Amazon Holiday Deals

Monday, April 27, 2009

London taxi rapist jailed

Fathers, a reminder to always be on guard, not only for your girls. Boys have their own set of dangers and hazards to be wary of… better safe than sorry.


Driver of black cab attacked women for 18 months

LONDON — The driver of one of London's iconic black cabs was sentenced to at least eight years in prison yesterday for an 18-month campaign of rape and assault against his female passengers.

Prosecutors said John Worboys, 51, repeatedly drugged and sexually assaulted women who had been out late drinking, telling them he had won some cash while gambling and inviting them to join him in a celebratory glass of champagne.

Secreted inside the drinks were sedatives and those who joined him in a drink often remembered little of what happened next. However, one woman told the court that what should have been a 40-minute trip home took three hours.

Some women were left with semen stains on their clothes, while items or DNA from other victims was found by police at the accused's home.

Worboys denied the charges but he was found guilty last month of assaulting 12 women. More women have come forward since then and detectives have linked him to at least 85 crimes.

The assaults were particularly troubling because black cabs, the distinctive sedans that ferry busy Londoners across the city, are advertised as one of the capital's safest forms of transport, particularly for women.

Black cab drivers undergo rigorous testing and are subject to criminal checks. The black cabs often touted as a safe alternative to unregulated cabs that try to poach customers by undercutting official rates.

Justice David Penry-Davey told Worboys that he had abused the "worldwide reputation'' of the drivers for reliability and trustworthiness.

The judge said Worboys would have to serve eight years in prison and that he could be held longer if officials felt that he remained a threat to women.

Police have been widely criticised for mishandling the case. An opportunity to end the sex-assault spree was missed when Worboys was arrested in July 2007 after a 19-year-old student reported having a pill forced into her mouth after sharing a drink with him. Police did not act on toxicology tests showing suspicious drugs in her blood and did not bother searching his home or examining his vehicle to check his story.

Britain's police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, is investigating that aspect of the case.

Money raised from the sale of the black cab will be split among his victims. AP

From TODAY, World – Wednesday, 22-April-2009

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What’s wrong with today’s kids?


Teacher in top boys’ school set poor example

Letter from Trina Tan Ker Wei

I WAS at the McDonald’s outlet in Marine Cove on April 14, from about 4.30pm to 5.30pm.

During that time, a group of between 10 and 20 secondary school boys in Victoria School (VS) uniform entered together with a lady who I assumed was their teacher, and occupied a long table and some “bar” seats.

From their loud cheers, I gathered the teacher was giving them a treat. The calls to confirm orders and the general rowdy chatter were a little disruptive but I was okay with it.

What got to me, though, was how the VS boys did not clear their trays when they got up to leave. Some placed their empty drink cups and wrappers on the trays, but no one bothered to empty the filled trays.

The trash bin was next to the tables they were occupying — at most three steps away. The appalling thing was seeing how the teacher did not bother to ask the boys to clear their trays — she just stood there talking to the boys.

Then they all left. The area they had occupied looked as if a tornado had swept through it. There were used napkins, burger wrappers and empty drink cups left here and there.

I sympathised with the McDonald’s crew member who came to clear the mess with a look of helpless despair on his face.

I am saddened by the behaviour of the VS boys and the inability of their teacher to use that moment to teach her students manners. Victoria School appears to have failed in upholding its school mission of producing well-mannered, considerate men with good social graces.

My mother, a proud former VS girl, was surprised at the incident and felt the boys were tarnishing the school’s name.

If the younger generation cannot master basic manners, I do not care if they are winning academic awards around the world — as far as I am concerned, they are failures.

From TODAY, Voices – 20-April-2009

They laughed as he lay dying

A reminder to kids to be careful when going for outdoor activities, especially unfamiliar or remote places…



SYDNEY — A dying teenage boy lost in dense bushland outside Sydney was ridiculed by emergency service operators during his frantic calls for help.

David Iredale, 17, became separated from his friends during a three-day bush walk in the Blue Mountain in 2006.

After spending 24 hours without water, he made six increasingly desperate calls to the emergency services.

However, David’s explanation that he was lost, feeling faint and had no water was met with sarcasm and derision by the emergency call centre staff.

During the conversations, call centre workers repeatedly asked David for a street address, despite his explanation he was lost in the bush, nowhere near a named road.

In one call, David explained his situation, to which the operator responded: “Okay, so you’ve just walked into the middle of nowhere?”

Another operator took two calls from the schoolboy but didn’t appear to remember her previous conversation.

In his final call, he apologised for failing to remember the name of the track he was on because he was too disoriented. David repeated the word “sorry”, to which the operator abruptly responded: “Don’t keep saying that... tell me where you are.”

The teenager was also put on hold twice. After his sixth call to the service, he was never heard from again. Eight days later his body was found by rescue teams in a dry creek bed.

David’s parents left the court while the harrowing recordings were played.

The New South Wales Ambulance Service has apologised for the way it treated David and issued a statement saying it had changed its procedures for handling calls from people in remote locations. The Daily Telegraph

From TODAY, World – 20-April-2009

Any job should do...


Flexibility will impress future employers, Gan tells youth who raise discrimination concerns


AS A fresh graduate, do I really have to accept a blue-collar job?

This plaintive question — sent via SMS by a participant in the audience, who worried that it would affect one’s shot at a PMET job after the economy recovers — drew some laughter as it was read aloud.

But Manpower Minister Gan Kim Yong was in earnest as he advised this participant, and the other 80 or so youthful participants at the dialogue session with Young NTUC, to be flexible when jobhunting in a downturn. He urged them to “take up any job that is available”, as there would always be “opportunities to upgrade later on”.

Say an employer asks why you’ve not been working for the past one year — do you answer that there were “no jobs available”?

“Employers will not believe because there are always jobs available,” said Mr Gan. “Employers will think ... if in a crisis situation you’re willing to sit at home and do nothing, it means that you’re not flexible.”

For instance, Mr Gan revealed his “dream job” had been to teach, but the closest he got to it was as Minister of State for Education.

“The important thing is not to look for things we like to do, but to like the things that you’re doing”, he stressed, reiterating that many jobs are available in the fields of early childhood education, tourism, science and technology.

The two-hour forum at NTUC Centre yesterday involved mostly young unionists, and the issues they raised centred on the recession and other hurdles for graduates in the job market.

One asked: Are there enough training places for everyone, and should they look to upgrade their skills in an area they like — or train for where there is a market need?

Giving his assurance of sufficient training resources and capacity, Mr Gan advised job-seekers to approach the Employment and Employability Institute or Community Development Councils, where “career consultants” will help match their abilities with “market needs”. Training comes in where there is a mismatch, he said.

Ms Joyce Wong, 21, wondered if local graduates with degrees from private institutions enjoy equal job prospects as graduates from the three local universities.

