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  1. #6070
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    Default President Tony Tan hosts annual diplomatic reception at Istana

    Posted: 15 May 2012 2127 hrs

    The Istana Main Building


    SINGAPORE: President Tony Tan Keng Yam hosted his first annual diplomatic reception at the Istana on Tuesday evening.

    The glittering event is a networking opportunity for heads of diplomatic missions, as well as heads of representative offices of international organisations accredited to Singapore.

    Among those who attended the reception were Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his cabinet ministers, and senior civil servants.

    - CNA/de
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  2. #6071
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    Default Singapore reaffirms support for positive changes in Myanmar

    Posted: 15 May 2012 2121 hrs


    Myanmar Foreign Affairs Minister Wunna Maung Lwin


    SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has reaffirmed Singapore's support for the positive changes in Myanmar and the Myanmar's government's capacity-building efforts.

    Mr Lee made these remarks during a meeting with Myanmar's Union Minister for Foreign Affairs U Wunna Maung Lwin on Tuesday.

    Mr U Wunna Maung Lwin updated Mr Lee on recent developments in Myanmar and expressed appreciation for Singapore's support towards Myanmar's reforms.

    The Myanmar minister also called on Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Law K. Shanmugam on Tuesday.

    Both ministers welcomed the progress made in implementing the Memorandum of Understanding on the Singapore-Myanmar Technical Cooperation Programme which they signed during the State Visit by Myanmar President U Thein Sein to Singapore in January this year.

    Mr Shanmugam reiterated Singapore's readiness to assist Myanmar in its preparations for the 2014 ASEAN Chairmanship. They also exchanged views on how the bilateral relationship could be further enhanced.

    Mr U Wunna Maung Lwin had called on Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong on Monday, where they discussed recent developments in Myanmar and ways to strengthen bilateral ties.

    - CNA/de
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  3. #6072
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    Default 400 set to compete in indoor skydiving world championships

    Posted: 15 May 2012 1503 hrs


    Visitors at the iFly facility in Sentosa.


    SINGAPORE: The world's largest indoor skydiving wind tunnel, iFly Singapore, will be the venue of the first indoor skydiving world championships in the Asia Pacific.

    Up to 400 flyers are expected to compete in the professional and amateur categories during the event from December 13 to 16.


    They stand to win cash and prizes worth over S$150,000.

    One of Singapore's representatives will be Team Firefly, comprising 10-year old Kyra Poh and 11-year old Choo Yixuan.

    The two girls have been training for over a year at iFly Singapore and can execute tough manoeuvres, such as flying in the head-down position.

    They will compete under the professional category.

    The state-of-the-art wind tunnel in Sentosa provides the opportunity to fly in an easily accessible, realistic, safe and affordable setting.

    - CNA/cc
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  4. #6073
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    Default Yale College faculty statement an "internal issue": Education Minister

    By Sharon See | Posted: 14 May 2012 2358 hrs


    Heng Swee Keat


    SINGAPORE: The Education Ministry shares the same disappointment expressed by NUS and many Singaporeans about the resolution passed by the Yale College faculty members, said Education Minister Heng Swee Keat.

    But this was essentially an internal issue to Yale, which was being addressed by the Yale administration, Mr Heng said in a written parliamentary reply to MP for Marine Parade GRC Tin Pei Ling.

    He said the Yale administration has also discussed with NUS on how they could jointly correct any misconceptions about Singapore among the different stakeholders of the university.

    Mr Heng noted that several thoughtful Singaporeans and foreigners who understood Singapore well had written in various fora to provide fair and objective perspectives of Singapore's society.

    He said how others view Singapore would be shaped to a large extent by their interactions with Singaporeans here and overseas.

    "We must therefore continue to encourage such interactions. All of us have a role in helping others better understand Singapore, our values and our way of life," Mr Heng said.

    The Yale-NUS College is expected to admit its first cohort of students in August 2013.

