Once this ban kick in probably this Friday, will you cut down on trips to Malaysia? Probably there will be a traffic jam this Thursday at the causeway. I think this ban will mostly affect motorists who visit Johor once or twice a week just to buy cheap petrol. With the current all time high petrol price, buying cheap petrol from Malaysia have become so attractive that makes Singaporeans make the trip there. So by implementing this, will it deter people from visiting Malaysia and triggering a downturn in their economy in the long run?

Some Singaporeans said they may cut back on trips to Malaysia once the proposed ban on the sale of petrol and diesel to foreign registered vehicles within a 50-kilometre radius of Malaysia’s borders takes effect.

The ban is expected to kick in as early as this Friday in a move to prevent abuse of heavy fuel subsidies.

However, Malaysia’s Domestic Trade Minister, Shahrir Samad, said on Tuesday that the ban is a temporary one. It will be lifted once a new subsidy mechanism to replace the existing scheme, where everyone is subsidised, is put in place.

Still, the move is expected to affect hundreds of motorists who regularly cross over the border for cheaper oil.

Malaysia’s diesel and petrol prices are among the lowest in Asia due to high government subsidies.

The ban is expected to affect up to 300 petrol stations in the country. And Singaporeans who head to Johor Bahru for cheaper petrol will be the most affected.

For example, Loy Cheong, a businessman who is a regular traveller across the border, said he will cut back on his trips.

Mr Cheong, Business Development Manager, Medo Enterprises Holding, said: “Buying cheap petrol is one of the privileges and what attracts the Singaporean to go there. But with this implementation, it may deter people from visiting Johor.

“We go normally once a week or once in every two weeks. But if they implement this, maybe we will go less often, like once a month.”

Also facing problems are Malaysians who are Singapore permanent residents.

Koh Ming Li, a Singapore permanent resident, lives near the border and has been coming to Singapore almost every day for the past two years for work.

He said: “The problem now is that it prohibits me from driving directly into JB. And as for the 50-kilometre radius from JB, I would say (there’s) almost no petrol kiosks within JB that I can pump petrol from.”

Petrol kiosk operators who violate the ban face the possibility of a S$110,000 fine (RM$250,000) or a three-year jail term or both.

– CNA

A woman who is driving a Honda Type R parked her car in the middle of 2 parking lots in a carpark (view image here) actually said that it was a $100K car, so she could park it anyway she wanted. I couldn’t believe someone will actually say something like this. She is only driving a Honda, what if one day she drives a Ferarri or Lamborghini or Porsche, does that mean she can drive anyway she wanted on the road? She can cut into other people’s lanes just because her car is expensive or whatsoever and other motorists have to give in to her? She even challenge to be photographed.

STOMPer AA said this woman, who parked on two lots, challenged to be photographed, and said that since it was a $100K car, she could park it anyway she wanted.

The STOMPer said, the woman whom he met on May 25, claimed to be waiting for someone.

“But that does not give her the right to park the car this way,” he said.

According to him, the woman even said, “Want to take picture, take lah. It’s a $100K car, I can park it anyway I want. Don’t be red eye just because you cannot afford one.”

Article obtained from STOMP at
http://singaporeseen.stomp.com.sg/singaporeseen/viewContent.jsp?id=23979

Apparently, the "technology" that enables a visitor to a web site to click on an image to go to another web page or web site is patented, and unluckily, the coverage of this patent includes Singapore as well. A local firm, VueStar Technologies (yes, it’s a text link here and thank goodness opening in a new window is not patented), has began sending invoices to local website operators demanding for payment for licencing fees. What this means is that, as long as you have an image that is clickable either to (i) enlarge the image, or (ii) open a new page within your site, or (iii) open a new web site, you will be affected by this claim.

This potentially means that all websites (except those that do not have any images at all) and blogs will be affected. Even if your site has only small, little cute arrows that points to previous or next pages will be affected. As long as the object that you click on is not text, you will be affected. So, what does this mean for blogs – particularly in Singapore?

