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Discussion in 'Chit-Chat' started by Loh, May 4, 2009.

  1. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    Singapore and Vietnam launch strategic partnership

    Published on Sep 11, 2013
    5:55 PM


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    Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) shakes hands with his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung at the Government Office in Hanoi on Wednesday, Sept 11, 2013. Lee is in Hanoi for a three-day visit to Vietnam from Sept 11 to 13. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

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    Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong seen here accompanied by Mrs Lee, arrive at the Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi for a three-day visit to Vietnam. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO/TERRENCE VOON

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    A Vietnamese protocol officer (left) shows the way to Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung (centre) and Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during a welcoming ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam on Wednesday, Sept 11, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

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    Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (right) reviews the guard of honour with his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung during a welcoming ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi on Wednesday, Sept 11, 2013. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO/TERRENCE VOON


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    Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (fourth left) and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung (fourth right) talk at the Government Office in Hanoi on Sept 11, 2013.-- PHOTO: REUTERS


    By Terrence Voon

    Singapore and Vietnam formally elevated their relationship to that as strategic partners on Wednesday, an agreement which deepens their ties on the political, economic, defence, security and international fronts.

    Under the strategic partnership agreement, the two Asean members will promote high-level bilateral exchanges, with direct communications between their leaders. The strategic partnership was launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is in Vietnam on a three-day official visit, and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung.

    In trade, both countries have agreed to step up cooperation in sectors such as transport, infocomms technology, finance and banking. They have also agreed to look into other promising areas like cruise tourism, commodities trading, healthcare and agriculture. Vietnam and Singapore are also working to increase air traffic between the two countries and with the rest of the world.

    For defence and security
    , Singapore and Vietnam will increase their cooperation in military and training exchanges, amongst other areas. The two countries will also explore tie-ups in areas such as tourism, healthcare, legal systems and education. In addition, they reaffirmed their commitment to bring about an integrated Asean Community by 2015, and to enhance the region's role in the global community.
     
  2. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    Scientists in Singapore create "super biomaterials" from marine organisms

    Published on Sep 11, 2013
    4:40 PM


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    (From left) A*STAR's Dr Shawn Hoon, NTU Assistant Professor Ali Miserez and Dr Paul Guerette hold squid ring sucker teeth, mussels and a sea snail in a petri dish. New and hardy biomaterials, that are stronger than most plastics, are coming from an unusual source - seafood. -- PHOTO: NTU

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    Squid sucker ring teeth are seen in a petri dish held by Dr Paul Guerette. -- PHOTO: NTU


    By Hoe Pei Shan

    New and hardy biomaterials, that are stronger than most plastics, are coming from an unusual source - seafood. Scientists have created new materials from squid, mussels and sea snails.

    The team from Nanyang Technological University and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) used a new interdisciplinary approach integrating RNA sequencing and proteomics with material science.
    This process allows scientists to speed up the discovery and development of new and better biomaterials within months instead of years.

    The squid-inspired biomaterial, for instance can be transformed into biocompatible films
    for food and drug packaging, and as cost-effective encapsulants to protect expensive drugs against heat and impact during transportation and storage.

    The new biomaterials may be used widely as they are versatile and easily processed into different shapes and forms. They are also made using eco-friendly processes instead of the harsh chemicals used when producing plastics. The group's work was published this week in Nature Biotechnology, the world's top international scientific journal in the field.
     
  3. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    New applied research centre for sustainable lighting by 2015

    Published on Sep 12, 2013
    8:39 PM


    By Yeo Sam Jo

    Singapore will have a new applied research centre for sustainable lighting by 2015. The Singapore Green Building Council and the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) have signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of California, Davis's California Lighting Technology Centre (CLTC) to develop Singapore's own Lighting Technology Centre.

    The memorandum was signed as part of the new sustainable lighting initiative announced at the council's 4th anniversary dinner on Thursday, where Minister for Environment and Water Resources Dr Vivian Balakrishnan was the guest-of-honour.

    Modelled after California's lighting centre which was set up in 2003, Singapore's new centre will focus on promoting more energy efficient solutions to the nation's lighting usage, from residential and industrial buildings to street lighting.

    While previous Green Building Masterplans have focused on making space cooling, like air-conditioners more energy efficient, the council said that lighting is just as important, as it accounts for about 15 to 20 per cent of a building's energy use.
     
  4. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    Asiad Youth gold for Joey Yeo

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    From left to right: Ilma Nur Jannah, Joey Yeo, Tracy See and Kimberly Ooi. Photo: Singapore Bowling Federation


    Bowler wins Singapore’s first trophy at the Asian Youth Bowling Championship


    TODAY

    ByAdelene Wong

    13 hours 38 min ago

    SINGAPORE – The Republic’s bowlers have struck gold at the 17th Asian Youth Tenpin Bowling Championships after Joey Yeo topped the field in the Girls’ All Event final in Hong Kong today (Sep 12).

    Widely regarded as the most prestigious event for the region’s youth bowlers, the Asian Youth Bowling Championships saw 16-year-old Joey claiming the winner’s trophy (Girls’ All Event) with a total pinfall of 3,838. The teenager’s effort was 135 pins ahead of Korea’s Kim Jin Sun, who claimed the silver in 3,724 while Hong Kong’s Joan Cheng won the bronze after scoring a total of 3,673 pinfalls.

    In the Girls’ Team final, the quartet of Joey, Kimberly Ooi, Tracy See, and Ilma Nur Jannah bagged the silver with 4,828 pinfalls – 104 pins behind Korea’s gold medal effort of 4,932. Indonesia was third with a total of 4,745.

    The Boys’ and Girls’ Masters Finals will be held tomorrow at the South China Athletic Association Bowling Centre, with Joey and Ilma qualifying for the top 16 after finishing first and eighth respectively after three days of competition on the lanes. In the Boys’ Masters, Justin Lim also booked a spot in the finals after claiming the last spot in the top 16.

    Said Singapore Bowling Federation’s technical director Mervyn Foo: “Our young bowlers did well to handle the pressure from other strong competitors like Japan and Korea. We are confident for the Masters Finals tomorrow.”
     
  5. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    [​IMG]

    Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's first and longest serving Prime Minister, turns 90 on Sept 16.

    This Big Story features a series of photographs that give readers a look into his life, many of which are previously unseen.

    The photos are found in a newly launched bilingual picture book called Lee Kuan Yew: A Life In Pictures. The 268-page coffee-table book gives a snapshot of Mr Lee as statesman, father, husband and son.

