Saturday, February 25, 2017

It Changed My Life: Film-maker Kirsten Tan's journey from quirky distraction to movie magic, Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

It Changed My Life: Film-maker Kirsten Tan's journey from quirky distraction to movie magic, Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

It Changed My Life: Film-maker Kirsten Tan's journey from quirky distraction to movie magic

About 10 years ago, Ms Kirsten Tan was living what she then considered the perfect life.

It was an unshackled existence: no mortgage, no rent, no nine-to-five drudgery and no parents breathing down her neck telling her to grow up and be responsible.

She didn't have much money either, but the universe was kind to her. A generous Thai friend shared her Bangkok home with her; artist friends in Chiang Mai and other parts of Thailand extended her the same kindness.

To get by, she took on the odd video-shooting job and sold T-shirts at Chatuchak Weekend Market. For the most part, she was travelling, dreaming of film scripts or writing music and jamming with her rock band, Century Ache.

For more than two years, she revelled in her peripatetic way of life.

"I was happy to be a free-spirited, ne'er-do-well; I was pretty happy with everyday realities and felt like I didn't need more," she says with a laugh. "But something at the back of my head told me I was too young, and it was too soon, to be experiencing nirvana."

So she applied for, and got, a scholarship to study for her master's degree in film production at the famous Tisch School of the Arts in New York University.

Today, the 35-year-old is one of Singapore's most exciting film-makers with a robust slate of award-winning short films and documentaries under her belt. Her first feature, Pop Aye - an offbeat tale about a disenfranchised architect and the elephant he adopts - just nabbed prizes at two of the world's most important film festivals: Sundance and Rotterdam.

An accomplished cinematographer, she also makes a more-than- decent living lensing commercial work for the likes of fashion label Giorgio Armani, coconut water brand Vita Coco and Heineken beer.

Embracing her identity as a film-maker took a long time, says the younger of two children.

Her Chinese-educated parents are conservative business folk who wanted her to study science or economics. When the former student of Dunman High got into the arts stream at Victoria Junior College (VJC), her parents were so upset that they asked to see the principal.

Ms Tan's first feature, Pop Aye, about a disenfranchised architect and his elephant, has just won prizes at the Sundance and Rotterdam film festivals. PHOTOS: GIRAFFE PICTURES AND GOLDEN VILLAGE PICTURES

"Mrs Lee Phui Mun sat my father down," she says, referring to the former VJC principal. "She said: 'Look at your daughter's results. How could she survive in science?'"

She is grateful, however, that they encouraged reading.

And the bilingual film-maker was a voracious reader, devouring everything from English classics by Jane Austen and Charles Dickens to wuxia (swordfighting) novels by Jin Yong and the Sandman comics by Neil Gaiman.

"Reading was my first escape, an immediate access into a larger world outside my household, and my small world," she says.

By the time she hit her teens, she had started writing prodigiously. Besides short stories, she also wrote poems, sometimes on squares of toilet paper which she would flush away.

"It was personal stuff, not meant for public consumption," she lets on. "Writing was a creative outlet, a valve to let off pressure. I had no inkling then I'd be doing it for life."

By the time she finished her A levels, the rabid pop culture fan was pretty sure she wanted to study film.

Ms Tan (second from left) with other film-makers at the Berlinale Talents Script Station in Berlin in 2014, her first screenwriting workshop for Pop Aye. PHOTOS: GIRAFFE PICTURES AND GOLDEN VILLAGE PICTURES

But her parents put paid to her plans of enrolling in Ngee Ann Polytechnic's School of Film and Media Studies. "They die die wanted me to go to a university," she says, lapsing into Singlish.

So she settled on what she reckoned was the next best thing: English literature at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

She took all modules related to film. Because there were no film-making activities on campus, she set up NuStudios, a film production outfit, with a group of friends.

"We were literally making films without guidance," she says, adding proudly that NuStudios is still around.

Her first project was producing a short film called Eye To Eye.

"To be honest, it's pretty bad and I honestly don't know what it's all about," says Ms Tan, who went on to produce two more short films

Ms Tan with the VPRO Big Screen Award she won earlier this month at the 46th International Film Festival Rotterdam for her movie Pop Aye. PHOTOS: GIRAFFE PICTURES AND GOLDEN VILLAGE PICTURES

She left NUS in 2003. Having fulfilled her parents' wish for her to get a degree, she reckoned it was time to listen to her heart and study film at Ngee Ann.