Advertlets, Nuffnang, and Blog2U are virtually affected. By asking all their blogger members to include an image file of their clients, they are causing all bloggers to infringe this patent. Essentially, all their blogger members and themselves may have to either pay up for the licence fee or to have their sites entirely converted to text-base.

This patent affects giants like Yahoo, Microsoft and Google, which are already having a battle of their own. When this claim is enforced, it may effectively cripple the entire Internet until VueStar is satisfied with the fees they collected.

Do you have an image link in your blog?

A SINGAPORE firm has threatened to sue websites that use pictures or graphics to link to another page, claiming it owns the patent for a technology used by millions around the world.

In a move that has come under fire from the online community, VueStar Technologies has sent ‘invoices’ to local website operators asking for thousands of dollars in licensing fees.

The company, which said ‘virtually all websites’ are infringing on its patent, is also planning to take on giants like Mircosoft and Google.

It is a battle that could, at least in theory, upend the Internet, though intellectual property experts have some doubts that VueStar can actually enforce its claims.

The company said it has been awarded a patent here and in several other countries, including Australia, New Zealand and the United States, for the method of ‘locating Web pages by utilising visual images’.

In other words, clicking, scrolling or streaming over a visual image to connect with a website or Web page is an infringement, the company claims on its website.

The technique is the de facto method used to connect websites across the globe, from personal blogs to the biggest search engines.

VueStar managing director Paul Smith said if sites want to keep using images as links, they will have to pay his company – located in a single-unit office at The Adelphi off Coleman Street – between ‘$200’ and ‘millions’ annually.

It is a claim, however, that has its doubters.

Technology and intellectual property lawyer Bryan Tan of Keystone Law Corporation said that while VueStar has been granted a patent, it is an extremely wide one.

In fact, ‘if the patent is allowed to stand, it will probably bring the (Internet) industry to its knees’. And VueStar’s patent may be contested and overturned in court, he said.

The firm has been sending out invoices to Singapore companies since last week asking them to pay up, said Mr Smith. He declined to say how many have gone out, but there have been ‘enough to keep my phone busy’.

Those who do not pay up, warned Mr Smith, face legal action, and his company is ‘highly confident that (a court decision) will be in our favour’.

Mr Alvin Koh, who runs the non-profit Arrowana fish website arofanatics.com, received one of VueStar’s invoices last week for $5,350. He does not intend to pay up and said: ‘I would rather close down the site’.

Mr Smith recognises that Mr Koh’s stand will likely be a popular one, and his firm is already girding up for a public backlash.

‘Website owners are just upset because they never had to pay for it before,’ said Mr Smith.

VueStar will begin enforcing its patent claims in Australia and the US ‘soon’, he said, and the firm is also working on invoices for Internet heavyweights like Google and Microsoft.

While governments and charities will need a licence, VueStar will not be asking for payment from these parties, he said.

Mr Tan urged companies to contact their lawyers before ‘paying VueStar anything’.

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 27th May 2008

Mediacorp Channel 8’s charity show to raise funds in aid of those affected by China’s earthquake has collected more than S$9.5 million as of 9:30am on Monday. The money raised will be channelled to welfare and education programmes as well as rebuilding efforts which will include hospitals, schools and orphanages. STOMPers are now asking why these donations are subject to taxes. For this reason, I actually chose to donate directly via the Bank of China instead of calling in to the show to donate. Not because I am "stingy" about giving the 7% GST but I seriously do not see any point for them to charge the GST. It’s charity! Hello! Probably they should make good use of the 7% and donate it back to the Sichuan Charity Show? Please…..

The show has ended. The money has been raised. With more than $9.5m raised for the victims of the Sichuan earthquake in MediaCorp’s Sichuan Earthquake Charity Show last night (May 25), STOMPers are now asking why these donations are subject to taxes.

Viewers could call in to donate fixed amounts via 1900 hotline numbers, while larger amounts of donations were made through a landline.
STOMPer DPW was surprised when he saw that charity tax would be charged for the show.

"If the goverment want Singaporeans to be united and do more charity work I guess they have to be a good leader and show a good example to donate for all this charity too and not only ask fellow Singaporeans to donate only," he said.