    Mr Heng noted that there was strong interest from students, and the college had received over 800 applications in its first admission exercise.

    Mr Heng said the college had also made good progress in faculty recruitment and curriculum development.

    - CNA/wm
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  5. #6074
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    Default Comprehensive, active strategy needed to help low-income families

    By S. Ramesh | Posted: 14 May 2012 1458 hrs


    Mr Tan Chuan-Jin speaking in Parliament (file picture)


    SINGAPORE: Parliament on Monday discussed the "shock therapy" proposed by former National Wages Council chairman Lim Chong Yah to improve the wages of low-income workers.

    On May Day during a wide-ranging speech, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had commented on the proposal and said he disagreed with Professor Lim's idea to raise the wages of lower-income workers by pushing up the wages of low-wage workers rapidly by 50 percent in three years.

    Mr Lee emphasised that the only realistic way is to move step by step with wage and productivity moving up together.

    He warned that sharp wage increases without a corresponding productivity improvement will make low-wage workers worse off.

    Giving a full reply on Monday in Parliament, Minister of State for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin said what's needed is a comprehensive and active strategy to help low-income families improve their overall quality of life and share in Singapore's continued progress.

    Mr Tan said: "Helping lower-income workers and their families is not confined to jobs alone. We have enhanced our housing grants and subsidies to help lower-income families own their own homes and this has enabled many of my residents to either own their own flats or rent at below-market rentals.

    "We have also expanded education subsidies and programmes to give their children a leg up in education. We have improved access to affordable healthcare, including long term care for the aged.

    "In this year's Budget, we introduced further, major initiatives, to take us forward in building an inclusive Singapore. On the ground, all of us can see how these various efforts can impact on the lives of those who fall under the lower income bracket."

    Replying to four questions raised by MPs on the subject, he explained that wages at the lower end have in fact picked up significantly over the past five years for most lower-wage workers.

    Adjusting for inflation, the real incomes of Singaporean workers at the 20th percentile grew by 11.5 percent, or 2.2 percent per annum from 2006 to last year.

    Turning to Singaporean households at the 20th percentile, Mr Tan added that household income per member grew by 13.6 percent in real terms in the last five years.

    Last year, those in the bottom 20 percent in fact saw the highest percentage growth in income per member.

    Mr Tan said: "This improvement at the household level reflected not just the rise in individual wages in the last five years, but also the fact that more members of the household have found employment in an economy that has created many new jobs.

    "It is also worth recognising that this significant growth in incomes in the last five years occurred despite the rise in the proportion of foreign workers in the workforce."

    However, Mr Tan added that while the broad group of lower-income workers has seen better real incomes, some Singaporeans in specific low-wage occupations have not experienced this improvement in incomes, like office cleaners who are amongst the lowest paid in the workforce.

    Mr Tan outlined three strategies to raise wages.

    First, Singapore has seen that the incomes of lower-wage workers are badly affected when the economy falls into recession or does poorly.

    So, the country has to ensure that it recovers quickly each time the economy takes a dip.

    Secondly, Singapore must invest in and continuously improve the productivity, innovation and skills of companies and workers.

    Mr Tan warned that without significant productivity improvements in the next decade, the nation will not be able to improve incomes significantly and on a sustained basis for Singaporeans.

    The third strategy is to ensure that lower-wage workers in particular benefit from growth.

    Mr Tan said: "To summarise, we are addressing the problem of low-wage through a multi-pronged approach. First, broad-based approaches to improve productivity, skills and incomes; and second, targeted approaches that address issues specific to certain sectors.

    "Not just economy-wide incentives, but industry by industry, company by company, working on a tripartite basis to put in place concrete plans to restructure companies' operations, upgrade jobs and tie in wage gains with productivity improvements."

    Mr Tan stressed that while the government will do its part, it will also work with business owners, and unions and workers to ensure the country makes real progress so that all Singaporeans, especially lower-wage workers, can look forward to better jobs and higher incomes.

