Saturday, 25 April 2015

More workers laid off amid economic restructuring

Highest rate since 2009; PMETs made up 51% of 12,930 who lost jobs last year
By Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 24 Apr 2015

THE ongoing restructuring of the economy continued to take its toll on the job market last year, displacing more workers, particularly higher-skilled ones.

A total of 12,930 people lost their jobs last year, up from 11,560 in 2013, and the highest since the recession in 2009.

Of these, professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) made up 51 per cent, a Ministry of Manpower (MOM) report showed yesterday.

Older workers - in their 40s and above - made up 58 per cent of resident PMETs laid off.

Observers said measures such as the Fair Consideration Framework to reduce the reliance on foreign labour may explain in part the rise in redundancies.

Relatively speaking, more non-residents lost their jobs last year, while fewer Singapore citizens and permanent residents did, compared with 2013.

"Foreign manpower tightening in the past few years is essentially to encourage companies to cut headcount," said DBS economist Irvin Seah.

While more workers were displaced, nearly seven in 10 residents who lost their jobs in the first nine months of last year managed to find new jobs by December.

But PMETs and degree-holders lagged behind; their rates of re-entry into employment were only 63 per cent and 61 per cent, respectively.

The job re-entry rate of the degree-holders slipped from the previous year, while all other educational groups saw improvements, "reflecting the strong competition for jobs among degree-holders", said MOM.

Khairy urges KL, S'pore to join hands as equals

Malaysian minister says the two need each other, and must forget their 'big brother, little brother past'
By Reme Ahmad, Assistant Money Editor, The Straits Times, 24 Apr 2015

MALAYSIAN Cabinet Minister Khairy Jamaluddin yesterday called on Malaysia and Singapore to move beyond treating each other as bogeymen and rivals and instead come together as equals to improve ASEAN.

He said that in the past five decades, politicians have used the other country to show how much progress had been made in their own nation, but this "abang, adik" (big brother, little brother) relationship should be a thing of the past.

The Youth and Sports Minister pointed out that Malaysia and Singapore are inextricably linked by deep trade ties, and already work closely together on security issues such as counter-terrorism, intelligence sharing and defence exercises.

"For many, many years, in the last 50 years, we have existed with this world view, as counterpoint to one another. If you read speeches made by Malaysian politicians, every time they need to rally nationalism, there is only one bogeyman, and the most convenient, of course, is Singapore.

"If you read the writings of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, it is very clear who the rival is.

"I think it's time we accepted the fact that we need each other, and we put aside this world view that we use each other for our national interests," Mr Khairy said in response to a question at a forum held in Singapore.

Mr Khairy and former Indonesian deputy foreign minister Dino Pati Djalal were the speakers at Connecting Singapore And Our Neighbours: Competition, Cooperation And Integration.

The event was organised by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA).

Speaking as commentator at the forum, SIIA chairman Simon Tay said his father's generation of Singaporeans and Malaysians often compared happenings in the two countries.

"I share the hope that we get rid of some of the old baggage and work together in a new way," he said.

Mr Khairy said the challenges faced by Malaysia and Singapore are the same today.

"It's about collaboration... It's no more this condescending relationship on both sides.

"It's no longer who is the big brother, who is the little brother, who is the abang, who is the adik. We are all friends now and we are all equal; we want to see ASEAN work."

Mr Khairy defended the affirmative action Bumiputera policy, which is often attacked by Malaysia's critics, saying it helped Malays break out of poverty to make the country peaceful and stable.

Star Pals a lifeline for critically ill kids and their caregivers

Scheme has medical staff, therapists, social workers making home visits
By Janice Tai, The Straits Times, 24 Apr 2015

SEVEN-YEAR-OLD Danielle Seah may be bedridden with three tubes sticking out of her throat and stomach, but she is still able to respond to the beat of her favourite song, The Wheels On The Bus Go Round And Round.

During a music therapy session on April 11 in her home, her eyes darted between her father, who was beating a drum, and her sister, Beth, 11, who was strumming a ukelele. Moving in time to the rhythm of the catchy song, her tongue flicked up and down.

"She has lost almost all her ability to move, so we hope to slow down the progress of the disease and retain her remaining functions through music," said her father, engineer Frederick Seah, 40.