She managed to snag a Media Education Scheme scholarship from the Media Development Authority.

In Ngee Ann, she finally got the formal training in film-making she craved. Besides technical know-how, she also got exposed to a wide range of movies.

With a grin, she remembers going into the restricted section of the film library to "steal" titles by the likes of Agnes Varda, known as the mother of the French New Wave movement, Wim Wenders, a major figure in New German cinema, and Roy Andersson, an acclaimed Swedish director.

"The good stuff was for teaching purposes only and restricted to students so the only way was to 'borrow' them for a while and put them back after that," she says with a cheeky shrug of her shoulders.


There were moments when I told myself, 'If I totally disappear now, no one would find out for days.' I think it's important to experience extreme emotions like that. It gave me a lot of opportunities for introspection.

MS KIRSTEN TAN, on feeling lonely during her year in Jeonju, South Korea.


To be honest, it's pretty bad and I honestly don't know what it's all about.

MS TAN, on her first project, producing short film Eye To Eye, while in NUS.

She came into her own in Ngee Ann, writing and directing two short films - 10 Minutes Later (a tale of the interweaving lives of 10 characters) and Fonzi (a story about a movie character who wants to be a real person).

The two films won not just awards at the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) but also at a host of festivals around the world, including the Ohnekohle Video & Film Festival in Austria and the International Women's Film Festival in the Philippines.

Her films took her places - to Palm Springs, Tel Aviv, Hanover and Beijing, among others.

"I got to watch films which were so different, it was so intoxicating. And I'm nerdy enough to take notes while I'm watching films."

Despite her triumphs, it was a confusing time.

"What I did was driven by love. I loved the craft of film-making but at the same time I also felt I was blindfolded. I couldn't see a future for myself in Singapore. There were only two film-makers who were doing well in Singapore - Eric Khoo and Jack Neo - but they felt so distant. I was a young female film-maker and, in many ways, I couldn't see how I fitted in," says Ms Tan who graduated from Ngee Ann in 2005.

An opportunity to sort the thoughts in her head presented itself: a one-year artist-in-residency at the Asian Young Filmmakers Forum, organised by the Jeonbuk Independent Film Association.

The residency in the city of Jeonju came with a generous monthly stipend, and also allowed her to attend all the major film festivals in South Korea, including Busan and Incheon.

Her year there was not all hunky-dory. For the first time in her life, she experienced searing loneliness. "There were moments when I told myself, 'If I totally disappear now, no one would find out for days.'"

She adds: "I think it's important to experience extreme emotions like that. It gave me a lot of opportunities for introspection.

Often, after a long solitary walk, she would head home and start writing.

"The loneliness made me sensitive to everything. I became more observant. Snow falling felt more beautiful. It was great fuel for writing," says Ms Tan, adding that her stint in South Korea also helped her embrace her identity as a film-maker, a label she was not comfortable with before.

After Jeonju, she headed for Thailand. The decision worried her parents but Thailand, she says, opened her mind to many things.

"Singapore and South Korea are both societies which are very structured and controlling," she says.

The friends she made in Thailand were a lot more free-spirited. The Bangkok friend who gave her rent-free accommodation, for instance, was a former film producer who built her own bed and had breakfast by the sea.

"She sometimes took in this homeless man who would stay a few days before he went somewhere else. It showed me that outside of our existence, there are many ways to live life, there's no one absolute path. And as long as you live with grace and dignity, you're fine," she says.

She made a short film, Sink, about a sink in the middle of an ocean.

The meditation on lost innocence went to many international festivals and won a few awards, including Best International Short Film at the Planet In Focus Festival in Toronto, Canada.

If the Land of Smiles opened her mind, the Big Apple stretched and expanded it.

"I always felt like an outsider in Singapore, the one without a job, the one who was completely aimless. The great thing is when you land in New York, there are a million people weirder than you. I found it extremely liberating," says Ms Tan, who also worked as a teaching assistant in NYU.

"The city draws a lot of people who have the capacity to dream and work towards that dream. And the level of brain power in New York is pretty seductive," says the recipient of the prestigious Tisch School of the Arts fellowship.

She got into cinematography in a big way and because she acquitted herself well, several of her professors recommended her for gigs, which was how she came to shoot for Armani and TED Talks.

Ella, the fashion film she co-directed for Armani, premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, won an AICP (Association of Independent Commercial Producers) honour in 2014 and is now part of the archives at New York's Museum of Modern Art.