    However, opposition MP Sylvia Lim pointed out that the links between productivity and wages at the sectoral levels are weak.

    She said: "In particular, there was a report put up by MTI in 2011, which mentioned certain sectors where there have been productivity gains for example in electronics but the wage gains were not apparently moving in tandem."

    Mr Tan replied: "At the macro level, indeed, we have found that the level of productivity increases over the last decade has moved roughly in sync with wages but Ms Sylvia Lim is also correct to say that there are variations within sectors and this is something we need to look out for."

    - CNA/de/fa
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  6. #6075
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    Default New discovery lends insights into common ailments

    Posted: 14 May 2012 1329 hrs


    A researcher in Singapore


    SINGAPORE: Scientists from Singapore's Institute of Medical Biology (IMB) have made a discovery that promises to lend new insights into common ailments such as heart disease, osteoporosis, blood disorders and possibly sterility.

    They worked with doctors and scientists in Jordan, Turkey, Switzerland and the United States of America.

    The international team is led by scientists at IMB, which is under Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR).

    The research centres around Hamamy syndrome, a rare genetic disorder which is marked by abnormal facial features and defects in the heart, bone, blood and reproductive cells.

    Its exact cause was unknown until now.

    The scientists have identified the genetic cause of the birth defect.

    They pinpointed the genetic mistake to be a mutation in a single gene called IRX5.

    This is the first time that a mutation in IRX5 (and the family of IRX genes) has ever been discovered in man.

    IRX5 is part of a family of transcription factors that is highly conserved in all animals.

    This means that the gene is present not only in humans but also in mice, fish, frogs, flies and even worms.

    Using a frog model, the scientists demonstrated that IRX5 orchestrates cell movements in the developing foetus.

    Dr Bruno Reversade, senior principle investigator at IMB, said: "We believe that this discovery could open up new therapeutic solutions to common diseases like osteoporosis, heart disease, anaemia which affect millions of people worldwide. The findings also provide a framework for understanding fascinating evolutionary questions, such as why humans of different ethnicities have distinct facial features and how these are embedded in our genome."

    Professor Birgitte Lane, executive director of IMB, said: "Understanding how various pathways in the human body function is the foundation for developing new therapeutic targets. This is an important piece of research that I believe will be of great interest to many scientists and clinicians around the world because of the clinical and genetic insights it brings to a large range of diseases."

    - CNA/cc
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  7. #6076
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default Facebook co-founder Saverin to stay in Singapore

    Published on May 16, 2012


    Mr Eduardo Saverin, co-founder of Facebook, at a dinner event organised by the National University of Singapore (NUS). Mr Saverin intends to stay in Singapore but has no plans to take up citizenship after giving up his US passport, his spokesman said -- PHOTO: NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE


    SINGAPORE (AFP) - Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin intends to stay in Singapore but has no plans to take up citizenship after giving up his US passport, a move that could save him millions in taxes, his spokesman said.

    The Brazilian moved in 2009 to Singapore, a low-tax Asian technology and finance hub where he mingles with entrepreneurs and is regularly seen in exclusive clubs with a young circle of expatriate and Singaporean friends.

    'Eduardo is a permanent resident of Singapore. I am not aware of any plans for him to take up Singapore citizenship,' his New York-based press agent Tom Goodman told AFP in an email late Tuesday.

    'He is a citizen of Brazil, his native country,' Mr Goodman added. The media-shy Saverin, 30, was born to a wealthy family in Brazil, moved to the United States in 1992 and became an American citizen in 1998.
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  8. #6077
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default Prefab industry gets boost with opening of first integrated hub

    by Channel NewsAsia
    04:45 AM May 17, 2012

    SINGAPORE - The Republic's prefabrication industry is set to change with the opening of the first Integrated Construction and Prefabrication Hub (ICPH) yesterday.

