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2014 in review

30 Dec

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 23,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

2013 in review

29 Jan

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 19,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

2012 in review

4 Jan

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,600 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

S’poreans Have To Be Prudent & Realistic About Their Financial Means: Khaw

5 Aug

SINGAPORE: National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said given the existing financial climate, Singaporeans need to be prudent.

In buying houses, for an example, he said Singaporeans should buy within their means.

He made these points at the National Day Observance Ceremony in Sembawang GRC.

Singaporeans, especially second-time flat buyers, can count on the government to address their concerns.

Mr Khaw said he’s quite happy with progress made over the past one year.

He said first-time home buyers are now able to apply for a Build-to-Order (BTO) flat in a non-mature estate with relative ease.

“So now this year, I’ll be focusing on second-time (home buyers) and improve their chances. So the recent BTO, I’m looking at the subscription rates day by day and it’s quite healthy, but we will press on to build more to satisfy Singaporeans’ demand to catch up on the deficit in the last few years,” he explained.

He also stressed that Singaporeans should be realistic about their financial means.

“There’re now some gimmicks coming along, some banks offering 50 years’ (loan) so please don’t fall for that. It doesn’t make sense.

“If you want to immediately come out from school and want to get a five-room flat and think that a 50-year loan will help you achieve that, I don’t think that is very wise.”

And Mr Khaw said it’s a “good sign” that only very few people have opted for the 50-year loan.

“So I’ve been checking how many people take up this 50-year loan; as far as I gather, the number is very few, which I think is a good sign.”

Mr Khaw points out that Singaporeans should be realistic about their financial means.

“If your salary allows you to buy a three-room flat, buy a three-room flat. In 10 years’ time, if you continue to work hard, I’m sure your salary will grow, and then you can upgrade.

“Then by that time if Singapore economy is doing well, your three-room flat will fetch a better price, so with the improvement in the price of your three-room (flat) you can then upgrade.”

In conjunction with the National Day Observance Ceremony, Mr Khaw also launched a new resident patrol week in the constituency.

The programme will have more than 230 volunteers spreading fire safety messages for a week, starting 1 to 9 August, every year.

Sembawang GRC has one of the highest rates of public residential fires.

But with efforts targeting the problem, the numbers have slipped to 74 – from 80 in the previous quarter.

On a national scale, more than 800 public residential fires were reported from January to March this year.

This is about 60 cases more than last quarter.

– CNA/ck

Channel News Asia

Tap & Pay For Purchases With Smartphones Later This Month

4 Aug

SINGAPORE: Smartphone users in Singapore can soon use their phones to pay for their shopping purchases and public transportation.

A consortium comprising mobile operators, banks and payment service providers will launch nationwide touch-and-go applications on mobile devices.

The consortium members are M1, SingTel, Starhub, Citibank, DBS, Gemalto and EZ-Link.

The services using Near Field Communication (NFC) technology will be available to the public later in August.

Consumers just need to tap and go their smartphones against the NFC reader to make payment.

Such technology makes shopping a much easier and more convenient experience.

And if you are worried about security, a password can be added as well to give you that peace of mind.

The maximum amount per transaction is currently capped at S$100.

All these are part of the vision to make Singapore a leading e-payments nation.

Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore’s senior director (Industry Cluster Group), Tan Eng Pheng, said: “The potential is tremendous. You can go beyond payment, to look at advertising, purchases, other CRM (Customer Relationship Management) services, over time.”

Sim S Lim, DBS Singapore’s country manager, said: “NFC is another option we offer our customers in our suite of mobile payments. Some customers might prefer to use a hard credit card (while) some customers are comfortable having everything packaged into a mobile phone.”

DBS plans to introduce virtual credit card to be stored in NFC handsets but this is pending regulatory approvals.

Some 30,000 retail points including taxis already have NFC connections.

Come early 2013, the tap-and-pay mobile device services will be extended to all public buses and subways.

However, not all smartphones can be used or are NFC-enabled.

Only four types of smartphones are currently available for use.

The models NFC certified are Samsung Galaxy S3, Samsung Galaxy S Advance, Sony Ericsson Xperia S and Sony Ericsson Xperia P.

Gan Siok Hoon, SingTel’s vice president (M-Commerce), said: “Increasingly we are seeing handset manufacturers include NFC as a feature in their new phones, so consumers can accept and expect more options going forward.”

Despite NFC being a secured option, analysts remind users to remain vigilant and not tap their smartphones against hacking devices.

