German aviation start-up Volocopter conducts urban air taxi test flight, but questions abound over emerging technology.
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 …
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 …
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 …
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 …
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.
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 …
Critics say approved measures grant government sweeping powers and threaten free speech.
Published by Al Jazeera English, May 9, 2019.
by Tom Benner
Singapore – After an intense debate, Singapore’s parliament has passed a sweeping “anti-fake news” bill despite concerns raised by journalists, academics and global technology companies over free speech and abuse of power.
Legislators in the island-nation on Wednesday 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.
Critics say the legislation grants arbitrary powers to government officials to determine what is deemed as fact, arguing that the private sector should be the final arbiter of what constitutes false and irresponsible statements. They say the answer lies in fact-checking websites, vigilance by tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Twitter and increased media literacy to help news consumers better distinguish between the plausible and the improbable. Continue reading …
Singapore case offers key lessons for Hanoi in dealing with security issues, diplomatic protocol and huge media influx.
Published by Al Jazeera English, Feb. 21, 2019
By Tom Benner
Singapore – At first it was on, then off, and then on again – in the end, Singapore had just two weeks to get everything ready for the much-anticipated, first encounter between a sitting US president and North Korean leader.
That such a strategically complex and delicate event came off as seemingly flawless – despite the short lead – offers lessons to Vietnam’s Hanoi, the site of the second summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un on February 27-28.
“Vietnam has a slightly easier job in that the US and North Korean governments have a template of sorts, a playbook, from the Singapore summit last June,” Eugene Tan, associate professor of law at the Singapore Management University, told Al Jazeera.
“Singapore certainly has been consulted by Vietnam, and Singapore will provide as much input as requested. It’s more about ironing the kinks from the first summit and should be easier the second time around.” Continue reading …
Stamford Raffles landed 200 years ago. But not all welcome government plans to mark the start of colonial rule.
Published by Al Jazeera English, Jan. 28, 2019
By Tom Benner
Singapore – A pristine white statue of a man in Western clothes, arms folded with the air of a conquering hero, stands on the banks of the Singapore River at the site where he is believed to have landed exactly 200 years ago on Monday.
The statue is of Sir Stamford Raffles, who cut a slippery deal with the locals in what was then known as “Singapura” to claim the island as a port for Britain’s East India Company.
Beneath it, a plaque pays tribute to his “genius and perception” and the way in which he “changed the destiny of Singapore from an obscure fishing village to a great seaport and modern metropolis”.
These days, the statue is popular with shutterbugs, but not everyone looks with pride on the memory of the white settler who brought the forces of imperial domination to an island that would soon be called by its Anglicised name, Singapore. Continue reading …