    Developed by Tiong Seng Holdings, the multi-storey complex houses the automated production of precast components.

    The S$36-million facility, located at Tuas, was officially launched yesterday by Deputy Prime Minister and Manpower Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

    The facility also received funding under the Building and Construction Authority's Construction Productivity and Capability Fund.

    The hub optimises the use of land, as traditional precast yards are housed in large open spaces. Through the use of computer technology and automation, it also improves productivity and reduces the manpower needed.

    Compared to the conventional method of production, Tiong Seng Prefab Hub requires 50 to 70 per cent less manpower.

    Mr Tharman stressed that productivity gains must be shared with employees through better wages and career development. The Government is already looking at starting salaries in the industry to make entry pay more attractive to locals through an apprenticeship programme, he said.

    "The Government will work with the industry to offer a starting remuneration package equivalent to S$2,000 per month for new entrants under the apprenticeship programme for locals. These might be the ITE grads or other job entrants," Mr Tharman said.

    "More importantly, beyond the starting pay, they can look forward to progression and as they gain construction experience, they have a chance to earn significantly more," he added.

    The BCA is facilitating more prefabrication hubs to be built.

    Mr Tharman said: "These modern, multi-storey ICPHs will help us to do two things: First, it improves land productivity by optimising land use; and second, it will improve labour productivity through automation."

    A 20,000-sq-m land parcel at Kaki Bukit Road is now open for tender for the development of other such hubs.


  9. #6078
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default Pilot scheme helps needy students with tuition fees

    04:45 AM May 17, 2012

    SINGAPORE - To help needy parents gain access to affordable tuition for their children, the North East Community Development Council (CDC) rolled out financial subsidies in a pilot programme launched yesterday.

    Under the programme, the CDC will subsidise 90 per cent of tuition fees for households with a monthly income of less than S$1,700 or per capita income of less than S$550.

    Households with a monthly income of between S$1,701 and less than S$2,500, or with per capita income of between S$551 and S$700, will receive a 70-per-cent subsidy.

    The programme is open to students from primary and secondary schools and there is no limit to the number of children per household who can qualify for the subsidies.


    The tuition classes will be conducted at the Residents' Committee (RC) centres, which are nearer the homes of residents, said the North East CDC.

    "Through this initiative, parents will have another community resource that can help them with their children's education," it added.

    Current tuition fees for classes held at the RCs range between S$30 and S$40 per subject for primary school students and between S$50 and S$70 per subject for secondary school students.

    The programme, which started in the Hougang constituency, will benefit at least 20 students and will be rolled out to another 280 students in the North East District over the next two months.

    To be eligible, the student must be Singaporean and reside in the North East District. If the student is a Singapore Permanent Resident, at least one of the immediate family members must be a Singapore citizen.

    Parents also have to ensure that their child attends at least 75 per cent of the classes each month. If they fail to submit valid reasons for missing classes, the subsidy will be terminated.

  10. #6079
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default Pandas 'should arrive here by year-end'

    Chinese experts to visit enclosure again before deciding on arrival date


    Published on May 17, 2012


    Singaporeans will have to wait a little longer to meet the pandas Kai Kai (below) and Jia Jia, but they should be on Singapore soil by the end of the year. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM



    By Ng Kai Ling

    CHENGDU - Singaporeans will have to wait a little longer to meet the pandas Kai Kai and Jia Jia, but they should be on Singapore soil by the end of the year.

    Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck said on Wednesday that while Singapore is 'almost ready' for their arrival, it is important to allow the Chinese authorities to decide on an appropriate time for their national treasures to be flown to Singapore.

    The pandas were supposed to have arrived in Singapore in March, but their new enclosure was not ready and modifications had to be made.



    Background story


    KAI KAI ('Victorious' in Chinese)

    Date of birth: Sept 14, 2007

    ***: Male

    Weight: 109kg

    Personality traits: When it is not lounging around licking its paws or gnawing on bamboo, Kai Kai likes to climb trees, find a good spot and snooze. The panda can eat up to 15kg of bamboo a day and loves carrots.

