Taipei, Taiwan – Artiste Lawrence Hiew is now in Taiwan for a series of promotional shows and filming at top popular programs. This is his second trip to Taiwan within a short span of 2 months since his first trip.
His first appearance today is on SETSuperstar (安安大明星), hosted by their triumph host Chen Jian An. SETSuperstar is a variety program which invites special guests to interview them on their latest involvement in the media and entertainment industry.
Named as the ‘Most Busy Guest’ in their program history, Lawrence was well-loved and taken care of by the production team and host. You must be wondering how busy can Lawrence get while on set to film, well let us find out more.
Lawrence gave the welcome gifts to host Chen, which consists of products under his endorsement belt. Host Chen was in awe of the number of gifts Lawrence had prepared for him. He was particularly interested in Asia Farm Purple Tea and Leaves and also House of Seafood vacuumed packed crabs in their signature Black Pepper and Chili flavours. All in all, Lawrence brought along a total of 100kg worth of sponsors items specially for his Taiwanese counterparts to thank them.
After performing his singles ‘Script of Happiness’ (幸福剧本) at the beginning of the show, Lawrence began to prepare the dish that he was going to cook- Hakka Yong Tau Foo. Due to hands limitation during food preparation, host Chen even helped to hold the microphone for Lawrence to speak. Lawrence successfully prepared his Hakka Yong Tau Foo, and garnishes the tofu with Noodlemix Shallot oil for extra fragrance.
The host and producer were full of praises for Lawrence’s ability to handle the singing performances and live cooking session at the same time. Fans of Lawrence were also very supportive throughout the live show, commenting and encouraging him for everything he does.
“I am so grateful for this opportunity to be the special guest for SETSuperstar. Host Chen and the entire crew were so caring and thoughtful towards me. It is heart-warming to find such warmth for my first show here. I also want to thank all my fans in Taiwan and also those back in Singapore for all the encouragement.” Lawrence shared his thought after the filming at SET Group.
The promotional trip for Lawrence is very packed and hectic and he will be set to be involved in many more filming for the upcoming days in Taiwan. He has arranged to record for as much programs as possible so as not to disappoint his fans despite his hectic schedule. He certainly hopes to be able to appear for all the programs the next round and also wish to thank all his sponsors for the generous gifts for the Taiwanese counterparts.
THE HAGUE: International investigators are on Wednesday (Jun 19) expected to announce charges against several suspects in the shooting down of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine five years ago in an attack which killed all 298 people on board.
The Dutch-led probe has said it will first inform families, and then hold a press conference to unveil "developments in the criminal investigation" into the downing of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777.
The breakthrough comes nearly a year after the investigators said that the BUK missile which hit the plane had originated from a Russian military brigade based in the southwestern city of Kursk.
The airliner travelling between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur was torn apart in mid-air on July 17, 2014 over territory in eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russian separatists.
Ukraine's deputy foreign minister Olena Zerkal told Interfax-Ukraine news agency on Tuesday that four people would be named over MH17, including senior Russian army officers.
"The names will be announced. Charges will be brought, Zerkal said, adding that a Dutch court would then "start working to consider this case".
Zerkal added that the transfer of weapons like the BUK anti-aircraft missile system "is impossible without the (Russian) top brass's permission" and said others would have been involved beyond those being charged.
'FIRST STEP TO TRIAL'
The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing the attack - which includes Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine - has declined to confirm that it will announce charges.
The Netherlands and Australia said last May that they formally "hold Russia responsible" for the disaster, after the findings on the origin of the missile were announced.
Of the passengers who died, 196 were Dutch and 38 were Australian.
Moscow has vehemently denied all involvement.
Dutch broadcaster RTL, quoting anonymous sources, said the suspects could be tried in absentia as Russia does not extradite its nationals for prosecution.
"I expect there will be important new information. That means the inquiry is advancing," Piet Ploeg, president of a Dutch victims' association who lost three family members on MH17, was quoted as saying by broadcaster NOS on Friday.
"It's the first step to a trial."
Investigative website Bellingcat said separately it will also name "individuals linked to the downing of MH17" on Wednesday. It said its reporting was "totally independent and separate from the JIT's investigation."
The JIT said last year that MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile from the 53rd anti-aircraft brigade based in Kursk, but that they were still searching for suspects.
