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  1. #5509
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default 1,000-strong mass caroling for Christmas in Singapore

    By Wendy Wong | Posted: 24 December 2011 1614 hrs
    SINGAPORE: The annual Celebrate Christmas In Singapore (CCIS) event is back with new acts to add cheer to this festive season.

    Choirs from South Africa, Philippines and Indonesia will take part in a 1,000-strong mass caroling event on Friday and Saturday outside Marina Square.

    And the dazzling Christmas float parade will ply Orchard Road till Sunday.

    The seven floats will also make their way to heartlands around Singapore to spread the Christmas cheer.

    Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC Indranee Rajah was present during the event's opening launch on December 16.

    Now into its eighth year, CCIS is also holding events for charity, such as encouraging the public to make cards for elder home St. Luke's ElderCare.

    The non-profit event also saw 400 more volunteers helping out this year.

    A volunteer said: "I volunteer because it's quite a fun thing to do to meet people of all walks of life and from different countries.

    "They all congregate at Orchard Road and you get to share Christmas with them. I think it's more meaningful that way, other than like just sit around at home and watch TV."

    - CNA/ck

  2. #5510
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default Primed for an Olympic assault

    A year of highs and lows has allowed table tennis star Feng to gain maturity and invaluable experience


    by Low Lin Fhoong
    04:45 AM Dec 26, 2011

    SINGAPORE - She was part of the Singapore women's table tennis team that won a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She was a key figure in the women's team that made headlines all over the world when they beat mighty China to become world champions last year.

    Feng Tianwei is Singapore's leading sports star.

    Over the course of the last 12 months, she has endured crushing losses. She also proved her mettle by recovering magnificently.

    She closed out last year in style, winning the season-ending ITTF Pro Tour Grand Final in South Korea in December.

    But Feng found the going tough early this year after failing to progress beyond the quarter-finals in six ITTF Pro Tour tournaments, losing to lower ranked opponents and seeing her world rankings dipping to a low of sixth.

    The 25-year-old bounced back, winning the Japan Open and South Korea Open to reach a high of world No 2 in August.

    She will end 2011 as the world No 5, and in a little more than seven months, she will be in the spotlight like never before as she tries to become the first Singaporean to win two medals at an Olympic Games.

    The Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) have set a goal of two medals - in the women's team event and women's singles - for the London Games, which is scheduled from July 27 to Aug 12.

    Women's team head coach Zhou Shusen believes it will be the perfect occasion for Feng to shine.

    Speaking to Today earlier this week, the 70-year-old said: "I sat down with Tianwei and analysed this with her. From the 2008 Games till now, the highest chance for a singles medal is going to be at the London Games next year. I analysed our stronger opponents for her bit by bit - she has the upper hand over Hong Kong's Tie Yana and Jiang Huajun, and the South Koreans. Against Japan's three players she has only lost some matches to Kasumi Ishikawa.

    "In terms of mental strength, she's the best out of all the players and also the most hardworking
    .

    "We must treasure this chance. It's not a sure thing and there are a lot of challenges ahead, but our chances are highest now."

    Feng was defeated by China's eventual gold medallist Zhang Yining in the singles quarter-finals in Beijing in 2008.

    At the 2012 Games, she will be joined by team-mate Wang Yuegu (No 8) in the women's singles event.

    The rules stipulate that each country can only be represented by two players in the singles event, and right now, world No 2 Li Xiao-xia and veteran Guo Yan (No 3) are the two players who have qualified from China, although it is believed top-ranked Ding Ning is still in with a shout.

    Feng hasn't beaten former world No 1 Li in the last three years, and only defeated Ding Ning once.

    But Zhou is not worried.

    "Against China, Tianwei beat Liu Shiwen 4-1 at the China Open, and defeated Guo Yan at the China vs the World Challenge. She won twice against the world's best, so I say this year she still maintained her top level," he said.

    "These two players (Li and Ding) are stronger than the others, but at the moment our main focus during training is not on them.

    "We will do a lot more focused training on how to deal with them when the Olympic list is confirmed."

    Jing Junhong was the first to put Singapore table tennis on the world map when she reached the singles semi-finals at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

    Now deputy head coach of the women's team, Jing believes Feng has chalked up enough experience and is now battle-hardened.

    "The beginning of the year was a bit of a low point for her, but it was a pathway for her to mature," said Jing.

    "She had never experienced something like this before, and for her to be a leader of the team, it was important for her to get the experience and she's become more mature."

    At Feng's level, Jing believes the difference between success and failure at tournaments like the Olympics is what's in the head.

    "Seventy per cent is about mental strength and 30 per cent on technique, skills and strategy - it's about being able to perform during a crucial moment," said the 43-year-old.

    "You must dare to dream, and dare to do."



    TODAY FILE PHOTO


    Last edited by Loh; 12-26-2011 at 08:26 AM.

  3. #5511
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    Default TTSH first to perform robotic gastrectomy in SE Asia

    By Olivia Siong | Posted: 26 December 2011 1944 hrs


    A 3D simulation of the robotic gastrectomy procedure.


    SINGAPORE: A more precise surgery method is now available to those suffering from stomach cancer. Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) has become the first in Southeast Asia to perform the robotic gastrectomy procedure.

    Stomach cancer is the fifth most common cancer in Singapore, and doctors say that stomach cancer is largely triggered by poor lifestyle choices, such as overeating or eating too much barbequed food. Only a small percentage is caused by genetic factors
    .

    75-year-old Loh Ah Mye was diagnosed with stage one stomach cancer last month. But due to her age, doctors found it risky for her to go through the usual key hole surgery to remove cancer cells.

