Saturday, 22 November 2014

Lessons from a scientist's shirt

Uproar over Rosetta physicist's shirt shows what you wear is as important as what you say
By Vanessa Friedman, Published The Straits Times, 21 Nov 2014

New York - Matt Taylor is a British project physicist of the Rosetta mission, the team that landed the first probe on a moving comet last week, hence furthering the cause of human knowledge and space exploration.

He is also the one who appeared on BBC Breakfast and a European Space Agency live stream to give updates on the mission while wearing a bowling shirt emblazoned with a print of numerous bodacious women in cleavage-baring poses wearing skin-tight outfits and toting guns - and bearing an astonishing resemblance to the girls of the just-released Pirelli calendar.

And with that, he became a lightning rod on social media for outraged comments and diatribes about sexism, women in science, inappropriate attire and so on.

The controversy, also known on Twitter as #shirtgate and #shirtflap, became so heated that last Friday, Taylor took it upon himself to issue a public apology during a Google hangout in which he both teared up and demonstrated his own penitence by wearing a banal navy zip-up hoodie.

Elly Prizeman, the artist and friend of Taylor who created the shirt, also explained its non-controversial origins in a tweet and a longer blog post. It had been a birthday present and she thought Taylor was being nice by wearing it in public.

And then Mr Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, defended Taylor via a column in The Sunday Telegraph.

According to Mr Johnson, Taylor was "bombarded across the Internet with a hurtling dust cloud of hate, orchestrated by lobby groups and politically correct media organisations".

Hyperbole aside, I think the real moral of this particular story exists beyond personal politics and is fairly straightforward and universal: What you wear in public matters. Whomever you are and whatever you do.

Social service sector to get centralised recruitment scheme

By Imelda Saad, Channel NewsAsia, 20 Nov 2014

A centralised manpower recruitment scheme called Sun Ray has been launched for the social service sector.

The scheme, a first for the sector, will be administered by the National Council of Social Service (NCSS). The council will recruit, develop and deploy social service professionals to take on leadership positions across Voluntary Welfare Organisations in Singapore.

The idea for the scheme was announced by Social and Family Development Minister Chan Chun Sing during the Budget debate earlier this year. The aim is to address the shortage of qualified professionals in the sector, as well as help VWOs that are struggling to attract and retain talent.

Those on the scheme will get a more varied job scope, and better career development and progression, NCSS said, adding that it will also plan and manage career pathways for those on the scheme.

Individuals will be rotated across different social service organisations and relevant government agencies to gain exposure and experience. Each posting will last two to five years, with those holding more senior positions having a longer stay to make better “structural contributions”.

Those on the scheme will also take on inter-agency sectoral projects aimed at broadening their macro perspectives and enriching their portfolio. They will also get sufficient career progression and development opportunities, so that they can get a “good grip” on where they will be heading professionally, NCSS said.

They will also undergo a suite of training programmes, designed by the Social Service Institute, in areas such as leadership skills and social governance.

Singapore named best place in the world to do business for seventh year running

By Ann Williams, The Straits Times, 20 Nov 2014

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has once again ranked Singapore as the best place in the world to do business because of its efficient and open economy.

No 2 out of the 82 counries surveyed was Switzerland, followed by Australia, Hong Kong and Sweden respectively.

Singapore has come out tops for seven consecutive years. Last month, it also topped the World Bank's ease of doing business report, which looked at 189 countries.

The rankings were based on the attractiveness of a country's business environment measured by criteria such as political climate, market opportunities, policy towards free enterprise, openness to foreign investment, foreign-trade and exchange controls, taxes, financing, the labour market and infrastructure.

BRIC countries fared poorly on this year's rankings with China in 50th place and Russia in 64th. Brazil and India were ranked 47th and 48th respectively.

EU countries were some way off the top, with the UK at No21 below Malaysia on the annual index.

"The impact of the debt crisis on political stability, economic stability and financing availability has meant that EU countries remain some way off the top," said the EIU report.

Bigger role for Home Team NSmen

More opportunities for them to take on frontline roles in keeping S'pore safe
By Amir Hussain, The Straits Times, 21 Nov 2014

THE Home Team's national servicemen will get to play a bigger role in keeping Singapore safe and secure, as more opportunities will be provided for them to take on frontline roles.