    Aside from the more familiar pictures of him giving speeches at political rallies and meeting foreign dignitaries, there are also intimate photos showing him as a father and a young man courting his wife-to-be.
     
  6. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    Lee Kuan Yew: 'I am lucky to reach 90'

    Published on Sep 16, 2013


    By Elgin Toh

    Ahead of marking a significant milestone in his life today, former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew told The Straits Times: "I am lucky to reach 90."

    Asked in an e-mailed interview what gave him the greatest satisfaction when he looked back on an illustrious life, he replied that it was "to see Singapore's progress".

    He will be celebrating his birthday with his family at a private dinner.

    Several world leaders sent birthday greetings to Mr Lee, including Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and China's former vice-premier Li Lanqing.


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    Mr Lee at the Istana on Sept 8, 2011. -- ST PHOTO: STEPHANIE YEOW


    Mr Lee was born on this day in 1923 in a house in Kampong Java Road. He was the eldest son of a Shell employee and a housewife.

    In nine decades, he has lived through the Great Depression, the Japanese Occupation, the Malayan Emergency, merger and separation, and Singapore's journey from Third World to First World.


    He played a key role in the major events of his day from 1959, when he became Singapore's first prime minister, and came to be well-respected around the world as a perceptive statesman. He stepped down as Prime Minister in 1990 and from Cabinet in 2011.

    Speaking to The Straits Times ahead of Mr Lee's birthday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said his father's greatest achievement was building a nation "nobody believed possible".

    "Nation building is never complete, but Singapore would not be here today but for Mr Lee."

    What did he think was the most important lesson to be learnt from his father's life?

    "You must know what you want to do, and not just follow what other people suggest or what the crowd says," he said. "He was also very good at persuading others to follow him, so that in the end we achieved together more than we imagined that we could."

    A series of public events have been held to mark Mr Lee's birthday. Earlier this month, the Chinese community paid tribute to him for his contributions to bilingualism and Singapore-China relations. A fund-raising drive saw $200 million donated to the National University of Singapore and the Singapore University of Technology and Design.

    Today, a one-day conference is being organised by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at Shangri-La Hotel. The school's dean, Professor Kishore Mahbubani, said the conference would discuss Mr Lee's ideas - such as the rule of law and building a first-rate civil service - which had "touched the lives of Singaporeans in many dimensions".

    Mr Lee himself, in his book published last month, One Man's View Of The World, summed things up this way: "As for me, I have done what I had wanted to do, to the best of my ability. I am satisfied."

    elgintoh@sph.com.sg

    BIRTHDAY WISHES FROM CITIZENS AND WORLD LEADERS
    SINGAPORE, FORUM
     
  7. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    Lee Kuan Yew spending time with his elder son

    Published on Sep 15, 2013


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    -- FILE PHOTO: LEE KUAN YEW COLLECTION



    Mr Lee Kuan Yew with little Loong on a day out in the 1950s.

    "I did not know how much like me he is until I watched him on television one day. SBC news showed Loong at a press conference. Then he did this (tugged his shirt sleeves at his shoulders), exactly the way I do. He has other mannerisms similar to mine," said Mr Lee Kuan Yew on his elder son, Hsien Loong, at a People's Action Party conference on Nov 26, 1990.
     
  8. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    All ears and undivided attention

    Published on Sep 15, 2013

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    FILE PHOTO: MCI COLLECTION/NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF SINGAPORE


    Mr Lee Kuan Yew listening to a worker talk about his job at a factory in Jurong during a visit to the industrial estate in 1965. Mr Lee was accompanied by his daughter, Wei Ling.
     
  9. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    Changi Sports Medicine Centre gets makeover

    Bigger premises, more doctors for Changi hospital's speciality facility



    Published on Sep 16, 2013
    7:45 AM



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      Physiotherapists working with patients at Changi Sports Medicine Centre's gym and exercise area last Tuesday. After the expansion, the centre will offer more spacious gyms, a hydrotherapy pool and an indoor track, as well as additional exercise and testing equipment. -- ST PHOTOS: NEO XIAOBIN

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      Physiotherapist Philene Leow assisting a patient during an exercise session at the Changi Sports Medicine Centre last Tuesday. -- ST PHOTOS: NEO XIAOBIN



      By Poon Chian Hu

      Singapore's leading sports medicine centre is set for its biggest expansion yet - one that will double its floor area and add doctors.

      By 2016, Changi Sports Medicine Centre (CSMC) will have more spacious gyms, an indoor pool and an indoor track, housed within two storeys at Changi General Hospital (CGH). It will cover an estimated 1,500 sq m - the size of 13 five-room HDB flats - making it the biggest such centre.

    • It now covers 752 sq m within one storey at the public hospital.

      The move will cater to CSMC's fast-growing patient load, which hit an all-time high of 14,044 last year, up from 8,416 in 2008.
     
  10. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    RWS hires 36 trainers to give dolphins full attention

    With 36 trainers hired, level of care seems to exceed that at other parks



    Published on Sep 16, 2013
    7:44 AM


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    Dr Alfonso Lopez examining a dolphin with a trainer’s help. -- ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG

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    Trainers interacting with the dolphins at Resorts World Sentosa. The trainers are taught to look out for problem signs in the dolphins’ behaviour or body language. -- ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG


    By David Ee

    Resorts World Sentosa's Marine Life Park has employed 36 trainers for its 24 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins ahead of the imminent opening of its Dolphin Island attraction.

    This level of animal care appears to exceed that at several other dolphin attractions around the world.

    Hong Kong's Ocean Park at one point had 40 trainers caring for 40 marine mammals, including 18 dolphins. In 2009, the Dubai Dolphinarium had two trainers for its four dolphins.

    Currently, each of the dolphins in Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) has a primary trainer of its own, with the others assisting.


    Background story

    OF BOND...