She made several other short, award-winning films, including Cold Noodles, Thin Air and John Clang. Her graduating work, Dahdi - about an elderly Singaporean woman and a Rohingya woman who comes into her home - picked up, among others, the Best South-east Asian short film at the 2014 SGIFF and an award from the famous National Board of Review in New York.

"Writing Dahdi was heavy; I felt bogged down. I wrote something else as a distraction, and that turned out to be Pop Aye," says the film-maker, who was featured in CNN International's Ones To Watch programme in 2015.

The idea for Pop Aye came when she was on a beach in Thailand and saw a group of boys showering an elephant in the sea. It became a road tale about a man who takes an elephant he saw performing on the streets of Bangkok to a small village, and the characters they meet along the way.

Pop Aye went to several film development labs, including the Torino Film Lab, where it was awarded the top production prize. It was also one of 15 by-invitation projects to be showcased in the distinguished Cannes Film Festival's L'Atelier, which highlights the world's up-and-coming talents.

Produced by Singaporean film-maker Anthony Chen, whose Ilo Ilo won the Camera D'or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, Pop Aye took more than a year to develop and a month to shoot.

Ms Tan auditioned scores of elephants and even spent a month living with a community of mahouts (elephant trainers) before shooting.

Because of the positive buzz it generated at film labs, Sundance reached out to her and gave Pop Aye the opening-night slot for its World Dramatic section last month.

"It was a huuuuge honour," says Ms Tan, whose film was the first Singaporean one to compete at the festival.

The audience at the screening "laughed a lot more than I expected and reacted very warmly". Film critics from the likes of Hollywood Reporter and Variety gave it an equally warm reception.

"I felt a huge weight lifted from my shoulders," says Ms Tan, whose film won a Special Jury Prize at Sundance. Not long after, it nabbed the VPRO Big Screen Award in Rotterdam.

Other festivals are clamouring to screen Pop Aye, which will be released in Singapore by Golden Village in early April.

Her parents, meanwhile, have come around to the idea of their daughter as a film-maker.

"They will message me, and my dad will say things like, 'You have to keep striving for the next one.'"

The success of Pop Aye does not give her any pressure, she says.

"With every film, there is a lot of self-expectation. Before Pop Aye, I gave 101 per cent to everything I did. I will not change, it's impossible for me to demand more."

When young and aspiring film-makers approach her for advice, she tells them: "You have to want to do it despite the naysayers and the impossibilities. I did. I had to really fight for it."

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Murder at the airport: A look at the murder of Kim Jong Nam, North Korea leader Kim Jong Un's half brother, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport | The Straits Times

Murder at the airport: A look at the murder of Kim Jong Nam, North Korea leader Kim Jong Un's half brother, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport | The Straits Times

Murder at the airport

Amid the bustle of passengers in the departure hall of Kuala Lumpur airport, two women assassinated the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. In a brazen attack, they delivered a fatal poison which left the unsuspecting victim dead before he could reach a hospital.

Who was Kim Jong Nam

Kim Jong Nam, 46, was the son of Kim Jong Il and Song Hye Rim, a leading actress at the time. Despite being the former leader's eldest son, he was hidden from public view for years because his father and actress mother were not legally married.

Bloodline of the Kim family
Spouse, mistress or consort

Spouse Offspring

Kim Il Sung


Founder of North Korea,

"Great Leader" and

"Eternal President"

Kim Jong Suk



Song Thaek


The North's second

most powerful man

before being

executed in 2013


Jong Il


"Dear Leader"

Assumed office

in 1993


Kyong Hui

(b. 1946)


Hye Rim



Yong Suk

(b. 1947)


Yong Hui


Kim Ok

(b. 1964)


Jong Nam



Sul Song

(b. 1974)

Believed to be

killed by The

North's operatives


Jong Chol

(b. 1981)


Jong Un

(b. 1984)


Yo Jung

(b. unknown)

Kim Han Sol

(b. 1995)

Kim Jimmy

(b. 1997)

Kim Sol Hui

(b. 1998)

His movements

Most of Kim Jong Nam's recent life was spent overseas after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had issued a 'standing order' for his assassination. On the day of the murder, he was about to leave on a flight to Macau, where he lived with a wife and two children. He is also known to have a previous wife and son in Beijing.