    She opted to undergo the robotic gastrectomy procedure, and became the first person in Southeast Asia to do so. The procedure is commonly performed in Korea and Japan, where the incidence of stomach cancer is high.

    Madam Loh said: "I really did recover quite quickly. When I woke up from the operation, yes I was in pain, but I could get up to walk around and also go to the toilet."

    The surgeon performing the robotic gastrectomy procedure operates on the patient through the use of a console while watching a 3D high-definition screen. Instruments, which are mounted on robotic arms controlled by the doctor, are then inserted into the body.

    The robotic arms are able to mimic the movement of the hand and the wrist within the abdomen. This allows freer movement and precision. This especially helps lymph node dissection, which is much more difficult to perform in laparoscopic surgery.

    The portion affected by cancer cells in the abdomen is then removed.

    The surgery is typically conducted on people with stage 1 and 2 cancer, when the affected area is still relatively small. Trials are underway to see if such a surgery is suitable for later stages of stomach cancer.

    Dr Jaideepraj Rao, a consultant with the Department of General Surgery at TTSH, said: "In this kind of key hole surgery or robotic surgery, the incisions are extremely small, so the pain is much less and they recover faster. We have high-definition cameras that can zoom in, so really we see the field magnified, every small structure can be identified, so our dissection is very meticulous and there's less blood loss."

    Madam Loh said she still suffers from some side-effects from the operation, as she still throws up some of her food.

    But doctors said that this is a common response to most stomach surgeries.

    Currently the robotic gastrectomy method costs more for the patient.

    However, doctors said the price is likely to drop, as they expect more people to opt for this kind of surgery. This method has also been used in other hospitals in Singapore for prostate and colon cancer.

    -CNA/ac
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    Last edited by Loh; 12-26-2011 at 08:37 AM.

  4. #5512
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    Default Changi 'in talks to buy stake in Indian airport business'

    Published on Dec 27, 2011







    Singapore's Changi Airport Group is in talks to buy a 26 per cent stake in the airport business of India's GVK Power & Infrastructure, the Economic Times reported. -- ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

    MUMBAI (REUTERS) - Changi Airport Group (CAG) is in talks to buy a 26 per cent stake in the airport business of GVK Power & Infrastructure, the Economic Times reported, potentially giving it the chance to tap into India's fast-growing air travel industry.

    CAG, which operates Changi Airport, is likely to pay between 20 billion rupees (S$490.4 million) and 22 billion rupees for the stake, the paper said on Monday, citing people close to the deal.

    At the top end of that range, GVK's airport business would be worth about 80 billion rupees.

    'The deal is in the final stages, and an announcement is likely to be made in January,' the paper quoted a person familiar with the situation as saying.
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  5. #5513
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default A national health report card for seniors

    Data from HPB's nationwide health screening will help craft prevention programmes


    by Ng Jing Yng
    04:45 AM Dec 27, 2011

    SINGAPORE - As the Republic grapples with an ageing population, policymakers would soon have a snapshot of the state of health of seniors here - a database which would also enable them to formulate better-targeted prevention programmes - as preparations begin for a major islandwide health screening exercise.

    More details have emerged about the Health Promotion Board's (HPB) plans to scale up the community health screening - which is being piloted in Jurong and Hong Kah North - following the submission of tender documents to the Government's procurement portal.

    According to the documents, the mass screening exercise will be rolled out to all other constituencies between March next year and March 2014.

    It is expected to reach out to 3,000 Singaporeans and Permanent Residents aged 60 years and above - or less than 1 per cent of the entire population in that age group. Service providers are required to consolidate participants' records and screening results for the HPB.

    This would enable the HPB to compile what is believed to be the first such database looking at functional health aspects such as vision, hearing, oral health, continence, mood and physical function.

    Participants will have to pay S$5 for the health screening, with the Government subsidising S$25.

    In response to Today's queries, HPB director (healthy ageing divison) Shyamala Thilagaratnam said: "Functional decline among the elderly can be a major public health concern as Singapore ages rapidly. This is why the HPB has introduced functional screening for the elderly, to bring to light early symptoms, so that any age-related functional decline may be managed well and older adults can remain independent, active and engaged."

    Following the pilot programme at Jurong, the HPB found that follow-up rates after the screening were between 35 per cent and 40 per cent. "Cost and perceived inconveniences of visiting a health professional" were the key hindrances, said Dr Shyamala.

    According to the tender documents, the service provider for the nationwide health screening exercise will need to provide nurse counsellors on-site to interpret screening results and to advise participants on relevant follow-up treatments.

    Dr Shyamala said the on-site follow-up will "close the loop on health screening for the elderly, by providing on-site care and consultation instead of post-screening referrals and follow-up".

    Medical professionals who spoke to Today welcomed the mass screening exercise and data collection.

    They noted that such information will allow doctors to understand elderly needs more accurately and raise awareness among seniors about their own health.

    Dr Chia Shi-Lu, who is also a Member of Parliament (MP) for Tanjong Pagar GRC, noted that data collection is a labour intensive process. And with elderly patients moving between healthcare institutions, it is difficult to track the data, he said.

    Dr Lily Neo, who is a general practitioner and also an MP, sees many elderly patients at her Tanglin Halt clinic.

    She noted that the need to protect patients' confidentiality prevents doctors from providing data to the Ministry of Health.

    Dr Neo said that data collection might be difficult as some elderly patients might also be unable to express their conditions accurately, while others might dismiss their discomfort as part of the ageing process.

    With a national database, policymakers can come up with programmes "based on hard facts rather than perceptions", Dr Chia noted.

    Dr Neo added that, for instance, if the nationwide screening exercise finds that a high proportion of seniors here are in depression, there could be a need for routine psychological assessment in future health screenings.