They showed videos and animation of the BUK launcher as part of a Russian military convoy, using video clips found on social media and then checked against Google Maps, as it travelled from Kursk to eastern Ukraine.
Investigators said they had also identified a 'fingerprint' of seven identifying features that were unique to the BUK including a military number on the launcher.
Russia insisted last year that the missile was fired by Kiev's forces, adding that it was sent to Ukraine in the Soviet era and had not been returned to Russia.
The Netherlands said it would study the information but added that details previously provided by Russia - such as the alleged presence of a Ukrainian jet near the airliner on radar images - were incorrect.
Ties between Moscow and The Hague were further strained last year when the Dutch expelled four alleged Russian spies for trying to hack into the Dutch-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
The war in eastern Ukraine and the MH17 disaster continue to plague relations between Russia and the West.
Since 2014, some 13,000 people have been killed in the war in the east, which erupted after a popular uprising ousted Ukraine's pro-Kremlin president and Russia annexed Crimea.
Kiev and its Western backers accuse Russia of funnelling troops and arms to back the separatists. Moscow has denied the claims despite evidence to the contrary.
‘We’re not perfect’: Scoot seeks to regain customer confidence after recent major flight disruptions
SINGAPORE: Low-cost carrier Scoot is aware of its shortcomings and is working to improve its customer service and recovery standards in light of recent flight delays and disruptions that have affected passengers, said its CEO Lee Lik Hsin.
Speaking to reporters on Monday (Jun 17), he admitted that the flight disruptions had hit the airline's key On-Time Performance (OTP) metric.
“Admittedly, our OTP was not good from end-2018 to beginning of 2019. In December and January, we had occasions or months where OTP was in the 70s (in percentage terms) to low 80s. But we have bounced back up to mid-to-high 80s. In terms of delivering our promise to the customer of punctuality, we have improved since then,” added Mr Lee.
He added that prior to the dip in 2018, Scoot's average OTP was also around 80 per cent.
Scoot suffered six flight disruptions between November 2018 and January this year that resulted in significant delays of between several hours and up to more than two days.
The worst incident happened on Dec 18 to flight TR713 from Athens to Singapore. A total of 321 passengers were made to board and disembark at least three times due to technical and operational issues. The flight eventually landed in Singapore about 56 hours behind schedule.
Mr Lee explained that one major reason for Scoot’s improved OTP was tweaks made to reduce the utilisation rate for its fleet. The airline’s fleet of Boeing 787s now spend 13 hours in the air daily instead of 14 previously.
This increases the chances of having a spare aircraft when one is required to resolve a major delay, he said.
But time and approvals are still required before any relief flights can be mounted.
“It takes half a day (or) a day to get approval to fly up and bring the passengers back. But at least we have the resources available, as opposed to having no resources and waiting (for available aircraft). It is not so easy to use an Airbus A320 to recover a Boeing 787 flight. There (are) a lot of complications in terms of regulatory approvals. But in general, we will try to use the same aircraft type to bring the people back.”
BETTER, MORE CONSISTENT DELIVERY NEEDED
Mr Lee noted that one of the criticisms from passengers that Scoot faced during some of the flight disruptions was about the airline’s ability to provide “comfort items” such as food, drinks and accommodation. To that end, he added that the airline is working towards delivering them on a more consistent basis.
“As a principle, we always want to provide refreshments, provide hotels, despite being a low-cost carrier. Because this (is) actually, something that the customers want, whether they take low-cost or full service (airlines). We will provide (them at) a basic level. You will have a basic lunch box and nothing gourmet, and the hotels that we are able to put you up in may not be five-star hotels.
“But it is really (about) trying to improve the execution, (with) better communications with our partners in those locations, when these things happen to make sure that we deliver more consistently.”
THE ROAD TO WINNING BACK CUSTOMERS' TRUST
Mr Lee said that Scoot has some way to go to fully win back customers' trust and satisfaction.
He also cited that the airline uses two methodologies to gauge customer satisfaction in its post-flight survey. These are the "Net Promoter Score" and the "Customer Satisfaction Score".
Mr Lee said that Scoot is “not doing as well as (it) would like” on the Net Promoter Score, which gauges customer loyalty, including the likelihood of them booking another flight on the airline or recommending the organisation to their social circle.
On a scale of between -100 and 100, he admitted that the airline “is positive but in very small digits”.