    Kai Kai is nicknamed 'Onion Head' because of a small tuft of fur on its head.

    It was born in captivity at the Ya'an Bifengxia Conservation Base.

    It was originally named Wu Jie ('valiant and outstanding').


    Background story


    JIA JIA ('Beauty' in Chinese)

    Date of birth: Sept 3, 2008

    ***: Female

    Weight: 102kg

    Personality traits: Keepers at the conservation base say Jia Jia is the more playful of the two pandas and is affectionate towards its human friends. While Jia Jia likes to climb trees, the panda often brings along its favourite bamboo to munch on once it is settled on top of a tree.

    Jia Jia's mother survived the Sichuan earthquake in May 2008 and was moved to the Ya'an base where she gave birth.

    Jia Jia was originally named Hu Bao ('Shanghai's treasure').

    'Singaporeans are looking forward to the arrival of the two pandas. I hope that we can have them before the end of the year,' said Mr Teo
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  11. #6080
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    Default Pandas to get five-star treatment in Singapore

    They will enjoy $8.5m enclosure and four types of specially grown bamboo

    Published on May 18, 2012


    Pandas at the Ya'an Bifengxia Conservation Base in Sichuan province, China, soaking up the sunshine and munching on bamboo shoots. An $8.5 million panda enclosure at the upcoming River Safari in Singapore is being prepared in anticipation of the arrival of Kai Kai and Jia Jia, two pandas that the Republic will receive on loan from China. -- ST PHOTOS: KEVIN LIM


    By Ng Kai Ling

    The endangered pandas are the national treasures of China, and Singapore has every intention of treating them as such when two of them come here.

    In the run-up to Kai Kai and Jia Jia's arrival - which, it is hoped, will take place by year-end - a lot of work has been put in to make their 10-year stay here a five-star experience.

    Everything - from the types of bamboo that they need to be fed to the exact spots for installing lights - is being fine-tuned months before their much-anticipated arrival.



    Background story

    ENSURING A STEADY FOOD SUPPLY

    'The added advantage of planting the bamboos at different locations is that we are assured of constant supply in the event of a disease or fire outbreak at any one place.' - WRS chairman Claire Chiang

    The $8.5 million panda enclosure in the upcoming River Safari obtained its Temporary Occupation Permit (TOP) in March.
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  12. #6081
    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default The school 'the rest of the world visits'

    $300m campus in S'pore touted as most advanced international school


    Published on May 18, 2012


    Stamford American International School teacher Ben Gavel, 39, guiding Grace Mahara, six, in using the iPad. Children up to Grade 5 level will learn on iPads while older students will use MacBooks. -- PHOTO: DESMOND LUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES


    By Sandra Davie, Senior Writer

    Come August, Singapore will be home to one of the most advanced international schools in the world.

    Cognita, an international education group, yesterday announced that the Stamford American International School - which is currently in Lorong Chuan - will move to a new state-of-the-art campus in Upper Serangoon Road.

    At the $300 million campus touted as the 'most advanced international school', every child from kindergarten age to the 11-year-olds in Grade 5 will learn using iPads, while the older students will use MacBooks.

    The interactive whiteboards in each classroom allow real-time video conferencing, which means that students can be taught by experts from around the world.

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    Default MOE to spend $650m to upgrade 71 primary schools

    By Monica Kotwani | Posted: 17 May 2012 1154 hrs


    Minister of State for Education Lawrence Wong mingling with pupils of Dazhong Primary School.


    SINGAPORE : The Education Ministry will spend about S$650m to upgrade 71 primary schools, starting November next year.

    These include Cedar Primary School, Hougang Primary School, Tao Nan School and Zhonghua Primary School.

    Minister of State for Education, Lawrence Wong, made the announcement on Thursday.