    The bond between dolphins and trainers is very important. It's the key to preventing and managing problems.
    - Resorts World Sentosa's Marine Life Park chief veterinarian Alfonso Lopez

    ...AND BONDS
    Working towards improving the welfare of the dolphins is a positive step. But we must remember that they should never have been captured in the first place.
    - Acres executive director Louis Ng
     
  11. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    Thousands gather in Chinatown to celebrate annual Mid-Autumn Festival

    Published on Sep 15, 2013
    8:04 PM



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    Dragon dancers carrying a dragon pass through participants carrying lanterns during the Chinatown Mid-Autumn Festival 2013 Mass Lantern Walk on Sept 15, 2013. Thousands gathered in Chinatown on Sunday night to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on Sept 19 this year. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

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    Participants watch fireworks during the finale of the Chinatown Mid-Autumn Festival 2013 Mass Lantern Walk on Sept 15, 2013. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

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    Participants carry lanterns during the Chinatown Mid-Autumn Festival 2013 Mass Lantern Walk on Sept 15, 2013. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

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    Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing (background centre) and Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Dr Lily Neo (left), walk with children carrying lanterns during the Chinatown Mid-Autumn Festival 2013 Mass Lantern Walk on Sept 15, 2013.

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    Children carry lanterns during the Chinatown Mid-Autumn Festival 2013 Mass Lantern Walk on Sept 15, 2013.

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    Thousands gathered in Chinatown on Sunday night to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on Sept 19 this year. -- TWITTER PHOTO: CRISPIN CASIMIR

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    Thousands gathered in Chinatown on Sunday night to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on Sept 19 this year. -- ST FILE PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

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    Thousands gathered in Chinatown on Sunday night to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on Sept 19 this year. -- ST FILE PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN


    By Lim Yi Han


    Thousands gathered in Chinatown on Sunday night to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on Sept 19 this year.

    About 6,000 people took part in the Chinatown Mid-Autumn Festival 2013 Mass Lantern Walk organised by the Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng Citizens' Consultative Committee.

    They walked for 1km from the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple at Banda Street to Eu Tong Sen Street with LED lanterns in hand. There were also percussion and dance performances along the way.

    Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing, who was the guest of honour at the event, said: "The Mid-Autumn Festival always reminds you of home and family ties... The Chinese have this saying that once you see the full moon, no matter which corner of the world you are, you will always think of your family."
     
  12. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    More hostels sprouting up in Chinatown, Little India

    Competitive pricing is driving growth but new players may squeeze profits



    Published on Sep 16, 2013
    7:44 AM


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    New hostels are opening up in areas such as Lavender, Little India and Chinatown (above). As of July, there were 56 licensed hostels, compared with 46 last year, says the STB. They also offer attractive services, such as bike rentals, to meet guests' needs. -- ST PHOTOS: LAU FOOK KONG, RACHEL TAN

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    New hostels are opening up in areas such as Lavender (above), Little India and Chinatown. As of July, there were 56 licensed hostels, compared with 46 last year, says the STB. They also offer attractive services, such as bike rentals, to meet guests' needs. -- ST PHOTOS: LAU FOOK KONG, RACHEL TAN


    By Rachel Tan

    Cheap and cheerful hostels that offer a bed for as little as $25 a night are thriving here as tourists look for alternatives to pricey hotel rooms.

    The number of hostels around town has shot up over the past year, with Little India and Chinatown the most popular areas.

    "As of July 2013, there were a total of 56 licensed hostels in Singapore, compared with 46 in 2012," said Ms Heng Li Lang, director, hotels, at the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).

    Pricing is clearly driving growth with a stay in a hotel costing on average $261 a night, said property consultant Knight Frank.
     
  13. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    New 9-volume publication on Lee Kuan Yew launched

    16 Sep 2013 1:59 PM


    SINGAPORE: A Chinese publication on the career and life of former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew has been launched.

    Education Minister Heng Swee Keat launched the book at a conference on Monday marking the ninth anniversary of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

    Called "Singapore Chose Lee Kuan Yew", the book is presented in nine volumes and depicts Mr Lee's career over 60 years from perspectives such as nation building, diplomacy, family and friendship as well as personal health.

    The conference, titled "The Big Ideas of Mr Lee Kuan Yew", also coincided with Mr Lee's 90th birthday.

    Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy Kishore Mahbubani said the conference aims to capture, analyse and dissect Mr Lee's ideas so that they can continue to influence and benefit future generations of Singaporeans.

    - CNA/gn
     

    Attached Files:

  14. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    World leaders send birthday wishes to Lee Kuan Yew

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    Two conferences to be held this week in conjunction with former Minister Mentor’s birthday

    12 hours 23 min ago

    SINGAPORE — Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese former Vice-Premier Li Lanqing have sent congratulatory messages to former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, who celebrates his 90th birthday today.

    In her birthday greetings, Queen Elizabeth II wrote: “Yours has been a most eventful life, inextricably interwoven with the history and development of your nation. It is notable that this year also marks the 50th anniversary of Singapore’s independence from the UK and I am delighted that the links between our countries remain so strong.”

    Ms Merkel
    also lauded Mr Lee’s achievements, noting that, for over 50 years, he has been “a decisive figure helping to shape Singapore’s destiny” and leading the country to peace and prosperity.

    She said his “prudent policymaking” helped the Association of South-east Asian Nations become a “force for reconciliation and stability in Asia”, adding that Singapore will remain a “key partner for Germany in Asia”.

    China’s Mr Li, who with then-Senior Minister Lee signed the landmark agreement on the Suzhou Industrial Park, also paid tribute to Singapore’s founding father, recognising his efforts in cementing bilateral relations between the two countries.

    Separately, two conferences will be held this week in conjunction with Mr Lee’s birthday.

    Today, the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy is holding a conference at the Shangri-La Hotel to generate new insight into his ideas and “how they changed the course of history for Singapore, South-east Asia and the world”. Speakers at the conference include Ambassador Chan Heng Chee, former Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong and former Senior Minister S Jayakumar.

    On Wednesday, the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities at the Singapore University of Technology and Design will be hosting a conference entitled Lee Kuan Yew and the Physical Transformation of Singapore.

    Jointly organised with the Centre for Liveable Cities, the conference will focus on Mr Lee’s role in the “spatial transformation of Singapore, from city planning, housing, greening and water management to the challenges for the future”. Speakers at the event include Dr Aline Wong, Academic Advisor for UniSIM, and Dr Liu Thai Ker, Chairman of the Centre for Liveable Cities.
     
  15. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    SAF to acquire more potent missile defence system

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    The Air Force Museum, which is part of Paya Lebar Air Base. Photo: Ooi Boon Keong


    Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen also addresses security concerns over relocation of Paya Lebar Air Base

    TODAY
    By Xue Jianyue

    1 hour 25 min ago

    SINGAPORE — The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will be buying a new missile defence system “many times more potent” than the current I-HAWK ground-based air defence system, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen announced in Parliament today (Sept 16).