Li May Chew, associate research director at IDC Financial Insights, said: “The incentive for fraudsters to benefit from it will also increase in tandem. So, same as with credit cards, debit cards, payments through mobile technology would also have corresponding security issues.”

Some 72 per cent out of an estimated four million Singapore’s mobile phone subscribers use smartphones.

Industry watchers believe the trend is rising and with more tech-savvy users, such mobile payment tools may come in handy.

– CNA/ck

Channel News Asia

More Arts & Culture Programmes In The Pipeline

4 Aug

SINGAPORE: The government will be rolling out more arts and culture programmes this year and the next to engage the community on a larger scale.

This is a response to the recommendations submitted by the Arts and Culture Strategic Review Steering Committee early this year, which included the need for more ground-up cultural development, like having the community be more active as audiences and participants.

For a start, the National Heritage Board launched an enhanced Jalan Besar Heritage Trail on Saturday morning.

It was introduced by the Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim.

It’s part of NHB’s plan to increase community engagement efforts by broadening its heritage spaces in the form of heritage corners, community museums and heritage trails.

The National Arts Council plans to have programmes which engage Singaporeans at different life-stages.

For example, it will have an arts platform for seniors in September to showcase their artistic talents.

The People’s Association aims to involve all 87 constituencies in its PAssionArts Hotspots across Singapore, where community arts and culture activities will take place every month.

The National Library Board is also developing a one-stop portal, called ArtsCultureSG, which will provide consolidated information on arts and culture activities in Singapore, which will be ready by mid-2013.

The government is hoping the suite of programmes will see more people take active ownership of Singapore’s arts and culture development.

This comes as 2011 saw a growth for the Singapore arts and culture scene.

According to the Singapore Cultural Statistics 2012, the number of arts performances have increased by 14 per cent in 2011 compared to 2010.

More people are also attending arts events as ticketed arts attendance rose from 1.38 million in 2010 to 2.14 million last year.

Also at the Jalan Besar Heritage Trail, Dr Yaacob introduced the “Living Arts, Loving Culture” tagline and logo as a new umbrella identity to encompass the programmes being launched.

– CNA/cc

Channel News Asia

New IPhone App & Pop Song To Promote Use Of Mandarin

28 Jul

SINGAPORE – The 33rd Speak Mandarin Campaign kicked off with the launch of the new iHuayu iPhone application and a pop song.

The free iPhone application provides bilingual terms that help executives and businessmen enhance their Mandarin vocabulary.

Its database comprises some 50,000 business and Singapore-related terms, such as “Electronic Road Pricing” and “hot money”.

Users can listen to the pronunciations of the terms, view sample sentences and scenarios that show how Mandarin is used in different settings.

The campaign also introduced a new pop song – ‘Shuo’ or ‘Speak’. It features a catchy melody and rap segment to appeal to youths.

Singapore Cultural Medallion recipient Iskandar Ismail composed, arranged and produced the song. ‘Shuo’ is performed by Singapore artiste Tay Kewei.

The campaign hopes to encourage Chinese Singaporeans to constantly use and practise Mandarin so that they can become effectively bilingual.

Speaking at the campaign launch, Minister for Education Heng Swee Keat said: “Learning Mandarin and other Mother Tongue languages anchors us to our Asian culture and values, gives us a complementary perspective of the English-speaking world, and connects us to the economic powerhouses of Asia.”

Today Online

Seven Town Councils To Increase S&CC

28 Jul

SINGAPORE – Seven town councils will be increasing their Service and Conservancy Charges (S&CC) from September.

The town councils are: Bishan-Toa Payoh, Chua Chu Kang, East Coast, Holland-Bukit Panjang, Tanjong Pagar, Tampines and West Coast. The last revision was in 2004.

The increase will be phased over two years. The 1st tier increase, with effect from September, ranges from S$0.50 to S$6.50 per month for HDB one-room to executive flats home-owners.

Commercial property owners and tenants will see an increase ranging from S$0.10 to S$0.40 psm/month while the increase for most cooked stalls is between S$5.00 and S$14.00 per month.

The 2nd tier increase will start in September next year, and will range from S$0.50 to S$5.50 per month for HDB one-room to executive flats home-owners. Commercial property owners and tenants will see an increase ranging from S$0.10 to S$0.30 psm/month. The increase for most of the cooked food stalls is between S$5.00 and S$11.00 per month.