    It is in line with recommendations set out by the Primary Education Review and Implementation (PERI) Committee.

    At Dazhong Primary School in Bukit Batok, students enjoy having lessons in their new Programme for Active Learning room.

    As part of the upgrading under PERI, the school has also been provided with a playground area, dance and performing arts studios, an outdoor lab, and redesigned classrooms.

    With plans to eventually upgrade all 180 primary schools, the Education Ministry said the facilities and programmes provided will enhance the quality of primary education.

    Mr Wong said: "We have talked about making every school a good school. It has to be more than a slogan - it is a commitment to really improve not just the facilities and infrastructure, which we are doing, but also the resources, the teachers, to make sure that every school, wherever you are, can offer children a high-quality learning environment, a holistic education."


    Dazhong Primary School is one of 78 primary schools selected in earlier phases in the PERI upgrading programme. So far, upgrading for three schools, including Dazhong Primary, has been completed. The Education Ministry said that it takes, on average, about two years for upgrading to be completed.

    Redesigned classrooms, which incorporate wide spaces and special seating arrangements, have made a vast difference to teaching and learning capabilities.

    This is especially the case for the school's Primary One and Two classrooms, where open shelving and station-based teaching enable teachers to focus on the different learning needs of their students.

    Hannaria Srihanum Tumbuck, a teacher at Dazhong Primary School, said: "I do not have one lesson that is for everyone. It is easier because I help my advanced learners become stronger, and I help my weaker students bridge the gap. So it provides a level playing field for the low ability learners.

    "In the previous school (design), where we had smaller classrooms, the children bumped into tables and chairs. We do a lot of interaction, and with the larger classrooms, and when they are seated in groups, it facilitates interaction. And the classroom has a lot of space for manipulatives to be on the sides of the classroom, and it encourages self-directed learning, because when students finish their work, they will automatically go to the sides of the classroom and occupy themselves.

    "Students get bored both ways, when it is either too difficult, and they are not engaged, or if it is too easy. They become restless, and disrupt lessons. With these facilities, there are instruction materials at the side of the classroom, and all of them are engaged."

    Barnabas Sng, a Primary Five student at Dazhong Primary School, said: "Our learning is more authentic. For example, in Science, instead of looking at pictures and videos of plants, we can go down to the garden and look at the picture plants and feel it.

    "The new facilities are also good because there is a new playground that combines exercise and fun, and the exercise helps develop muscles, and it is fun because there are slides and rock-climbing."

    Teachers at Dazhong said the new design and facilities have led to students becoming more motivated.

    And with Primary One Registration exercise starting soon, the Education Ministry hopes parents will consider a broader range of options available, as more schools become better equipped with facilities and resources.

    Mr Wong said: "Parents will (have) certain expectations and preferences for their child, that is inevitable. But I would encourage them to look more broadly, and have some assurance that whatever school that their children are going to, we are committed on MOE's part to make sure that their child will have a good quality education, like what you can see in this particular school.

    "It is a very good example of the kind of education they can get, and the commitment that MOE can provide to their children - that they will have good teachers with them, and have access to good facilities and programmes."

    - CNA/cc/ms
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    Default Gu gets the nod

    All-England quarter-finalist's track record earns Olympic nomination ahead of SEA Games heroine Fu


    by Low Lin Fhoong
    04:45 AM May 19, 2012

    SINGAPORE - Shuttler Fu Mingtian may be the reigning SEA Games gold medallist, but 2011 All-England quarter-finalist Gu Juan has received the nod to represent Singapore at the London Olympics.

    Speaking at the media launch of the coming US$200,000 (S$254,800) Li-Ning Singapore Open 2012 at the Singapore Badminton Hall yesterday, Singapore Badminton Association (SBA) president Lee Yi Shyan explained that Gu Juan's overall track record made the difference.

    "We looked at their world rankings and how they would place in each group (at the Olympics), the number of semi-finals and quarterfinals they played in the major tournaments, the number of times they played and won against the top 20 players in the world," said Lee.

