Singapore’s prime minister is funny

On Tuesday, Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Long visited the United States and met with President Obama. That night, in a speech to U.S. businessmen, Lee told a few jokes about China.

AP reports:

He drew laughs - and some groans - with his quips, including one about China's environmental problems.

"Beijing residents joke that to get a free smoke all they have to do is open their windows!" Lee said.

He then alluded to thousands of pig carcasses recently fished from Chinese rivers.

"(In) Shanghai, if you want some pork soup, you just turn on the tap," he said.

His audience appeared doubtful if that was good taste, until he added, "That's their joke, not mine!"

It is noteworthy that a leader would make what look to be on-the-record jokes about another country; and pretty decent ones too. But in my mind, what's funnier -- not in the haha sort of way, but more in that sigh-provoking way -- is that foreign and Singaporean journalists cannot write freely about Lee Hsien Loong without the fear of getting sued. I've blogged about this before -- on how Singapore has sued major media companies in its own courts and won, and why these media companies have decided to pay up -- but think it bears repeating.

Knowing that an article that focuses on Singapore's leaders -- Lee or his father, Lee Kuan Yew, who was prime minister from 1959 to 1990 and is still very influential -- faces the (however miniscule) possibility of a lawsuit makes me wonder what effect that has on the article. In the few times when I've written articles that touch upon Lee, it's definitely crossed my mind. I'd be surprised if it didn't give other journalists pause as well. 


Rick Sanchez wages flame war against Muslim Brotherhood Twitter feed

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo's Twitter feed disappeared for about an hour today following an online sparring match with a feed operated by the office of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy over Jon Stewart's impassioned defense of Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef. When the embassy's feed returned, a tweet linking to the Daily Show clip had been deleted, and State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters that embassy officials "came to the conclusion that the decision to tweet it in the first place didn't accord with post management of the site."

There's bad diplomacy, and then there's the Twitter fight that followed this afternoon between the Muslim Brotherhood's English-language Twitter account (@IkhwanWeb) and American radio show host and media personality Rick Sanchez (@RickSanchezTV). The improbable feud started when the Muslim Brotherhood tweeted an Al Jazeera report featuring a comment Sanchez made in 2010 that was widely reported as being anti-Semitic and led to his firing from CNN. The Muslim Brotherhood pointed to the incident as an example of the West's "double standards" about free speech:

The Muslim Brotherhood's confusion about the government-ensured rights of an individual vs. the rights of private employees notwithstanding, Sanchez came looking for a fight this afternoon. Armed with a loose understanding of the situation, Sanchez eagerly began trolling @IkhwanWeb.

The Muslim Brotherhood responded, and from there, it was a good, old-fashioned troll fight. @IkhwanWeb was right that Sanchez didn't have his facts straight, but their defense of Egypt's freedom of speech rang a bit hollow given the circumstances:

Sanchez then declared victory. Several times.

And that's today's installment of how Twitter is making politics weird. Remember, folks: Don't feed the trolls.