Previous wife and

son live here

Lived here with second wife

Poisoned and killed

At the airport

The incident happened at KLIA2, the budget terminal at Kuala Lumpur International Airport located 2km away from the main terminal.





RECONSTRUCTING the crime scene

The attack happened as Kim walked towards the check-in counters in the departure hall. Two female attackers administered the suspected poison before fleeing the scene.

Still image from a CCTV footage appears to show (circled in red) a man purported to be Kim Jong Nam being accosted by a woman in a white shirt at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia on Feb 13, 2017. The image has been modified by Reuters for illustration purposes. FUJITV/via Reuters TV






from Gateway

KLIA2 Mall

1One of the women stood in front of Kim Jong Nam while the other walked behind him and held a cloth over his face. The suspects then quickly went their separate ways.

2Kim made his way to the information desk to seek help after feeling dizzy.

3Kim was escorted towards the entrance where security personnel were informed of the incident. He was then taken downstairs to a medical clinic. He died before reaching hospital.

The suspects

Authorities have already detained a number of suspects including the female who apparently administered the suspected poison.

Doan Thi Huong


Age: 26


Main attacker who grabbed and poisoned Kim Jong Nam. Was pictured in the white 'LOL' shirt.

Siti Aisyah




Lived in Jakarta before looking for work in Malaysia. Believed to have distracted Kim while her accomplice approached him from behind.

Muhammad Farid




Aisyah's boyfriend.

Ri Jong Chol

North Korean



Was an employee of a Malaysian herbal medicine company.

The North Korean suspects

According to Malaysian police, the four suspects arrived in Malaysia just days before the attack and are believed to have fled the country on the day Kim Jong Nam was attacked.

Ri Ji Hyon

North Korean



O Jong Gil

North Korean



Hong Song Hac

North Korean



Ri Jae Nam

North Korean



North Korea's purge campaign

If confirmed as a North Korean assassination, it would be the latest in a string of killings at home and abroad meant to silence those perceived by North Korea's leaders as threats to their authority.

Kim Jong Un has a record of executing those who pose a threat or cross the regime. Around 140 executions have taken place since Kim took power in 2011, according to the Institute for National Security Strategy, a research arm of South Korea's National Intelligence Service.



of government

officials killed

by year

Kim Yong Jin

Cabinet Deputy Prime Minister

Choe Yong Gon

Cabinet Deputy Prime Minister

Byun In Sun

Director of Operations, General Staff of the People's Army

Hyon Yong Chol

Head of Military Force of the People

Jo Young Nam

Vice-chairman of National Planning Commission

Jang Song Thaek

(Kim Jong Un's uncle)

Vice-chairman of the National Defence Commission; Chief of the Central Administrative Department of Workers' Party

Jang Su Gil

Vice-head of Party/

Chief of the General Staff of the People's Army

Ri Yong Ha

First Head of Party

Ri Yong Ho

Chief of the General Staff of the People's Army

• First official to be purged.

Notes: The family tree is based on available information; Some reported reasons why officials were executed: expressing anti-party or counter-revolutionary sentiments; corruption; plotting the overthrow of the state; presenting different opinion to Kim Jong Un; talking back and expressing discontentment towards policies; having no fruitful outcome; dozing off during meeting; clapping half-heartedly, and faulty posture during meeting.
Sources: Reuters; Institute for National Security Strategy
Graphic: Reuters

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Friday, February 24, 2017

Man behind the cheapest smartphone nabbed for fraud

Singapore Budget 2017: Feeling the way to the future, one step at a time , Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Singapore Budget 2017: Feeling the way to the future, one step at a time , Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Singapore Budget 2017: Feeling the way to the future, one step at a time

Every Budget plans for the future. But in Budget 2017 especially, the future it wants Singaporeans to work towards together is very much a work in progress, and the road ahead a particularly uncertain one.

This year's Budget was always meant to be viewed in tandem with the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) report and looking at both together helps one piece together a picture of how Singapore Inc is meant to get from today to that uncertain tomorrow.

To recap: The CFE report outlines Singapore's place in a volatile future. It says that to be future-ready, Singaporean workers and companies need to deepen skills, strengthen enterprises, build international connections, digitalise and develop a vibrant city.

How to do this? Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean summed up the CFE report on his Facebook page in a useful post three days ago, saying there are two implementation strategies: Via the Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs), and via a spirit of partnership together.