    "On all these scores, Gu Juan has the edge and, therefore, it is fair for us to nominate her to the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC). We want to maximise all chances and we think she is a stronger candidate."

    World No 12 women's doubles pair Yao Lei and Shinta Mulia Sari, and Derek Wong (men's singles) were also selected after the SBA executive committee consulted with coaches and its management committee. But the SBA's nominations must be approved by the SNOC's games selection committee, which is expected to meet next month to finalise the list of Singapore's athletes for the London Games.

    Gu Juan, currently in Taiwan on a three-week centralised national training camp, turns 22 next Saturday and was delighted with the early birthday present.

    "I feel happy and honoured to be nominated by the SBA for the London Olympics. I will do my very best in every match there," she said.

    The SBA has set quarter-final targets for the women's singles and doubles at the London Games and, next month, the Singaporean shuttlers will face their final pre-Olympic test at the Li-Ning Singapore Open at the Singapore Indoor Stadium from June 19 to 24.

    Daily ticket prices have increased by an average of S$5 (adults), S$2.75 (senior citizens and students) and S$6.50 for the premium category from last year, while Malaysia's men's world No 1 Lee Chong Wei and Chinese star Lin Dan are giving the event a miss.

    But the tournament will still feature the likes of former winners Taufik Hidayat and Sony Dwi Kuncoro of Indonesia, and China's female players Wang Xin, Wang Shixian and Li Xuerui - the world No 2, 3 and 4 respectively.

    Nonetheless, SBA chief Lee remains hopeful this year's tournament can match last year's total attendance of 31,000. Home favourites Yao Lei and Shinta will also be looking for their first win of the season as a timely Olympic tonic.

    Said Yao Lei: "We want to make the quarter-finals first and take it from there. But right now, we are focused on the Olympics and hope to make the semi-finals in London."





    Photo by WEE TECK HIAN

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    Default NTU helps clean up Sri Lankan lake

    Floating plant platforms serve as purifying method

    by Tan Weizhen
    04:45 AM May 21, 2012

    KANDY (Sri Lanka) - Constructed as an ornamental lake between 1810 and 1812 by the last king of the Kandyan Kingdom, the fabled Kandy Lake has seen better days.

    Urbanisation and the discharge of waste into waterways feeding the lake have caused serious water pollution, with fishes dying and the mid-canal, which runs from the lake through the city, becoming a breeding ground for mosquitoes, as residents told this reporter.

    The lake lies in the heart of Kandy, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage city in Sri Lanka, and covers an area of about 0.25 sq km.

    For the past few months, professors and students from Singapore's Nanyang Technological University (NTU) - under a pilot project that is part of the Lien Environment Fellowship programme - have been working to make the lake cleaner.

    The professors had come up with a simple yet effective solution - placing floating platforms filled with a local plant called Cannas in the lake. These floating wetlands would serve as a purifying system, apart from beautifying the lake.

    Since the middle of last year, three such floating platforms have been placed in the lake and the results were positive: Water pollution levels have gone down 60 per cent per cubic metre of water.

    Over the next three years, the project aims to place another 100 floating platforms in the lake, at a cost of S$70,000.

    The benefits include lower water bills for the residents, as the city authorities will require less money to treat the water.

    Apart from the NTU professors, six undergraduates are also part of the project. Four of them visited the city two weeks ago to continue their work in educating the city's children, setting up a wetlands club at a top girls' college in Kandy to train the students to be "environmental ambassadors" and teach them to investigate scientific problems.

    One of the undergraduates, Ms Valencia Evelyn, 23, said: "(The girls) didn't know what they could do as a community to improve the (pollution) situation. They are very enthusiastic now, and even go around homes by the canals to spread awareness."

    The undergraduates also collected samples from the river to assist the professors in testing pollution levels.