    The new ASTER-30 Surface-to-Air Missile System will allow Singapore to engage multiple airborne threats simultaneously and from a longer distance, and help provide a multi-layered air defence shield for the island, Dr Ng explained.

    The defence minister was replying to a question from Member of Parliament Lim Wee Kiak on how the Government will maintain Republic of Singapore Air Force’s (RSAF) operational readiness in light of Paya Lebar Air Base’s (PLAB) relocation.

    “In 2011, MINDEF and the SAF conducted a thorough assessment of our capabilities and security threats for the long term,” said Dr Ng. “We satisfied ourselves that our security would not be compromised and that relocation of Paya Lebar Air Base could take place after existing airbases at Changi East (CAB) and Tengah Air Base (TAB) have been expanded to accommodate relocated assets and facilities.”

    PLAB’s relocation will also be “costly” because it is a “complex undertaking” requiring “fairly intense and highly skilled engineering”, he added.

    “In coming in to this decision, we have worked together with MND to calculate the trade-offs,” he said. “And it all balances because the space that is released from the relocated Paya Lebar Air Base, including the height templates around it, on a net basis, it is many billions dollars’ worth of positive returns to the people of Singapore.”
     
  16. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    Six years on - and Singapore Grand Prix still a spectacle

    SINGTEL SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX

    Marina Bay is special to drivers and is often key to the world title race



    Published on Sep 16, 2013
    7:49 AM



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    A worker secures the base of an F1 banner, 15 September 2103.Some say that the novelty of having a night race, in the narrow confines of a city, has faded. -- ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA


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    Only limited tickets to the SingTel Singapore Grand Prix are available with just six days to go and organisers say they have already exceeded last year's total attendance of 84,317. -- ST PHOTO: MUGILAN RAJASEGERAN

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    http://www.straitstimes.com/sites/straitstimes.com/files/20130916/29285122e.jpg
    Equipmemt being put in place at the Village Stage, 15 September 2013. But even as Singapore awaits the roar of the Formula One cars' 2.4-litre V8 engines later this week, and last-minute touches are put on the Marina Bay Street Circuit, there is no doubt that there is a buzz about town. -- ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

    [​IMG]

    http://www.straitstimes.com/sites/s...916/ST_20130916_SPTYLSPORE16BIAJ_3839376e.jpg
    At Royal Plaza on Scotts, a life-sized car made of pasta sits in its lobby. This is the hotels fourth such race car. Its chefs have created other life-sized race cars with chocolate, bread and macarons previously. -- PHOTO: ROYAL PLAZA ON SCOTTS

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    Workers transporting equipment from containers in prepartion for next week's Formula One Singapore Grand Prix. Even non-trackside facilities have been getting in on the act. -- PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

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    Workers set up barriers at Turn 1 of the Singapore GP race route. Only limited tickets to the SingTel Singapore Grand Prix are available with just six days to go and organisers say they have already exceeded last year's total attendance of 84,317. -- ST PHOTO:MUGILAN RAJASEGERAN

    [​IMG]

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    Exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix's Zone 1. Only limited tickets to the SingTel Singapore Grand Prix are available with just six days to go and organisers say they have already exceeded last year's total attendance of 84,317. -- ST PHOTO: MUGILAN RAJASEGERAN

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    View of the Marina Bay street circuit for the SingTel Singapore Grand Prix as seen from the Swissotel The Stamford on 23 September 2012. But even as Singapore awaits the roar of the Formula One cars' 2.4-litre V8 engines later this week, and last-minute touches are put on the Marina Bay Street Circuit, there is no doubt that there is a buzz about town. -- ST FILE PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

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    An aerial view shows the main grand stand and the Formula One pit building behind the Singapore Flyer observation wheel at dusk September 11, 2013. But even as Singapore awaits the roar of the Formula One cars' 2.4-litre V8 engines later this week, and last-minute touches are put on the Marina Bay Street Circuit, there is no doubt that there is a buzz about town. -- ST FILE PHOTO: EDGAR SU

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    Workers laying artificial turf along Turn 1 of the Marina Bay Street Circuit yesterday. The track will host more than 84,000 spectators for the three days of practice sessions, qualifying and the main race. -- ST PHOTO: MUGILAN RAJASEGERAN

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    http://www.straitstimes.com/sites/straitstimes.com/files/20130916/29124853e.jpg
    Workers set up barriers at Turn 1 of the Singapore GP race route. The machines have arrived. So too most of the estimated 500 tonnes of equipment. -- ST PHOTO: MUGILAN RAJASEGERAN

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    The cars belonging to triple world champions Red Bull arrived last night. -- ST PHOTO: MUGILAN RAJASEGERAN

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    A kiosk selling official F1 merchandise has already been set up outside Raffles City. Stores can also be found along Orchard Road. -- ST PHOTO: LEE YULIN


    By Lee Yulin Deputy Sports Editor

    The machines have arrived. So too most of the estimated 500 tonnes of equipment.

    But even as Singapore awaits the roar of the Formula One cars' 2.4-litre V8 engines later this week, and last-minute touches are put on the Marina Bay Street Circuit, there is no doubt that there is a buzz about town.

    Only limited tickets to the SingTel Singapore Grand Prix are available with just six days to go and organisers say they have already exceeded last year's total attendance of 84,317.

    A full-sized Mercedes show car, together with personal racing gear from the 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton, went on display at UBS' One Raffles Quay headquarters last week. The Swiss bank is a global partner of F1.

    Even non-trackside facilities have been getting in on the act. At Royal Plaza on Scotts, a life-sized car made of pasta by a team of 18 chefs and culinary staff has been placed in the hotel's lobby.

    And under the Rev-Up @Orchard campaign, held in conjunction with Grand Prix Season Singapore 2013, Ferrari and Mercedes show cars and official F1 merchandise stores dot the nation's prime shopping belt.

    All this, for a race that is into its sixth edition.


    Some say that the novelty of having a night race, in the narrow confines of a city, has faded. But try telling that to the drivers.

    McLaren's Jenson Button
    , who has finished second in the last two races here, told the sport's official website (www.formula1.com): "The thrill and novelty of racing through spot-lit streets is just as intense for me today as it was when we first raced there - it's a unique spectacle.

    "In fact, the Singapore Grand Prix is one of the wonders of modern sport."

