Adam Gopnik, writing in the The New Yorker:
The account of a richly complex foreign culture, based on a two- or three-day trip–beginning with the taxi from the airport, including the meeting with the minister of economics (always surprisingly young, and always with a degree from Harvard or Stanford)—is one of the least attractive of all American journalistic modes.
When my wife, Martha, recites the names of her grandparents to curious Icelandic strangers, they nod appreciatively and wrinkle their brows, rather as someone might who shares a common background in a small town in Wisconsin: if I don’t know them, I know folks all around them. Indeed, she and our children were referred to throughout our trip as “Western Icelanders,” not, as I’d assumed, because her family had originally emigrated from the west of Iceland but because “Western Iceland” is the Icelandic shorthand for Canada.
She has a fetishistic relationship to coffee, which she drinks in an impossibly thick brew from early morning until shortly before she goes off to a sound sleep at midnight. After dinner, she timidly asks if anyone wants coffee, real coffee—and, despite the hysterical rejections in this age of frazzled nerves and pervasive decaf, makes a pot, from which she drains a cup or two. In this, she is exactly like her mother, the only person I have ever met who would order a cup of coffee before dinner at a good restaurant, just to get in the mood.
One might even see the Icelandic coffee cult as one case of a too-little-touched-on aspect of the human comedy: our tactical amnesia about trade.
Iceland has rebounded, in large part, one senses, because Icelanders are accustomed to sudden switches in destiny—the politician in the three-piece suit who represents the city of Reykjavík at a reception for foreign authors turns out to double as the bass player of a metal band called HAM—and are also accustomed to displaying coöperative behavior in the world’s least coöperative circumstances.
Culture counts, but a culture is never a reduced essence of something indigenous. It is whatever particular recipe of cosmopolitanism its people have produced. In America, the recipe is so multipartite that it produces Kosher Thai restaurants. In Iceland, it’s one part coffee to one part anything else.
And finally, this:
Going to a beautiful, remote place reminds us, above all, how relentlessly interdependent the world is and always has been in supplying pleasures that are, almost by definition, imports. Hope, Emily Dickinson says, is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul. Civilization, one might say, is the thing over there at the corner table, drinking coffee in a cold climate.
Heck, just read the whole thing.
Access to Google Inc.’s Malaysia website was disrupted Tuesday, the company said, with some users redirected to a website saying “Google Malaysia Hacked.”
“We’re aware that some users are having trouble connecting to google.com.my, or are being directed to a different website,” a Google spokesman said. “We’ve reached out to the organization responsible for managing this domain name and hope to have the issue resolved shortly.” Google services like Gmail haven’t been compromised, he added.
A tweet from Google Malaysia’s official Twitter account said the disruption was due to a domain name system, or DNS, redirection. DNS servers act as virtual address books and help direct Internet traffic.
Some users who tried to visit Google’s Malaysia site were sent to a website with a black background and white, red and yellow text saying “Google Malaysia Hacked by Tiger-Mate. #Bangladeshi Hacker.”
SINGAPORE—State-sponsored hackers in China are likely behind a sophisticated, decadelong cyberespionage campaign targeting governments, companies and journalists in Southeast Asia, India and other countries, a U.S. cybersecurity company said in a report released Monday.
FireEye Inc. says the attacks have been designed to glean intelligence, likely from classified government networks and other sources, pertaining to political and military issues such as disputes over the South China Sea.
Beijing’s claims in the contested South China Sea overlap with those of Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan and the Philippines—a U.S. treaty ally. Recently released satellite images show a dramatic expansion in China’s construction of artificial islands on disputed reefs, intensifying concerns about Beijing’s territorial ambitions.
The Milpitas, Calif.-based FireEye said the hacking efforts are remarkable because of their duration—noting some elements have been in place since 2005—and stand out because of their geographic focus.
Some of the cyberattacks have taken the form of specially crafted emails, written in recipients’ native languages, with documents that appear legitimate but contain malware, the report said.
Other attacks are intended to penetrate isolated networks, cut off from the Internet for security purposes, by tricking their administrators into downloading malware on their home computers. The malware is then implanted on the administrators’ portable drives, such as USB sticks, that are later plugged into the secure networks, infecting them, it said.
Southeast Asia-focused Taxi booking app GrabTaxi says it’s about to splash the cash, mostly on new hires.
The Singapore-based company said Wednesday it will spend $100 million over the next five years on a new research and development center in the city-state, with a “significant portion” of that sum going to lure talent.
GrabTaxi, which launched in 2012 and operates in 20 cities across six countries, said in December it secured a $250 million investment from Japanese telecommunications and Internet giant SoftBank.
That brought its total funding nearly $340 million, with its valuation as of December reaching $1 billion, according to data from The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones VentureSource.
Among the new hires GrabTaxi says it has recently made are Kevin Lee, who was head of Asia for U.S. data mining software company Palantir Technologies. Another is Arul Kumaravel, who previously held a senior engineering role Amazon.com.
Spending to defend against cyberattacks is picking up speed in Asia, and the growth rate could outpace the global average this year.
The latest development underscoring the trend: the US$810 million acquisition of U.S.-based cybersecurity provider Trustwave Holdings Inc. by Singapore Telecommunications Ltd., Southeast Asia’s biggest telecom company by revenue.
The deal, announced Wednesday, follows recent high-profile breaches of companies such as Home Depot Inc., health insurer Anthem Inc. and Sony Corp.’s Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. Hackers also targeted Malaysia Airlines’ website in January. In March, South Korean investigators said state-owned Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. and its business partners were targeted in cyberattacks aimed at stealing internal data that included plant blueprints and employees’ personal information. Korea Hydro operates South Korea’s 23 nuclear reactors.