    However, Dr Tan Tze Lee, a GP at Edinburgh Clinic, pointed out that seniors who voluntarily go for health screening are usually those who are interested in their health and the data compiled might not be representative of the general population.

    Which is why grassroots leaders should get as many of their residents as possible to be involved in the nationwide health screening, he said.

    The HPB should also help those who cannot afford the S$5 screening fee, he added.

    Senior citizen Henry Tan, 64, noted that cost is what deters seniors from participating in health screenings. He said: "With the information ... it could provide seniors a better idea of what kind of health conditions to take note of."



    The mass screening exercise will be rolled out to all other constituencies between March next year and March 2014. TODAY FILE PHOTO
    Last edited by Loh; 12-26-2011 at 09:32 PM.

  6. #5514
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default Singapore's education plans in the years ahead


    by Hoe Yeen Nie
    07:33 PM Dec 26, 2011

    SINGAPORE - Minister of State for Education Lawrence Wong has given the assurance that publicly-funded universities will continue to play a core role in Singapore's higher-education sector.

    That means most university places will be publicly funded even as the government looks into expanding the number of university places for Singaporeans.

    The issue of too many university places going to foreign students resulting in insufficient spots for local students was hotly debated.

    Concerns were raised even as the government said an additional 2,000 university places will open up for Singaporeans by 2015.

    The quota for foreign students will also be capped at 15 per cent for the next four years.

    In August, a Committee on University Education Pathways was formed.

    Its role includes looking into ways for even more Singaporeans to attain a university education in the long term, and ensuring a robust university sector with high standards.

    One option has been the prospect of a fifth, publicly-funded university.

    Mr Wong said: "We haven't decided whether the expansion should be done through a new institution or through an expansion of an existing institution, so that's something we will deliberate (on), and discuss with different stakeholders.

    "We will have the recommendations out in due course. But if we want to expand our university sector, our focus should be on teaching, on providing young people with the relevant competencies and skills that will prepare them for the workplace.

    "And so, the concept of the teaching university was mentioned. It doesn't mean that we will definitely create a fifth university, because we can expand our existing universities."

    Mr Wong noted Singapore already has two well-established research-focused universities in the Nanyang Technological University and the National University of Singapore.

    "I think if you look around at examples of research universities, you really need critical mass, you need economies of scale to do research well," he said. "You need to bring in people together. You don't want research efforts to be fragmented and dispersed.

    "In fact, that's what's happening in France, where they are trying to pool together some of their research universities to create that critical mass because they had developed in a more diverse and disparate manner.

    "When you look at our sector in Singapore, I think you have research-intensive universities like NUS and NTU that are doing well. I don't think we need to develop even more research-intensive universities for a small country like Singapore."

    The committee will also consider expanding other university pathway options, through private institutions, part-time degrees, and Continuing Education and Training (CET).

    But Mr Wong stressed that publicly-funded universities will continue to be at the heart of Singapore's higher education function.

    "When you have a publicly-funded institution, you are able to think through the programmes you are offering, you are able to ensure a certain quality in the programmes you are offering, you are able to make sure that the mix of offerings that you have is closely tied to the industry," he said.

    "So there is that much more linkage with the outcomes you want to achieve when you have publicly-funded institutions."

    Besides higher education, the Ministry of Education is also reviewing the teaching and learning methods to raise the quality and consistency within the pre-school education sector.

    The government has said it wants to ensure pre-schools here provide a holistic education for children, through play, arts, creativity and innovation.

    It also wants to see an easier transition for children going from kindergarten to primary school.

    The Singapore Pre-school Accreditation Framework (SPARK), a voluntary quality assurance programme, was implemented early this year.

    It is open to kindergartens, as well as childcare centres, which fall under the directive of the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS).

    MCYS does not rule out making SPARK mandatory for all pre-schools.

    Character development may also be introduced into the childcare education sector.

    That is in line with a similar initiative for primary, secondary and tertiary institutions.

    "We also want to ensure that we start instilling values in children at a very young age, not necessarily in a very class-roomy way, but in a fun way, where they learn about important things, about honesty, sincerity, hard work, caring for each other," said Minister of State for MCYS Halimah Yacob.

    "I don't think it will be so structured, like in terms of a specific lesson, but there's a lot of things we can do through play, through teaching.

    "For example, for physical education, we have a new framework which was launched together with the sports council, where you sort of integrate that into the children's curriculum, instead of saying, 'let's have a specific class on physical education'.

    "But even when you're reading, playing with them, you could structure some part of physical activities.

    "I think it's the same with (teaching) values...Children learn a lot by interacting with adults, and through play, and through a different way, instead of a more didactic way of teaching values."

    As far as curriculum is concerned, the focus will be on the recently-launched "Early Years Development Framework" for children up to the age of three.

    Over the years, there have been calls for kindergarten and the childcare industry to come under the regulation of one ministry, but Madam Halimah said this would not be easy.

    She said: "There are issues which both ministries -- whether you feel that everything should go under the Ministry of Education or everything should go under my ministry -- need to iron out.

    "Because, if you look at childcare centres, a significant part of the operations provides custodial care, and that may not necessarily be up the alley of the Ministry of Education.

    "So we do feel that so long as you have a method, a vehicle where both ministries can work together, and we could see that consistency and quality, that is more important."

    The special needs education sector will also expand in the coming years.

    By 2013, the government will add a total of 450 places to two special education (SPED) schools -- 150 for Metta School and 300 for Pathlight School.

    It is also pumping S$30 million to refurbish these schools.

    To raise the quality of education in the sector, the ministry is rolling out a SPED Outcomes and Curriculum Framework, which Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education Sim Ann said will help the diverse SPED schools share a common language with the ministry.