    His boss, team principal Martin Whitmarsh, agreed: "I think everybody in Formula One now regards the event as one of the cornerstones of the Grand Prix calendar. Indeed, it's one of the miracles of televised sport."

    Even the topsy-turvy schedule - the drivers' day starts when they awake at lunch time and have "breakfast" at about 2pm because they stay on European time - is not enough of a deterrent.

    As Sauber's Nico Huelkenberg told formula1.com: "Being in the paddock when it's dark is something quite special."

    This, even though the race is easily the most challenging of the sport's 19 stops this year.

    Apart from the Republic's heat and humidity and the track's bumpy surface, the Singapore GP is also one of the longest races, frequently hitting the two-hour mark (most races are only about 11/2 hours long) owing to the safety car interventions. Last year's edition, for instance, was even truncated by two laps because it had reached the time limit.

    It is no wonder that Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, who is seeking his third straight victory at Marina Bay, called the circuit "a killer" in the team's preview of the race.

    It certainly is an apt characterisation given the pivotal role this GP has played in the drivers' championship over the years.

    Remember how Felipe Massa, who had secured pole position, bungled his pit stop in 2008, when he left the pits with the fuel hose still attached to his car?

    He finished the race 13th, and his failure to secure a single point despite being in prime position to do so basically cost him the world championship. He lost the drivers' title to Lewis Hamilton by one point just three races later.

    Or how Massa's team-mate at Ferrari, Fernando Alonso, had arrived here last year with a healthy 37-point lead over Hamilton in the standings?

    The race was won by Vettel, and it began a remarkable four-race resurgence for the German, which ended in his beating Alonso to the world title by a mere three points.

    Singapore GP dull? I think not.
    yulin@sph.com.sg


    WHAT A RACE

    The thrill and novelty of racing through spot-lit streets is just as intense for me today as it was when we first raced there – it’s a unique spectacle. In fact, the Singapore Grand Prix is one of the wonders of modern sport.

    – Jenson Button, McLaren driver
     
  17. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    An unwavering dedication to Singapore

    [​IMG]

    Singapore’s survival and success are Mr Lee’s life’s work and his lifelong preoccupation. History gave him a most daunting challenge. He cast aside his doubts, mustered all his being and has given it his all. Photo: Bloomberg


    TODAY

    By Heng Swee Keat
    7 hours 35 min ago

    The first time I met Mr Lee Kuan Yew in person was in March 1997, when he interviewed me for the job of Principal Private Secretary (PPS). His questions were fast and sharp. Every reply drew even more probing questions.

    At the end of it, he said: “Brush up your Mandarin and report in three months. We have an important project with China.”

    I realised later that, among other things, it was perhaps when I replied “I don’t know” to one or two questions that I made an impression. With Mr Lee, it is all right if you do not know something. But you do not pretend and lie if you do not know. Integrity is everything.

    I had the privilege of working as Mr Lee’s PPS from mid 1997 to early 2000. This was the period of the Asian Financial Crisis, and Mr Lee was writing his memoirs.

    Mr Lee’s world views are comprehensive and consistent. Three stand out for me.

    THAT YIN-YANG TENSION

    The first is about Singapore’s place in the world. His view is that a small city state can best survive in a benign world environment, where there is a balance of powers, where no single state dominates, and where the rule of law prevails in international affairs.

    A small city state has to stay open and connect with all nations and economic powerhouses. To prosper, Singapore has to be relevant to the world. We must be exceptional.

    Second: His views about human nature, culture and society. Human beings have two sides to our nature — one that is selfish, that seeks to compete and to maximise benefits for ourselves, our families, our clans; the other that is altruistic, that seeks to cooperate, to help others, and to contribute to the common good.

    A society loses its vigour if it eschews excellence and competition; equally, a society loses its cohesion if it fails to take care of those who are left behind or disadvantaged. Mr Lee believes that this tension between competition and cooperation, between yin and yang, is one that has to be constantly recalibrated. Within a society, those who are successful must contribute to it and help others find success. We must share the fruits of our collective efforts.

    Third: His views about governance and leadership. As a lawyer, Mr Lee believes deeply in the rule of law and the importance of institutions in creating a good society. But institutions are only as good as the people who run them. Good governance needs leaders with the right values, sense of service and abilities. It is important to have leaders who can forge with the people a vision for the future and to forge the way forward.

    Above all, leaders are stewards. They should develop future leaders and, when their time comes, they should relinquish their positions, so that the next generation of leaders can take us to greater heights.

    HIS FAVOURITE QUESTION: ‘SO?’

    While Mr Lee’s world views are wide-ranging and widely sought, when I worked with him, I had the privilege of learning how his views are so coherent, rigorous and fresh, and how he put his agile mind in the service of the Singapore cause.

    Mr Lee’s favourite question is “So?” If you update him on something, he will invariably reply with, “So?” You reply and think you have answered him but, again, he asks, “So?” This forces you to get to the core of the issue and draw out the implications of each fact.
    His instinct is to cut through the clutter, drill to the core of the issue, and identify the vital points. And he does this with an economy of effort.

    I learned this the hard way. Once, in response to a question, I wrote him three paragraphs. I thought I was comprehensive. Instead, he said: “I only need a one sentence answer, why did you give me three paragraphs?” I reflected long and hard on this, and realised that that was how he cut through clutter. When he was Prime Minister, it was critical to distinguish between the strategic and the peripheral issues.

    PERSUASIVE, BUT ALSO PERSUADABLE

    On my first overseas trip with Mr Lee, Mrs Lee, ever so kind, must have sensed my nervousness. She said to me: “My husband has strong views, but don’t let that intimidate you!”

    Indeed, Mr Lee has strong views because these are rigorously derived, but he is also very open to robust exchange. He makes it a point to hear from those with expertise and experience. He is persuasive, but he can be persuaded.

    A few months into my job, Mr Lee decided on a particular course of action on the Suzhou Industrial Park, after deep discussion with our senior officials. That evening, I realised that amid the flurry of information, we had not discussed a point. I gingerly wrote him a note, proposing some changes. To my surprise, he agreed.

    ONE-MAN INTELLIGENCE AGENCY

    Mr Lee’s rich insights on issues come from a capacious and disciplined mind. He listens and reads widely, but he does so like a detective, looking for and linking vital clues while discarding the irrelevant.

    Once, he asked if I recalled an old newspaper article on United States-China relations. I could not — this was several months back and I had put it out of my mind — but a fresh news article had triggered him to link the two developments.

