Friday, November 27, 2015

2 die from GBS bacteria, hawkers to stop selling raw fish dishes, Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

2 die from GBS bacteria, hawkers to stop selling raw fish dishes, Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

2 die from GBS bacteria, hawkers to stop selling raw fish dishes

Hawkers have been told to stop selling Chinese-style raw fish dishes - including raw fish porridge - immediately, unless they can show that the fish are from safe suppliers, the authorities said yesterday.

Investigations have confirmed a link between such dishes and what appears to be a particularly aggressive strain of Group B Streptococcus bacteria (GBS) - Sequence Type (ST) 283 - that has made some people here seriously ill and could have killed one person.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) told The Straits Times that it has been notified of 355 cases of GBS infection this year, of which around 150 belonged to the ST283 strain.

Two infected patients died, MOH said. One death is being investigated, while another is not linked to the outbreak.

"Following the investigations, the National Environment Agency advises that all retail food establishments that sell ready-to-eat raw fish dishes are to source raw fish from suppliers that adopt proper cold chain management and hygienic handling practices of the fish," said the agency, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority and MOH in a statement.

Food handlers and fishmongers tested negative for the virulent strain, but fish were a likely source, investigations revealed.

Between August and last month, nearly 400 fish samples across the supply chain, from fishery ports to wet markets and food outlets, were tested. GBS was detected in a fifth of the samples, and 4.1 per cent of total samples tested positive for ST283.

Song fish (Asian bighead carp), toman fish (snakehead) and tilapia, all freshwater species, were the ones which tested positive for ST283.

The authorities stressed that most fish sold in wet markets or at fishery ports are intended for cooking and should not be eaten raw, as they could carry a number of parasites or bacteria.


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NEL train disruption on Oct 26 caused by melted wires which snapped, say SBS Transit & LTA, Transport News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

NEL train disruption on Oct 26 caused by melted wires which snapped, say SBS Transit & LTA, Transport News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

NEL train disruption on Oct 26 caused by melted wires which snapped, say SBS Transit & LTA

SINGAPORE - The causes of two major train disruptions on the North-East Line last month has been determined, SBS Transit and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said in a joint statement on Friday (Nov 27).

NEL train services were disrupted at five stations for one hour and 40 minutes during the morning peak on Oct 13. There was another two-hour disruption on the morning of Oct 26.

The disruption on Oct 26 happened after a new train undergoing testing damaged the overhead catenary system (OCS), which supplies power to the trains. It was returning to the depot.

The catenary system is the power supply system installed on the ceiling of the train tunnel.

Investigations revealed that the train was being manually driven from the mainline back to the depot when the driver saw sparks from above the train and stopped the train immediately.

The train stopped at a stretch where the mainline and depot catenary system wires overlap, resulting in arcing between the two sections of wires.

The sustained arcing caused the catenary system wires to melt, and eventually snap.

Arcing occurs at the overlap point because of the voltage difference between the mainline and depot catenary system. This is not a problem during normal operations as the NEL trains are driverless and will not stop at this overlap point, the statement said.

Power to the mainline tracks between Hougang to Buangkok was switched off to facilitate urgent repair works.

This affected the launching of trains to the mainline, and hence the disruption to NEL services. Power to the rest of the mainline and depot was not affected, the statement said.

As an interim precautionary measure, SBST has marked all overlap zones on the reception tracks to indicate these as non-stopping zones.

LTA and SBST are working together to enhance the design of the catenary system to minimise the likelihood of a recurrence.

This includes reducing the electrical voltage difference between the catenary system wires at the overlap point, in case trains still stop at this stretch.

The NEL train service disruption between Farrer Park and Hougang stations on Oct 13 was due to a power fault, which caused the main circuit breaker to trip.

The power fault was triggered by a "malfunction of a component in the electrical switchgear at a substation" that supplied electricity to power the trains running between these stations.

This caused the main circuit breaker to trip. Then, power was diverted to a backup breaker which also tripped.

After investigations, LTA and SBST said that the original manufacturer protection setting of the backup breaker was overly conservative.

As an interim measure, SBST has increased the protection setting of the circuit breaker to cater for the projected maximum load of the network.

For the long term, LTA and SBST are working together to enhance the power system to minimise the likelihood of a recurrence.

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Off-duty cop out on a date catches rioting suspects - with help from SCDF officer, Courts & Crime News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Off-duty cop out on a date catches rioting suspects - with help from SCDF officer, Courts & Crime News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Off-duty cop out on a date catches rioting suspects - with help from SCDF officer

SINGAPORE - He was supposed to be out on a supper date with his girlfriend, but the policeman in Muhammad Fareez was not about to let a crime go unpunished.