“Good companies tend to be above 50, but we are nowhere near that. We know we have a long road ahead of us,” said Mr Lee.
On the Customer Satisfaction Score, which rates the experience that customers most recently had with a company, Mr Lee said that about 70 per cent of Scoot’s passengers currently rate the airline as "good" or "very good".
“It was very clear to us that we had a hit and we have a lot of work to do. But in recently two, three months, we’ve also seen improvements on both fronts. We know that we are heading in the right direction.”
LEVERAGING DIGITAL SPACE, PAYING ATTENTION TO SOCIAL MEDIA
Mr Lee said that another major issue that passengers had with Scoot during flight disruptions, was the lack of information provided by the airline.
“Customers were feeling uncomfortable because they didn't know what was going on. Sometimes the news is not always good news. But they at least want to know what's going on, what to expect,” he added.
“We understood that people want the information, (and) it's only fair for us to be as transparent with our customers as possible, especially during times of disruption.”
To that end, Scoot has leveraged the digital space and launched what it described as a “delay information system”, in the first quarter of this year.
Mr Lee explained that passengers can sign in with their flight information on this online platform and get real-time information from Scoot’s operations centre on their delayed flight, such as the new expected departure time.
“It was like a light bulb suddenly coming on. Somehow the original communication medium to the customer, (through) our partners on the ground is not working. Maybe because there's 10 of them and 400 customers. It’s very difficult. And they are dispersed all over the place – they may be in the terminal, they may be told to go have their meal, and you can't get all of them in the same place to make an announcement. So digital was the best way to go.”
Mr Lee also said that in the last quarter, Scoot has equipped all its cabin crew teams with iPads so that feedback from passengers can be recorded immediately after their flight. This allows its customer service department to address concerns more quickly, as compared to processing feedback via physical forms.
In addition, Scoot is paying more attention to social media platforms as a means of getting customer feedback.
“We realised that social media channels were something we needed to pay much close attention to. We also needed a good source of early information about any problems. We actually had to increase our coverage, our team size, and media monitoring has increased from eight to 14 hours daily,” added Mr Lee.
He said that the social media monitoring team has grown from five employees to eight.
"Customers have a voice and they are keen to share their feedback, not just with us, but with others as well, and social media provides that channel," Mr Lee added.
He also reiterated Scoot’s commitment to safety and operational reliability.
“Being a part of the Singapore Airlines Group, it doesn’t matter that we are the budget airline. We will spare no expense in that area. But technical issues can still happen. That’s what happened to us.
“We’re not perfect. There’s always work to be done. But we hope that people understand that we are sincere in wanting to make that effort.”
SINGAPORE: She has seen patients as young as one month old suffer from serious escalator-related injuries, such as to the head or spine.
And more than half of those who arrive at the hospital with injuries involving prams on escalators tend to be admitted, said Dr Sharon Goh from the Department of Emergency Medicine in KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
“What can happen is that parents push their children onto the escalator while they’re still seated on the pram. And sometimes the seatbelts aren’t buckled. They might fall off the stroller,” she explained.
Parents may also underestimate the pram’s weight, and this can lead to prams toppling on the escalator, which can “cause a significant impact” when the child falls.
On average, one escalator accident takes place in Singapore almost every day. And of the more than 350 incidents reported last year, over 90 per cent were caused by user behaviour, while the rest were down to technical faults.
At KKH’s emergency department, the number of escalator–related injuries among children more than doubled between 2012 and 2016. More than half of these injuries seen at the hospital occurred in shopping centres.
Escalators provide convenience, but with recent incidents — like the steps of an escalator collapsing at Tampines 1 mall — giving a bit of a scare, we find out how dangerous our escalators are and whether people are using them wrongly.
SOME RAN DOWN THE STEPS
There are nearly 7,000 escalators across Singapore, and issues surrounding their safety have become increasingly important.
Building and Construction Authority (BCA) director of investigation and enforcement Darren Lim pointed out that in 60 per cent of last year’s incidents, users had to be sent to a hospital because of injuries.
“The most common (reasons) we see are those causing people to lose balance, for example not holding onto the handrail, carrying heavy objects, walking up the escalator steps and sometimes even leaning against the side of the escalator,” he said.