Danielle has spinal muscular atrophy, a disorder that causes muscles to weaken until it becomes hard to move or even breathe.

She is one of the 140 critically ill children that HCA Hospice Care has helped care for in the comfort of their homes since its Star Pals (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) programme started in 2012. So far, it is the only home palliative care service here for children with life-limiting conditions such as childhood cancers.

The programme aims to improve the quality of life of sick children by supporting them at home so that they do not have to be hospitalised.

Man charged under new anti-human trafficking law

By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 24 Apr 2015

A 24-YEAR-OLD Singaporean man has become the first person here to be charged under the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act, which went into force last month.

According to court documents, Muhammad Khairulanwar Rohmat allegedly recruited a 15-year-old with the purpose of exploiting her.

The girl cannot be named because of a gag order.

The offence reportedly took place on April 15 between 3.30pm and 5.30pm at a Starbucks cafe in Orchard Road. At about 4.30pm, he allegedly had consensual sex with her in a men's toilet in Cuppage Plaza.

For this offence, he faces a second charge of having sex with a minor under the Penal Code.

Yesterday, Khairulanwar appeared in court dressed in a black T-shirt. He was calm and silent as the charges were read to him. He was remanded for a week for further investigations.

The case will be heard again next Wednesday.

Under the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act, anyone who recruits, transports, transfers, harbours or receives a child for the purpose of exploitation, whether here or abroad, is guilty of an offence.

First-time offenders can be fined up to $100,000, jailed for up to 10 years and caned a maximum of six strokes.

For sexually penetrating a minor, he could be jailed for up to 10 years, fined, or both.

The new Prevention of Human Trafficking Act began as a Private Member's Bill proposed by MP Christopher de Souza in 2013. He was given the go-ahead from the Ministry of Home Affairs to table it in Parliament, which was done last October and, after a series of heated debates, the Bill was passed into law last November.

Aussie blogger admits she faked cancer

Belle Gibson's business built on the lie collapses amid widespread outrage
By Jonathan Pearlman, Published The Straits Times In Sydney, 24 Apr 2015

AN AUSTRALIAN "wellness" blogger who attracted a global following by claiming she miraculously survived brain cancer has ignited widespread outrage after admitting that none of it is true.

The confession completed the collapse of 23-year-old Belle Gibson's business and finally confirmed that her much-told tale was far too good to be true.

A remarkably healthy-looking mother of a four-year-old son, Ms Gibson used a blog to chronicle how she was given months to live due to brain cancer, but survived by abandoning chemotherapy and turning to whole foods and natural therapies.

She quickly developed a large online following, including hundreds of thousands of followers on social media. She launched an app and a popular recipe book called The Whole Pantry.

But as doubts about her fantastical claims surfaced, she admitted what many had long suspected.

"None of it is true," she revealed in an interview with Australia's Women's Weekly magazine.

"I don't want forgiveness. I just think (speaking out) was the responsible thing. Above anything, I would like people to say 'okay, she is human'." 

Ms Gibson's admission caused anger in her home country and on social media. Adding to the fury, it emerged that Ms Gibson had failed to hand over about A$300,000 (S$314,000) which she reportedly said she was raising for charity.

What happens when China becomes No. 1?

The answer may well depend on how America acts now, when it is still the world's sole superpower.
By Kishore Mahbubani, Published The Straits Times, 24 Apr 2015

LET me begin with three incontrovertible facts. First, China will become the No. 1 economic power in the world.

Second, most Americans, like most Westerners, view China's rise with great foreboding.

Third, the role that China will play as the No. 1 economic power has not been cast in stone.

How the world, especially America, reacts to China's rise will help to influence China's behaviour in the future.

If we make the right decisions now, China could well emerge as a benign great power (even though most Americans find this virtually inconceivable).

At the same time, many Americans are not aware that some recent American actions have set bad precedents for China to follow when it becomes No. 1.

The first such American action was to launch quantitative easing (QE).

Until the onset of the crisis, Chinese leaders were happy that the United States and China had settled into a comfortable pattern of mutual dependence. China relied on the US markets to generate exports and jobs. The US relied on China to buy US Treasury bills to fund US deficit spending.

This Chinese confidence of mutual interdependence was shattered when the US Fed announced the first round of QE measures in November 2008. The Fed's actions demonstrated that the US did not have to rely on China to buy US Treasury bills.