    The framework sets out the vision for SPED as well as desired outcomes the students should achieve.

    MOE aims to release the final framework by the end of 2012.
    Last edited by Loh; 12-26-2011 at 09:47 PM.

  7. #5515
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default Barrier-free access?

    Disabled students are making their mark in mainstream schools, VWOs say it's time we plug the gaps to help fully integrate them


    by Ng Jing Yng
    04:45 AM Dec 26, 2011

    SINGAPORE - Noor Iskandaria Mohd Dena, 16, who was born with cerebral palsy and gets around on a wheelchair, has a quiet determination about him.

    Speaking to this reporter last week, the soft-spoken Changkat Changi Secondary School student shared how he has never allowed his physical challenges to stop him from doing the things he wants to do.

    Two years ago, with the help of volunteers from the Asian Women's Welfare Association (AWWA), Iskandaria scaled Mount Ophir in Malaysia. "It was very tiring ... but you just keep going and in the end, you did it," said Iskandaria, who also takes part in handcycling competitions.

    Students like Iskandaria who have physical or sensory disabilities and are studying in mainstream schools make up roughly 0.1 per cent of the cohort.

    And while resources and early detection with better medical intervention have kept the numbers steady, Singapore Association For The Deaf (SADeaf) president Low Wong Kein reiterated that "every child counts" - and in Singapore's case, there are about 500 of these children in mainstream schools.

    At higher learning institutes, students with disabilities - including those with autism and other learning difficulties - make up 1 per cent of the cohort, or 1,569 students.

    According to the Ministry of Education (MOE), the majority are students who have physical or sensory disabilities.

    Voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) told Today that more can be done to support students who have physical or sensory disabilities, even though the numbers are small and resources limited.


    The physically disabled: Better integration

    Iskandaria has been able to take part in activities most children take for granted, thanks to AWWA's TEACH ME programme, which is funded by the MOE and the National Council of Social Service (NCSS). It organises activities like soccer games for students with physical disabilities and provides emotional guidance and physical therapy.

    Teachers are now more open to accommodating these students with the introduction of allied educators in mainstream schools, but there remains resistance from some due to a lack of awareness and a fear of inadequacy, said TEACH ME programme director J R Karthikeyan.

    For a start, more provisions can be made to allow more integration of such students into non-academic lessons like physical education.

    Said Mr Karthik: "These children need to be part of the community and similarly for the rest, to learn to be accepting of others."


    The hearing-impaired: Smoother transition and help at the tertiary level

    Infrastructure-wise, there are currently 38 primary and 30 secondary schools fitted with full handicapped facilities like slope ramps on every floor and lifts.

    At the tertiary level, the National University of Singapore (NUS) has made 80 per cent of its older buildings barrier-free, while Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has upgraded its facilities to introduce interconnectivity between buildings.

    However, a more systemic approach to develop barrier-free facilities at common school areas is needed, as it is still lacking in many facilities like libraries, said Disabled People's Association honorary secretary Chang Siew Ngoh.

    When Moulmein-Kallang GRC Member of Parliament Denise Phua recently suggested in Parliament that the MOE introduce note-takers and signers for hearing-impaired students in tertiary institutions, she might have had students like Ngee Ann Polytechnic student Chua Kim Leng in mind.

    Said Kim Leng, who is hearing impaired: "I am in a totally 'silent world' during lectures ... I had to rely on my classmates for any sort of important information and copy down whatever they wrote down on their lecture notes."

    Responding to Ms Phua's suggestion, Senior Parliamentary Secretary (Education) Hawazi Daipi reiterated that systems are in place to support these students. Moreover, they can also rely on the kindness of their peers, he said.

    But in an email interview, Ms Phua said that from her experience, "relying on compassion alone is insufficient". "The peers who are kind ... cannot be always available," she added.

    According to SADeaf, there is also a need for a smoother transition for deaf students when they move from Special Education schools to designated secondary schools.

    SADeaf's Dr Low suggested having satellite classrooms run by the association in mainstream primary schools for students who require signing.

    "By allowing them to have some suitable shared lessons and to provide additional guidance in a mainstream setting, they will be less disadvantaged when they proceed to the secondary schools," he said.

    The MOE currently has four designated hearing-impaired mainstream schools, up from two last year.

    Every school has at least one trained teacher in learning disabilities and allied educators, while at NTU, students from its Welfare Services' Club sign during lectures if needed.


    The visually-impaired: Keeping parents informed

    Until recently, Mrs Kelly Tan, 48, had left it to school teachers to pay extra attention to her Primary 5 daughter, who has low vision, during classes.

    But after being referred to AWWA's TEACH ME programme last month, she is hopeful that her withdrawn daughter will be able to interact better with people, and is grateful for a source she can approach to clarify doubts on her child's condition.

    Mr Karthik said that AWWA is working with the NCSS on the possibility of kick-starting home visits for children with low vision.

    But instead of having students referred on an ad-hoc basis, a systematic process on school referrals would assist parents better, he suggested.

    With lessons these days often taught in a visually-oriented way, teachers in mainstream schools need to be trained to better involve their blind students, said a member of the Singapore Association of the Visually Impaired.

    There are currently four designated schools for the visually impaired.

    At NTU, where most of its 250 physically disabled students are visually-impaired, lift buttons of newer buildings have Braille numbers. At the National University of Singapore, faculty members meet students with disabilities at the start of each semester to better understand their needs.


    Parking Lot for the Disabled at Victoria Theatre. Photo by TREVOR TAN TR180606.
    Last edited by Loh; 12-26-2011 at 10:06 PM.