Ms Mabel Siew, 23, wanted to know why applicants are compelled to disclose whether they are bankrupt and their medical conditions. Should they answer truthfully? “Because if you do, chances are you may not get the job,” she told Today later.

Both were hoping for some form of anti-discrimination legislation, but were not surprised when Mr Gan said the Government would “rather not legislate because the employer can get information through other means”.

He advised job applicants to be “honest” and, if they encounter discrimination, to approach the Tripartite Centre for Fair Employment.

On recognition of degrees, he said: “Even if you put up legislation, when you apply, (employers) can choose not to accept.” Rather, it’s up to private education providers to market themselves — like UniSIM, which has “built up its reputation” and “companies are happy with their graduates”, said Mr Gan.

The question about a CPF cut also cropped up. Mr Gan’s reply: There would not be one “for the time being”.

“Let’s focus on pushing ahead with Spur (Skills Programme for Upgrading and Resilience) and Jobs Credit.

“I think Jobs Credit has been very effective in helping companies manage their cost of employing local workers... We also have Workfare Income Supplement and so on — we need to get these implemented,” he said.

From TODAY – 20-April-2009

Monday, April 20, 2009

Agency should take responsibility

Judging from this man’s viewpoint, I agree… this boils to a higher responsibility, a bigger and higher responsibility, rather than simply the low-end level taking all the blame.


Letter from Tony Lee

I REFER to “Rojak stall owner to be charged” (April 15).

Is Mr Sheik Allaudin Mohideen solely to be blamed for the tragedy? Judging from the number of rats caught during the big cleanup, the appointed agency maintaining the cleanliness of the eating place should also take responsibility. If the tragedy did not happen, the rats would still be running around.

Is anyone questioning the cleaning agency or the relevant Government agencies tasked to maintain the cleanliness standard of Geylang Serai temporary market?

From TODAY, Voices – Thursday, 16-April-2009

Parents to pay for their children’s misbehaviour

A THREE-YEAR British government study into classroom behaviour will call for greater use of parenting contracts for parents failing to keep children in line and £50 ($111.90) penalties for those condoning truancy.

More schools will also be encouraged to use traditional methods such as detentions, suspensions, isolation rooms and lunchtime curfews to punish badly-behaved pupils.

The study came as teachers warned that existing methods were failing as a “reward culture” seen in banks was spreading to schools.

Ms Jules Donaldson, from United Kingdom’s largest teachers’ union, claimed some teachers were fuelling the problem by handing out prizes like plasma screen TVs, Ipods and Nintendo Wii games consoles if children promise to behave.

Schools can apply to courts for a “parenting contract” requiring parents of wayward pupils to take parenting classes — with fines of up to £1,000 if they fail to attend.

Under laws, parents can also be hit with penalties of £50 if their children are found in a public place without justification in the first five days of an exclusion.


From TODAY, World – Thursday, 16-April-2009

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Residents did not make complaints

Zul Othman,

090416-BrokenRailings WHEN news of a seven-year-old girl’s four-storey fall through a broken railing first made headlines, many wondered why complaints from residents months earlier had gone unaddressed by the town council.

However, it has now transpired that neighbours other media had quoted as calling up the town council didn’t in fact make the calls. This is according to the independent committee appointed by the Tanjong Pagar Town Council to look into the incident.

The panel has completed interviewing all the parties involved, chairman Johnny Tan told Today, and the only party that maintains it had called up the authorities about the broken railing is the family of victim Siti Nur Aini.

But the family is not certain when they placed the call, so tracing the records has not been possible.

Added Mr Tan, principal partner of LT&T Architects and an accredited adjudicator: “At the moment, without any final conclusion, we have not done any assessment as to the accuracy of what the witnesses have said.”

The committee — appointed by Town Council chairman Koo Tsai Kee last month — includes Mr K Anparasan, a lawyer and deputy managing partner at law firm KhattarWong, and Mr Teh Hee Seang, an engineer and senior adviser at T Y LIN International.

“We have interviewed all the people involved, investigated the inspection regime of the town council and are now in the process of analysing the information,” said Mr Tan. The report will be released to the town council by the end of next month.

The Blangah Rise Primary School student’s grandfather, retiree Johari Mohd Siamu, told Today Siti was discharged from hospital on April 6 and is now “quite active”. She had suffered multiple fractures and bleeding in her abdomen from the fall on March 8. The medical bills were paid by the town council.

“She will be going for check-ups, but it looks like she will be going back to school on April 20,” said the 69-year-old.

From TODAY, News – Thursday, 16-April-2009

Exams aren’t everything


Govt accepts recommendations to gradually introduce other forms of assessment

Lin Yanqin,



Education Minister Ng Eng Hen observing a class at Greenridge Primary. Ernest Chua


IT HAS been a proposal some parents have welcomed, and others worried about.

Having alternative modes of assessments in Primary 1 and 2 to the traditional twice-a-year examinations were among recommended changes to primary school education the Government accepted yesterday.

But it will not be a dramatic change overnight, said Education Minister Ng Eng Hen.

As the work of the committee reviewing primary education now enters into the implementation stage, Dr Ng signalled that it would be a long-term work in progress.

The timeframe, he told reporters during a visit to Greenridge Primary, is more of a “10-year plan”, as the Ministry of Education (MOE) starts to build more schools and train more teachers, while schools prepare to introduce bite-sized forms of holistic assessment. “As in most educational ventures, you have to train thousands of teachers, you have to make sure parents understand, you have to teach down to the very last child in the primary schools,” said Dr Ng.

He revealed that the ministry will spend about $4.8 billion to implement the recommendations, which include schools going single session by 2016 and introducing a Programme for Active Learning in areas such as sports and the arts.

The MOE also aims to lower the pupil-teacher ratio from the current 21:1 to 16:1 by 2015, build 18 new schools and upgrade 80 existing schools.

In the case of Greenridge Primary, although it introduced topical assessments — which test individual components such as reading skills — four years ago, these form only part of the pupils’ grades, as the school has continued with traditional exams.

This year, it will do away with mid-year exams, but may retain the year-end one.

“Parents still want some form of assessment to know that their child is ready for Primary 2,” said vice-principal Liza Rahmat. “We have to do this gradually.”

But the new system has notably taken the stress off pupils, she noted, as each assessment focuses on one area rather than the entire syllabus.

“Also, assessments are done in a classroom environment, such as through Show and Tell, so it’s not stressful like a traditional sit-down test or exam,” said Ms Liza.

That is not the only drawback of relying on exams at such a young age.

Dr Ng said: “If you give a mark, say 60. What does that mean? It doesn’t give feedback. The proper feedback to the pupil or to the parent is to say what (the pupil) was weak in and what (the pupil) was strong in.”

Parents at Greenridge yesterday were happy with the results so far.