Friday, 24 April 2015

1955 Bandung meet with Africa 'inspired struggles for nationhood': PM Lee

Africa contributed to Singapore's fight for independence
By Zakir Hussain, Deputy Political Editor In Jakarta, The Straits Times, 23 Apr 2015

SINGAPORE'S relations with countries in Africa date back to before independence.

They can be traced to the 1955 Asian-African Conference in Bandung, which Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday described as a "landmark" that inspired the struggles for nationhood by many new countries.

In a speech at the second Asian-African Summit marking the 60th anniversary of the Bandung conference, PM Lee said the meeting "connected Asian and African countries together, under common values of non-alignment and self-determination".

Had a full day at the Asian-African Summit yesterday. Africa seems far away from us, yet in a globalised world we...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Africa, he added, also contributed to Singapore's independence struggle. In January 1964, then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew began a month-long mission to 17 African capitals to explain the concept of Malaysia, of which Singapore had then just become a part.

"The solidarity we got from our African friends at the United Nations and in international fora played an important role in securing support for Malaysia. Many of the friends Mr Lee made more than half a century ago are still our friends today," PM Lee said.

He also thanked many of the leaders who had conveyed their condolences on the death of Mr Lee Kuan Yew last month.

PM Lee noted that after becoming independent in 1965, Singapore sent missions to Africa to explore trade and business links.

But these were slow to take off. "Perhaps we were ahead of our time," he added.

Sixty years on, relations between both sides are picking up.

"Asian countries are realising the many bright spots and vibrant development centres of growth which exist and are taking off in Africa," he said.

PM Lee joins well-wishers in expressing concern for former president S R Nathan

By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 23 Apr 2015

Good wishes have poured in for former president S R Nathan, after news broke of his hospitalisation following a stroke last Tuesday.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong joined the well-wishers on Thursday, saying in a Facebook post that he was saddened to learn last week that Mr Nathan had suffered a stroke.

Was saddened to learn last week that Mr S R Nathan had suffered a stroke. Ho Ching and I visited him in hospital on...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday, April 22, 2015

He and his wife Ho Ching visited Mr Nathan at the Singapore General Hospital last Friday.

"We were glad to see him sitting up, and in good spirits. He has always been a fighter," wrote Mr Lee. "Hope he continues to recover well."

Was saddened to learn last week that Mr S R Nathan had suffered a stroke. Ho Ching and I visited him in hospital on...

The post gained over 13,000 likes and more than 400 comments, with netizens wishing Mr Nathan well.

Others also took to social media to express their concern for Mr Nathan and to wish him a speedy recovery.

On Wednesday, President Tony Tan said on Facebook that he and his wife had earlier this week visited Mr Nathan, who was "in good spirits and looking forward to being discharged".

My wife and I were both very concerned when we learnt that former President Mr S R Nathan was warded last Tuesday for...

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, too, visited Mr Nathan in the hospital, and found him alert and clear-headed, he said on Facebook.

Singapore thanks champions of its interests abroad

By Hoe Pei Shan, The Straits Times, 23 Apr 2015

STOLEN passports, murder investigations and evacuating Singaporeans from war-torn areas - these are just some of the issues that Singapore's honorary consuls-general (HCGs) deal with.

Since 1974, 31 HCGs have been appointed in 26 countries.

Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam said that their growing number reflects the evolution of Singapore's interests abroad and the demand for consular services by the city-state's travellers and overseas diaspora.

"If you look at, say, 40 years ago, our interactions with Latin America, Central America... Africa... would have been limited," he told reporters at the 7th Meeting of Singapore Honorary Consuls-General at the Shangri-La Hotel yesterday. "Today, politically and strategically, we have strong linkages with many of the countries in Latin America and Africa simply because... it's a more interconnected world," he said.

He added that the world's "economic power centres" have also shifted, and Singapore's economic interests are now "much greater".

With Singaporeans making more than 25 million overseas trips last year alone and another 200,000 residing abroad, there is also a need for consular services across the globe.

Most HCGs are influential natives of their countries who help to further Singapore's economic, political and strategic interests without receiving payment. They include businessmen, lawyers and engineers. Some accept the positions because of personal affinity with Singapore, and many see it as an honour to be selected.