Of late, there have been instances of pram wheels getting stuck between the steps, causing the steps to dislodge and stopping the escalator altogether. Eight accidents last year involved prams, according to BCA.
From its data, BCA also found that more than half of the incidents involved those aged above 60, while another high-risk group were young children who put their feet against the side of the escalators.
“That can cause the shoes to get stuck in the gap. Sometimes even the toes can get stuck, and that can cause serious injuries,” said Lim.
To find out if people are aware of escalator safety, reporters stationed at Compass One, a shopping centre in Sengkang, and observed how they use the escalators.
Within an hour, he noticed that many were not practising safe behaviour. He counted seven people on their phones, four running down the steps and three pushing their prams onto the escalator.
One mother confessed that she used to push a pram onto the escalator, even though she knew she was not supposed to, when her children were younger.
“Sometimes the lift takes a long time. And I think it’s because of inconsiderate people. They don’t have a pram, but they still prefer using the lift,” she explained.
IT’S ABOUT SELF-DISCIPLINE
Dr Christopher Cummings, an expert in understanding user behaviour and risk communications, felt that part of the problem is that escalators are such a common technology that people take them for granted.
By the time a child is five, he would have ridden escalators “hundreds of times”.
“So there's no thought process about (the risks),” said the assistant professor of strategic communications at Nanyang Technological University’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information.
“This is one of the few machines that we let children use all the time. We don’t let children drive cars, we don’t let many people use things that are considered heavy machinery. But that’s what this is.”
He also thought the warning stickers on escalators were small or contained too much information for people to bother reading.
We conducted an experiment by pasting huge stickers on the floor before users step onto the escalators at Compass One, to see if this will change behaviours.
Cameras were set up to observe users, and after a day, it seemed that many people ignored the stickers, which advised parents not to push their prams onto the escalator.
Compass One general manager Sharon Tan, who has seen her fair share of escalator-related accidents in the mall, said that when shoppers want to get to their destination fast, they do not stop to think about the risks.
To the question of what can be done, she said: “It should be about self-discipline and how safely we want our journey to be. And hopefully, our shoppers can inculcate the value of safe use of escalators.”
NOT ALWAYS WELL MAINTAINED
In 2016, the BCA imposed strict new regulations to ensure that escalators are maintained every month and undergo annual inspections. And any incident involving a malfunction must be reported immediately. But have these new rules been effective?
Nexco Enterprise engineer Chan Chee Kong, a certified independent escalator inspector, said some escalators are not maintained properly.
“Most lift and escalator companies would have a checklist,” he said. “But (by) physically ticking off the checklist, does that mean that the work is being physically done? I’ve seen instances in my inspections (when) work isn’t being properly done.”
These include switches clogged with dirt, and rusty parts on the escalator.
There are 2,100 lift and escalator technicians in Singapore. It is estimated that half of them are over the age of 50. And within the next decade, this group may retire.
Without new blood, a smaller pool of technicians may be forced to work on more escalators every day, putting a strain on maintenance services.
KONE, a global escalator manufacturer, provides service crews to perform maintenance on their escalators. And its Asia-Pacific head of quality and safety Timo Skog agreed that not enough people are willing to enter the profession.
As for maintenance standards, he said “it’s an issue in any service industry”. And while escalators are “heavy-duty”, designed to withstand wear and tear, they can be damaged.
“Look at the escalator guidance: We have stickers that show … strollers (and) personal mobility devices can cause harm to people and can also damage the escalator,” he added.
“An escalator is a machine. If it’s used correctly, then it’s quite difficult to damage it.”
Singapore - LeLePot (乐乐锅) is a Singapore-style Hot Pot store which serve simple yet comforting hot pot food at its Tiong Bahru outlet. Get ready to fill up your tummy with their yummy food.
With many soup bases to choose from, you will be spoilt for choices. If you are looking for something unusual, be sure to order their coconut chrysanthemum soup. Not only you can feel the coconut bits but also taste the flora aroma in your mouth.
Lelepot uses fresh ingredients for their dishes. Portions are also fairly generous. With a wide variety of meat, vegetables and side dishes to choose from, the price are also very reasonable. Buffet per pax is priced at $29.90. So gather your gang and feast while you are in town.
Mix your own sauce to dip the meat from the sauce selection counter. Apart from the usual drinks and beer selections, we personally like their ice blended series like the Yuzu and Ribena ice blended.