    I realised that he has a mental map of the world where he knows its contours well. Like a radar, he is constantly scanning for changes and matching these against the map.

    What might appear as random and disparate facts to many of us are placed within this map and, hence, his mental map is constantly refreshed.

    A senior US leader described this well — Mr Lee is like a one-man intelligence agency.

    EVERY MOMENT ABOUT SINGAPORE

    The most remarkable feature of the map in Mr Lee’s head is the fact that the focal point is always Singapore. I mentioned his favourite word, “So?” Invariably, the “So?”

    question ends with, “So, what does this mean for Singapore?” What are the implications? What should we be doing differently? Nothing is too big or too small.

    I accompanied Mr Lee on many overseas trips. The 1998 trip to the US is particularly memorable. Each day brought new ideas and, throughout the trip, I sent back many observations for our departments to study. It might be the type of industry that we might develop or the type of trees that might add colour to our garden city.

    This remains his style today. His every waking moment is devoted to Singapore, and Mr Lee wants Singapore to be successful beyond his term as Prime Minister.

    From the early 1960s, he already spoke about finding his successor. During my term with him, as Senior Minister, he devoted much effort to helping then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong succeed.

    He refrained from visiting Indonesia and Malaysia as he wanted Mr Goh to establish himself as our leader. Instead, he fanned out to China, the US and Europe to convince leaders and investors that Mr Goh’s leadership would take Singapore to new levels of success.

    As Senior Minister, he worked out with Mr Goh areas where he could contribute, and I will share three key projects that not only illustrate his contribution but, more importantly, how he develops insights and achieves results.

    SINGLE-MINDED ABOUT RESULTS: SUZHOU

    The Suzhou Industrial Park project was one of the areas in which Mr Goh asked Mr Lee to stay actively involved. Two years into the project, we ran into teething problems: Local Chinese officials promoted their own rival park.

    Some felt that such startup problems and cultural differences were expected and would be resolved over time. But Mr Lee drilled deep into the issues and held many meetings with our officials. He worked with an intensity that I did not expect of someone who was then 75 years old.

    He concluded that the problem was much more fundamental. China had (and still has) a very complex system of government, with many layers and many interest groups, some formal, some invisible. The interests of the various groups at the local levels were not aligned with the objectives that the central government in Beijing and Singapore had agreed upon. Unless this was put right, the project would not go far.

    Instead of hoping that time would resolve this, Mr Lee raised issues at the highest levels and made the disagreements public. He was unfazed that going public could diminish his personal standing.

    He proposed to the Chinese, among others, two radical changes: To swap the shareholding structure so that the Chinese had majority control, and to appoint the CEO of the rival park to head the Suzhou Industrial Park. Mr Lee was proven right — the changes created the necessary realignment and put the project back on track.

    Next year, we will be witnessing the 20th anniversary of the Suzhou Industrial Park. From all accounts, it has been a success story, not just in its development, but also in how it has enabled a new generation of leaders from both sides to develop a deeper understanding of each other, and in paving the way for further collaboration.

    I learned a valuable lesson. If things go wrong, do not sweep them aside. Confront the problems, get to the root of the difficulties, and wrestle with these resolutely. Go for long-term success, and do not be deterred by criticisms.

    ADVERSITY INTO OPPORTUNITY: FINANCIAL CRISIS AND REFORMS

    My second example, on the revamping of the financial sector, shows how Mr Lee is constantly looking out for how Singapore should change, and how he turns adversity into opportunity.

    The 1997/98 Asian Financial Crisis hit the region hard. Many analysts attributed it to cronyism, corruption and nepotism. Mr Lee read up on all the technical analyses and met with our economists. I was amazed at how, at the age of 75, he would delve deeply into the issues.

    He concluded that the reason was more basic — investors’ euphoria and the weak banking and regulatory systems in the affected countries had allowed a huge influx of short-term capital. These weaknesses had their origins in the political system. Cronyism exacerbated the problems, but was not the cause. Years later, many bankers would tell me that Mr Lee’s analysis was the best they had heard.

    Mr Lee was convinced that though Asia’s economic growth would be set back temporarily, dynamism would return. In the short term, we had to navigate the crisis carefully but, for the longer term, we should turn this adversity into opportunities. While investors fled, we should use the crisis to lay the foundation for a stronger Singapore in a rising Asia.

    Mr Lee took the opportunity to review the long-term positioning of Singapore’s financial sector. With the permission of then-Prime Minister Goh, he met experts from different backgrounds as well as the Chairmen of local banks.

    AN ACT OF BOLDNESS

    For years, Mr Lee had believed in strict regulation and in protecting our local banks. While this protected the banks from the crisis, it had its cost. Our stringent rules, while appropriate in the past, were now stifling growth, and the banks were falling behind.
    Mr Lee was persuaded that our regulatory stance had to change.

    I was struck by his systematic and calibrated approach. His reputation is that he is impatient for results, and drives a fast pace. This is true, but he is also wise in distinguishing between things that change slowly and things that ought to change swiftly. Instead of one big bang, he was in favour of a series of steps which added up to a significant shift of direction.

    Mr Lee discussed with and sought Mr Goh’s approval on a broad plan to revamp the financial sector. Mr Goh agreed with the plan, and later appointed then-Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) in January 1998. Mr Lee Hsien Loong did a review of major policies and reorientated the MAS’ organisational culture. Remarkably, within a few years, the MAS was transformed. By 2006, when I became Managing Director of the MAS, I inherited an organisation with a new set of regulatory doctrines and a deeper pool of talent.

    The global financial crisis of 2007/08 tested our system severely. We not only withstood the shock, but also emerged stronger after the crisis. Singaporeans’ savings were well protected and businesses recovered rapidly.

    If Mr Lee had not initiated the changes in the late 1990s and sought to turn adversity into opportunities, we would not have become a stronger financial centre today. To prepare to open up our financial system in the midst of one of the worst financial crises is, to me, an act of great foresight and boldness.

    ADVOCATE FOR COLLABORATION

    My third example relates to how Mr Lee expanded our external space by being a principled advocate of collaboration, based on long-term interests. Today, we are remarkably well-connected, but this did not come by accident. Over the years, Mr Lee has worked hard at this.

    His strategic world view has projected Singapore onto the global stage and created opportunities for Singaporeans. In all his years as the face of Singapore, Mr Lee also made fast friendships with senior world leaders who appreciate his view of things and respect Singapore’s principled stance on international issues.