Business advisers and HR services to help SMEs

Minister gives details of support schemes small firms have access to
By Stephanie Heng, The Straits Times, 23 Apr 2015

MORE details on the assistance schemes that smaller businesses have access to as they tackle the challenges of a volatile and uncertain global economy were unveiled yesterday.

Mr Teo Ser Luck, the Minister of State for Trade and Industry, shed more light on the various Budget support programmes in a speech at the SME Centre Conference at Max Atria, Singapore Expo yesterday.

The Workforce Development Agency (WDA) will provide each of the five main SME Centres with a business adviser from next month.

The advisers will give specialised guidance on staff development as well as more information about WDA manpower development schemes.

They are expected to help around 700 SMEs over the next two years.

SPRING Singapore has also appointed 11 human resource service providers to offer companies shared access to systems and other services as part of the HR Shared Services initiative, which will be available from May 1.

The services include outsourcing administrative work such as payroll and claims processing, reorganising HR structures, and adopting an information system to complement existing HR processes.

SPRING will provide SMEs with funding support of up to 70 per cent of qualifying costs, including a one-time set-up expense and up to 12 months of subscription costs.

Mr Teo told the 850 people at the conference that micro and small enterprises often do not have the scale to have a specialised unit to support their HR needs, so the SPRING initiative will allow them to focus on their core business.

NUH patient service associates to be trained to draw blood

By Jean Khoo, TODAY, 22 Apr 2015

Patients who need to fast for certain tests, such as blood glucose and cholesterol testing, can expect a shorter waiting period at the National University Hospital (NUH) before they have their blood drawn by qualified personnel.

To help save patients’ time, NUH is expanding the work scope of its patient service associates (PSAs) to enable them to perform phlebotomy — the medical procedure of drawing blood samples.

"Patient Service Associates (PSAs) are an important member of the public healthcare team in delivering quality care to...
Posted by National University Hospital on Wednesday, April 22, 2015

As the hospital’s frontline staff, the basic duties of PSAs include registering patients, scheduling appointments and collecting payment.

NUH will have 19 PSAs trained to perform phlebotomy this year, and about 20 per cent of the 470 PSAs from its specialist outpatient clinics trained over the next three years, said the hospital, which celebrated its inaugural PSA Day today (April 22).

To mark the occasion, a carnival was held this morning, while Health Minister Gan Kim Yong presented the Model PSA Award to Ms Nagoormeera Syed Masood at a ceremony in the evening.

Ms Elaine Chua, a 23-year-old PSA, said she had volunteered to attend the phlebotomy training because she wanted to be more directly involved in patient care.

“Also, because I used to have a fear of needles, I can understand what a patient is going through,” she added.

Singapore: Inside Out - Showcase of creative S'pore makes global debut in Beijing

Five-day event features performances, talks as part of festivities to mark SG50
By Esther Teo, China Correspondent In Beijing, The Straits Times, 23 Apr 2015

SINGAPOREAN playwright Joel Tan is interested in how people from different cultures identify with the struggles of local artists in a theatre piece he wrote as part of a global showcase of the city-state's creative talents.

His work, The Actor's Tour, made its debut yesterday as part of Singapore: Inside Out - a showcase of contemporary creative disciplines in Beijing's 751 D.Park art district. was very pleased to launch the...
Posted by Tan Chuan-Jin on Thursday, April 23, 2015

The script of the performance, which consists of a series of monologues, is taken verbatim from interviews that the 28-year-old did with artists involved in the showcase beforehand. It is then performed by professional actors on stage.

"I want to see how people identify with making art in different cultures. We don't assume it's exactly the same, but hope that the stories told have some resonance with various audiences," said Mr Tan, who is staging his first overseas performance with Singaporean director Tan Kheng Hua.

Helmed by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), the five-day showcase that ends on Sunday is making its international debut in Beijing as part of celebrations for Singapore's 50th birthday.

Apart from local artists participating - such as chef Janice Wong, whose edible art installation will allow visitors to enjoy "laksa chocolate" - China and Singapore artists will collaborate in panel talks, live music showcases and other presentations.

The event will travel to London in June and New York in September, before returning to Singapore for its homecoming in November.