At the heart of that journey to the future are the ITMs for 23 sectors, to boost innovation and productivity. Whether Singapore remains business as usual, or becomes more productive, innovative and a more fun place to live in - depends in large part on how those ITMs transform life as we know it in Singapore.

ITMs for six sectors have been launched, and the rest will be rolled out this financial year. To get a glimpse of the transformative power of those road maps, consider the food services sector. Singaporeans would have noticed the rapid rise of delivery apps that work with restaurants across the island to bring food to your home, the increasing use of iPad menus that do away with the need to get wait staff to take orders, and the seemingly endless rise of food-related start-ups that leverage on technology and new food- preparation methods.

In logistics, another sector with an ongoing ITM, there are plans for a nationwide system of lockers - for all those shopping online - so you don't have to stay home to await a delivery.


Plans are afoot too to consolidate truck delivery to malls. Each day, about 4,000 trucks perform 20,000 delivery trips, taking up 25 per cent of road space. Can logistics firms coordinate delivery - so that goods for different retailers can be picked up from warehouses and sent to the same mall, rather than have multiple trucks sent to the same mall? This already happens in Japan.

A government study suggested that such a system can yield manpower savings of 40 per cent, shorten waiting and queueing time for deliveries by 65 per cent and cut the number of trucks on the road by 25 per cent.

How are these interesting ITMs developed with such granularity? Through painstaking and joint efforts by government officials, companies, industry associations, unions and experts. The key is lots of horizontal links, learning from similar companies outside Singapore, and looking for companies in Singapore that might have a particular solution, or software, that can be customised for a particular need.

In a word: through partnership. Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat stressed that these ITMs are not top-down blueprints, but are "live" plans to be adjusted along the way. Indeed, the "I" in ITMs might better stand for iterative.

The other sectors for ITMs - that include healthcare, education, infocomms technology and media, energy and chemicals, aerospace, cleaning, real estate - cover 80 per cent of the economy.

As a consumer, and a worker, I am rather looking forward to seeing how the remaining ITMs will unfold. Will there be laundry sorting and folding robots? Location-based property apps that tell you which homes are open for inspection as you near an area (already ubiquitous in Australia)? Data- mining companies that can help newspapers monetise eyeballs?

Apart from the ITMs, other strategies in the CFE were also fleshed out in this Budget report.

For example, on the need for companies to digitalise, a new initiative called SMEs Go Digital will see the Info-communications Media Development Authority work with Spring and other agencies to develop industry digital plans to help SMEs improve productivity, including in retail, food services, logistics and cleaning.

On the need for companies to develop international links, a $600 million international partnership fund will co-invest with Singapore-based firms to help them scale up globally.

A Global Innovation Alliance to be sited in innovation hubs around the world will run programmes for tertiary students to expose them to start-up opportunities, for entrepreneurs to link them with investors, and for local companies to link up with innovative foreign firms keen to test-bed products in Singapore and the region.

To build talent, an initiative of over $100 million will build enterpreneurship networks overseas and encourages companies to groom Singaporean business leaders. In all, $2.4 billion will be set aside over the next four years to implement the CFE strategies. The other funds include: $150 million for the Public Sector Construction Productivity Fund, a $500 million top-up to the National Research Fund and a $1 billion top-up to the National Productivity Fund.

While many of the measures in the Budget are foundation stones for the future, Mr Heng also took pains to address firms' more immediate concerns. Struggling companies in marine and offshore engineering will get bridging loan support, while the marine and process sectors will get a reprieve from a hike in foreign worker levy for a year. Wage support measures for employers to keep older workers will continue. There is also a corporate income tax rebate of 50 per cent of up to $25,000 (from $20,000 last year).

Those who found no clear road map in the CFE on how Singapore is to prepare for the future are not wrong. The CFE report gives only an overview of what an uncertain future looks like, so it is no surprise that those well-read on future trends find little of what it says fresh. Nor are its recommendations - deepening skills, regionalising, and innovating - revolutionary.

Those who turn to this year's Budget expecting detailed blueprints may also be disappointed. But in a Vuca future (that ubiquitous acronym to describe the world today - volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous), no blueprint, or map, can chart the way forward.

Rather, with the ITMs' "live" plans, we can only journey on, feeling the way forward together, one sector, one company, one app, one innovation at a time, mindful that at each turn, we will keep needing to do what GPS systems always do when we veer into new paths: recalculating.