A review is looking at ways to "better integrate NS forces into actual operations" of the police and Singapore Civil Defence Force, said Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday.

Speaking at a ceremony to re-open three HomeTeamNS clubhouses as well as present the Home Team NSman of the Year awards, Mr Teo said both forces are also studying ways to strengthen the link between training of full-time national servicemen (NSFs) and their subsequent deployment during their reservist period. More details will be announced next year, he said.

In his speech to over 600 Home Team NSmen, corporate partners and guests, Mr Teo also announced that each HomeTeamNS member will get to pass on a year's free membership to a family member - a parent, spouse or child - to celebrate the re-opening of the clubhouses.

The three HomeTeamNS clubhouses that were re-opened after revamps to include more amenities, such as childcare services and food and beverage outlets, are located in Balestier, Chinatown and Bukit Batok. Another HomeTeamNS clubhouse in Tampines will be ready by 2016, while its Sembawang clubhouse will be upgraded by the middle of next year, Mr Teo said.

Workers' housing issues need immediate attention

More can be done to educate workers and prosecute errant employers
By Amelia Tan, The Straits Times, 21 Nov 2014

SINGAPORE is known for its squeaky-clean roads and parks pruned to perfection.

But an ugly side exists.

It is the underbelly of filthy and cramped shophouses, apartments and temporary dorms where many foreign workers live.

On Tuesday night, a spot check by foreign worker group Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC) and The Straits Times found more than 50 construction workers from Bangladesh and India cramped in two small apartments in Selegie Road.

The men slept shoulder to shoulder, amid rotting food and soiled clothes.

The Manpower Ministry (MOM) is now investigating the workers' employers for housing them in unacceptable conditions and not paying the men.

The employers face fines of up to $10,000, and/or up to 12 months in prison. But there are many more unscrupulous bosses who go scot-free for subjecting their workers to bad housing.

In recent months, The Straits Times has published several reports on unhygienic and over-crowded foreign worker housing.

At the living quarters of a Punggol Housing Board construction site, hundreds of workers use choked and broken urinals.

Over at Tuas View Square, about 5,000 workers live in more than 10 factory-converted dormitories which are infested with rats and mosquitoes.

The Government is acutely aware of the problem and has taken important steps to rectify the situation.

Nine purpose-built dorms, which come with cafeterias and basketball courts, will be built over the next two years. They will add around 100,000 beds to the existing 200,000 in about 40 big dorms.

To move workers to proper dorms, the Urban Redevelopment Authority stopped the building of temporary dormitories in a dozen industrial estates last Friday.

Non-Malaysian workers from the marine and process sectors, which include the chemicals and pharmaceutical sectors, will also not be allowed to live in public housing from next year.

But these improvements will not be felt for some time. In the meantime, concrete steps should be taken to fix the situation for the tens of thousands of workers who continue to live in deplorable conditions.

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve extension opens Dec 6

By Alice Chia, Channel NewsAsia, 20 Nov 2014

Visitors to the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve extension will be able to step onto mudflats and get up close with creatures, and enjoy a scenic mid-canopy walk and coastal boardwalk when it opens on Dec 6.

The Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve is home to the largest mangrove forest in Singapore - it spans 130 hectares, which is about the size of 130 football fields. Just next to it will be the 31-hectare extension, boasting rich mangrove and coastal forests. Currently, about 100,000 people visit the reserve every year.

Ms Sharon Chan, deputy director of the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, said: "Over the years, we have seen that there is a rising number of visitors going to Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, and there will be an impact on the wildlife found there. Instead of letting it happen, we thought that it would be good to expand and extend so that we can reach out to more people.

"We also take note of the feedback we have received - that Sungei Buloh is not very accessible. We have brought it closer to people by taking over this extension, closer to Kranji Reservoir Park and that serves as our new entrance. By being closer to the public, they will be able to find more time to come here to understand our fragile mangrove ecosystem."

Lam Ann Association gives S$880,000 to Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre

Clan group gives almost $1m to centre
PM: Donation will help in promoting Chinese culture
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 21 Nov 2014

A CLAN group, whose legacy can be seen in iconic landmarks such as Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall and Fullerton Hotel, yesterday donated nearly $1 million to the new Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre.