Indian Heritage Centre to open to the public on May 8

New museum showcases history of Indians in Singapore
Indian Heritage Centre opens on May 8 with more than 440 artefacts
By Melody Zaccheus, The Straits Times, 23 Apr 2015

NESTLED in the heart of Little India, amid its busy streets and alleyways, is a new museum that houses ancient artefacts dating back to Indian empires of yore.

The treasure trove of historic items includes a 5th century red sandstone head of Buddha from the Gupta empire and a 10th century granite statue of Hindu deity Vishnu from the Chola period.

The new Indian Heritage Centre in Campbell Lane is the first museum here dedicated to Indian history.

The centre cost $16 million to build, another $5 million to fit out, and will have more than 440 artefacts on display when it opens to the public on May 8.

It is run by the National Heritage Board (NHB), which operates two other existing heritage institutions - the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall and the Malay Heritage Centre.

Centre director Gauri Krishnan said that the museum "can help foster a greater sense of pride and identity in the Indian community".

Mr Alvin Tan, NHB's assistant chief executive of policy and development, said that the centre "contributes to a better understanding of Singapore's multiracial and multi-cultural society".

First mooted in 2008, the 3,090 sq m, four-storey centre is a culmination of about seven years of work.

The centre has two levels of permanent exhibition space, divided into five themes.

Organised chronologically, it starts with the early interactions between South Asia and South-east Asia, and goes on to feature the origins and movement of Indians from the 19th century to the 21st century.

The third section charts the contributions of early Indian pioneers in Singapore and Malaya, while the fourth showcases the social and political awakening of Indians here. The final section showcases the contributions of Indians in Singapore from the late 1950s to the 1980s.

The centre had received a $10 million grant from the Government to acquire artefacts, which include a two-storey glazed ceramic tile mosque facade from Multan, Pakistan, dating back to the 1890s.

LTA to install more sensors to monitor tremors

By Christopher Tan, Senior Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 23 Apr 2015

TREMOR monitoring systems will be installed at 18 transport structures across the island, more than treble the number already monitored by earthquake sensors.

While Singapore has been quake-free so far, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) explained that enhanced surveillance is required because of tremors from nearby quakes.

Observers said that the increase is likely to be tied to recent recognition that the island is not entirely immune to seismic risks.

Two years ago, for instance, the Building and Construction Authority adopted new building codes that include guidelines on making buildings more quake-resistant.

To be better prepared, the LTA has called a tender for contractors to install the tremor monitors at places such as Tuas Second Link, West Coast Highway, Kranji Expressway near Yew Tee Flyover, the Clementi-Jurong East MRT viaduct, Queenstown-Redhill MRT viaduct and Punggol LRT near Riviera station.

It will also replace monitors at five locations where tremor monitors were installed between 2008 and 2011. They are Jurong East MRT, Kallang MRT, the Circle Line's Dakota tunnel, Benjamin Sheares Bridge and Tanah Merah Flyover.

The contractor will also supply new software and a central control system.

An LTA spokesman said that even though Singapore is not in an earthquake zone, tremors from nearby quakes are felt here.

"The expanded coverage will enable engineers to retrieve information required to facilitate planning and deployment of engineers to inspect specific structures quickly if warranted," she said.

Professor Li Bing, director of the Nanyang Technological University's Natural Hazard Research Centre, said that the move is "necessary".

"We seem to be in a very safe zone, but we also have a very short history," he said, explaining that earthquake studies usually span hundreds of years.

"Earthquakes are black swan events," he said, citing recent quakes that devastated cities like Hiroshima, Japan and Christchurch, New Zealand, which were previously not deemed risk-prone.

"I grew up in Christchurch, and nobody talked about earthquake back then," he said.

Hubble Telescope clocks up 25 years

Iconic space observatory has proved a spectacular success after bad start
The Straits Times, 21 Apr 2015

NEW YORK - The world's most famous telescope, which NASA has called "the most significant advance in astronomy since Galileo's telescope", is celebrating its 25th year in space.

The powerful Hubble telescope has provided more than one million observations to date, allowing scientists to make groundbreaking observations about distant galaxies, black holes and supernovas, fundamentally altering man's understanding of the universe.

But the telescope, named after late astronomer Edwin Hubble, was the butt of jokes when it was launched 25 years ago.