Mdm Wendy Low, 32, said that compared with her older child who went through the previous exam-oriented system from the start, her younger child was better able to absorb what he was taught.

“He’s more confident because everything is broken into small components and he understands each topic better,” said Mdm Low.

From TODAY, News – Wednesday, 15-April-2009

GREEN PEAS: Small wonder

Study shows pea protein could prevent onset of kidney damage


THE humble pea may soon play a significant role in combating chronic kidney disease (CKD) and high blood pressure.

A recent study, presented at the American Chemical Society’s conference, found that proteins in peas can naturally relieve symptoms of CKD and combat hypertension.

“In people with high blood pressure, protein could potentially delay or prevent the onset of kidney damage. For those who already have kidney disease, it may help them maintain normal blood pressure levels so they can live longer,” said study author Dr Rotimi Aluko, a food chemist at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada, of his findings.

Dr Aluko, one of the researchers, fed small daily doses of concentrated pea protein to laboratory rats with kidney disease for eight weeks. At the end of the study, the protein-fed rats showed a 20-per-cent decrease in blood pressure when compared to diseased rats on a normal diet.

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for CKD. End-stage CKD is irreversible, and the patient usually requires kidney dialysis or a transplant.

Cardiovascular complications associated with kidney failure can be fatal.

Singapore has one of the highest incidence of kidney failure in the world, with about 750 people diagnosed yearly, according to National Kidney Foundation statistics. About one in five Singaporeans suffer from high blood pressure.

Peas — typically consumed fresh, frozen or canned — have long been recognised as a nutritious super-vegetable. Mrs Victoria Hally, a dietitian at The Food Clinic, told Today that they are low in fat, and packed with protein, vitamins, minerals and soluble fibre.

According to the UK-registered dietitian, the soluble fibre found in peas is also important in reducing blood glucose and blood cholesterol levels.

Regular peas contain about 4.3g of protein per serving (100g) while split peas, which are used in soups and dhal and are a good source of protein for vegetarians, contain significantly higher protein content at 16g per serving. An average Singaporean adult requires about 58 to 68g of protein each day.

But go easy on canned peas, advised Mrs Hally. “They are often preserved in high levels of salt which contribute to high blood pressure. Fresh, frozen or dried peas are healthier choices,” she said.

Mrs Hally also added that in spite of the promising study results, it is important to note that there is currently no evidence that the pea protein works on humans with pre-existing chronic kidney disease.

“It is important to note that CKD is a complex disease. Often, patients with the chronic condition will require medication to control high blood pressure. Pea protein alone may not be sufficient,” she said.

From TODAY, Health – Tuesday, 14-April-2009

Friday, April 17, 2009

That extra cash would sure come in handy...


We need to cover cost of living

Letter from Melvin Lim Soon Hin

DESPITE the extra incentive from the Jobs Credit scheme, several companies have resorted to reducing the salary offered for entry-level positions. A glance through job ads would show that a sales coordinator who would have been paid $2,000 a month last year would have to settle for only $1,500 now, while the wage for an admin position is down to $1,000.

We are among the most expensive cities in the world to live in; such a salary hardly covers the cost of living here. What is there left after our 20 per cent CPF employees’ contribution? Can we really survive on $1,000 or $1,200?

The Government should consider allowing low-income earners — say below $2,000 — to choose to pay a reduced (say, 10 per cent?) CPF contribution to make up for the loss in income. Alternatively, their employee contribution could be reduced and their companies could top up the remainder, since they are already getting funds via the Jobs Credit scheme.

It’ll lessen blow of pay cuts

Letter from Geeta d/o Gopala Krishnan

INSTEAD of deducting the full 20 per cent CPF contribution for both employers and employees, perhaps the quantum could be temporarily lowered during these hard times. For instance, if I have to take a pay cut of 5 per cent, lowering my CPF contribution from 20 to, say, 15 or 10 per cent would definitely help cashflow, and I would not feel the impact of the pay cut.

My employer would also need to fork out less as a contribution to my CPF — it’s a win-win situation for both employer and employee.

From TODAY, Voices- Tuesday, 14-April-2009

Cacophony at the symphony

Letter from Joseph Au

I WAS surprised to see a full house for a recent Singapore Symphony Orchestra concert at the Esplanade Concert Hall. However, I noticed that the balcony seats were mostly filled by youngsters whose tickets may have been sponsored by the concert organisers or schools.

I was initially glad students had the chance to attend such an event.

But halfway through, trouble started. Coughs rose from all over the balcony and continued without pause. The annoying, distracting coughs went on non-stop for the remaining 80 minutes of the concert.

If it was a deliberate attempt to cough as having fun at a “boring” concert, then I would suggest teachers should teach the students the proper etiquette at concerts. I also hope the students were not forced to attend such concerts just to gain extra-curricular credits.

From TODAY, Voices- Tuesday, 14-April-2009

Bouncers join classroom

LONDON — Bouncers, ex-soldiers and former police officers are being brought into schools to provide “crowd control” and cover absent teachers’ lessons.

One school, thought to be in London, employed two permanent cover teachers through an agency for professional doormen, the National Union of Teachers annual conference in Cardiff heard yesterday.

Bouncers, who more usually work night s keeping order in pubs and clubs, are being employed in schools because they are “stern and loud”, said Mr Andrew Baisley, a teacher at Haverstock school in Camden, north London.

Recruitment agencies are advertising for people with “ex-marine, prison officer, bouncer, policeman, fireman” backgrounds to become supervisors, who do not need to have any teaching qualifications to oversee lessons.

It comes as ministers prepare to unveil the final part of a major review of children’s behaviour this week which will call on governors, head-teachers and parents to support teachers when they discipline pupils.

From September, new rules will limit the amount of cover that teachers can provide for one another, meaning schools could become more reliant on non-qualified staff, the union said.

The union today voted to oppose the use of unqualified staff to cover lessons. Members also agreed to campaign for a reduction in class sizes to 20 and a guarantee of time out of the classroom for teachers to prepare lessons.

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: “Heads should ensure that the people they employ have the relevant experience and training — and that all the proper checks -are carried out on anyone working with children."


From TODAY, World - Tuesday, 14-April-2009

Mel Gibson faces divorce after nearly 30 years of marriage

LOS ANGELES — Mel Gibson’s wife of nearly 30 years filed for divorce yesterday from the Oscar-winning actor and director, according to court records.

Robyn Gibson cited “irreconcilable differences” as the reason for the split from her 53-year-old husband (picture), the Academy Award-winning maker of Braveheart and star of the Lethal Weapon films.

“Throughout our marriage and separation we have always strived to maintain the privacy and integrity of our family and will continue to do so,” People magazine quoted the couple as saying in a statement yesterday.