Executives and analysts in Asia say they are increasingly contemplating their digital defenses in light of more-frequent attacks.
A WSJ review of the documentary begins:
Watching “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief” can be a depressing experience, and not just for the two hours in which the HBO documentary runs. The haunting archival imagery—a powerful element here—fades after a few days, and much of what is said has been said before. Yet whether you come away seeing Scientology as a cult that ensnares vulnerable people or as a faith of self-empowerment, the film leaves a terrible taste of too much information. This must be its point, but take heed just the same.
The film is based on Lawrence Wright’s 2013 book “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief.”
I haven’t read that book (yet), but I have read Wright’s long, detailed, fascinating 2011 New Yorker story “The Apostate.”
It centers on longtime Hollywood screenwriter Paul Haggis, who left Scientology and has since become an outspoken critic of the church. It’s an excellent piece of journalism.
I wish every tech firm didn’t feel the need to create an April Fools’ Day gag. But this one, from Motorola, made me smile.
Embedded above and on YouTube here: “Introducing #MotoSelfieStick.”
I was traveling when Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s founding father, died Monday, and haven’t had a chance to blog about his passing until now. (Pictured above: a recent sampling of Singaporean newspapers’ front pages.)
Here are some links I suggest checking out.
The WSJ obituary:
Lee Kuan Yew, who dominated Singapore politics for more than half a century and transformed the former British outpost into a global trade and finance powerhouse, setting a template for emerging markets around the world, died Monday. He was 91 years old.
And here’s the NYT obit, as well.
My colleague Shibani Mahtani, a Singaporean who lives abroad, at WSJ Expat on the significance of Lee’s death for her countrymen:
Singaporeans are a lucky breed—we do not have memories of coups or mass protests or riots or severe terrorist attacks in recent years, unlike most of our neighbors. In many ways, the passing of Mr. Lee is the deepest loss that the country has felt, together, in a generation. It is also a reminder of the fragility of the nation, and how its history could have gone in a completely different direction if not for Mr. Lee’s vision.
Elsewhere, The Economist charts the remarkable rise in Singapore’s per capita GDP — and low fertility rates:
What comes next for Singapore? Here’s our story:
Mr. Lee, who died at 91 on Monday, has been widely credited for turning what had been a malaria-ridden British trading post into a gleaming economic success story. Singaporeans now enjoy a standard of living comparable with Japan and advanced European and North American economies, albeit without a pluralistic political system, a free press or strong dissenting voices.
But what comes next? In many ways, Singaporeans have been quietly preparing for a future without the steadying influence of the republic’s founding father.
The past four years were the first for independent Singapore without Mr. Lee in government. He stepped down from his advisory role of “minister mentor” in the cabinet in 2011, just a week after the ruling People’s Action Party recorded its worst electoral showing in five decades—a result government officials and political observers have attributed to festering socioeconomic tensions in recent years.
And here’s our look at Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong — Lee Kuan Yew’s son:
He has been prime minister of Singapore since 2004, but Lee Hsien Loong was inevitably overshadowed by his celebrated father, Lee Kuan Yew, who died this week.
The younger Mr. Lee faces the task of carrying forward his father’s legacy in his own style at a time when Singapore confronts social and economic challenges that have seen support for the governing People’s Action Party erode more than at any time since it came to power in 1959.
Politically, Ernest Bower at the Center for Strategic and International Studies says:
Some of PAP’s leaders may pine for the old days, but hopefully they won’t pursue the path of their counterparts in Malaysia, where the ruling United Malays National Organization party seems to be trying to turn the clock back, betting on an ultra conservative approach.
It is more likely that over time, PAP’s well-educated and globally focused leaders will find there is new room to breathe and innovate in the new political space of the post-Lee Kuan Yew era.
Meanwhile, we also ran a long, very interesting Orville Schell essay about the “Singapore model” and the future Asia. It concludes:
Lee Kuan Yew not only made Singaporeans proud; he also made Chinese and other Asians proud. He was a master builder, a sophisticated Asian nationalist dedicated not only to the success of his own small nation but to bequeathing the world a new model of governance. Instead of trying to impose Western political models on Asian realities, he sought to make autocracy respectable by leavening it with meritocracy, the rule of law and a strict intolerance for corruption to make it deliver growth.
Though his country was minuscule, Lee was a larger-than-life figure with a grandness of vision. He saw “Asian values” as a source of legitimacy for the idea that authoritarian leadership, constrained by certain Western legal and administrative checks, offered an effective “Asian” alternative to the messiness of liberal democracy. Because his thinking proved so agreeable to the Chinese Communist Party, he became the darling of Beijing. And because China has now become the political keystone of the modern Asian arch, Beijing’s imprimatur helped him and his ideas to gain a pan-Asian stature that Singapore alone could not have provided.
As countries such as Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and even China continue to search for new models of development and governance that do not bear the stigma of their former Western colonizers, Lee Kuan Yew’s example is a tempting option. Even though he is now gone, the Venice-like republic he founded will continue to be extolled as a hopeful experiment, and the man himself, the progenitor of what has come to be known as the “Singapore model,” will doubtless remain an influential political evangelist.
Read the whole thing.
Embedded above and on YouTube here: Lee Kuan Yew on “Meet the Press” in 1967. He discusses the Vietnam war and Southeast Asia. An interesting slice of history.