Monday, May 30, 2011

Cucumber under scrutiny

May 31, 2011

Cucumber under scrutiny


A cucumber is dissected as tests continue in Germany following the outbreak of a strain of E. coli bacteria that has left at least 11 people dead and more than 1,000 ill across Europe. The authorities in Germany, which has suffered the brunt of the outbreak, say they have traced some bacteria on organic cucumbers imported from Spain. But the source of the contamination has yet to be identified fully. In Singapore, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) has widened its testing to include vegetables from anywhere in the European Union.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Top poly students gave JCs a miss

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May 10, 2011

Top poly students gave JCs a miss

Specialised courses and hands-on approach among attractions cited

(From left) Mr Thomas Lim, 20, Mr Thng Kai Yuan, 19, Mr Li Yan, 22, and Ms Lim Hui Yin, 21, are among the top students at Singapore Polytechnic this year. They chose to go to the polytechnic after their O levels instead of a junior college. -- PHOTO: SINGAPORE POLYTECHNIC

MR THOMAS Lim's O-level score of seven points for six subjects landed him in a top junior college (JC), but his heart was set on going to a polytechnic.

One and a half months into his theatre studies and drama programme at Victoria Junior College (VJC) three years ago, he switched to Singapore Polytechnic (SP) to study applied drama and psychology.

Mr Lim, 20, will be graduating in two weeks as the top student in his class of about 40 students.

He is among several of this year's class acts at the five polytechnics who chose not to enrol at JCs.

They told The Straits Times that they were won over by the polytechnics' specialised courses, hands-on nature of education and opportunities outside the classroom to explore their interests at a deeper level.

They did not feel that a polytechnic diploma would put them at a disadvantage in getting a place at the local universities, which are opening up more places for polytechnic graduates.

It was reported that 7,000, or 33 per cent, of the O-level students who qualified for a place in the JCs last year took the three-year polytechnic route instead.

Six years ago, 29 per cent of JC-eligible students chose the polytechnic path.

Mr Lim, who attended Catholic High School, said he went to SP because he wanted to learn how to use drama as a platform to reach out to the community and address issues.

This is not a focus of the theatre studies and drama programme at VJC which concentrates on teaching drama as an art form.

'I've grown more mature from being able to put myself in the shoes of the characters that I take on and learnt how to understand different points of view. And I would like other young people to gain from drama too by holding classes and workshops,' said Mr Lim, who hopes to pursue drama at the University of Manchester.

Ms Aemilia Widodo, 21, did not apply to JCs as they did not offer digital animation courses. The former Crescent Girls' School student said: 'I was certain that I wanted to pursue a career in digital animation and felt that Nanyang Polytechnic would help me to achieve that goal.'

She is Nanyang Polytechnic's top digital media design (animation) diploma student.

Ms Widodo, who is from Indonesia, became a Singapore citizen recently and hopes to study digital animation in the United States.

The top students said the three years spent in a polytechnic also gave them leeway to explore other interests.

Ms Lim Hui Yin, 21, who is SP's top aerospace electronics student, did an internship in China, went for overseas community-service trips and practised wushu and kickboxing.

'There are only two years in JC and I think I would have been mugging most of the time,' said Ms Lim, a former Presbyterian High student who is aiming to take electrical and electronic engineering at the Nanyang Technological University.

Mr Thng Kai Yuan, 19, who is SP's top aeronautical engineering student, found time to tutor juniors at his alma mater Gan Eng Seng School, attend leadership camps and go overseas for an internship and a community service trip.

'Balancing my studies and other activities did not feel like hard work because I enjoyed what I was doing,' said Mr Thng, who hopes to study engineering in Britain on a scholarship.

Other top students said they found their calling at the polytechnics.

SP's top information technology student Li Yan, 22, scored a lacklustre 18 points for his O levels but managed a straight-A record in polytechnic.

'My grades improved tremendously in poly. I realised it was because I was doing computer programming which I enjoy,' said Mr Li, an alumnus of River Valley High School who will be studying information systems at the National University of Singapore.