    This was driven home to me at two meetings. In 1999, relations between the US and China were very tense. China’s negotiations with the US on its entry to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) had failed, there were tensions between the two countries over US bombs that had hit the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, and President Lee Teng Hui in Taiwan had pronounced his “two states” concept.

    In July 1999, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan were in Singapore for the ASEAN Regional Forum. It was quite tense, and many of our officials believed there could be a flare-up at the forum. Both figures met Mr Lee separately.

    Mr Lee gave each side his reading of their long-term strategic interests. His advice to the US was that it was not in their interest to be adversarial towards China or regard her as a potential enemy. To China, he suggested that it should tap into the market, technology and capital of the US to develop its economy. They should look forward, and search for areas of cooperation, such as China’s entry into the WTO.

    Sitting in these meetings, I was struck by how Mr Lee approached this delicate situation. He did not say one thing to one and sing a different tune to another. If they had compared notes later, they would have found his underlying position inconsistent.

    What made him persuasive was how he addressed the concerns and interests of each side. I could see from the way both reacted that his arguments struck a chord, and one of the guests asked a note-taker to write the notes verbatim for deeper study later on. In 2000, a few months after this meeting, I was very pleased to witness China’s entry into the WTO at the Doha meeting.

    THE PRAGMATIC IDEALIST

    What is Mr Lee like as a person? The public persona of Mr Lee is a stern, strict, no-nonsense leader. But deep down, he is energised by a deep sense of care for Singaporeans, especially for the disadvantaged.

    He does not express this in soft, sentimental terms — his policies speak louder, and he is content to let them speak for themselves. He distributed the fruits of Singapore’s progress in a very significant way, by enabling Singaporeans to own their flats. Apart from the investment in education, he donated generously to the Education Fund to provide awards, especially to outstanding students from poor families.

    He is a firm advocate of a fair and just society. But he demands that everyone, including those who are helped, put in their fair share of effort.

    Many regard Mr Lee as a pragmatist who does not hesitate to speak the hard truths. I think he is also an idealist, with a deep sense of purpose. He believes one has to see the world as it is, not as one wishes it to be. Fate deals us a certain hand of cards, but it is up to us to make a winning hand out of it. Through sheer will, conviction and imagination, there is always hope of progress.

    Man is not perfect, but we can be better — Mr Lee embraces Confucianism because of its belief in the perfectibility of man. No society is perfect either, but a society with a sense of togetherness can draw out the best of our human spirit and create a better future for our people.

    He is, to me, a pragmatic idealist.

    A CLOSE-KNIT FAMILY

    During my term as PPS, the Prime Minister of a Pacific Island nation asked to call on Mr Lee. Given his very tight schedule, I thought Mr Lee would not be able to meet him. To my surprise, he said he would make the time.

    He explained that this young Prime Minister’s father had been a comrade-in-arms, fighting the British for independence, and he owed it to his father, who had passed on, to offer whatever advice might be useful.

    Mr Lee and his family are closely knit, and he was particularly close to Mrs Lee. On overseas trips, I had the opportunity to have many private meals with Mr and Mrs Lee. It was heartwarming to see their bantering. Mr Lee has a sweet tooth, and Mrs Lee would, with good humour, keep score on the week’s “ration”.

    But when it came to official work, they drew very clear lines. Mrs Lee travelled with him whenever she could. Once, in Davos, she came into the tiny room where Mr Lee was giving a media interview. She found a stool in a corner and sat there, listening unobtrusively. Twice, I offered her my more comfortable seat near Mr Lee. She said to me: “You have work to do. I am just a busybody — don’t let me disturb you!”

    Mrs Lee was supportive without intruding — she was certainly not “just a busybody”, and anyone who had the chance to observe them together would know just how close a couple they were, and how much strength her presence gave to her husband.

    AN UNWAVERING DEDICATION

    We live today in a different world that demands of us new ideas and approaches. But there is one quality of Mr Lee’s that we can, and need to, aspire towards: His unwavering and total dedication to Singapore, to keeping Singapore successful so that Singaporeans may determine our own destiny, and lead meaningful, fulfilling lives.

    Singapore’s survival and success are Mr Lee’s life’s work and his lifelong preoccupation. History gave him a most daunting challenge — building a nation out of a tiny city state with no resources and composed of disparate migrants. He cast aside his doubts, mustered all his being and has given it his all.

    His most significant achievement is to show the way forward in building a nation. There were, and still are, no textbook answers for achieving this. Mr Lee and his team analysed the issues from first principles and had the courage and conviction to do what was right and what would work for the country.

    Mr Lee is an activist. He and his team would try, adapt and experiment, to get on with the job of making Singapore a better home for all. In the same way that he asks himself, we need to always be asking ourselves, “So?” So, what does this mean for Singapore? So, what should we do about it? And act on it.

    Of the many qualities I have observed in him, this is the one that leaves the deepest impression on me — the one I hope we can learn to have. We take inspiration from the courage and determination of Mr Lee and his colleagues. The task of creating a better life for all Singaporeans — through expanding opportunities and through building a fair and just society — never ends.

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

    Education Minister Heng Swee Keat spoke yesterday at the conference “The Big Ideas of Mr Lee Kuan Yew”, organised by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in celebration of Mr Lee’s 90th birthday. This article is abridged from that speech.
     
  18. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    Singapore researchers discover world's first drug therapy to reverse heart disorder

    Published on Sep 17, 2013
    2:39 PM


    [​IMG]

    (From left) Associate Professor Philip Wong, director of the Research and Development Unit (RDU), Dr Ashish Mehta, senior research scientist, and Dr Winston Shim, scientific director. Researchers from the National Heart Centre Singapore have become the first in the world to successfully and completely reverse the conditions of a potentially fatal heart rhythm disorder that has, till date, no known cure. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO


    By Hoe Pei Shan

    Researchers from the National Heart Centre Singapore have become the first in the world to successfully and completely reverse the conditions of a potentially fatal heart rhythm disorder that has, till date, no known cure.

    Known as long QT syndrome 2
    , the disorder affects the heart's electrical activity which may cause sudden, uncontrollable, and dangerous heart rhythms in response to exercise or stress. It is primarily an inherited condition, and though difficult to diagnose, is estimated to be prevalent among about one in 5,000 people in Singapore.