  8. #5516
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    Default Research talent pool grows

    28,000 here last year, as R&D expenditure rises to S$6.5b

    04:46 AM Dec 28, 2011

    SINGAPORE - Singapore's research talent pool continues to expand steadily, as both public and private spending on research and development continues to rise.

    According to the latest National Survey of R&D 2010, the number of research scientists and engineers in the public and private sectors rose 6.4 per cent to about 28,000 last year.

    The survey, published yesterday by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), said the figure stood at around 26,600 in 2009. More than half (55.3 per cent) of these scientists and engineers were employed in the private sector.


    Demand for research scientists and engineers with PhDs also remains strong, as seen by the increase in PhD employment in both the public and private sectors. The public sector reported an increase of 11.4 per cent in those with PhDs, from some 5,400 in 2009 to more than 6,000 last year.

    New PhD hires in the private sector grew 7.8 per cent, from 1,275 in 2009 to 1,375 last year.

    Meanwhile, gross expenditure on R&D (GERD) rose 7.4 per cent from S$6 billion in 2009 to S$6.5 billion last year. Public expenditure on R&D hit a new high of S$2.5 billion last year - an increase of 9.6 per cent from the S$2.3 billion spent in 2009.

    Business expenditure on R&D, an indicator of private sector spending in research, grew 6 per cent from S$3.7 billion in 2009 to S$3.9 billion last year.


    The growth in actual expenditure was not reflected in GERD as a percentage of GDP, which dipped slightly from 2.3 per cent in 2009 to 2.14 per cent last year, due to Singapore's exceptional 13.9 per cent GDP growth last year.

    However, the compound annual growth rate of GERD from 2000 to 2010 remained high at 8 per cent, reflecting the nation's sustained growth in R&D.

    More than 1,000 organisations from the private and public sector participated in the survey.




    Employment of researchers with PhDs grew in both the public and private sectors. Today file photo
    Last edited by Loh; 12-27-2011 at 07:37 PM.

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    Default Students pin hopes on a concrete breakthrough with algae


    by Esther Ng
    04:45 AM Dec 28, 2011

    SINGAPORE - Concrete road kerbs and drains could be made with algae instead of sand, if a group of Singapore Polytechnic students' final year project becomes commercially viable.

    The School of Architecture and the Built Environment students found that a mix of algae and cement is strong enough for non-load bearing structures such as precast concrete drain sections, wheel stoppers in car parks and wall partitions.

    And the students' finding might potentially be the construction industry's silver bullet, given recent bans on sand exports by neighbouring countries and the emphasis on sustainable construction methods.

    Compared to sand, algae is freely available from water catchment areas here and is more environmentally-friendly. "The alkaline chemical in cement affects the skin and breathing in too much of cement particles makes your lung harden. Wet algae reduces these harmful effects," said team member Athirah Rusli, 19.

    She added: "Rather than incinerate the algae collected from cleaning up water catchment areas, algae's binding strength can be put to construction use."

    Experimenting with various proportions of algae and cement, students found a mix containing 40 per cent algae and 60 per cent cement to be the strongest.

    The students have yet to approach companies in the construction industry for commercialisation as they have just completed the project. However, they hope their idea will impress industry players at Singapore Polytechnic's Engineering Show next weekend.

    When contacted, construction firm Penta Ocean's deputy general manager Desmond Hill commended the students for their efforts towards "sustainable construction".

    "In the old days, non-structural installations like drainages and road kerbs were made from recyclable aggregates like stones," he said, but added that more studies on the long-term impact on algae's use is needed.

    "We need to assess the serviceability element - will the structure deteriorate after five years?" he said.

    Concurring, Hexagroup's project director Lim Hong Leong said: "For the product to succeed it must be priced lower than normal precast components and overcome the psychological barrier of being made from waste."

    A tonne of sand costs around S$42 per tonne now, down from S$60 per tonne at its peak four years ago when Indonesia banned sand exports. Ready-mix concrete, however, now costs S$109 per cubic metre, up from S$66 per cubic metre in 2007.


    (From left) Singapore Polytechnic students Irmahyunita Misnadi, Nur Fathin, Athirah Rusli and Michelle Chan examining a slab of concrete made with algae (inset) and cement. Photo by Esther Ng

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    Default 50 proposals for NMPs submitted


    by S Ramesh
    09:37 PM Dec 27, 2011

    SINGAPORE - Fifty proposals have been submitted for consideration as Nominated Members of Parliament for Singapore's 12th Parliament.

    Of these, 34 are from the general public and 16 from seven functional groups representing a broad spectrum of society.

    The Office of the Clerk of Parliament on Tuesday said the Special Select Committee has consulted elected Members of Parliament on their views of the proposed candidates.

    The committee will meet early next month to consider the eligible candidates.

    Members of the committee are Speaker Michael Palmer (Chairman), Minister of Defence and Leader of the House Dr Ng Eng Hen, Senior Minister of State for Information, Communications & the Arts and Environment & Water Resources Grace Fu, Minister of State for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs Masagos Zulkifli, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Law Sim Ann, as well as MPs Dr Janil Puthucheary, Ellen Lee and Low Thia Khiang.

    Between 2 November and 8 December 2011, the committee invited members of the public and functional groups to nominate people who they feel have what it takes to be NMPs.

    The NMP scheme was started in 1990 for Singaporeans who have distinguished themselves to contribute to the political process through independent and non-partisan views in Parliament.

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    Default Singapore's sports future in trio's hands

    by Philip Goh Haw Hann
    04:46 AM Dec 28, 2011

    SINGAPORE - With the S$1.33 billion Sports Hub slated to be ready by April 2014, the task of charting Singapore's sporting future will take on greater urgency.

    Apart from ensuring Singapore athletes reach the standard befitting of the world-class facility, the Republic's top sports administrators will also have to scour for ideas to reinvigorate the local sporting scene, and make Singaporeans fall in love with sports again.