A statement issued today by Holland-Bukit Panjang Town Council noted that the town councils are faced with rising costs and inflation. Despite making a “conscious effort” to control costs and expenditure, it is “increasingly difficult” to continue operations at the current S&CC rates, the statement said.

“So this year, seven Town Councils will increase their S&CCs in order to continue to serve our residents effectively while the other Town Councils which are also facing cost pressures would have to decide on the increase in the future.”

One of the largest cost increase has been in electricity, with tariffs rising by almost 75 per cent between 2004 and this year. With most towns having successfully undergone the Lift Upgrading Programme, maintenance costs have also increased by 20 per cent, on average.

Increased demands for higher cleaning standards as well as efforts to improve the capabilities and incomes of local cleaners have seen cleaning costs ries by 20 per cent on average too.

“The Town Councils will continue to work closely with the Members of Parliament, Grassroots Organisations and the Community Development Councils, to help residents who may have difficulties with their S&CC payments,” the statement said.

Today Online

Hong Kong Ani-Com & Games Fair Puts The Fun Back Into Comic Heroes

27 Jul

HONG KONG: One of Asia’s biggest animation and comic fairs opened in Hong Kong on Friday, attracting thousands of fans and bringing some fun back into super heroes after the Batman movie shootings in Colorado.

Thor, Spiderman, Captain America and Optimus Prime were just some of the costumes that enthusiasts sported on the opening day of the Ani-Com & Games fair, now in its 14th year in the southern Chinese city.

Paul Ho, 38, wore a home-made Iron Man costume as he strode around the harbourside exhibition centre with a group of friends dressed as other characters of comic-book legend.

“From spraying the paint to modifying it with fiberglass, it took five months to make this suit,” the professional costume maker and event organiser told AFP, as blue LED lights glowed in his helmet and chest plate.

Popular animators and cartoonists were on hand to chat with visitors to the fair, which this year attracted more than 170 local and international exhibitors showing off the latest comics, video games and accessories.

Autographed comics and limited edition action figures were among the hottest items, and fans were seen running through the crowd to make orders while stocks lasted.

Wong Sun Sing, a 27-year-old photographer, started lining up for the expo on Thursday night to pick up three limited edition figures he ordered online at the beginning of the month.

The life-like figures of Batman, Captain America and Jack Sparrow sold for HK$1300 ($168) each, he said.

“I had to line up outside. Luckily there was some shelter that prevented us from getting wet,” he said after sitting through a rainy night outside the convention centre.

The fair opens a week after a gunman opened fire on a packed cinema showing the new Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises” in the the US state of Colorado, killing 12 people and wounding 58.

The alleged 24-year-old shooter’s motives remain unknown but he apparently told police he was the Joker — an evil character in the Batman series — leading some to speculate that he was living out a role-playing fantasy.

“Sometimes people that have watched these movies may try to pretend to be the evil characters,” Ho said.

Warner Brothers cancelled red carpet events for the film in France, Japan and Mexico — and in a separate move scrambled to pull a trailer for another new film, including a scene in which mobsters shoot at theatre audiences.

Batman actor Christian Bale paid a low-key visit to victims of the shooting on Tuesday.

Despite the shooting, “The Dark Knight Rises” had the third largest opening weekend ever in terms of ticket sales, according to box office revenue-tracker Exhibitor Relations.

Underscoring the huge and enduring popularity of animated characters and super heroes, the last chapter in the Batman trilogy earned $160.9 million in its first three days.

That comes behind opening weekend grosses for “The Avengers” ($207.4 million) and the final Harry Potter movie, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2” ($169.2 million).

– AFP/lp

Channel News Asia

CHERISH Award Extended To Pre-Schools & PSEIs

26 Jul

SINGAPORE: For the first time, the CHERISH (CHampioning Efforts Resulting in Improved School Health) Award is extended to pre-schools and post-secondary education institutions (PSEIs).

CHERISH is a holistic framework that promotes a health-conscious learning environment in educational institutions.

311 schools, out of 343 applicants, received the CHERISH Award.

The inaugural CHERISH Junior Award was given out to 94 pre-schools.

Eight PSEIs have also pledged support for health promotion in their campuses.

Speaking at the award ceremony, Minister for Education Heng Swee Keat stressed that health promotion in youths is important.

“The cultivation of healthy habits needs to be sustained. It is therefore important that as our students progress further, they remain in a health-promoting environment,” he said.

– CNA/cc/wm

Channel News Asia