Yesterday, Republic Polytechnic held its first of several graduation ceremonies. The rest of the polytechnics will do so over the next few weeks.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Voters back WP's style of politics, says Low


May 9, 2011

Voters back WP's style of politics, says Low

VOTERS have endorsed the Workers' Party's (WP) style of politics, one in which the opposition does not oppose aimlessly but advances its cause in a rational and responsible way.
Its chief Low Thia Khiang said this the morning after the party's best-ever performance at the polls.
It is this approach, he observed, that has helped the party clinch a stunning victory in Aljunied GRC, obtain more votes in Hougang and achieve good results in the other six constituencies.
'I'm heartened to note that Singaporeans have accepted the WP as a rational, responsible and respected party. They have responded to the approach of politics which I have taken,' said the new Aljunied GRC MP-elect.
He was speaking to reporters yesterday outside the Hougang Town Council, before he and his teammates went on a thank-you parade in various parts of Aljunied GRC, which it captured from the People's Action Party (PAP) with 54.7 per cent of the votes.
In defeating the PAP team led by Foreign Minister George Yeo, the WP team has made history by becoming the first opposition party to win a Group Representation Constituency (GRC) since the system was introduced in 1988.
The feeling was 'great', said Mr Low, while also expressing delight with the WP's overall showing at the polls.
The party is now firmly the strongest opposition party, a far cry from 2001 when it fielded only two candidates.
When Parliament sits again, the WP will be the only opposition party with elected MPs. Its group of six comprises the five-member team from Aljunied GRC and Hougang MP-elect Yaw Shin Leong, 34, who won 64.8 per cent of the votes. The vote share surpassed Mr Low's own career-high of 62.7 per cent in Hougang at the 2006 polls.
Even the party's weakest GRC team in Moulmein-Kallang managed 41.4 per cent of the votes, while its candidates in the Joo Chiat single ward and East Coast GRC will be offered the Non-Constituency MP seats as best losers.
Overall, the WP's vote share climbed from 38.4 per cent in 2006 to 46.6 per cent, well above the average of 36.5 per cent for the other five opposition parties.
However, Mr Low's brand of politics has received brickbats over the years, from even among the opposition camp, with criticisms of it being too conservative, slow, or too similar to the PAP's.
Yesterday, he acknowledged the criticisms as he took pains to explain the WP's approach, which includes confronting the Government if necessary.
'But as the society matures and becomes civilised, I think Singaporeans want political engagement to be done in a civilised manner,' he added.
He also believes the WP won Aljunied GRC because of its slate of candidates with 'diverse, solid backgrounds' whom the voters felt they could entrust the management of the town council to.
He also disagreed that missteps in the PAP's campaign, which included having the party heavyweights lending support to Mr Yeo, had any part to play.
'The PAP has many people helping it to think of strategies. So I don't think whatever they did was done blindly or has backfired,' added Mr Low.
But he pointed out that remarks from PAP leaders could have been a factor in swaying the ground towards the WP, though Mr Low was careful not to attribute any blame to anyone in particular.
Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew's warning that Aljunied GRC voters would 'repent' for the next five years if they supported the WP has been cited by analysts as a key factor in the PAP's defeat.
Mr Low said the WP is determined not to let voters down, in the light of how the opposition peaked with four elected opposition MPs in 1991 but regressed to two at the 1997 polls.
Asked if voters should give up on the opposition if the WP team does not perform, he replied: 'Please do not assume that we will fail. We will do our best to make it succeed.'
Echoing his sentiments were his GRC teammates, like Mr Chen Show Mao, who said he is determined to make sure that 'we don't disappoint or give the Aljunied residents cause to regret their decision'.
Another, Mr Pritam Singh, agreed, saying the euphoria of the GRC win has died down quickly as the team recognises that there is 'a lot of work for all of us'.
'Aljunied residents have a lot of expectations and, as voters and citizens, it's their right to have expectations of their elected MPs,' he added.