Another STOMPer questioned the GST charges for the phone calls made.
"It’s supposed to be a meaningful charity show, but why is there a 20-cent administrative charge and 7% GST?" asked Robin Hood.

STOMPer Derrick was concerned that telcos did not absorb the 20-cent administrative charges.

He said: "Even small remittance companies are willing to help by absorbing administrative charges, why can’t our telcos do the same? It seems to be me that being the only service provider, they are free to monopolised the market. What happened to corporate social responsibility?

"If today, my call is one of voting for my favourite contestant in Miss Singapore XXX or Project Superstar XXX, I will gladly pay the administrative charge, and today if they tell me that the $0.21 will be fully donated to the relief funds I will gladly pay, no qualms about it.

"Having said all these, I will still continue to donate to future fund raising programs and knowing fully that all the talk about fulfilling corporate social responsibility is just mere talk and I am sorry, talk is cheap.

The three-hour charity show televised on MediaCorp’s Channel 8 last night saw artistes gather in an effort to raise funds through song, dance and even poetry. Some were roped in to receive donations through phone calls as well.

STOMP is seeking comment from SingTel.

Article obtained from STOMP at http://singaporeseen.stomp.com.sg/singaporeseen/viewContent.jsp?id=23948

If I was told that the Japan custom officers are hiding cannabis in passengers’ luggage so that they can be used as carriers, I probably will just bate an eyelid. However, they are now saying that they are using the passengers and their luggage as training for their dogs?! My eyelids are batting in automatic mode! Can you imagine the fright that a passenger will get when he or she gets confronted by a sniffer dog?!

Anyway, the package in one of the exercises is not lost and one passenger probably got home with the additional package in his luggage. Wonder if he knows use to use it. =)

TOKYO – ONE of the travellers who arrived at Tokyo’s Narita airport over the weekend may have picked up an unusual souvenir from customs – a package of cannabis.

A customs official hid the package in a suitcase belonging to a passenger arriving from Hong Kong as a training exercise for sniffer dogs on Sunday, but lost track of both drugs and suitcase during the practice session, a spokeswoman for Tokyo customs said.

Customs regulations specify that a training suitcase be used for such exercises, but the official said he had used passengers’ suitcases for similar purposes in the past, domestic media reported.

‘The dogs have always been able to find it before,’ NHK quoted him as saying. ‘I became overconfident that it would work.’

Anyone who finds the package should contact Tokyo customs as soon as possible, the spokeswoman said. — REUTERS

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 26th May 2008

I am a little surprised at how things turned out to be. I thought the incident was purely an accident and that no one will be punished. However, now we have the center head being sacked and the rest all demoted with a pay cut. Even the ISD’s command director whom the superintendent report to is also being relieve of his duties.

Hmm… the news came too sudden. Don’t know what to make of it.

THE superintendent of the Whitley Road Detention Centre has been sacked, while his deputy was demoted, with a pay cut.

These disciplinary actions were taken against them for the security lapses that led to the escape of Jemaah Islamiah detainee Mas Selamat Kastari.

Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng disclosed this in Parliament on Monday.

Formal disciplinary inquiries were set up aftet the incident to find out who was accountable for Mas Selamat’s escape.

Both the superintendent and his deputy were the most senior officers in charge of the ground management of the detention centre.

They were among six Internal Security Department (ISD) officers charged over the escape.

Two other Gurkha officers were also disciplined after admitting their mistakes.

They got demoted.

Mas Selamat escaped from a ventilation window with no grilles in a toilet at the detention centre on Feb 27.

He is still at large.

The superintendent should have instructed the renovation contractor to install grilles on the ventilation window, said Mr Wong.

By asking for the handle of the window to be sawn off, mistakenly believing that it was a sufficient security measure, he made a serious error.

The superintendent and his deputy have also been held accountable for the lack of supervision over the subordinate officers implicated in the escape, added Mr Wong.

The ISD’s command director – whom the superintendent reported to – was also relieved of his duties on Apr 24, said Mr Wong.

