sending a high-ranking general for the first time in almost a decade to meet defence counterparts from countries across Asia and around the world.

Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe is expected to hold talks with acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on the sidelines the Shangri-La Dialogue, while both are separately scheduled to deliver major addresses to the three-day meeting.

Launched in 2002 and held each year at Singapore’s Shangri-La Hotel, the summit is Asia’s largest annual defence and security gathering. It seeks to promote bilateral dialogue among sometimes hostile adversaries, and is traditionally attended by delegates from Asia Pacific nations as well as the US and other countries.

Wei will lead the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) delegation, a break from the past when lower level Chinese military officials routinely attended the summit, organised by the UK-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) think-tank. Continue reading …