The couple have had seven children together since their marriage in 1980. The two met in Australia when Gibson was an unknown actor and his future wife was working as a dental assistant. Gibson’s marriage has reportedly been under strain from the time he was arrested for drunken driving in 2006. He was also reported to have made anti-Semitic remarks to police officers during his arrest.

Gibson has kept a low profile since then, appearing in a handful of cameo roles in television and films. His last film as a director was the 2006 Mayan period epic Apocalypto.

His last major role as an actor was in 2002 film Signs but he is due to return later this year in Edge of Darkness, a political thriller based on the British 1980s television series of the same name.

From TODAY, World - Tuesday, 14-April-2009

Jailed for illegally lending to ‘friends’

A 45-YEAR-OLD driver was sentenced yesterday to 14 months in jail for illegal moneylending activities last year.

Yap Tia Suah was found guilty on three counts of extending loans between $2,000 and $4,000 to three debtors, who were charged an interest rate of 15 to 20 per cent each.

Defence lawyer Chia Boon Teck said in mitigation that his client has been “estranged from his Burmese wife for the last few years” and earns a “humble living”. He had won the lottery a few years ago and decided to “earn a little interest to make ends meet”, said Mr Chia.

Yap lent money “only to friends” and “charged his borrowers less interest than credit card issuers”. The lawyer added that Yap had “no assistants and no syndicate was involved”.

He had been caught during a Criminal Investigation Department operation against unlicensed moneylending activities in February, when officers raided a flat in Sims Avenue and found him with cash amounting to around $65,000, bank books and mobile phones.

Yap could have been fined between $20,000 and $200,000 and/or jailed for up to two years on each of the three charges.

From TODAY, News - Tuesday, 14-April-2009


3,000 jobs at ION Orchard
Due to open in under four months, ION Orchard is launching a recruitment exercise for over 3,000 positions. Mall manager Orchard Turn Developments is interviewing candidates for various positions. What's available: Frontline customer service and technical jobs, and retail positions with the likes of Burberry, Club 21, Sephora, Starbucks Coffee, Zara and others.

The drive is in collaboration with the Workforce Development Agency and the NTUC's Employment and Employability Institute (e2i). Recruits will undergo training which could include etiquette training, grooming and interpersonal skills.

Chief executive of e2i Ang Hin Kee urged jobseekers "to adopt a positive attitude towards service, and be willing to work shifts and weekends". Visit or call 6474 3777. Registration closes April 24.

$287k for workers' welfare
Oil giant Shell has donated $287,000 to two welfare organisations for workers, the Lighthouse Club Singapore (LHC) and the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home).

Together with 24 of its contractors, Shell pooled $187,000 for LHC's programmes for construction workers who fall victim to workplace accidents, as well as to their families. Its $100,000 donation to Home will go to social integration services and humanitarian assistance, among others, for abused and neglected foreign workers.

438 HDB units up for sale
The Housing and Development Board has put 438 flats on the market for its half-yearly sale. The units comprise 10 three-room flats, 313 four-room flats, 80 five-room flats and 35 executive flats located in 23 towns and estates, mostly in Sengkang, Yishun, Jurong West and Punggol.

Interested buyers may submit their applications at until April 20. Queue position of applicants will be released from May 13.

Those who apply after the application period will be given a queue position, on a first-come-first-served basis, after the earlier applications. Any flats unselected will remain open for booking on a walk-in basis.

From TODAY, News - Tuesday, 14-April-2009

3 released in 9 years


Loh Chee Kong

WITH ample opportunities available to clarify any doubts, individuals — and their parents, relatives or friends who act as their sureties — are made well aware of their obligations before they take up scholarships or sponsorships with the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

So reiterated Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean in Parliament yesterday, as he responded to Tampines MP Irene Ng's questions over whether contract terms are clearly explained to prospective scholars "in language that he understands, and confirmed with his parents if he is below 21".

Revealing that three officers were released prematurely from their bonds over the last nine years, the Deputy Prime Minister noted that SAF scholars — by virtue of being "better officers" — are given the "pick of the better positions available" among the many "interesting and challenging" SAF jobs.

"The SAF is not an unreasonable organisation. The terms and conditions are quite fair and reasonable, and that is why we do have people who are prepared to come forward to serve," he said.

Emphasising that any individual is not compelled to sign the bond "until he has fully understood" its terms, Mr Teo added: "This is particularly the case when it is an in-service officer who may well already be in his 20s or 30s, and decides to take up a scholarship or a sponsorship to go on for a course for further career development."

Ms Ng's questions arose from the death of bonded officer Captain (Dr) Allan Ooi, 27, who was said to be unhappy at work.

Pointing out that the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) has been in contact with Dr Ooi's family since he went Awol in October last year, Mr Teo added that Mindef would "make available a summary of the findings" of its Board of Inquiry, which was convened last month, to the family upon their request.

From TODAY, News - Tuesday, 14-April-2009

A question of where to draw the line

Neo Chai Chin

SHOULD yellow safety lines be drawn further away from the edge of MRT station platforms, especially given that it will be 2012 by the time all above-ground stations have platform screen doors installed?

MP for Sembawang GRC Lim Wee Kiak yesterday revived the suggestion, following two recent track deaths.

Last month, a 71-year-old woman who was believed to have fainted, died after a train hit her at Clementi Station. In February, another elderly commuter died at the Bukit Batok station after he was said to have fallen and been hit by a train.

Dr Lim also asked if public transport operators are liable when commuters sustain injuries using their facilities, and if close-circuit televisions (CCTVs) were operating during the recent mishaps.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Transport Teo Ser Luck said the Land Transport Authority would review the impact of moving the yellow lines further in — for example, if this would affect "traffic flow" on the platforms.

On speeding up the installation of screen doors, Mr Teo said this is difficult, as work can only be done between 1.30am and 4am daily. Haste would "endanger more lives".

As for the CCTVs, these were in operation during the recent mishaps, but they were not always manned. Instead, Mr Teo said, the operators have staff patrol the platforms and play recorded safety messages to raise awareness among commuters.

From TODAY, News - Tuesday, 14-April-2009

Council condemns test

15-member body reaches compromise on N Korean rocket

NEW YORK — The United Nations Security Council, ending a week of diplomatic bargaining, agreed yesterday to condemn North Korea’s April 5 rocket test and enforce previously imposed sanctions against the government in Pyongyang.

The 15-nation panel unanimously adopted a statement that said the launch was in “contravention” of a 2006 resolution barring North Korea’s development of missile technology, and demanded that no further launches be conducted.

The accord on a council “presidential statement”, which lacks the legally binding weight of a UN resolution, stemmed from a compromise brokered by the United States and China.

The US initially sought a resolution and stronger sanctions on North Korea, while China was reluctant to condemn the launch or increase pressure on the North Korean regime of Mr Kim Jong Il.