Calling the gesture "very meaningful", Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday that the Singapore Lam Ann Association donation will be a "great help" in promoting Chinese culture.

It gave $880,000 to mark its 88th anniversary. Mr Lee is patron of the 11-storey centre in Shenton Way that will be completed in 2016.

The gift was made at the clan group's anniversary celebration which was held together with a dinner reception for the 12th biennial World Convention for Lam Ann Clansmen.

In his address, Mr Lee paid tribute to the significant contributions made by the people from Lam Ann county in China and highlighted their well-known legacies. The concrete symbols of their famed skills in construction can be seen in the former Victoria Memorial, now refurbished and called Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall.

Mr Lim Loh was its architect while his son, Lim Bo Seng, is a national war hero. A symbol of courage, he raised funds to fight the Japanese duringWorld War II. Also from Lam Ann was the late philanthropist Lee Kong Chian, who set up Lee Foundation, which helps the poor and supports efforts in areas such as education and culture.

Friday, 21 November 2014

SMRT Sleeper Replacement: Tireless work to keep project on track

I RECENTLY went on a night-time field trip to observe workers involved in the MRT sleeper replacement project, where timber sleepers are replaced with concrete ones.

The project will take years to complete, and the workers work from 11pm to 4am every day, including on weekends.

All the local and foreign workers are trained and undergo tests before they can work in the field, making them highly skilled.

I was amazed by how they worked together and focused on the task, no matter how hard it was. Time is of the essence as they have only a few hours to work each night before the start of the next day's train operations.

Because of their work throughout the night, MRT trains can run smoothly and safely. They deserve our thanks.

Regine Moh Jia Wei (Miss)
ST Forum, 21 Nov 2014

Keep public transport affordable, urges Transport Minister ahead of fare review

Cushion vulnerable groups from impact of hikes, urges minister ahead of fare review
By Lester Hio, The Straits Times, 20 Nov 2014

PUBLIC transport must remain affordable to all Singaporeans, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said last night at the start of this year's fare review exercise.

Mr Lui wrote in a Facebook post that he hopes the Public Transport Council (PTC) will study whether it is possible to insulate vulnerable groups such as senior citizens from a fare increase - or at least mitigate the impact on them.

He also said the Land Transport Authority has been tasked with studying ongoing travel demand management efforts and encouraging more commuters to travel during off-peak hours.

To achieve the latter, he suggested: "Perhaps the Government can introduce off-peak monthly passes which should also help reduce the travel expenditure for this group of commuters."

Public transport operators may submit fare review applications to the council for consideration by Dec 19.

Results will be announced in the first quarter of next year.

A PTC spokesman said that evaluations will be guided by the fare review mechanism and fare adjustment formula recommended by the Fare Review Mechanism Committee, and accepted by the Government, in November last year.

These include lower fares for lower-wage workers and the disabled, concessions for polytechnic students, free travel for children below seven years old, and the introduction of an adult monthly travel pass which offers unlimited travel for $120.

PUB ready to tackle looming threat of flash floods

By Audrey Tan, The Straits Times, 20 Nov 2014

SINGAPORE has the infrastructure in place to minimise disruption from flash floods during the oncoming north-east monsoon season, said PUB, the national water agency, yesterday.

However, it warned that these may not be able to "cater to the most extreme of storms".

The authority said that, as of Monday, there have been 14 flash flood days this year.

More could occur in the final two months of the year - traditionally the wettest for the Republic.

There were 36 flash flood days last year, up from 23 in 2011, and experts said causes could include increased urbanisation and climate change.

Assistant Professor Winston Chow of the National University of Singapore's geography department said: "The increasing frequency of extreme weather events, such as intense rain or droughts, is consistent with other scientists' observations on climate change."

Mr Ridzuan Ismail, PUB's director of catchment and waterways, said the growth of urban areas in Singapore has led to more rainwater in developed areas flowing into drainage canals.

However, the agency said yesterday that it has adopted a suite of measures to address flood risks.

It has completed 163 drainage projects over the past three years at locations such as Toh Tuck Road and Rochor Canal.

About 133 drainage projects are currently under way, and 23 more will be undertaken by next year.