Editor's note:

In an earlier version of the article, we said that a "$100 million initiative encourages companies to groom Singaporean business leaders". The sum of over $100 million is for both the SkillsFuture Leadership Development Initiative (LDI) and Global Innovation Alliance.
We also said that "ITMs for six sectors have been launched, and the rest will be rolled out this year." The ITMs will be rolled out by the end of Financial Year 2017.

We are sorry for the errors.

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Carbon tax expected to lead to higher electricity prices, Economy News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Carbon tax expected to lead to higher electricity prices, Economy News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Carbon tax expected to lead to higher electricity prices

The carbon tax announced in Monday's Budget will push up costs for power generators and translate into higher electricity prices for consumers, companies and economists say.

But some welcomed the move, saying it could spur the development of cleaner technologies.

The tax will start from 2019, and be levied on greenhouse gas emissions at between $10 and $20 per tonne. It will be applied to power stations and other large direct emitters, rather than electricity users.

Revenue from the carbon tax will help fund measures by industries to reduce emissions, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said in his Budget speech. "The impact of the carbon tax on most businesses and households should be modest."

But some cost increase is likely to be inevitable.

Most electricity here is generated using natural gas, which already results in relatively less emissions than other sources like coal, said Mr James Allan, a director of consultancy Frontier Economics.

Singapore's land scarcity also means power generators have limited scope to invest in zero-emission energy sources like wind or solar power, he noted. This means the carbon tax will push up costs for power generators, which will in turn pass these on to consumers.

"Singapore enjoys a competitive wholesale electricity market. It is likely that the generators, facing similar increases in costs, would pass the carbon tax through to the market, retailers and ultimately consumers in the form of higher electricity prices," Mr Allan added.

The tax comes as the power-generation sector grapples with overcapacity and intense competition in the retail electricity market.

The tax will "add some hundreds of millions of dollars to the cost of producing electricity" every year, said Mr Paul Maguire, president and chief executive of Senoko Energy.

"Such a large burden cannot be borne by a sector which today is struggling to be profitable.

"As a result, our expectation is that, like other regulatory costs, it will ultimately be passed through to the end consumer, just like the goods and services tax," he said.

The carbon tax would translate into a rise in electricity prices of 0.43 cent to 0.86 cent per kilowatt hour (kwh), or a 2.1 per cent to 4.3 per cent increase, according to estimates by the National Climate Change Secretariat.

The median household living in a four-room flat paying around $72 a month in electricity bills could see an increase of $1.70 to $3.30 a month.

Grid operator Singapore Power said in response to queries that it has been developing solutions to help consumers save energy. These include partnering companies to develop "innovative sources of renewable energy and sustainable energy-storage solutions".

Another key issue with a carbon tax is that it impacts low-income households more, said Professor Euston Quah, who heads the department of economics at Nanyang Technological University.

"(But) this can be mitigated through subsidies and lump-sum transfers to the poor," he noted.

Prof Quah thinks that the tax is a good move on the whole as it "could... motivate the development of new technologies which are less carbon-intensive".

The tax, he said, also encourages residents to understand that "our... behaviour affects the environment".

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Teen dies after fall from ledge outside 4th storey linkway at Orchard Central, Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Teen dies after fall from ledge outside 4th storey linkway at Orchard Central, Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Teen dies after fall from ledge outside 4th storey linkway at Orchard Central

A 17-year-old climbed over the railing on the fourth-storey linkway between Orchard Central and Orchard Gateway yesterday afternoon and placed his feet on a ledge outside.

It collapsed under his weight, sending him crashing to the ground. The teenager was taken to hospital, where he died.

The Straits Times understands that the teenager, believed to be Jonathan Chow Hua Guang, was taking a photograph along the bridge when his phone fell onto a ledge.

He then "vaulted" across the 1.2m railing in an apparent effort to retrieve it.

The teenager was said to be taking a photo on the fourth-storey linkway (right) between Orchard Central and Orchard Gateway yesterday afternoon when his phone fell onto a ledge (far right). He then "vaulted" across the railing in an apparent effort t
The teenager was said to be taking a photo on the fourth-storey linkway (above) between Orchard Central and Orchard Gateway yesterday afternoon when his phone fell onto a ledge. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

The ledge was made of plaster board and not meant to bear a load. It collapsed when he set foot on it.

An eyewitness, who works in a clothing shop on the fourth floor, said he had walked past the boy and a teenage girl moments before the incident at around 4pm.