Overall the service at LeLePot (乐乐锅) is prompt and environment is causal and comfortable for a gathering with family or friends. Share the joy with your loved ones at LeLePot (乐乐锅) today.
BEIJING: A rise in US visa denials for Chinese academics and intensified scrutiny of alleged links to Beijing over fears of potential espionage are having a chilling effect on long-standing research collaboration, researchers say.
American and Chinese scientists have co-authored thousands of papers each year, far outpacing the output from scientific collaborations between any other two nations, according to a 2018 survey by academic database Nature Index.
But it is getting tougher for researchers to work together on projects and share data for peer review, as American institutions tighten rules for accepting foreign funding and intensify vetting of foreign partners, several researchers told reporters.
The pressure is the result of a clampdown by Washington on what it describes as espionage and technology theft through academic contacts, with the White House warning last year that Chinese nationals studying or working in the United States could be manipulated or forced to "serve Beijing's military and strategic ambitions".
In one of the latest countermeasures, the US Department of Energy - which conducts advanced research on everything from supercomputers to nuclear weapons - blocked its scientists from participating in a foreign government's talent recruitment programmes, citing national security and competition concerns.
Its order, seen by reporters, did not mention a specific country, but officials pointed to Beijing's lucrative 'Thousand Talents' programme.
The initiative offers non-Chinese, and Chinese working abroad, high pay to deliver top-level technology to China.
The increased mistrust is bound to have an impact on research collaboration, academics and experts say.
An increasing number of young Chinese scholars are told they cannot participate in a project for security reasons, said an official at Pennsylvania State University, who requested anonymity given the sensitivity of the topic.
"Research collaboration between China and the US will be severely disrupted by the trade war-turned-technology war, which essentially is a talent war," said Cao Cong, professor of innovation studies at Nottingham University's China campus in the city of Ningbo.
Beijing has committed billions of dollars in recent years to narrow China's science and technology gap with the United States, Cao said.
But China is still "heavily dependent" on the US for technology transfers and training, he added, and the "cut off" will have an impact in coming years.
The rising number of visa denials have prompted a warning from China's education ministry that students and academics could have their study or research plans foiled by refusals or delays.
One in eight Chinese applicants seeking US visas for academic or research purposes between January and March this year had difficulties securing them, a marked increase from last year, education ministry official Xu Yongji said.
Star quantum physicist Pan Jianwei was unable to attend a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in February, where he was to collect the prestigious Newcomb Cleveland Prize, due to visa delays.
"I waited for four months before I got a visa in March," Pan told AFP. When it finally arrived, the award ceremony had long passed.
Yi Rao, a prominent Chinese neurobiologist who had worked at Harvard and Northwestern universities in the past, said his application for a US visa to attend a workshop by the National Science Foundation was denied last July without an explanation.
A State Department official said she could not discuss specific visa cases due to US privacy laws.
The State Department has said the increased scrutiny was prompted by rising number of students who were co-opted by foreign intelligence while in the United States.
China is by far the biggest source of international students and scholars on US campuses, with 360,000 attending last year.
'ATMOSPHERE OF SUSPICION'
The cooling of ties is also complicating Beijing's efforts to recruit top Chinese and foreign talent, after US intelligence officials in December said the 'Thousand Talents' programme facilitated the theft of American technology and intellectual property.
Tim Byrnes - an Australian physicist who won nearly one million yuan (US$144,000) from the programme in 2016 for a quantum computing lab at New York University's Shanghai campus - said he now finds himself in a "precarious position".
"Possibly, some people awarded the Thousand Talents might not be able to apply for grants in the US in future due to fears of leaking intellectual property," Byrnes said.
Since it was launched in 2008, the programme has attracted more than 7,000 Chinese and foreign researchers to China - mostly from the US - according to its website.
But Byrnes said he was not asked to share any of his findings with the Chinese government.
"Everything we do is published in academic journals. Everything is disclosed not just to China but to the whole world," he said.
"But the current atmosphere of suspicion is threatening the openness of science."
SINGAPORE: A woman who ran at least three unlicensed massage parlours in Orchard Towers, including one which offered "special services", was fined S$1,000 on Tuesday (Jun 18).
Ng Mui Lan, 56, operated three shops – named Rose Spa, Queen Star Beauty and SE Beauty Studio – that offered illegal massage services on the second and fourth floor of Orchard Towers.