Just weeks after it was put into orbit, the makers of the US$1.5 billion "time machine" realised that they got one of their measurements wrong - the Hubble's mirror was a tiny bit flatter than it should have been.

The measurement was off by about one-fiftieth the thickness of a piece of paper, but it meant that the telescope sent back nothing but blurry images of deep space, rendering it virtually useless - a huge embarrassment for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

To mark the anniversary of the telescope, National Geographic made the documentary Hubble's Comic Journey and spoke to the engineers and scientists about the telescope's rocky start.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

'Be ready to ride wave' of maritime growth

Lui: Asia will drive sector and S'pore must ensure it can meet demand
By Jacqueline Woo, The Straits Times, 22 Apr 2015

ASIA'S fast-expanding economy will drive the shipping industry in coming years so Singapore must be ready to "ride on (this) wave of growth", said Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew yesterday.

Mr Lui told the opening of Sea Asia, an anchor event at Singapore Maritime Week, that Asia accounted for almost 80 per cent of global container throughput at the world's top 30 ports last year, with this share tipped to expand. "We need to ensure there is sufficient capacity to meet the growth in shipping demand, and support the proliferation of mega vessels," said Mr Lui.

He added that Singapore has already invested significantly to increase port capacity.

When the third and fourth phases for Pasir Panjang Terminal are fully operational by the end of 2017, Singapore's total port capacity will increase by more than 40 per cent to 50 million 20-foot equivalent units.

Mr Lui also said that the Government will ensure that the maritime industry will grow in "a sustainable and responsible way" - such as introducing liquefied natural gas bunkering by 2017, in line with global efforts to use cleaner and sulphur-free fuels.

It will also take steps to develop maritime talent, he said.

The Maritime and Port Authority will roll out a career conversion scheme for Singaporeans to undertake mid-career switches into the maritime sector.

"We will continue to ensure that Singapore remains a prime location... so that maritime companies which are already here, or are looking for a landing spot in Asia, can continue to look to Singapore as a potential base to tap immense opportunities in Asia and beyond," said Mr Lui.

IKEA to continue tie-up with magic show despite gay activists' opposition

By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh And Rachel Au-yong, The Straits Times, 22 Apr 2015

FURNITURE retailer IKEA Singapore will not pull out of a tie-up with a magic show that features a pastor known for his views against homosexuality.

Despite opposition from gay rights activists, IKEA Singapore said after a one-day review that it would continue to offer members of its loyalty programme discounted rates for Vision.

This is a magic show featuring pastor Lawrence Khong of Faith Community Baptist Church and his daughter Priscilla.

Mr Khong is known for his outspoken views against homosexuals and support for a controversial law that criminalises gay sex.

Dear IKEA fans, thanks for your patience while we took time to come to an informed decision on an issue that has raised...
Posted by IKEA Singapore on Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The decision to continue the promotion comes after a thorough review, said IKEA Singapore in a statement yesterday.

It said: "We have spoken directly with the organisers, reviewed the content and confirmed that the Vision show offers high family entertainment value and, on that basis, we are continuing our promotional collaboration."

Vision will be held at the Esplanade in July.

IKEA Singapore spokesman Sandra Keasberry later told The Straits Times that the furniture retailer reviewed all the promotions under its membership programme, not just the one that offers a discount for Vision.

These include discounts for fengshui consultation, pest management services from Rentokill and tickets to theatre company Wild Rice's Public Enemy production.

"We stick by all our partners as they provide good value and good entertainment," she said.

In its statement, IKEA added that it respects the diversity and equality of all people in the community.

"We also respect that all individuals have a right to their opinions and personal choices, including the freedom to choose their preferred entertainment."

The company thanked customers for their patience as it deliberated over an issue that had "raised sensitivities in our community".

The decision drew both cheers and criticism on IKEA Singapore's Facebook page last night. There were netizens who applauded IKEA for "not bowing to pressure". But others were disappointed as the company, which is headquartered in Sweden, had said in the past that it prides itself on inclusivity.

Gateway Entertainment, the media arm of Mr Khong's church that is producing the show, said yesterday that it would not be responding to queries on the matter.