Mr Garion Key, 23, said: "I had already passed the linkway when I noticed he had climbed over the railing. That is when I heard a bump.

"My friend and I ran back and looked over and saw him lying on the ground below."

Mr Key said the girl ran past them in a panic and went down the escalators to check on her friend.

Another witness, Ms Ching Wan Ting, 24, a manager in training, was standing near her shop front when the incident took place. She said: "My first reaction was to call the ambulance, but after that, the trauma of seeing such an incident set in."

Some passers-by stopped to help and one started administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on the teenager.

When The Straits Times visited the scene yesterday evening, there was a hole in the ledge beside the fourth-floor walkway linking the malls in Orchard Road.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) was alerted to the incident at 4.05pm, and the boy was taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital. Paramedics administered CPR en route to the hospital, SCDF said.

He later died in hospital.

"This afternoon, a member of the public vaulted the railing of the level-four link bridge between Orchard Central and Orchard Gateway onto a ledge and subsequently fell to the atrium," said Ms Mavis Seow, chief executive of Far East Organization's retail business group, which owns Orchard Central.

"He was rushed to the hospital. We are deeply saddened by the tragic incident and our thoughts and prayers are with the family. We are cooperating with the authorities in their investigations."

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Oscar-nominated Singaporean sound editor Ai-ling Lee went to LA without a job offer, Entertainment News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Oscar-nominated Singaporean sound editor Ai-ling Lee went to LA without a job offer, Entertainment News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Oscar-nominated Singaporean sound editor Ai-ling Lee went to LA without a job offer

Oscar-nominated Singaporean sound editor Ai-ling Lee's career mirrors that of the protagonists in La La Land (2016), the acclaimed musical film that she worked on.

Like Emma Stone's Mia and Ryan Gosling's Sebastian, who pursued their respective acting and music dreams in Los Angeles, Ms Lee had also packed up her bags to move to the city to fulfil her creative aspirations - and found success.

When she was 19, she left Singapore for Hollywood in 1998 without so much as an official job offer, instead knocking on the doors of film studios for a way into their sound departments.

At the time, she had completed only a vocational course in audio engineering here, as well as done some sound work for local TV and radio commercials.

"I wrote letters to sound department heads or sound studio heads in Hollywood, just to tell them who I was. I asked them if it would be okay for me to visit, to sit in and observe the film-making sound post-production process.

"Maybe it was good timing and luck, but I was amazed that quite a few of them actually responded. So I started sitting in, built my contacts, and just moved up from there," says the 38-year-old, in a telephone interview on Friday (Feb 24) with The Straits Times from her home in Silver Lake, Los Angeles.

At the Oscars on Sunday (Feb 26) night (Monday morning, Singapore time), she is nominated in two categories - Best Sound Editing alongside Mildred Iatrou Morgan, and Best Sound Mixing with Andy Nelson and Steve A. Morrow. Her nominations are among La La Land's record-equalling 14 Oscar nominations.

She is the first Asian woman to be nominated for sound editing, and she and Morgan are also the first all-female team to be nominated in their category.

She hopes that this will set a trend for women in film sound work, a field traditionally dominated by men.

"Over the years, I've only known a handful of women who work in sound design, recording or mixing. But over the last several years, I have been approached by female graduates from film schools such as USC (University Of Southern California) who have interest in sound design.

"It's an encouraging sign, and I try to encourage young people by telling them that this is in fact a creative job and not a technical one," she says.

Illustrating her creative nature, she says, when asked, that her favourite sound in the world is the birdsong of morning doves.

"I find it very calming," she says.

Lee, whose father works in a shipyard and mother is a housewife, developed her keen interest in sound after watching numerous movies at home in Singapore with her father as a child.

"We had a basic surround sound system at home, but I noticed how sound could really help to elevate the film experience. It brings audiences into the world, and that fascinated me."

Her passion for sounds drives her to carry a portable recorder with her at all times, so that she can capture her auditory environment. Her recordings of LA city life - such as in the areas of Pasadena and Hollywood - ended up in La La Land.

"Los Angeles being such a big character in the movie, we had to make sure that the backgrounds and ambiences help reflect the tone of the city. I record sounds wherever I go with my portable recorder, and so from that, I had already amassed a library for Los Angeles."

With only two more days to the Oscars, she is starting to feel "a little nervous".

Fielding this chat in the middle of a busy press interview schedule, she says: "It has just been a crazy flurry of activity ever since the Oscar nominations were announced.