    Before becoming chairman of the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) last October, Richard Seow was better known as a sprinting prodigy, and the nation's fastest schoolboy in the late '70s.

    Brigadier-General (NS) Lim Teck Yin started his tenure as the chief executive of the SSC in April and the former national water polo star's credentials include six SEA Games gold medals and an Asian Games bronze in 1986.

    Completing the triumvirate was Major-General (NS) Chan Chun Sing, who was appointed Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) following the General Election in May.

    Together, the trio enjoyed a steady start as they strive to bring Singapore sport to the next level.

    Compared to last year, when the Republic hosted the inaugural Youth Olympic Games and had successful outings at the Commonwealth and Asian Games, this year has not been as frenetic though no less an important year for sports.

    Apart from sending one of the bigger contingents to the biennial SEA Games - which yielded 160 medals, of which 42 were gold - the Republic also hosted the Netball and Canoe Marathon World Championships, as well as the Volkswagen Women's Table Tennis World Cup.

    The SingTel Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix night race, no doubt, continues to be the "jewel" in the annual Formula 1 calendar.

    Attracting bigger and better international sporting events to the Lion City will continue to be one of the key remits for these administrators as Singapore aims to cement itself as the region's premier sports hub.

    Judging from the wide variety of sporting events in Singapore over the past 12 months - these include extreme sailing, powerboats, women's tennis exhibition, an international basketball game between Australia and China, as well as the visit of football legends Pele and Eric Cantona to promote the New York Cosmos - there is certainly no shortage of parties keen to woo Singapore.

    Former Singapore international footballer R Sasikumar feels it is important that Chan, Seow and Lim speak to private promoters to find out what they have in mind.

    As head of sports marketing company Red Card, Sasikumar partnered the Football Association of Singapore to organise the Canon Lion City Cup 2011 which saw Singapore's under-15 and under-16 teams take on youth teams from Juventus, Flamengo, Everton and Newcastle.

    "Perhaps the SSC can take more risks with sports that Singaporeans are less familiar with," said Sasikumar. "They can also help to grow the industry by making their venues more affordable or consider underwriting the rental cost."

    Financing is also a key issue which Annabel Pennefather, president of the Singapore Hockey Federation (SHF), hopes the MCYS and the SSC can help address.

    "2012 could be a big year for us as we have been approached by the FIH (hockey's governing body) to host the launch event for their new initiative, the World Hockey League, which is set to be their new qualifying route for future World Cups and Olympics," said Pennefather.

    According to Pennefather, the SHF are unable to commit to hosting the 12-team event (six each from men and women) scheduled for next August due to uncertainty in funding.

    "We did ask the SSC for assistance and were told to expect the answer in February," she said.

    "In the meantime, we have agreed to hold the Asian Hockey Federation Cup for women next year which will cost at least S$100,000, with the cost of hiring the Sengkang Hockey Stadium from the SSC taking up the bulk of the cost."

    Nine months ago, former national sailor Koh Seng Leong, who competed at the 2000 Sydney and 2008 Beijing Olympics, switched to shooting.

    Aiming to don Singapore colours as a trap shooter, the 28-year-old has been training five times a week, with the Singapore Shooting Association subsidising his training costs.

    Recently back from a self-funded trip to the Thailand Open, Koh is aware he will need more exposure to overseas competitions to continue his development as a shooter. But without funding assistance, he will not be able to afford those trips, while the only way to get funding is to show results.

    It is a conundrum which he hopes can be addressed by the nation's sports administrators.

    "I hope the SSC will look into the issue of how to identify talent and allocate funding to develop them, and recognise that athletes need a little help before they can start showing some results," said Koh.

    As for Singapore Rugby Union president Low Teo Ping, he sees a more active role for SSC's Seow and Lim.

    "The SSC needs to become more proactive and less reactive," said Low. "Sports is about participation, high performance and the business of entertainment. The SSC should be the leading agency and be more independent in shaping the direction for sports in Singapore."



    Chan Chun Sing. TODAY FILE PHOTO



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    Default S'pore Red Cross to send 2nd team to Philippines

    Posted: 27 December 2011 1730 hrs


    SINGAPORE: The Singapore Red Cross (SRC) is sending its second team of seven personnel to the Philippines on Wednesday.

    They will bring relief items to 47 relief centres in Cagayan De Oro City.

    The centres are temporary shelters to over 12,000 displaced families affected by Typhoon Washi which struck southern Mindanao on 17 December.

    The SRC said the second team will be distributing S$200,000 worth of food and items donated by Singaporeans.

    The items in a "Family Christmas Pack" include food, clothing, blankets, school supplies and footwear for children.

    The first relief team returned from their mission on Christmas eve.

    Secretary General of Singapore Red Cross, Mr Christopher Chua, who was in the first team, will be returning to the Philippines to lead the second team.

    He said: "Our hearts go out to the families at the 47 relief centres who had to spend their festive season there. Many had already decorated their houses for the festive holiday and to suddenly lose it is very disheartening.

    "We hope that these Family Christmas Packs will bring some happiness to the families, especially the children who will be able to use some of the school supplies to prepare them for school in January."

    The Malay-Muslim community is also organising a fundraiser. Donation boxes will be placed on Friday at all 69 mosques in Singapore.

    - CNA/al

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    Default Born, at long last: Night Safari welcomes baby giraffe

    Published on Dec 28, 2011






    Dobeni, a South African giraffe at the Night Safari, licking her male calf at the park on Friday. Born on Dec 5, the 75kg, 1.88m-tall baby giraffe is still unnamed.

    Visitors to the Night Safari will get to see the calf in February.