On Oct 23 at about 11.30pm, the Staff Sergeant (SSGT) had picked up paramedic Nurul Fatin from Yishun Fire Station after the shift, and the couple were about to leave on his motorcycle when they heard a commotion near the station's entrance.

They spotted a group of men running away, leaving behind a man who was limping and bleeding from the head.

While Ms Fatin - whom the The New Paper reported works for a private ambulance service engaged by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) - swiftly administered first aid to the man, the injured man told SSGT Fareez that the unknown group had kicked and punched him.

"I knew that I had to prevent the suspects from getting away as an assault had occurred", said the 27-year-old, who is from the Bukit Timah Neighbourhood Police Centre.

As he was outnumbered, he approached several SCDF personnel in the fire station for assistance, and enlisted the help of Sergeant (SGT) Muhammad Khairi, a firefighter.

The duo then hopped onto SSGT Fareez's bike and gave chase, spotting two of the suspects along the main road of Yishun Ave 2.

While SGT Khairi alighted to chase the suspects on foot, SSGT Fareez executed a U-turn to intercept them and succeeded in detaining one of the suspects.

The other man was caught by SGT Khairi and pinned down.

Police officers from Ang Mo Kio division subsequently arrived on the scene and arrested both men. Six other men were caught later that night in relation to a case of rioting, and investigations are ongoing.

For their quick thinking and devotion to duty, the trio were lauded by the Singapore Police Force in a Facebook post on Wednesday (Nov 25) evening.

The post has since received more than 8,000 likes and shared over 1,200 times.

SGT Khairi, who admitted he had little experience in chasing suspects, said he responded "because help was needed".

As for SSGT Fareez, he said he had acted out of instinct as a police officer.

"I feel that it is my duty to protect the public and nab the suspects. Of course, I was able to do so with the help and cooperation from my Home Team colleagues and I am thankful for that," he added.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Controversy over City Harvest Church's 'prosperity gospel', Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Controversy over City Harvest Church's 'prosperity gospel', Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Controversy over City Harvest Church's 'prosperity gospel'

City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee (left) was among six church leaders convicted of misusing church funds to bankroll his wife Ho Yeow Sun's (far left) music career.
City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee (left) was among six church leaders convicted of misusing church funds to bankroll his wife Ho Yeow Sun's (far left) music career.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

Former church members and some pastors have publicly questioned some practices at City Harvest Church (CHC), after several of its leaders were found guilty on Oct 21 of misusing church funds.

Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Community Church Yang Tuck Yoong wrote an online note to his congregation, saying CHC's founding pastor Kong Hee had not taken heed of the proverb which says "a good name is to be chosen rather than great riches".

He added that he was grieved many people had "left the faith, backslid, stumbled, or who had been so disillusioned by the whole fiasco".

Kong, 51, was among six church leaders who were convicted of misusing millions in church funds to bankroll his wife Ho Yeow Sun's music career. They are due back in court next Friday for sentencing submissions.

Mr Yang told The Straits Times he got to know Kong when they were both attending the Marine Parade Christian Centre in the 1980s. Kong had assisted him in running the youth ministry at the church, he said.

The duo had disagreed on "theological standpoints" in the past, Mr Yang said.

"We've a saying that 'theology breeds methodology', and their position on the Crossover Project might have led to some practices in the church that have now come into question by the courts," he said, referring to CHC's project to evangelise through the music of Ms Ho.

Pastor Aaron Ho from Saint Andrew's Secondary School had written in his blog that trying to evangelise through Ms Ho's controversial music career was "questionable at the very least".

"The principle is this - you cannot compromise the gospel in order to share the gospel," he wrote.

Formers members also told The Straits Times about practices in church, saying they felt compelled to give donations, had their whereabouts constantly monitored by church members, or were pressured into buying Ms Ho's music albums.

One former member, who wanted to be known only as Mr Khoo, said his cell group leaders had questioned him about his monthly allowance because they suspected he was "under-contributing" in his tithes and offerings.

"At that point of time, I was still a student, but I was driving my dad's car - I think they felt I was quite well-to-do," said Mr Khoo, 27, who left the church about three years ago.

Making a donation is a personal choice, he said, adding that contributions were noted on envelopes and tracked by cell group leaders.

CHC preaches the "prosperity gospel", which teaches that one would be rewarded materially and spiritually if they gave financially to God.

Another former member, Ms Geraldine Sim, said she was expected to report daily via SMS to a "mentor" on her whereabouts, and was once told off when she was spotted watching a movie with a male friend.