“It is a good face-saving measure for both sides but a hollow threat from the North Korean perspective,” said Mr Abraham Kim of the Eurasia Group, a political-risk analysis firm. “The key is implementation. China has signed on to statements in the past but has not implemented them and has sent signals recently that they are still protecting North Korea.”

“The US will consider the council statement legally binding,” State Department spokesman Robert Wood said in Washington. He dismissed concern that it would not be as strong as a resolution. “We want to do everything we can in getting a message to the North Koreans that this type of activity cannot happen again,” he said.

North Korea claims the rocket lifted a satellite into orbit. The US says the first stage of the missile fell into the Sea of Japan and that the remaining stages, along with the payload, landed in Pacific Ocean.

The council statement said it “agrees to adjust the measures imposed” by the resolution adopted on Oct 14, 2006, following North Korea’s detonation of a nuclear device. That resolution, which has never been implemented, froze the assets and banned the travel of “persons or entities” involved in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes.

The council’s sanctions committee created by the 2006 resolution has been instructed to report by April 24 on how the sanctions are to be enforced. The council will “complete action” to do so by April 30 in the event there is no agreement within the committee, according to the statement.

UN Secretary-General Ban Kimoon welcomed the “strong and clear signal” the council sent to North Korea and was “hopeful” it would help resolve the dispute, according to a statement released by his spokesman.
- Bloomberg

From TODAY, News - Tuesday, 14-April-2009

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Passion is the key

I wanted to be in this (younger) man’s shoes some day, and oh, to wear my own shoes by then! That would be some achievement!


Recession sees more interest in Talentpreneur Hub’s start-up programme

Tan Hui Leng


IT IS the worst of times. It is the best of times. As a pall darkens over the economy, costume designer Muhammad Razy Ibrahim thought it was an opportune time to set up his own business.

090408-Entrepreneur The 28-year-old resigned from his regular job in January to strike out on his own. Today, he runs his start-up Costume Di Amour from his parents’ four-room flat in Jurong West.

“My friends thought I had a mental disorder,” he said. “They thought it was a very risky move because there’s no safety net if something goes wrong.”

But for the fashion graduate from the University of Huddersfield, it was time to set up shop — recession or not. Thankfully, his family was supportive.

“I’ve always wanted to set up my own business in fashion and have been thinking about it for a while,” he said. “So, I finally stepped forward and did it.”

For now, Mr Muhammad Razy does everything himself, from designing to sewing.

Like many small businessmen, cash flow has been his number one problem.

Fortunately, he has been winning clients by collaborating with event management companies. He has found some corporate clients, like Standard Chartered Bank.

Mr Muhammad Razy is currently in the midst of a 10-week start-up programme with private company Talentpreneur Hub, which helps young companies develop their businesses.

Talentpreneur Hub’s founder Ken Koh has been seeing more interest in the programme, especially from 20- and 30-somethings who have been toiling as salarymen and women for years.

“In a recession, opportunity costs are lower. You have more time to plan. Overhead costs like rental and manpower are lower,” said Mr Koh, who is an entrepreneur himself.

Furthermore, people may be more willing to work for an SME when big multi-nationals tighten their headcounts and budgets.

Another start-up that has benefitted from Talentpreneur Hub’s mentorship is Optimal Online Marketing (OOM), which offers online marketing solutions like search engine optimisation.

Set up two years ago by three secondary schoolmates from Deyi Secondary School, the business is now profitable with over 50 clients. Among them are familiar names like restaurant chain Jack’s Place.

“I think we are very lucky to be living in times when you don’t need a lot of capital,” said managing director of OOM, Wayne Eo.

If aspiring Singapore entrepreneurs want some inspiration, they should perhaps take a look at David Evans who started his business Grass Roots in London in the thick of the 1980 recession.

Toiling long hours in a basement office in Oxford Street with just himself and a typist, the then-32-year-old was clear about what he wanted and where he wanted to take his firm. Today, his performance improvement firm is a multinational operating in 16 countries with over 1,000 staff worldwide. Even in the downturn, it is now expanding in Asia with Singapore as its hub.

Rolls Royce and Bentley, Toyota, Barclays and HSBC count among his clients.

“Whether you start a business in a recession or during good times, the key is passion,” Mr Evans said.


From TODAY, Enterprise – Wednesday, 08-April-2009

Mindef responds

I felt obliged to keep a copy of this reply from Mindef. There is always fairness in hearing the other party’s voice; not both parties are heard, and it is not who is right or who is wrong. What’s done is done…


Letter from Colonel Darius Lim
Director Public Affairs
Ministry of Defence

WE REFER to “Wanted: An inquiry” (April 1) from the family of the late Cpt (Dr) Allan Ooi. Mindef would have preferred to keep these exchanges private out of respect for the late Cpt (Dr) Ooi and his family. Nonetheless, as the letter has raised several issues, it is necessary for Mindef to provide some factual clarifications.

The six-month Aviation Medicine course that Cpt (Dr) Ooi attended in the United Kingdom (UK) from Jan to July 2008 had a three-year bond, which was to be served concurrently with his 12-year Local Study Award (Medicine) bond. This was explained to Cpt (Dr) Ooi when he and his two sureties signed the deed for the course on Dec 19, 2007 before he left for the UK. On the same day, Mindef also sent an email to confirm this with Cpt (Dr) Ooi. He acknowledged receiving the email and thanked Mindef for the clarification. The three-year bond is completely within his 12-year Local Study Award (Medicine) bond. It is thus untrue that his 12-year bond would be “prolonged by another three years for one six-month course”.

Cpt (Dr) Ooi returned on Jul 7, 2008 from his course in the UK. Sixteen days later, on Jul 23, 2008, while serving at the Aeromedical Centre, he informed his superior that he was unhappy at work and was considering leaving the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). According to Mindef’s records, Cpt (Dr) Ooi wrote to Head of Manpower at Headquarters Medical Corps on Aug 12, 2008 (not “Jul 2008” as stated in the family’s letter), expressing his wish to resign from the SAF. The Head of Manpower replied on Aug 20, 2008, informing him how he could obtain the application form for early release, and explaining the process involved. But Cpt (Dr) Ooi did not apply for early release.

On Oct 3, 2008, Cpt (Dr) Ooi’s superior interviewed him, and offered him the option of a posting to an appointment which would interest him. He asked Cpt (Dr) Ooi to indicate what posting he would like. Cpt (Dr) Ooi thanked his superior and promised to respond in two weeks’ time. However, instead of doing so, Cpt (Dr) Ooi went Absent Without Official Leave (AWOL) on Oct 15, 2008.

All officers who join the SAF and take up sponsorship know that they have a moral obligation to serve out the full period of their bonds, beyond their legal obligation to pay the liquidated damages if they do not fulfil the bond. The SAF invests substantial public funds and time to train these officers. Officers can serve in a wide range of leadership and specialist roles that cater to their different interests and aptitudes while fulfilling the SAF’s needs. On their part, officers are expected to do their best to fulfil their obligations to the organisation, unless there are strong extenuating circumstances like medical reasons that prevent them from doing so.