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 26th May 2008

Editor: This is not really a big deal, as I’d have agreed with a few other readers, but it’s just the way that the comment was being phrased that seems… *don’t know how to explain*. Nay, I am just being sensitive.

I saw this comment posted today in my blog and alarm bells started ringing immediately. The blog post in question was the one about the seemingly fake evidence on Pedra Branca. Now, "nal" wrote that:

I can’t imagine an island with a ‘foreign’ name got stuck somewhere in the middle of the malay’s archipelago region. It just doesn’t add up……….Who is this smark aleck, who changed the name ?

I think Pulau Batu Putih sounds more realistic.

To which, "anon" replied:

nal,

shattap, Pulau Batu Putih no longer exist, it’s Pedra Branca now!

MUahahahahaaaah!!!!1

Now, if "anon" is a Singaporean, or for that matter, any other nationality, I would have just closed both eyes. But a check at the IP address revealed:

xxxxxxx.tm.net.my

Of course, I am being just oversensitive. I guess it’s just the way that it’s being put across, especially with the "shattap" (shut up). It could all be said in jest, but knowing how people are being prosecuted and all, it’ll not be forgivable if I hear alarm bells and let it continue ringing. So…

Read the rest of this entry »

Heh. I am sure a lot of people will be familiar with this, especially those who have been through education in Singapore. Raise your hands if you remember having to do lots of revision books, exercises, home work and tonnes of book reviews during the holidays? There was practically no chance to play. In fact, I remember hating holidays because that meant having to do so much home work that it’s better to have normal classes during the so-called school holidays.

If you think going back for 2 weeks during the first 1/2 of the holidays is bad, how about going back on alternate weeks? Yes, it was cruel but to the teachers, it was all for our own good. I remember my mum telling me when I was in K1 and K2 that I need to study very hard to get into a good school. Then when I was in P1, I had to study and work hard to prepare for the "streaming" and this went on for P2 and P3. Then at P4 and P5, I had to work hard for PSLE else I will go to the neighbourhood school behind and become an ah lian of sorts.

My mum would continue, "Do you want to be like them? (and then points to a group of smoking girls) Learn how to smoke, take drugs and then get locked up in a girls’ home?" Of course, that frightened the feces out of me and I worked really hard. Then I got into secondary school and we didn’t really have much extra lessons, but when my classmates seemed like they had a microprocessor in their brains and with the school threatening to cream me off (the worst students being the cream here), I had no choice but to work very hard. After all, I remembered my mum’s words and didn’t want to go to a girls’ home. Anyway, holidays were also spent doing CCAs and CIPs.

JC felt almost like liberation. Until the teachers showed their true colours after the "first 3 months". Punishments were meted out like water from the water cooler – at the press of a button, and on top of that, we had to be all rounders in sports and all; and be involved in community projects. There was no time to rest in J1 because we were told that we only had 1 year instead 2. J2 was merely an illusion. Hmmm… wonder whose wise words were those. Needless to say, June and December holidays were burnt because we had to prepare for the A levels or risk being sent to less popular faculties (or worse, no faculties) in University.

Did I mention that it had to be NUS? No, I am not telling where I went to. =)

The real holiday came after A levels. However, because I was then on my own with no money in pocket, I had to work, work and work, although I guess it was worth it because I now have my own cash flow which meant, at that time, that I could get anything I want. Soon enough, university started. Then there was hall activities, more ECAs, more clubs to run, more elections to prepare for, projects, assignments, final year projects, dissertations and the list goes on. So, the only time when we get to enjoy a holiday is… supposed to be after we graduate.

And you think there’s time for holiday after work begins? Hmm… =) It’s probably things like this that made me feel "Singaporean".

How was school during your childhood like?

THE four-week mid-year school holiday has begun but many students and teachers will not get a proper break until one or two weeks later.

A check with 25 primary and secondary schools showed that almost all have some form of classes, mostly for graduating batches of students – Primary 6s and Secondary 4s and 5s.

Only two schools – Raffles Girls Primary (RGPS) and Hwa Chong Institution – said they are not holding classes at all.