At a meeting, we were told one of the cell group leaders had sold his car so he could buy more albums. It was like 'See, our brother, he sacrificed for God'.

MS GERALDINE SIM, a former member of City Harvest Church, on how members were urged to buy Ms Ho's music albums.

The 27-year-old digital content editor related her time in CHC in a blog which was shared widely. She attended CHC for about two years, joining it at the age of 15.

Whenever Ms Ho released a music album, pastors would "encourage" members to buy it, said Ms Sim. She added: "There were extreme examples. At a meeting, we were told one of the cell group leaders had sold his car so he could buy more albums. It was like 'See, our brother, he sacrificed for God'."

Undergraduate Samuel Wee, 25, said giving to the church was regularly emphasised.

"It was an environment where financial contribution was constantly portrayed as a positive thing you do to be a good Christian, and for your own good, to enrich yourself spiritually and financially," said Mr Wee, who left the church in 2009.

When approached, CHC declined to comment. The National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) said many churches encourage regular giving, but "coercion is not helpful if it were true".

NCCS president Reverend Wee Boon Hup said worshippers were free to join other churches if they did not agree with CHC's practices.

He said: "NCCS expects member churches to be responsible in the raising and management of their funds, following accepted principles of governance as required by the Commissioner of Charities."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2015, with the headline 'Controversy over church's 'prosperity gospel''. 
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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Does Moderate Islamic Ideology Exist?

Does Moderate Islamic Ideology Exist?

One of the guiding principles of the Islamic State is that Muslims must fight non-Muslims all over the world and offer them the following choices: Join, pay a humiliating tax called "jijya," or to be killed. This violent principle was the basic doctrine that justified the Islamic conquests by the early Muslims.

After recent savagery by ISIS and other militant groups around the world, the following question inevitably is raised: Is it possible to be a follower and not adhere to that mandate?

In other words, if a young Muslim became very religious, is there an approved Islamic theological source or interpretation that clearly contradicts such a principle or at least teaches it in a different way, for example, contextualizing it in time and place?
The sad answer is: No.
Typically, there are five sources for Islamic law. These are: the Koran — the Hadith of Prophet Muhammad (such as Sahih Al-Buchakry), the actions of the disciples of Mohamed (Sahaba), the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence, and the Tafseer or Interpretations of the Koran.

If a young Muslim whether the Islamic State is adhering to doctrine, the following shocking results would arise.

The literal understanding of the Koran 9:29 can easily be used to justify what extremists are doing. "Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture (Jews and Christians) - [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humiliated."

The following Sahih (authentic) Hadith in Al-Buchakry also supports violent ideology.
"Muhammad said: "I have been ordered to fight the people till they say: La ilaha illallah (none has the right to be worshipped but Allah), and whoever said No God other than, Allah will save his property and his life from me."

If the same young Sunni Muslim felt uncomfortable with the literal interpretations of such text a search for an answer in the actions of the Sahaba might ensue. Sadly, the Sahaba or Disciples of Muhammad were the ones who used such a principle to justify the Islamic conquests and subjugating non-Muslims to Islam.
The fourth source for Islamic law is the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence namely, Al-Shafeii, Al-Hanbali, Al-Hanafi, and Al- Maleki. These schools, without a single exception, support the principle that Muslims must fight non-Muslims and offer them the dire choices.

The fifth, and final hope for one searching for a different understanding of Koran 9:29 is to find an interpretation (or commentary) that interprets it differently.

A basic research on almost all approved interpretation for the Quran support the same violent understanding. More than leading 25 different approved Koran Interpretations that are usually used by Muslims to understand the Koran unambiguously support the violent understanding of the verse.

Saying that "Islam is the religion of peace" or condemning radicals as being "un-Islamic" without condemning the principle that Muslims must fight non-Muslims to subjugate them to Islam, is not just hypocritical, it is counterproductive as it hides the true cause of the problem and impedes the efforts to solve it.

It also dangerously ignores the seriousness of the problem. Similarly, not calling the "Islamic State" the Islamic State (to avoid using the word Islamic) as suggested by some Islamic scholars is not going to change the painful fact that ISIS is using an approved and unchallenged principle of the Islamic theology. Such scholars need to work on providing peaceful alternatives to the current violent theology instead of asking the world not use the label Islamic State.
There are many moderate Muslims; however, until the leading Islamic scholars provide peaceful theology that clearly contradicts the violent views of the Islamic State, the existence of moderate "Islam" must be questioned.

Dr. Tawfik Hamid is the author of "Inside Jihad: Understanding and Confronting Radical Islam."