New heritage trail brings to light little-known parts of Jurong's history

Traipse through pre-industrial Jurong
Drive-in cinema, spy camp among highlights of new heritage trail
By Olivia Ho, The Straits Times, 22 Apr 2015

AS A young woman, Ms Cecilia Choo queued with colleagues to get into Singapore's first and only drive-in cinema in Jurong.

"The whole road was jammed when Bruce Lee's movie The Big Boss came," recalled the 60-year-old senior administration executive. "People would sit on top of their cars to watch."

Opened in 1971 by Cathay Organisation, the cinema could squeeze in up to 900 cars. But crowds dwindled with the rise of video piracy, as well as gatecrashers and illegal circuit racing. The cinema finally shut in 1985, after which the Fairway (golf) Club took over the grounds.

The cinema may no longer be standing, but visitors can learn about it from a marker at the site, which is one of the highlights of a new National Heritage Board (NHB) trail.

Developed in partnership with the Taman Jurong Citizens' Consultative Committee, the trail showcases little-known facets of Jurong's history. It will be launched on Saturday as part of the Singapore HeritageFest at the Taman Jurong Community Club by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who is also MP for Jurong GRC.

The trail is the NHB's 13th and will highlight 12 heritage spots, including the old Jurong Railway, which transported raw materials and goods to and from Malaysia, and the former Jurong Town Hall with its 58m-high clock tower.

Historic images get fresh breath of life

Stills taken by late historian dating from 1965 to 1995 collected in book
By Melody Zaccheus, The Straits Times, 22 Apr 2015

A COLLECTION of 14,500 images charting the transformation of Singapore has been largely unseen by the general public for up to half a century.

The slides, dating from 1965 to 1995 and taken by the late architectural historian Lee Kip Lin, capture memories such as the city centre's inter-connected five- foot-ways, which were designed to shade pedestrians from the tropical weather, as mandated by the 1822 colonial town plan.

Many have since been replaced by modern towers and complexes.

In 2009, two years before Mr Lee died at age 86, his family donated the collection to the National Library Board (NLB).

About 500 of these stills have now been given a fresh breath of life in an NLB-commissioned book by architectural historian Lai Chee Kien.

Dr Lai worked for a year on the project - titled Through The Lens Of Lee Kip Lin: Photographs Of Singapore 1965-1995 - categorising the images into chapters such as landscapes and streetscapes, houses and residential forms, and other buildings and structures.

The themes are in sync with Mr Lee's conservation role with the Preservation of Monuments Board, which is known as the Preservation of Sites and Monuments today. Some of his shots helped to justify the conservation of areas such as Kampong Glam.

"The photos document a period of physical transformation and urban renewal in Singapore," said Dr Lai.

"For Mr Lee to have taken the thousands of photos in such a sustained, consistent and meticulous manner over three decades is very impressive.

"Many of the stills are in black and white to show contrast in the details. They were also taken from angles that only a practised eye such as an architectural historian can capture."

The allure of cinematic violence in ISIS

Those attracted to ISIS may be less drawn to its religious ideology than to the spectacle and glorification of its violence.
By Farish A. Noor, Published The Straits Times, 22 Apr 2015

THE most harrowing thing I have ever witnessed in the course of my field research on religious and political violence was the sight of young boys being made to watch a video of someone being decapitated and dismembered in a religious school in a South Asian country.

That the video was gory was upsetting enough; but even more disconcerting was the fact that the children who were made to watch it were unmoved, even jaded, by the spectacle of violence that was enacted before them.

Some of them joked about, others played by themselves, while the video played on the television set before them. It convinced me that for some people today, violence has become so normalised and commonplace that watching a person being killed before you is no different from watching an advertisement for shampoo or a cartoon show.

For more than a year now, we have all become the members of a captive audience, stunned and stupefied by the excessive violence of the group calling itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

That ISIS has chosen to assault our senses on an almost daily basis through its use of gratuitous violence reminds us of the fact that we live in an age of spectacular excess, where many people live lives that are vicarious through the medium of popular entertainment, reality shows, sports and video games. That ISIS has chosen to broadcast its violence tells us much about the modalities of the movement, but also locates it historically in the immediate present, as a product and symptom of the age of mass popular media.

That ISIS is a problem and a threat is something most sane and sensible people would agree upon. The question is how this threat is to be contained and neutralised, and what are the appropriate means to do so effectively.