Cpt (Dr) Ooi’s family asked for an inquiry into Mindef’s policies and processes, on the premise that this would avert a similar tragedy. Mindef had convened a Board of Inquiry on Mar 11, 2009, which concluded that matters related to the late Cpt (Dr) Ooi’s service with the SAF had been managed appropriately. While the late Cpt (Dr) Ooi had expressed unhappiness with his job in the Aeromedical Centre and stated his wish to resign, he had subsequently gone AWOL despite being informed about other job options.

Mindef expresses its sympathies to the family of the late Cpt (Dr) Ooi, and will continue to be as open and helpful as possible to them. Mindef will also provide the facts of the case to the public while respecting the privacy of the family.

From TODAY, Voices – Wednesday, 08-April-2009

Monday, April 13, 2009

Man gets new face, hands in first such transplant

There is hope for burn-damaged body parts… hopefully all  parts… eh? Fathers, we can ‘recover’ our manliness if ravaged by fire. Read on.


PARIS — In a world first, French surgeons have replaced, in a single operation, the face and both hands of a man horribly disfigured by an accident, the hospital where the surgery took place announced yesterday.

The 30-year-old recipient, on a donor waiting list for more a year, “had scars from burns to the face and hands so severe that it robbed him of all social life”, the hospital said in a statement.

The operation, which began on Saturday night, lasted 30 hours and required a medical team of more than 40, according to the Henri Mondor Hospital.

“It is a success, he is in good condition,” said one of the two head surgeons, Dr Laurent Lanteiri. “The patient is in post-op intensive care, which will last at least 15 days.”

Surgeons replaced the patient’s entire face above the lips, including the scalp, nose, ears and forehead.

Another team led by Dr Christian Dumontier, a surgeon at the Saint Antoine Hospital, replaced both hands, including the wrists.

There have been five other face transplants to date, three of them done in France.



From TODAY, World

Tuesday, 07-April-2009

Bad mood, better recall, researchers find

This research goes to show that a people in a bad mood really pick on anything and everything to start off a fight, while people in a good mood tend to pass up most annoyances and small disturbances. This is sort of letting go of small issues that “won’t kill you.” Avoid grumpy people at all costs!


AFP - Saturday, April 11

SYDNEY (AFP) - - People grumbling their way through the grimness of winter have better recall than those enjoying a carefree, sunny day, Australian researchers have found.

The University of New South Wales team used a Sydney news agency to test whether people's moods had an impact on their ability to remember small details.

Researchers placed 10 small items on the shop counter, including a toy cannon, red bus and a piggy bank, and quizzed shoppers about what they remembered seeing upon their exit.

Lead researcher Joseph Forgas said subjects were able to remember three times as many items on cold, windy, rainy days when there was sombre classical music playing as they were when conditions were sunny and bright.

Rainy-day shoppers were also less likely to have false memories of objects that weren't there, said Forgas.

"We predicted and found that weather-induced negative mood improved memory accuracy," he wrote in the study, which was published in the latest edition of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

"Shoppers in a negative mood showed better memory and higher discrimination ability."

Forgas said a worse mood helped to focus people's attention on their surroundings and led to a more thorough and careful thinking style, while happiness tended to reduce focus and increase both confidence and forgetfulness.

"This finding suggests that some allowance for such mood effects could be incorporated in applied domains such as legal, forensic, counselling and clinical practice," he said.

From Yahoo! News, Singapore. Find the source article here.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A life-affirming funeral

I saw this commercial, and though I have read it in the news, seeing it ‘live’ is a completely different experience. And oh so true the message that it conveys: the little imperfections that make your spouse so perfect…



MCYS’ new commercial was inspired by a woman’s love for her husband’s paunch


May Seah


090406-CoolAdvert THE girl with the red shoes and her quietly loving single father touched Singaporeans’ hearts so much that we voted the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports’s (MCYS) Family commercial tops at the recent MediaCorp Viewers’ Choice Awards, where the best television commercials are honoured.

This year, MCYS’ pro-family campaign, which was launched yesterday and will run until May 16, features yet another commercial crafted by acclaimed Malaysian director Yasmin Ahmad. This time, the focus is on relationships that are real, but no less beautiful for their imperfections.

Named Funeral, the new work shows a woman giving a eulogy at her late husband’s funeral. Instead of extolling his virtues, she tells a humorous and touching anecdote about his snoring. The commercial is currently airing on MediaCorp TV Channels 5, 8, Vasantham, and Suria. It is also available online via YouTube and Facebook.

In making and airing this work, said MCYS’ director of communications and international relations, Richard Tan, the Ministry had to “cross a lot of barriers, including minds that had been set since Singapore’s independence. No Government campaign will feature a funeral.” But the popularity of the Family commercial gave Tan the confidence to take more risks.

“There was public suggestion for a sequel, but Yasmin felt we should do something different. We think this is going to break some new ground and raise some eyebrows.”

Contrary to popular superstition, Ahmad feels that the funeral setting makes the commercial life-affirming. “You come out of it thinking, ‘It’s good to be alive’.”

Perhaps the reason Ahmad is so good at telling people’s stories is that these are her stories, too. “I went into it as an observer of the way my husband drools,” she explained. “He’s not the best-looking man, but he’s the most good-looking man on Earth to me. In the morning, while he’s sleeping, I lean over to my 46-year-old Chinaman and coo, ‘So cute!’ If the neighbours heard me, they’d think I was mad ... He’s got a paunch where he used to have a flat stomach. I said to him, ‘You know what? I prefer you with a paunch. You have more to hang on to.’ It’s so nice! Like a cushion!”

Because she calls herself an “observer” of life, Ahmad said she feels “guilty receiving awards for this”. This commercial was born from her love for her father and husband, who both snore.

“I used to read about American women divorcing their husbands for snoring and I used to think, ‘What’s wrong with them? Your husbands can’t help it. You have your own imperfections that they live with’.”

Admitted Tan: “We all have a love-hate relationship with Government campaigns.” But this particular campaign has resolved not to browbeat its public. “We’ll let the audience decide what the message is,” he said.

From TODAY, Plus

Monday, 06-April-2009

Saturday, April 11, 2009

My hectic day today, 11-Apr-2009

The day seemed like it would never end…

I woke up with the thought of cooking our lunch, and I have to ask my wife what to cook, and how. She did tell me of one very simple dish, long beans with small slices of pork in vinegar and soy sauce.

It should be a very simple dish, and it should not be very difficult to cook. It was.

But the complication of the day was not because of that. I was going to do some other things – things that cannot be put off for tomorrow, or for a few more hours. My morning was crowded with things that I should do while cooking the very simple dish.