Many parents, whose children have to return to school for such ‘compulsory’ lessons, say they do not see the point in them, especially when the children are not sitting for major exams at the end of the year.

A parent, whose son is in Primary 5 at Tao Nan School in Marine Parade, was upset to learn that the three-day lessons held in the last week of the holidays, were ‘compulsory, with a medical certificate required if the child was absent’.

‘My son is only in Primary 5. Why have lessons during the long holidays when they already have compulsory supplementary classes twice a week during term time?

‘What’s three days of lessons in a kid’s life? I feel sorry when he asks me why he can’t play,’ she said.

Principal Tony Tan said the classes were to make up for lessons missed by the cohort during a three-day adventure camp last month.

Another parent, whose daughter is in Primary 4 in a neighbourhood school, said she decided not to let her go for the classes as the family had made plans to travel.

‘Three days will not get her more A* in the PSLE, not when she’s only in Primary 4,’ said Madam Judy Chong, 39, a customer services executive, who wrote to the school to excuse her daughter from classes.

Over at Zhonghua Secondary, its Secondary 4 and 5 students have compulsory lessons from 8am to 3.15pm every day for the first two weeks of the holidays.

Principal Dolly Ong said parents were advised early in the year not to take their children on a vacation.

‘Unless there’s a family emergency, we want students to come back for the classes. They need the time to prepare for the examinations,’ she added.

School heads say there are students who need these extra classes and who will benefit from them.

Zhonghua Primary’s principal Bucktha Seelan said his teachers have planned lessons in the first three days of the school holidays for pupils who need it.

‘It’s in small groups and not compulsory, though we encourage them to come. It’s the only time we can do something to help weaker pupils catch up with their classmates,’ he said.

In Tampines Secondary, Secondary 4 and 5 students have classes every day for the first week. Principal Neo Tick Watt said he had ‘mixed feelings’ about having classes during the holidays.

‘You want the students to enjoy, but you also want them to study. Our students need focus and motivation, and the momentum to keep studying,’ he said.

That is how some parents feel as well, especially those with children facing critical examinations.

Mrs Susan Kiew, 49, a housewife who has two children in Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Secondary, said the lessons would benefit her elder daughter who is sitting for the O levels at the end of the year.

‘If she has problems she can ask her teacher – it’s extra help for her, and is better than staying at home,’ she said.

But students having to attend classes would mean teachers giving up their holidays too.

Schools say they are careful to set aside time for teachers to rest.

For instance, while NorthLight School has no formal classes during the holidays, some students asked for enrichment lessons like baking.

So the school found an external vendor to conduct classes, with supervision done by administrative staff so that teachers can go for their break.

Principal Chua Yen Ching said she tries to make sure the teachers get three weeks of uninterrupted rest during the holidays.

‘It’s important that after one semester, they reflect, recharge so they come back renewed,’ she said.

As RGPS principal Tan Siok Cheng, who stopped holiday classes five years ago, put it: ‘The girls get so tired, and some don’t show up because of vacation plans…so we target them throughout the school year, rather than ask them to come back during the holidays.’

janeng@sph.com.sg

zengyan@sph.com.sg

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 26th May 2008

Whenever a General Election (GE) looms in Singapore, a group of Singaporeans are skeptical that their choices are really anonymous because of the presence of numbers on the voting slip, which conveniently traces the identity of the voter. In fact, some have wondered if their failure to get a HDB flat has anything to do with them voting for the opposition in the previous elections. This mentality is understandable if "things hadn’t been smooth" when they have indeed voted for the opposition. The government was of course quick to refute all such claims, maintaining that everything is really kept private and confidential.

However, if indeed the votes are being monitored, what’s the worse thing that can happen? You may probably "not be able to get a HDB flat", although some of us do think that it’s preposterous for something like this to happen. After all, the government does want more people to get married and set up families, isn’t it? Now, if you look at Myanmar and what the people are thinking and saying, you’d understand what freedom of choice really is.