    -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND LIM
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    Default More apply for Primary Care Partnership Scheme

    By Hoe Yeen Nie | Posted: 28 December 2011 2143 hrs

    File photo of a patient consulting a doctor

    SINGAPORE: The number of monthly applicants to the Primary Care Partnership Scheme has doubled since August.

    The scheme gives elderly, low-income Singaporeans access to subsidised care at private general practitioner (GP) and dental clinics.

    On Wednesday, Minister of State for Health Amy Khor made routine house visits to residents in her constituency.

    During her visit, Dr Khor gave out pamphlets to raise public awareness on the Primary Care Partnership Scheme.

    Since August, about 2,000 people have signed up for the subsidised healthcare programme every month.

    This is double the application rate for January to July.

    It brings the total number of residents on the scheme to 37,500, up from 31,000 previously.

    Dr Khor said she expects applications to go up further, once changes to the scheme come into effect.

    In August, the scheme was expanded so that more people would qualify.

    The income ceiling was doubled to S$1,500 for each member of the household, while the minimum age was lowered from 65 to 40. The changes kick in on 15 January.

    There have been some calls to do away with the age limit, most recently by Member of Parliament Lam Pin Min, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health.

    But Dr Khor said the ministry will assess the scheme and public response before making further changes.

    It is also working to increase the number of participating GP and dental clinics.

    The number of participating clinics has gone up by about 10 per cent since August.

    Previously, participating clinics made up only 20 per cent of the total pool of GP and dental clinics..

    There are currently 440 GP clinics and 210 dental clinics on the scheme, up about 10 per cent from the previous 409 GP clinics and 190 dental clinics.

    "We are working to see how we can provide them with some technical help. We are in talks with various firms to see whether we can have a computer system to alleviate this issue about being put off by the paperwork," Dr Khor said.

    In addition, authorities are looking at ways for GPs to get access to cheaper drugs, so that further savings can be passed on to patients.

    - CNA/wk

  15. #5523
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    Default More apply for Primary Care Partnership Scheme

    By Hoe Yeen Nie | Posted: 28 December 2011 2143 hrs

    File photo of a patient consulting a doctor

    SINGAPORE: The number of monthly applicants to the Primary Care Partnership Scheme has doubled since August.

    The scheme gives elderly, low-income Singaporeans access to subsidised care at private general practitioner (GP) and dental clinics.

    On Wednesday, Minister of State for Health Amy Khor made routine house visits to residents in her constituency.

    During her visit, Dr Khor gave out pamphlets to raise public awareness on the Primary Care Partnership Scheme.

    Since August, about 2,000 people have signed up for the subsidised healthcare programme every month.

    This is double the application rate for January to July.

    It brings the total number of residents on the scheme to 37,500, up from 31,000 previously.

    Dr Khor said she expects applications to go up further, once changes to the scheme come into effect.

    In August, the scheme was expanded so that more people would qualify.

    The income ceiling was doubled to S$1,500 for each member of the household, while the minimum age was lowered from 65 to 40. The changes kick in on 15 January.

    There have been some calls to do away with the age limit, most recently by Member of Parliament Lam Pin Min, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health.

    But Dr Khor said the ministry will assess the scheme and public response before making further changes.

    It is also working to increase the number of participating GP and dental clinics.

    The number of participating clinics has gone up by about 10 per cent since August.

    Previously, participating clinics made up only 20 per cent of the total pool of GP and dental clinics..

    There are currently 440 GP clinics and 210 dental clinics on the scheme, up about 10 per cent from the previous 409 GP clinics and 190 dental clinics.

    "We are working to see how we can provide them with some technical help. We are in talks with various firms to see whether we can have a computer system to alleviate this issue about being put off by the paperwork," Dr Khor said.

    In addition, authorities are looking at ways for GPs to get access to cheaper drugs, so that further savings can be passed on to patients.

    - CNA/wk
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    Default Students develop "The Personal Tracker"

    By Monica Kotwani | Posted: 28 December 2011 1721 hrs
    SINGAPORE: Four Ngee Ann Polytechnic students have devised a mobile phone application that is able to track one's whereabouts in real time.

    Called the "The Personal Tracker", the application is the work of the polytechnic's final-year information technology students.

    It has been piloted by one healthcare service provider to keep track of its elderly clients.

    63-year-old Chey Yat Hoe, a self-confessed technophile, was one of the first to get his hands on The Personal Tracker.

    He tested the tracker as part of a pilot study facilitated by Econ Healthcare, a health services provider at Golden Jasmine where Chey resides.

    He said: "It's very easy because it's light, and you just key a few digits, and you are able to call, get the application up. My wife and my son straight away know where I am.

    "So even if I go out, my wife will know where I am, whether it's in a taxi or in a shopping centre."

    On whether a tracking system invades his privacy, Chey said: "It's a small price to pay for one's safety.

    "A little bit of sacrifice in this area, (but) you have more benefits - more people know where you are, they are able to trace you. As we grow old, retired people, old people, should have these kinds of things.

    "I think as long as we are still alive, technology is catching up, since the days of the automated teller machine. That was the first step of upgrading into the IT world. Sooner or later, you are forced to use it."

    The app works on two levels. When the application is installed on a user's smartphone, healthcare providers, for instance, are able to track, in real-time, the location of their charges on a central computer system.

    Then, there is the app's mobile function. Because it was designed for the elderly, who may not always be comfortable using smart phones, the app tracker features very basic instructions.

    Pressing the 'help', for instance, will send out an alert to the server, as well as an SMS to the person's caregiver. The SMS is attached with a map that pinpoints the location of the mobile phone user.