That’s where my day became hectic.

I will chronicle by next post, at least, how the day went by, until the afternoon, and hopefully, I can make it right.

Till then.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Do more to draw men to nursing profession

Guys, see this "plea" to get more men to engage in the nursing profession. This is not new to me, but in Singapore, it may be.

Read on...


THE topic of male nurses has recently come up in the media.

There was a time when nursing was seen as a woman’s job.

However, I am glad that this perception has changed and that society today is more accepting of male nurses.

Nursing is a noble profession. It is also a demanding but meaningful career.

Besides, nursing, unlike any other profession, is a job that calls for passion, care and deep empathy for the sick.

I had the privilege of meeting many male nurses during my recent stay in hospital.

These male nurses carried out their jobs with real zeal and passion, alongside their female colleagues.

Anyone, whether male or female, who has the qualities mentioned above would be an ideal candidate for a nursing career.

More should be done to draw more men to the profession and to accord male nurses the respect they deserve.

Mr Sebastian Tan

From myPaper, My Say
Friday, 03-April-2009

Monday, April 6, 2009

Help ourselves: Fight ageism

I don't want to take the words out of this man's mouth; he has expressed what I wanted to say myself.

Read on...


Letter from Charles Lee

LIKE Mr Allan Pek in “Over 40, under-valued” (March 30) I have encountered ageism many times since my return to Singapore in 1997 from the United States.

I am surprised to find this outdated and in some societies, illegal, practice in Singapore. Until there is regulation against such unjustified discrimination, we need to help ourselves and fight this treatment.

Discrimination can go two ways. We can make our stand. I will start to patronise establishments with good hiring practises, and not those that I sense or know to be ageist in practice.

I have deemed many firms unworthy of my contribution, due to their lack of respect for themselves. Many younger managers have thwarted my career chances because they were not mature nor competent enough to manage people. Their departments are only as good as they are and cannot develop beyond their capabilities. These firms are short changing themselves.

From TODAY, Voices
Monday, 06-April-2009

Man kills 5 children after wife leaves

Men, take caution. Brace yourselves in these hard times.


SEATTLE — A Washington state man shot and killed his five children, between the ages of seven and 16, then turned the gun on himself after his wife told him she was leaving him, in the third mass shooting since Friday in the United States.

James Harrison, 34, killed his children early on Saturday inside his mobile home in Graham, 100km south of here, then drove to a nearby casino and shot himself inside his car, a Pierce County sheriff’s spokesman told reporters.

Harrison had found his wife, who had been missing, at a convenience store with another man. She told him she was leaving him to be with her new boyfriend.

Alerted by neighbours, police found the five children dead, some shot several times, inside the mobile home’s bedrooms and bathroom.

Harrison was found dead inside his car. He had shot himself with a rifle.

The family tragedy marks the latest spasm of gun violence in the US which has been rocked by six fatal mass shootings in the past three weeks, including three police officers killed on Saturday by a 23-year-old man at his home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Criminologist Jack Levin, of Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, said there appears to be a link between the failing US economy and rising body count. “A mass killer is someone who has almost always suffered a catastrophic loss — that’s the link between a recession and mass killings,” he said, citing the loss of a job, the loss of a lot of money or the loss of a relationship. “Catastrophic losses serve as inspiration or precipitant,” he said.

From TODAY, World
Monday, 06-April-2009

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Go local for IT: Senators

If you are thinking of migrating to the US, and you haven't found an employer yet, think again. Companies were urged to hire local talents. While some companies are reluctant to abide by the guideline passed down by lawmakers, who knows how stringent the selection process can become, not to mention discrimination?

What's your say?

Read on...


US H-1B visa cap
US lawmakers want companies to hire fewer foreigners to weather recession

WASHINGTON — The United States began taking visa applications on Wednesday for highly skilled foreigners, with lawmakers pressing to close the door to some of the long-coveted workers amid the recession.

Companies can seek up to 85,000 so-called H-1B visas for the fiscal year starting in October for IT and other specialized workers.

Asians usually get some three-quarters of the visas, with Indians alone taking one-quarter.

Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat close to President Barack Obama, and Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican, said companies should need fewer visas this year as the United States suffers its worst economic crisis in decades.

“The H-1B visa was intended to be used only as a temporary measure when qualified Americans weren’t available for highly specialised jobs,” the senators said in a joint statement.

“With unemployment at rates higher than we’ve seen in decades, there is no shortage of people looking for work, so companies should need (fewer) H-1B visas than last year,” they added.

The United States has already barred companies receiving federal bailout funds from hiring any H-1B workers.

The H-1B visa cap is already far down from the nearly 200,000 a year issued during the tech boom a decade ago, when foreigners helped build some of Silicon Valley’s Internet giants.

Nafsa, the US association promoting international education, said the United States would shoot itself in the foot by turning its back on the best and the brightest.

“To turn away individuals with skills that we need, who want to live and work in America, under the illusion that by doing so we are protecting our economy, is to deny ourselves a resource that we need to help pull us out of the recession,” it said in a statement.

Mr Robert Hoffman, a vice-president at software giant Oracle and co-chair of Compete America, a coalition of tech companies lobbying to hire foreigners, said the 85,000 H-1B workers would make up only 0.07 per cent of the US labour force.

“It’s an easy political target,” he said.


From TODAY, World
Friday, 03-April-2009

Expectant UK mothers to get $420

I like this one; well, anything that will “help” parents with the financial burden when a baby comes. And no, babies are not a burden at all. Whatever hardship parents (especially single parents) go through rearing and raising a child is part of the responsibility we parents have in the child’s upbringing. The responsibility becomes “shared” with any and all assistance – that is what I am saying here.

And putting a “25-week onwards” pregnancy criterion helps to ensure that the pregnancy is continued!

Read on…


LONDON — All pregnant women in Britain will receive a £190 ($420) tax-free “baby bonus” from the government from next week. The bonus is intended to help mothers-to-be stay healthy and to meet extra costs during the later stages of pregnancy.

Women must get health advice from a midwife or doctor to qualify for the bonus after 25 weeks of pregnancy.

The payments, called Health in Pregnancy Grants, will be paid to expectant mothers whose expected delivery date is on or after April 6. Claims must be made within 31 days of the midwife or doctor signing a form to confirm that they have given health advice.

The bonus remains £190 irrespective of the number of children the mother-to-be is expecting, so there is no extra cash for twins.

- The Daily Telegraph

From TODAY, World
Friday, 03-April-2009

A drop in business, a dip in usage

Electricity consumption

Neo Chai Chin

AT MR Siew Yit Foong’s factory, machines that used to run for 24 hours are now in use for only half that time.

Overall, it has been quieter than what you would normally expect of a sheet metal manufacturing plant.

But scenes like these at Cititech Industrial Engineering are common these days.