The court heard that two customers - who were unidentified - went to SE Beauty Studio on the fourth floor of Orchard Towers at 10.15pm on Nov 16, 2017.
They were each quoted S$50 for a 30-minute full body massage and led to two separate rooms inside the unit by two masseuses aged 34 and 39.
After massaging the men for about 10 to 15 minutes, the women asked the men if they "wanted any special service", and explained that they were referring to sexual services, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Stephanie Koh.
Soon after, police officers from the Compliance Management Unit raided the shop.
Police records confirmed that the shop was not licensed to operate as a massage establishment.
Ng pleaded guilty to one charge under the Massage Establishments Act, with three other charges taken into consideration. One of these was of helping multiple illegal moneylenders by carrying out electronic bank transactions on their instructions.
Ng's lawyer highlighted her early plea of guilt, along with several health problems her client faced, including a history of heart disease and complications from open heart surgery.
She asked the court for a fine of S$800, saying that her client had taken over the business from a friend in July that year, just four months before the raid.
District Judge Toh Tung Cheong said he would have agreed to an S$800 fine if Ng had only one charge, but instead she had three others taken into consideration.
The maximum penalty for operating an unlicensed massage establishment is a fine of S$1,000. If the offence continues after conviction, the accused can be fined a further S$50 per day.
Singapore scientists discover new viruses that help identify individuals at high risk of Cantonese cancer
SINGAPORE: Scientists in Singapore have discovered two new variants of the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) associated with cancers, in a study that can make it easier to identify individuals at high risk of developing Cantonese cancer, hence allowing for early detection.
Cantonese cancer refers to nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC), the most common head and neck cancer in Singapore.
It is named so because EBV-infected individuals from the Cantonese dialect group are 20 times more at risk of developing NPC than those from other regions or populations.
The study, published in the journal Nature Genetics on Monday (Jun 17), involved scientists from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research’s (A*STAR) Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS), Sun Yat-sen University Cancer Center, Institute of Zoology of Chinese Academy of Sciences, as well as several other collaborating research institutes.
They sequenced a large batch of viral genomes from NPC patients and healthy controls (EBV-infected individuals that did not contract NPC) from both NPC-endemic and non-endemic regions, and discovered a unique EBV strain that is associated with increased risk of developing NPC.
Individuals infected by this unique EBV strain have 11 times higher risk of developing NPC than non-carriers.
Currently, more than 40 per cent of individuals in southern China are infected by the high-risk EBV strain and about 80 per cent of the NPC cases in the Cantonese dialect group are driven by the high-risk EBV strain.
“This unique strain seems to have originated in Asia, followed by expansion in NPC-endemic regions,” said A* STAR.
EARLY DETECTION OF NPC
Lead author of the study, Dr Liu Jian Jun, said: "The importance of the EBV viral variants in the development of NPC and its striking epidemic among Cantonese dialect group have been poorly explored in the past."
Dr Liu, who is also deputy executive director at GIS, added that the study "provided novel insights into the NPC endemic" and "potentially provides the basis for implementing effective intervention programmes to reduce its incidences".
Professor Ng Huck Hui, executive director at GIS, said that the discovery of these high-risk EBV viral variants has important implications for public health efforts to reduce the burden of NPC, particularly among Cantonese speakers.
“Testing for these variants enables the identification of high-risk individuals for routine clinical monitoring to detect NPC early. Primary prevention through the development of vaccines against high-NPC-risk EBV strains is expected to greatly reduce the incidence rate of Cantonese cancer,” said Prof Ng.
SYDNEY: The father of an 18-year-old Belgian backpacker made a heart-rending appeal for help finding his son Monday (Jun 17), as Australian police admitted they were "baffled" by his disappearance from a picturesque surf town.
Theo Hayez was last seen on May 31 at a hotel in Byron Bay - about 750km north of Sydney.
New South Wales state police were alerted to his disappearance on Jun 6 after he failed to return to the hostel where he was staying and have scoured bushland and off the coast to no avail.
"I promised Theo's little brother, Lucas, that I would bring his brother home. Please, help me keep my promise to him," father Laurent Hayez said, struggling to be heard through tears.
Meanwhile, police superintendent David Roptell announced the release of footage of the teenager buying alcohol at a store on May 31 in the hope it would jolt people's memories.