    It took the four final-year students (Nicholas Ooi, Eric Lee, Shou Yee and Thomas Tan) from Ngee Ann Polytechnic some eight months to get the application up and running.

    They received S$137,000 in funding from the TOTE Board which went towards purchasing the software, as well as the hardware such as smart phones.

    The boys, all from the School of Information Technology, also had to contend with different operating systems.

    Nicholas Ooi, one of the developers of The Personal Tracker, said: "We had to develop it on three different platforms - the iPhone, Android and Windows 7. We wrote the application three times to ensure stability."

    The developers are looking to conduct another pilot study covering a bigger group in April next year.

    However, there is one other hurdle to overcome - not all seniors are as tech-savvy as Chey.

    Rose Tan, another resident of Golden Jasmine, said: "For the old generation like my friends and me, I don't think we'd want to have this type of phone - because each time they have a new phone, they have to learn everything (over again.

    "It's too much to learn, and if I want to learn, I have to take notes - how to operate this, how to operate that. I'm not so keen on new technology."

    Going forward, the team hopes to commercialise the idea and expand its use to track courier services and even food delivery.

    The four students have set up a company called Towards IT Technology with S$3,000 of seed money from the Polytechnic's EnterpriZe Scheme.

    Ooi said: "Most of the applications out there are one-to-one. We are developing our application for organisations - which is one-to-many.

    "We are customising our application for sections like courier services and food dispatchers. You can actually keep track (of), for example, the riders. Customers will (also) be able to find where the riders are - from the outlet to their (customer's) home. You can see it from point to point."

    - CNA/al
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    Default More room to party at biggest countdown in Singapore

    Two new areas mean more space for revellers at Marina Bay event

    Published on Dec 30, 2011


    Fireworks at the Marina Bay New Year Countdown 2010. -- PHOTO: THE ESPLANADE CO LTD



    By Jermyn Chow

    Two new areas facing Marina Bay will allow more revellers to be part of Singapore's biggest New Year countdown party tomorrow night.

    A 3,000 sq m lawn next to the recently opened Marina Bay Financial Centre and the 5,000 sq m promenade in front of the Marina Bay Sands ArtScience Museum will provide extra standing room for some 16,000 partygoers to ring in 2012.

    This is in addition to 10 other designated spots along the waterfront and the Padang where people can watch live music performances and view the fireworks display.
    Related Links

    BIG BAY PARTY

    Background story

    Where else to party

    At Universal Studios: The Boogie Countdown at the movie theme park includes the launch of its newest attraction Hollywood Dreams Parade, fireworks show Lake Hollywood Spectacular and live performances by tribute bands playing songs by The Beatles, the Bee Gees and Abba.

    Tickets cost $68 for adults, $48 for children between four and 12 years old, and $28 for over-65s.

    At Siloso Beach: Singapore's largest beach countdown party will feature international DJs like DJ Shy and K-Sly, who will be spinning 12 hours of non-stop music.
    Starts at 6pm. Tickets cost $49.

    With Singapore Idols Taufik Batisah and Hady Mirza at Rivervale Crescent: The countdown party organised by Punggol East SMC will also feature the finals of the Punggol East Talent Mania II contest.

    More than 10,000 residents at the party will also pen their wishes and aspirations for next year on sky lanterns. Starts at 8.30pm. Admission is free.

    With new immigrants and expatriates at Tiong Bahru Park: This party will feature local DJ Andrew T and local youth indie bands Eleventh Hour and Juz Members. MediaCorp artist Rui En and Singapore Idol Hady Mirza will also perform.
    Starts at 9pm. Admission is free.


    Background story

    Extended train, bus services

    TRANSPORT operators SMRT and SBS Transit will extend their train, light rail transit (LRT) and selected bus services on New Year's Eve tomorrow.

    Trains: Services on the North-South, East-West and Circle lines run by SMRT will have their operating hours extended. Information on the last connecting trains will be posted on notice boards at the relevant stations.

    The North-East Line run by SBS Transit will also run until later, and arrive at an average of five to 61/2 minutes apart.

    LRT: The Bukit Panjang LRT service will have its operating hours extended, with the last train leaving Choa Chu Kang LRT station at 3.10am.

    Service on the Sengkang and Punggol LRT lines will be extended to match the last-train timings on the North-East Line.

    Buses: Fourteen SMRT bus services will be diverted from 11.30pm tomorrow to 1am on Sunday due to the road closures for the Marina Bay countdown.

    Another 27 services run by SBS Transit will be similarly affected by road closures around Marina Bay and around Boon Lay Place as well.

    Several SMRT feeder bus services will be extended past 3am to coincide with the last MRT train timings.

    The operating hours for 26 SBS Transit feeder services and three other bus services - 97, 133 and 400 - will also be extended tomorrow.

    Both SMRT's NightRider and SBS Transit's Nite Owl services linking city areas to the suburbs will also be running until 4.35am for NightRider and until 4am for Nite Owl services.

    Commuters may contact SMRT customer relations on 1800-336-8900 today from 7.30am to 6.30pm or visit www.smrt.com.sg for more information.

    For information on SBS Transit bus services, visit www.sbstransit.com.sg
    SMRT issued an advisory yesterday on what to do in case train services become unavailable due to unforeseen circumstances.
    Commuters are advised to:

    • Remain calm and avoid going to or crowding around the vicinity of the affected station or stations;

    • Walk to the nearest available station or intended destination if possible;
    • Proceed to the nearest bus stop, taxi stand or identified bus bridging point;
    • Tune in to local news stations for updates;
    • Follow the instructions of police officers and SMRT staff for better flow of commuters and traffic.


    Besides the new vantage points, it will be the first time that partygoers will be ushering in the new year at the mega party framed against a newly-completed city skyline.
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