10 must-reads for today

Firefighters battling bush fires around the town of Nowra in New South Wales yesterday.
Firefighters battling bush fires around the town of Nowra in New South Wales yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Hong Kong-born balladeer Wakin Chau.
Hong Kong-born balladeer Wakin Chau.

1 Thousands flee fires

Thousands of holidaymakers and locals in Australia's fire-encircled seaside towns in the country's south-east were forced to seek refuge on beaches after the blazes ripped through popular tourist areas and cut off exit routes on land. Some residents with boats even took to the sea to escape.

2 Stay open to world: PM Lee

Singapore must stay open and connected to the world even as many societies are losing faith in globalisation, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. "A Singapore turned inwards cannot survive," he said in his New Year message yesterday, in which he also gave assurances about the upcoming Budget.

3 Growing support for Trump

As he heads into the new year, United States President Donald Trump can count on full support from his Republican base, after delivering on high-profile issues such as a strong economy and curbing immigration. His approval ratings are near the highest in almost three years, and he is increasingly gaining the backing of independent voters.

4 Snow shortage in Japan

Japan's usually icy landscapes saw a severe shortage of snow this winter season, affecting tourism and prompting the closures of some ski resorts and a spate of hotel cancellations. The unusually warm winter has compounded rising concerns about the impact of climate change on Japan.

5 The US poet of democracy

The United States in 2020 needs to turn to Walt Whitman, the poet and prophet of democracy who celebrated not the divine right of the privileged, but the divine average. Whitman's poetry offers a transcendent challenge to the appeal to authoritarianism.

6 Funds for accident victims

More than $180,000 has been raised for the Filipino victims of Sunday's Lucky Plaza accident in less than a day. All proceeds, pledged by around 1,700 donors on fund-raising website Giving.sg, will go directly towards the four injured maids and the beneficiaries of the two maids who died.

7 Scammers turn to bitcoin

Scammers are adding bitcoin to their modus operandi as they perpetrate a slew of con jobs, including job, love and impersonation scams. Police have taken to stationing officers at bitcoin machines and engaging users to prevent potential victims from buying or transferring bitcoins to scammers.

8 Stock market in the black

Singapore's stock market ended 2019 in the black, with opportunities for a catch-up rally in the new year if an upturn in manufacturing and trade materialises. The Straits Times Index managed a 5.02 per cent gain despite two major sell-offs in May and August last year.

9 S'pore relay coaches resign

A trying 2019 ended with more turbulence for Singapore Athletics as national relay coaches Melvin Tan and Hamkah Afik quit their posts. This follows Margaret Oh's sudden resignation during last month's SEA Games from her role as coach of Singapore's top female sprinter Shanti Pereira.

10 Wakin Chau's new album

Hong Kong-born balladeer Wakin Chau (below) looked into the experiences and emotions of his younger self for his latest album, The Younger Me. It explores topics and emotions from his past, such as his experience performing in a music cafe in the 1980s and his battle with insomnia in the 1990s.

Straits Times Digital


2019's most-read Asian entertainment stories

Death and scandal dominated Asian entertainment news in 2019, with reports of the sudden demise of celebrities such as model-actor Godfrey Gao among the best-read stories. str.sg/blurb133


Top Singapore photos of 2019

From pretty trumpet flowers dotting Singapore to the National Day Parade, ST photographers captured moments worth a thousand words. See some of 2019's best visuals. str.sg/blurb134

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 01, 2020, with the headline '10 must-reads for today'. Subscribe