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Paris attacks: Female suicide bomber killed in raid amid climate of anxiety in Europe, Europe News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Paris attacks: Female suicide bomber killed in raid amid climate of anxiety in Europe, Europe News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Paris attacks: Female suicide bomber killed in raid amid climate of anxiety in Europe

Paris (AFP) - A female suicide bomber blew herself up and one other militant died in a police raid in Paris on Wednesday (Nov 18) as explosions and automatic gunfire rang out in an operation targeting the suspected mastermind of last week's attacks.

The pre-dawn raids in the northern suburb of Saint-Denis turned into an hours-long stand-off between security forces and up to four people holed up in an apartment, near the Stade de France stadium that was attacked by suicide bombers on Friday (Nov 13).

The operation targeted the suspected mastermind of Friday's deadly attacks in the capital, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, an Islamic State fighter who was previously thought to be in Syria after fleeing raids in his native Belgium earlier this year.

A source close to the investigation said a woman in the apartment had blown herself up and one other person was killed, while police said five people had been arrested.

Hayat, 26, had been leaving a friend's apartment where she had spent the night when the shots rang out just after 4am.

"I heard gunfire," she said. "I could have been hit by a bullet. I never thought terrorists could have hid here."

Dozens of soldiers had flooded into the area and heavily armed police were seen deploying along a street full of shops in the centre of the district, while ambulances and fire engines filled the streets.

Some residents were evacuated, some still in their underwear and the authorities warned residents to keep away from windows.

The raid came as Europe was placed on high alert after footage from the scene of one of Friday's attacks in Paris, which killed 129 and injured 350, revealed a ninth suspect may have taken part.

It was not clear if the ninth man was one of two suspected accomplices detained in Belgium or was on the run, potentially with 26-year-old fugitive Frenchman Salah Abdeslam, who took part in the attacks with his suicide-bomber brother Brahim.

Police also carried out multiple raids in south-western France, in Ariege, Toulouse and the department of the Haute-Garonne.

The operations were part of an anti-terrorism strategy but not directly linked to the Paris attacks, an investigator told AFP.

French President Francois Hollande will hold discussions on Wednesday on extending to three months the state of emergency declared after the worst attacks in French history. Lawmakers will vote on the proposal on Thursday and Friday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her top ministers will also hold a special meeting on security issues on Wednesday. The meeting, which will probably also include intelligence chiefs, will take place after a regular full Cabinet meeting.

In a sign of the nervousness gripping Europe after Friday's carnage, a football match between Germany and the Netherlands in Hanover was cancelled on Tuesday and the crowd evacuated after police acted on a "serious" bomb threat.

As police stepped up the hunt for the fugitives, French and Russian jets pounded ISIS targets in the group's Syrian stronghold of Raqa for a third consecutive day.

It is believed that the air strikes have killed at least 33 militants with the ISIS group in the last 72 hours, monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

France and Russia have vowed merciless retaliation for the Paris attacks and last month's bombing of a Russian airliner over the Egyptian Sinai peninsula which killed 229 people which was also claimed by the Islamic State group.

"It's necessary to establish direct contact with the French and work with them as allies," Russian President Vladimir Putin said as France announced it was sending its Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier to the eastern Mediterranean on Wednesday.

The attacks have galvanised international resolve to destroy the jihadist group and end Syria's more than four-year civil war, while potentially restoring ties between Russia and France that had collapsed since last year's Ukraine crisis.

Moscow finally confirmed on Tuesday that the passenger jet that crashed over the Sinai peninsula was brought down by a bomb, though it did not name any responsible group.

Mr Hollande will meet Mr Putin in Moscow on Nov 26, two days after seeing US President Barack Obama in Washington.

France has invoked a previously unused European Union article to ask member states for help in its mission to fight back against the Islamic State organisation, which received unanimous backing from Brussels.

The alliance comes as international players meet to discuss ways of ending the Syrian war, which has spurred the rise of the Islamic State group, forced millions into exile and triggered Europe's worst migrant crisis since World War II.

On a solidarity visit to Paris, US Secretary of State John Kerry said a "big transition" in Syria was probably only weeks away after Iran, Russia and Saudi Arabia reached agreement at the weekend on a path towards elections.

Highlighting US fears over the attack, two Air France flights bound for Paris from the United States were diverted on Tuesday and landed safely after anonymous threats that the carrier described as a "bomb scare".

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Four Yu Neng Primary School students co-create money management gaming app with OCBC | TODAYonline

Four Yu Neng Primary School students co-create money management gaming app with OCBC | TODAYonline

Four Yu Neng Primary School students co-create money management gaming app with OCBC

SINGAPORE — Four 10-year-old students from Yu Neng Primary School have co-created – from conceptualisation to coding – a financial literary app named The Mighty Savers with OCBC Bank Technology and Experience Design specialists.