"I've never been through this before, and I'm just surprised by how much is going on. There are so many interviews, and I've been spending way too much time and money on finding a dress."

She has finally settled on a "simple gown" by Alexander McQueen, she says.

"But this whole thing has also been a lot of fun. I feel really fortunate to be nominated, and no matter what happens, this will all have been a great experience."

The 89th Annual Academy Awards airs on HBO (StarHub TV Channel 601) on Monday at 8am, with an encore telecast the same day at 7pm.

For more Oscar stories, go to

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Kim Jong Nam killed by VX nerve agent, classified by UN as weapon of mass destruction, SE Asia News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Kim Jong Nam killed by VX nerve agent, classified by UN as weapon of mass destruction, SE Asia News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Kim Jong Nam killed by VX nerve agent, classified by UN as weapon of mass destruction

KUALA LUMPUR  - Malaysian police have identified the substance used to kill Mr Kim Jong Nam as the highly toxic VX nerve agent, classified as a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations.

One of the two women arrested has shown side effects from contact with a nerve agent, according to the inspector general of police (IGP). 

In a statement early Friday (Feb 24), IGP Khalid Abu Bakar said the nerve agent was identified in a "preliminary report" by the Centre for Chemical Weapons Analysis of the Chemistry Department, which received samples from the body of the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last week.

"The Chemical Substance on the exhibits has been identified as...'VX Nerve Agent'. VX is listed as a chemical weapon under Schedule 1 of the Chemical Weapons Convention Act 2005 and Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) 1997," the IGP said.

The Chemistry Department had received samples from Mr Kim's eye and face, which were allegedly smeared with the poison by two female suspects.

Speaking to reporters later on Friday morning, the police chief disclosed that one of the women suffered from vomiting, but he did not give further details. 

North Korea has insisted the cause of death was a "heart stroke", arguing that the two women who used their bare hands to apply the liquid as a joke are still alive, and therefore they could not have administered a deadly poison.

But Malaysian police have said the women knew the liquid was toxic, and headed to the toilet to wash their hands immediately after the attack. There are also antidotes available for VX, but they must be used quickly to be effective.


Nerve agents are the most toxic and rapidly acting of the known chemical warfare agents, and VX is the most potent of all nerve agents. Some reports say that a mere 10mg of VX is enough to be fatal via skin contact. 

People may not know they were exposed to VX because it is odourless and tasteless, according to the website of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A total of 192 states are party to the CWC, an arms control treaty, as of April last year. The list does not include North Korea, who is accused by South Korea and the United States of ordering the alleged assassination of Mr Kim.

The two female suspects, now under police remand, are said to have wiped the substance on Mr Kim's face just before he was to board a flight to Macau at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2) last Monday. He died on the way to hospital.

Police are still seeking four North Korean suspects who fled the country immediately after the attack and are believed to have returned to Pyongyang. 

Another North Korean suspect has been remanded, while three North Korean nationals are being sought to assist in investigations, including a senior official at the North Korean embassy in Malaysia. 

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Doctor, 66, charged with raping and molesting female patient, 23, Courts & Crime News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Doctor, 66, charged with raping and molesting female patient, 23, Courts & Crime News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Doctor, 66, charged with raping and molesting female patient, 23

SINGAPORE - A general practitioner was charged on Friday (Feb 24) with raping a female patient and molesting her at his clinic in 2015.

No plea was taken from Wee Teong Boo, 66, who allegedly raped the 23-year-old woman at Wee's Clinic & Surgery at Block 418 Bedok North Avenue 2 between 11.30pm on Dec 30, 2015 and 12.30am the next day.

Wee, who operates his clinic at night too, is also accused of molesting her by rubbing her private parts with his hand at the clinic sometime on Nov 25 the same year.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Sharmila Sripathy-Shanaz successfully applied for a gag order to prevent the publication of any information that may lead to the identity of the victim in the two charges.

She asked for bail of $70,000.

Wee's lawyer Edmond Pereira told District Judge Christopher Goh that $50,000 would be sufficient to secure his client's attendance.

He said his client has been helping police in the investigation and he is a Singaporean with his family here.

Wee's passport has been impounded. He will return to court on April 11.

If convicted of rape, he could be jailed for up to 20 years and fined.

The maximum penalty for outrage of modesty is two years' jail, fine, caning or any combined punishment. As he is above 50, no caning will be imposed.

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