    Statistics from studies worldwide have shown that if left untreated, more than half of those who inherit the syndrome die within 10 years from the first display of symptoms, which can include fainting spells and seizures.

    By using human skin stem cells transformed into beating heart cells, the researchers were able to test various drug compounds. This led them to discover that a drug known as ALLN - which has yet to be in clinical use - could reverse the effects of the gene mutation producing long QT syndrome 2. The team is hoping to conduct clinical trials within three years to test the side effects of this drug therapy through international collaboration.
     
  19. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    PSC scholarships not awarded solely based on scores

    [​IMG]

    PSC Chairman Eddie Teo pointed out that several of this year’s President’s Scholars came from neighbourhood schools. TODAY file photo


    TODAY

    By Amir Hussain -

    5 hours 39 min ago

    As the education system here seeks to move away from an over-emphasis on academic results, Public Service Commission (PSC) Chairman Eddie Teo yesterday reminded the public that the commission does not award its scholarships solely based on academic performance, and a candidate’s scores in the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), for instance, are irrelevant to the selection process.

    He point out that in recent years, a “couple” of President’s Scholars were not straight As students “but had other outstanding qualities which we could not ignore”.

    Still, “some parents even believe that PSC goes back to look at the PSLE scores of the candidates”, said Mr Teo. “I would like to assure all parents and students that the PSC has no idea what the PSLE scores of the candidates are … We also do not care what schools they come from when deciding whether or not to award a scholarship,” he said. He added that many students also do not take the O-Level exams these days, “and we have no O-Level scores to look at”.

    Mr Teo pointed out that several of this year’s President’s Scholars came from neighbourhood primary schools. The batch of five recipients came from Shuqun Primary, Bukit Panjang Primary School, Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Primary School, Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ Primary School and Fairfield Methodist School (Primary).

    “The PSC recognises that very often, a public servant is found wanting not because he cannot think, but because he has a character flaw which was not obvious, or even present, when he was first recruited,” said Mr Teo.

    Adding that the development of character goes on throughout a person’s life, he reiterated that the PSC has to continue to emphasise ethos and values in assessing its officers and not just focus on outcomes. The PSC uses, for instance, 360 degree assessments which “are useful in exposing officers who are good at managing upwards but poor in managing sideways and downwards”.

    To develop empathy, officers are exposed to operational postings “where they can learn about ground problems and appreciate the day-to-day grievances of our citizens”.
     
    #7439 Loh, Sep 17, 2013
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2013
  20. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    Public Service ‘embracing diversity, redefining meritocracy’

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    (L-R) 2013 President's Scholars Timothy Yap Wei Hang, Stephanie Siow Su Lyn, I Naishad Kai-ren, Joshua Ebenezer Jesudason and Scott Ang Yiqiang photographed at the Istana on Aug 16, 2013. Photo: Don Wong


    By Amir Hussain
    5 hours 36 min ago

    SINGAPORE — Citing the fact that the Singapore Sports School produced its first President’s Scholar this year, Public Service Commission Chairman Eddie Teo yesterday detailed its efforts to enhance diversity among public servants to respond to the changing education system, a different make-up of the population and growing complexity of national problems.

    Reiterating that a decreasing proportion of PSC scholars hail from academic powerhouses Raffles Institution (RI) and Hwa Chong Institution (HCI), the retired top civil servant also spoke at length in an open letter about how the PSC, which oversees the appointment and promotion of key public sector leaders, is “redefining meritocracy” and guarding against elitism — familiar themes leaders, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, have publicly touched on in recent months.

    In 2009, a year after he was appointed, Mr Teo wrote an open letter which focused on the PSC interview process to help applicants understand what kind of candidates it was looking for. In his letter published yesterday on PSC’s website, Mr Teo said it was “timely” for him to issue another one, “with a message for a broader audience”, as he embarks on his second term. Having interviewed thousands of top students and having interacted with members of the public, “my colleagues and I felt that the PSC needs to explain its recruitment role further”, he wrote.

    Among other things, he pointed out that a diverse Public Service is needed to “avoid ‘groupthink’ and to appreciate the needs of a diverse Singapore population”.

    Mr Teo also said that the PSC is “acutely conscious” of the need to have public servants coming from all socio-economic classes, “lest we end up breeding a class of elitist public servants who lack empathy”.

    He stressed that “superior policy-formulating skills” alone, for instance, are not enough. “Public servants now need to engage and consult the public and communicate government policies effectively,” he said.

    He noted the shift in the education system, which has recognised the need to produce students with holistic abilities “rather than only those who are exam-smart”. Similarly, the PSC has moved away from “the early days” where the tilt was in favour of awarding scholarships to those who scored well in exams, he said.

    Over the last two years, the percentage of PSC scholars from RI and HCI has gone down to 60 per cent, compared to an average of 68 per cent over the last decade. The proportion peaked at 82 per cent in 2007.

    Mr Teo said that students from junior colleges such as Pioneer, St Andrew’s and Nanyang “are also starting to receive scholarships”. “They no longer rule themselves out from applying, on the mistaken belief that they have no chance,” he said.

    Among the batch of President’s Scholars this year was Scott Ang, 20 — the first student from the Singapore Sports School to be awarded the honour.

    Mr Teo pointed out that more schools are being represented among the candidates interviewed by the PSC for scholarships in general “because all schools are getting better and more students are willing to choose them”. “Students choose to study in the School of the Arts and the Sports School not because they cannot study, but because they have different interests,” he said.

    Apart from selecting scholars from a variety of backgrounds and schools, the PSC also encourages scholarship applicants to consider studying in “non-traditional” countries and in different universities, “rather than only well-known Ivy League universities or Oxbridge”.

    However, over the last decade, only about seven per cent of PSC scholars studied outside the United States, United Kingdom or Singapore. “Those aspiring to be public servants should realise that their performance will often be enhanced if they can bring a new perspective ... gained by their stint in a ‘non-traditional’ university or ‘non-traditional’ country,” Mr Teo noted.

    Political analysts said that Mr Teo’s comments further reinforced a changing mindset within the Government where a premium is now placed on public service and political leaders who are “more grounded, less elitist” and better equipped with ‘soft values’ such as empathy, as National University of Singapore political scientist Bilveer Singh put it.

    Singapore Management University Associate Professor Eugene Tan added: “Change will be most prominent at the entry level through the scholarship selection process but the change must work its way up the leadership chain and reinforced down the chain of command.”
     

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