"Hopefully if people were in the area at that time ... they may have recognised or have some information that is leading to the disappearance of Theo Hayez," Roptell said, adding: "We are baffled ... because that is all we have."
"Homicide police are one of the lines of inquiries. We're open to anything."
Roptell said it was "out of character" for Hayez to be missing and he had been due to return home after visiting Byron Bay.
Hayez is believed to have used the messaging app WhatsApp the night he disappeared and his father, who has travelled to the town to meet police, called for his account to be shared with investigators.
"We understand the politics about confidentiality and respect that. However, this is a question of providing assistance to a person in grave danger ... Every minute counts," he said at the same press conference as he broke down in tears.
Hayez's passport and personal belongings were all left at the hostel, and police believe he has not made any financial transactions since his disappearance.
SINGAPORE: During Chinese New Year last year, retiree Kenneth Tang wanted to visit his sister-in-law at her home in Upper Bukit Timah, in a relatively secluded area he was unfamiliar with.
Instead of getting driving directions with a few taps of his smartphone, the 64-year-old sat in his living room, put on his reading glasses and studied the route on the pages of his 2018 street directory.
“I think GPS is more convenient and better in many ways, but I use road directories because I can have a better idea of how to get to the place I am going to,” he told reporters.
Mr Tang said the directory allows for more flexible alternative route planning in the event of congestion, and gives a clearer picture of nearby car parks – crucial for peak times when every lot has been snapped up.
“I use road directories also because I have been using it for years, long before GPS was available,” he added. “My friends and I who are from the older generation have been dependent on them.”
Mr Tang is not alone. Some people argue that street directories are more up-to-date and safer to use than online maps. They can also show a bigger picture and more detail than their virtual counterparts.
This detail includes address numbers, building occupants, as well as future developments and roads, said Amarjeet Singh, publishing manager at Mighty Minds, currently the sole producer of local street directories.
“Malaysian delivery drivers like this very much,” the 59-year-old told reporters at his office in Toa Payoh. “Because they do a lot of deliveries to industrial areas.”
Besides logistics workers, Mr Singh said other customers include Government agencies like the police and civil defence, and property agents who market homes to potential clients by showing nearby amenities.
But the numbers don't lie. With the advent of GPS and online maps, Mr Singh admitted that circulation has gone down. The company, which produced its first edition in 2000, used to distribute about 100,000 copies every year. Now the figure hovers around 30,000.
Mapping consultant Mok Ly Yng told reporters that web-based maps started to appear in the late 90s, allowing the tech-savvy younger generation to go online for directions. “I think it’s the demographic and exposure,” the 51-year-old said. “You don’t use these kind of paperbacks already.”
He said that even cabbies, previously one of the largest users of street directories, have stopped using them. “Every time I take a taxi, I will ask if they have a street directory,” he added. “They would have to think when was the last time they bought one.”
Mr Mok, who has been researching Singapore maps for more than a decade, is “very sad” about this. While street directories are growing less relevant as navigational tools, outdated versions help chart Singapore's constantly evolving landscape.
“It’s a rare resource,” he said, noting that they keep track of changes in the streets and buildings of Singapore. “You get to see updates in our terrain and landscape.”
FIRST-EVER STREET DIRECTORY
This is especially as street directories go back to the pre-war days of 1936, when the British government published the first ever Singapore Gazetteer.
The hardcover contained a simple road index and two attached maps: One of Singapore and another of its town centre. While the first map only showed major roads and a few rural areas, the second was sufficiently detailed, with different colour schemes for parks, buildings and water features.
These directories were in high demand, Mr Mok said, given that Singapore was already at the time a “very famous” tourist destination. The island stood on the trading route for ships heading to the other British colonies of Australia and New Zealand.
“People would have nothing to do as their ships were reloaded with fuel and food,” he added. “So, they would go out and wander around.”
When the war came, officials were ordered to burn the directories so the Japanese could not use them. And by the time the war ended, years of changes to Singapore’s landscape had gone unrecorded.
So in 1950, the British government commissioned new land and air surveys for a fresh set of maps and directories. Previous editions were produced only using land surveys.
In the meantime, the cash-strapped government revived the old series of street directories, scrimping on costs by printing maps stripped down to mere outlines.