The seven month-long collaboration brought together two OCBC Bank mobile developers, an experience designer and the primary four students to co-create a unique game that teaches wise spending, differentiating needs and wants, sound investment, saving more with compounded interest and giving to others.

The game concept by Charmaine Thoi, Cheryl Ho, Seng Hui Ting and Toh Yi Xuan was selected out of five proposals submitted by 20 students from the school's Infocomm Club by the school's teachers and OCBC Bank for its simplicity and relevance to youngsters.

The game was launched this afternoon (Nov 16) by Minister for Communications and Information Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, OCBC Bank'sm chairman Mr Ooi Sang Kuang, Group Chief Executive Officer Samuel Tsien, and Mrs Clara Lim-Tan, Principal of Yu Neng Primary School.

The interactive app, designed for children aged 7-12, is aimed at encouraging young kids to be early adopters of good money management.

In the game, players start by earning money as a food server or bus driver. Players are then allowed to decide between furnishing their room or investing for the future as well as answer topical quizzes on savings and earning interest.

Toh Yi Xuan, one of the students involved in this project, elaborated on their inspiration: "We thought about what a bankrupt would face and decided that an empty home that requires furnishing could be feasible."

Describing the opportunity as a good way to learn more about financial literacy and developing games, Yi Xuan was at first intimidated by the experience but soon found it enjoyable.

The students worked closely with their mentors to enhance their coding skills and learn about an enhanced software called Gamemaker as well as how to use Illustrator and Photoshop.

"To conceptualise the game, how it flows and draw the characters were challenging. We had to go back to the drawing board at times to revise ideas with the help of the OCBC mentors and our teachers. We had to think of how the game will flow and code part of the game," said Yi Xuan.

This new game will be incorporated into OCBC Bank's popular OCBC Mighty Savers® programme to engage its customer base of young savers to be early adopters of good money management habits.

OCBC Banks' chairman, Mr Ooi Sang Kuang, said: "This project is the first of its kind in Singapore. We are proud and – yes, excited – to pioneer this info-comm collaboration, in aid of teaching money management skills to the young. We see the benefits of such a collaboration and hope there will be many more."

Yu Neng Primary, which has an existing niche in Information and communications technology, is one of the schools that participated in the trial of the Code for Fun enrichment programme – jointly developed by MOE and IDA – to increase students' exposure to coding and computational thinking. The enrichment programme is part of the Code@SG movement and so far, more than 480 students from the school have participated in the initiative and are able to code programmes ranging from games to animation and more than 50,000 students nationwide have benefited from it.

Mrs Clara Lim-Tan, Principal of Yu Neng Primary School said: "We believe that strategic partnerships with industry and community bring about authentic and powerful learning experiences and opportunities. They profoundly broaden and enrich our students' learning and go a significant way in preparing them to be future-ready through the mastery of skills from young."

The experience has piqued the young students' interest and encouraged them to dream big.

"We might want to go into app or game development in the future," she said. "We hope to develop apps that will benefit others in the community."

The Mighty Savers app is available for free download at the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. The desktop version is also available for download at the OCBC website — OCBC Mighty Savers page.

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Monday, November 16, 2015

Monument of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew unveiled in Spain, Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Monument of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew unveiled in Spain, Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Monument of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew unveiled in Spain

Singapore Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has unveiled the first monument of the late founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in Europe.

In a Facebook post on Monday (Nov 16) morning, Dr Balakrishnan said a bust of Mr Lee, who died on March 23 this year, now stands in Catalonia's Cap Roig gardens.

He revealed that Mr Lee and his wife had visited the gardens a decade ago on Mr Lee's 82nd birthday, and "spent a long time admiring the spectacular landscape and plants".

"It is thus fitting that perhaps the first monument of him in Europe is in the heart of the gardens on a cliff overlooking the turquoise Mediterranean Sea," wrote Dr Balakrishnan.

He added that Singapore may not have the majestic landscapes and temperate climate of Spain's Catalonia region, but almost everything the Republic now possesses is the result of human vision and a "disciplined and hardworking population".

Dr Balakrishnan (right) unveiling the monument. PHOTO: VIVIAN BALAKRISHNAN/FACEBOOK

"Thanks to Mr Lee, Singapore is today recognised and celebrated so far from home," he said.

The minister is visiting Spain till Wednesday. Dr Balakrishnan, who is also the Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative, will also attend the Smart Cities Expo World Congress in Barcelona.

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