Fellow Singaporeans, it’s time to appreciate our government who has worked so hard to maintain corruption-free and to put the priorities of the people above everything else. Importantly, whatever it’s done is for the own good of the people although it’s sometimes a bitter pill to swallow. =)

Yangon – Voters in regions devastated by the cyclone cast ballots yesterday in a referendum that many say is meaningless, as Myanmar’s junta has already declared victory.

The regime says the charter was overwhelmingly approved by 92.4per cent in the first round of voting on May10.

Even though their votes will not change the outcome, hundreds of thousands of people left their patched-up homes and makeshift shelters to cast ballots at schools, temples and community centres.

‘I will tick Yes,’ said 30-year-old shop assistant Khin Min. ‘I’m afraid I will be put in jail if I vote No.’

AFP

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 25th May 2008

This is the 3rd cave-in caused by the Circle Line thus far, with the most severe being the Nicoll Highway cave-in, which killed 4. The latest cave-in happened near Holland Road, measuring 8m by 7m and about 3m deep. Communication lines and water supply were damaged and cut off and this was linked to tunneling works happening at 22m below ground level. Work is now being carried out to mend the cave-in as well as to resume water supply and communication links to the houses affected. No casualties were reported.

There were however, reports that low rumbling noises being heard during the tunneling. In addition, it was confirmed that the ground that caved in was on loose ground. The Circle Link underground tunneling project indeed saw the worse and possibility the most number of reported cave-ins since the MRT project started in the 1980s.

When the Sperling family went to bed on Friday night, a steel sheet had been laid across cracks in the street just outside the driveway of their bungalow, off Holland Road.

By dawn yesterday, a 8m by 7m stretch of Cornwall Gardens had disappeared into a 3m-deep crater.

No one was injured, neither were any homes in the area damaged when the ground sank at about 4.45am, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said yesterday.

But water supplies to three homes were cut off as the pipes snapped when the road crumbled. Phones, computers and cable TV links were also out at one of the homes because of damaged cables.

The LTA said it arranged for the homes to be supplied drinking water and provided temporary telecommunication links.

The Sperlings, whose driveway was blocked by the repair work, have been put up at Shangri-La Hotel and provided two rental cars.

Yesterday’s cave-in was linked to tunnelling work taking place 22m below ground for a section of the Circle Line, connecting new stations at Holland Village and Farrer Road.

All tunnelling work has been stopped as repairs are carried out, the spokesman added.

The cave-in happened because of ‘loose ground’, said LTA. Its engineers and the contractors for the tunnelling work had been preparing to stabilise the soil in the area when it sank.

Residents in the area say they have experienced vibrations as tunnelling work moved through the area in the last two months.

The Sperlings, who moved into 14 Cornwall Gardens six months ago, said they could hear a constant ‘low rumble’.

Housewife Jane Sperling, 46, who resides in the bungalow with her investment manager husband and three sons, said the rumble was sometimes strong enough to throw open the ceiling vents.

There were other signs.

Another resident in the area, Mr Stephen Wisely, 46, who works in an oil and gas construction company, spotted a small sinkhole in his driveway two months ago, which was later filled in by LTA contractors.

More recently, Ms Mhel Bueno, 35, a domestic help who lives at No.12, had noticed water overflowing from a pipe near the cave-in site.

The LTA said its ‘engineers inspected monitoring instruments that had been installed at the houses and on the ground in the vicinity, and are satisfied that the houses and surrounding area are safe’.

By yesterday evening, most of the crater had been filled in and work was being carried out to strengthen the ground. Repairs to affected utility lines would also start soon.

The LTA apologised for the inconvenience to residents and motorists and said that the stretch of Cornwall Gardens is expected to reopen to traffic by Tuesday.

The sinkhole is the latest setback for the project, the most severe being the 2004 cave-in at the Nicoll Highway tunnel, which killed four.

Last year, four stop-work orders were issued, including for a stretch of a tunnel in Telok Blangah, when part of the road sank.

The LTA said the Cornwall Gardens repairs are not expected to delay progress of the Circle Line which is expected to be completed in stages from 2010 onwards.

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 25th May 2008