At Cititech, Mr Siew’s 40-odd workers have also been clocking regular hours. There has been no need for any overtime work since last September.

It is also the same for other manufacturers, with some even reporting that demand for their products has dropped by 90 per cent, he said. The fall in such demand has been indentified as the key reason for electricity demand in Singapore falling to its lowest levels in at least two years.

Figures from the Energy Market Authority recently showed that demand in January was 2,938gigawatt hours — 3.2 per cent lower compared with 2007, and 6 per cent lower than 2008.

At Mr Siew’s company, there have also been conscious efforts to conserve energy. Lights and airconditioning are switched off during lunch hour and together with the machines’ shorter operating hours; this has reduced the monthly electricity bill from about $12,000 to $4,000.

Mr Siew’s company supplies sheet metal — used to make items like switch boxes, electrical circuit consoles, and even casino tables — to other manufacturers.

Could little gestures like switching off the lights lead to big savings in utilities bills for manufacturers?

Mr Andy Lok, sales and application manager at SDL Technologies, thinks this is unlikely. Profit margins in the industry are typically “more than 100 per cent of operating cost”, and the cost of electricity is almost negligible, he said.

To save during these times, manufacturers are repairing and overhauling existing machines instead of buying new ones. This cuts the cost by more than half, said Mr Lok whose firm has customers in the marine, offshore and gas as well as aerospace sectors.

Although big projects may have dried up, manufacturers need to repair their machines in order to continue taking on small projects, he said.

Because of that, demand for SDL’s repair services has doubled.

Cititech’s Mr Siew also said that since end-February, business has picked up by about 20 per cent although he isn’t sure why.

He is grateful for it though.

“When the whole place is silent, it’s not a good sign,” he said.

From TODAY, News
Friday, 03-April-2009

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Spend less, travel further

Car owners, take note. The more passengers, the less the car fuel gets. But who would want to get left behind? Yet if this is going to be a breakthrough, I wonder where it will bring us? Or what?


Fuel consumption
Singapore drivers now more informed about fuel economy than two years ago

Neo Chai Chin

UNSTABLE oil prices and the need for cost savings in the midst of the economic downturn have led motorists to consume fuel more frugally.

Three in four drivers say they are more conscious of fuel efficiency now than 12 months ago, according to a January survey of 301 drivers in Singapore commissioned by oil giant Shell. This is up from one in four drivers back in 2007 when a similar survey was done.

Drivers are also taking a multi-pronged approach to rein in consumption. Instead of the average of 2.5 steps to save fuel in 2007, those surveyed this year took eight steps. And these ranged from avoiding rapid acceleration and braking and keeping tyres properly inflated, to planning their trips and keeping their engines properly tuned.

Little steps can lead to significant savings, said Mr Eric Holthusen, Shell’s fuels manager for Asia-Pacific. The average Shell Escape rewards member uses about 130 litres of petrol per month — costing about $200 at current oil prices — but can save up to $48 a month by using fuel efficient products and adopting good driving habits.

“Every 45 kg (of extra load in the car), you lose 1 to 2 per cent of fuel efficiency,” said Mr Henry Chu, Shell’s general manager for sales and operations in Singapore.

He urged drivers to purge their car boots of golf clubs and items which are used only occasionally.

Drivers in five other countries — Malaysia, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Germany and the Netherlands — were also surveyed.

Singapore motorists were found to be most motivated by cost savings, with nine in 10 enticed by the prospect, compared to the global average of eight in 10. They were also most likely to have ever checked their cars’ fuel efficiency — 77 per cent, compared to the global average of 69 per cent.

But local drivers could do more advanced route planning, said Mr Chu. “They think Singapore is so small ... (but) it makes a difference,” he said.

For instance, choosing a less congested route would result in less brake application.

Still, it remains to be seen if the fuel-saving habits picked up will stay now that recent pump prices have receded to levels seen about two years ago.

Motorist Jimmy Ho, 51, for example, said he combined car trips with public transport when oil prices spiked last year, but has since slackened in his efforts.

From TODAY, News
Thursday, 02-April-2009

Excuse me, where are you going?

Primary School Security

Lin Yanqin

PARENTS, coaches and instructors, even various service vendors and contractors — on any given day, a school could see all kinds of visitors streaming in.

Should their comings and goings be more strictly monitored, following news this week that a seven-year-old pupil was sexually assaulted in a school toilet by a repairman?

The security protocols are in place, the schools say; but are they being strictly adhered to, wondered some parents whom Today spoke to.

“Usually the school asks me to sign in, but not sign out,” said Ms Tan Bee Cher, who has two children in primary school. “They make sure you give a reason for being around, but once you’re in, they don’t know if you’ve actually left.”

Housewife Cynthia Wong, 48, agreed: “Schools might not know where you’re going after you enter the school... I think this incident is a good reminder that we need to be more careful, and schools should be more vigilant.”

But when it comes to service providers or contractors doing maintenance work, the precautions go beyond the usual requirements of registering at the security booths, said principals. A staff member usually escorts them.

“For example, when we have maintenance crews coming in to do gardening, our operations manager knows what time they’re coming and will arrange to be there or have staff meet them and show them where they’re supposed to be working,” said Radin Mas Primary principal Lee Lai Yong.

“Or if we have contractors working on the air-con systems, an attendant will escort them from room-to-room because these rooms are also locked.”

And when enrichment lessons or cocurricular activities are carried out by instructors, it is a standing rule that teachers must be present.

How rigorously are these rules adhered to? Very strictly, said Elias Park Primary principal Wong Siew Shan. Her school does not allow visitors into the classroom block, while work requiring the presence of workers over an extended period of time is scheduled during holidays when possible, and they are restricted to their work areas.

“We don’t make exceptions, we make sure service vendors and contract workers are escorted,” she said, and added that teachers and pupils are reminded regularly to report strangers on school grounds.

While Bukit View Primary principal Jenny Law was not aware of the assault in question, which occurred last July and resulted in the culprit receiving a 10-year jail term and 12 strokes of the cane on Monday, she said that “reminders to our staff to be vigilant is an ongoing thing”.

“For example, teachers are expected to be vigilant about younger students going to the bathroom in pairs,” she said. “Security is something we take seriously.”

At Radin Mas, teachers also take note if pupils leave the classroom for too long. “We want to make sure they’re okay, or they haven’t wandered off,” said Mdm Lee.

Ms Tan is still concerned, but also noted that parents have a part to play.

“If a person has ill intent, how can schools be aware of this?” she said. “I think it’s best to talk to our kids and tell them to be careful about following a stranger.”

Elias Park’s Mrs Wong said her school also talks to its pupils about what to do in such scenarios. “Teachers reinforce the messages when they return to class and provide students with the time and space to share their experiences or stories they have heard about encounters with strangers,” she said.

From TODAY, Afternoon Edition
Thursday, 02-April-2009