    Professor Ng Wun Jern, executive director of the Nanyang Environment and Water Research Institute, noted that the Singaporean students involved in the project had an opportunity to "see a situation they cannot imagine".

    He also cited the possibility of adapting the project to Singapore. "We should also look at the project in terms of scalability, it would be nice if we can transfer that to our community," he said.

    The NTU is partnering Sri Lanka's University of Peradeniya for this project and professors from the university have visited Singapore's floating wetlands at Kranji and Jurong.

    The project is the first of seven under the Lien Environment Fellowship programme, which funds projects to improve water, sanitation and renewable energy in less-developed countries in Asia. Its other projects include deriving energy from organic waste in India and developing clean water and sanitation systems in Myanmar.





    Three of the NTU students involved in the project, (from left) undergraduates Syahida Muhamad, Valencia Evelyn and Jocelyn Tay, beside the floating wetland platforms. PHOTO COURTESY NTU

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    Default National Service a key indicator of integration: Study

    Updated 10:31 AM May 21, 2012

    SINGAPORE - A new study has placed National Service (NS) as a key indicator of integration for foreigners.

    The report, by the Institute of Policy Studies, seeks to examine what immigrants ought to do, in order to be regarded as a full participating member of Singapore society.

    The study covered some 2,000 local and foreign-born citizens, who were asked several questions on what they thought were social markers of integration.

    The study showed some perceptual gaps, which researchers said are cause for fault-lines within the community.

    The biggest area of incongruence - that a son of a new citizen undergoes NS. About 70 per cent of Singaporeans feel it is an important indicator of integration, while only about 40 per cent of new citizens think so.

    The other top areas of divergent viewpoints are - a new citizen getting on well with workplace colleagues, being gainfully employed, and having the ability to speak conversational English. More Singaporeans than new immigrants feel these are all important attributes for integration.

    The study also showed that Singaporeans who tend to be less inclusive are tertiary educated, come from the middle income group, have strong family ties and are more nationalistic.

    Researchers said it boils down to the group that feel the most threatened by the presence of foreigners.

    However, the study also found that Singaporeans embrace multi-racialism. The results showed Singaporeans do not expect foreigners to discard their cultural identity, even as these foreigners embrace core beliefs held by Singaporeans, such as meritocracy and religious tolerance.

    On the policy implications of the study, researchers said the Singapore Armed Forces may need to reach out more at the community level, such as convincing first generation new citizens of the value of National Service, for example.

    They added that more could be done also to facilitate the learning of English among foreigners.

    They have also called for more transparency in data on immigration. These include details on specific sectors foreigners are employed in and the criteria for obtaining a PR status.

    Researchers added businesses should also think about programmes to improve workplace relations between Singaporeans and foreigners. CHANNEL NEWSASIA

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    Default Singapore Sports Hub to sport posh suites

    Banks, firms and the wealthy being wooed for exclusive suites at new $1.3b sports city


    Published on May 21, 2012


    The Sports Hub's suites are modelled after luxury hospitality boxes such as those at New York's MetLife Stadium (below) and London's Wembley Stadium in Europe. -- PHOTO: NEWYORKJETS


    By Terrence Voon, Sports Correspondent

    The Singapore Sports Hub will not just be a playground for top athletes. It will also be the new hangout of the city's who's who, where they can mix pleasure with business, complete with private dining, VIP treatment and the best seats in the house at the new National Stadium.

    Exclusive suites for the upcoming $1.33 billion sports city at Kallang will be launched in July and only 62 units are available.

    Potential customers like banks, multinational firms, top local companies and well-heeled individuals are already being wooed by the World Sport Group (WSG), the Sports Hub's commercial partner.

    But the courting of the rich and powerful will also benefit the general ticket holder. A big part of the sales pitch will be that suite members will be spoilt for choice by the calendar of world-class events. Therefore, stadium operators will be committed to ensuring a year-round line-up of sports and entertainment.
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