THE NEW SERIES
After completing the surveys in 1954, the government finally printed the new set of standalone maps. These flew off the shelves like hotcakes, Mr Mok said. People used them to travel and start businesses as motor cars gained popularity and trade restrictions were lifted.
“Chinese companies also bought licenses to reprint government maps for tourist use,” he added.
When the government realised the demand for a steady stream of up-to-date maps, it made them the main feature of the street directory, instead of attaching them at the back as usual.
This was when the modern street directory known today was born: In atlas format with pages of cross-sectional maps.
As the maps were divided into pages, workers would also find it less daunting to update and redraw them after daily trips to the ground noting changes to buildings and streets. This process takes a much shorter time than the more accurate land and air surveys, which use proper equipment to produce high-grade topographical maps.
Mr Mok said the simplified process was good enough for street directories, as they were used for simple navigation without the need for extremely accurate positions and distances.
As expected, the “new series” of street directories – which included short write-ups of tourist attractions and postal box locations – was a hit. Records show that the first edition was reprinted twice in four months.
A NEW CHALLENGER
As the years went by, the government introduced new features in street directories, including one-way traffic maps in 1961, luminous orange colour schemes in 1973, and blue ink and metric scales in 1975.
In 2000, Mighty Minds entered the market with its own version of the street directory, based off a Singapore map it had bought from an Irish company. “We thought there was a big market,” Mr Singh said. “We could do a better job and become the market leaders.”
And indeed it did.
The Government stopped producing street directories in 2009, with industry players citing reasons like dwindling demand and digitisation. Mighty Minds stuck with its product, coming up with pocket editions that could fit in handbags and delivery pouches, and A3-size editions for people who could not see clearly.
Mr Singh said his team is constantly finding new ways to make it quicker and easier for users to find places and navigate routes. The newer editions include a coloured street index, bus stop numbers and zoomed-in insets for major junctions.
On the technological front, the team uses software that can automatically cut a map into pages based on a specific scale, and a machine that logs in geocodes when workers on the ground record changes in street or building data.
Mr Mok said the latter process of updating information has remained largely the same over the years. “You can’t run away,” Mr Singh added. “You have to do the legwork.”
EXHAUSTING BUT REWARDING
At Mighty Minds, this updating of information is done by two teams of two surveyors almost every day. They will spend a few days covering each page of the street directory, with the aim of surveying the whole of Singapore at least once a year.
Work involves driving through every road, physically looking out and ensuring that every bit of information – road names, block numbers, building occupants – on the page is up to date. Changes are logged into a system together with their geocodes.
“In Singapore, people change names like changing clothes,” said Tee Singh, 62, a surveyor who has worked with Mighty Minds for more than 20 years.
Mr Tee said the day usually starts anywhere between 6am to 8am and runs till 11.30am. Then it’s lunch before work resumes at 2pm till 4pm. This is so surveyors can avoid the traffic, especially as they often need to stop the car.
For heavily congested areas like industrial estates and the Central Business District, weekends and public holidays are their best bet.
“It’s quite interesting and challenging,” Mr Tee added of his job. “Life is not boring.”
This is because it’s not just a case of sitting in a car. In areas with heavy development like Bayshore, Tengah and Bidadari, Mr Tee will visit construction sites as soon as they pop up to get information on future roads and developments.
There, he will try speaking to contractors and studying their maps to find out what roads and buildings are coming up. If they decline to give details, he would have to “go in deeper” and check the signs put up there for names and contact numbers.
“There’s a whole list of 10 to 15 people,” he said. “You call all, somebody, somewhere will give you that information.”
Mr Tee said he’s visited almost every condominium showroom in Singapore to include upcoming condos in the street directory. He’s walked all of the new Jurong Lake Gardens to see how the roads and paths there have changed. He’s driven in circles around Jewel Changi Airport for almost a day just to find the new drop-off point.
“Our business is about giving people the information before they can get it from anywhere else,” he added.
The work does not stop there. Back at the office, Mr Tee will go online to cross-check the updated information. This could involve searching for contact numbers and calling businesses to verify if they’re really occupying a building.
While Mr Tee acknowledged that his job is exhausting, he thoroughly enjoys it. He was a serious runner and he’s always dressed in cotton clothes and comfortable shoes, so the physical part doesn’t faze him.
“What makes me happy is that we dare to write that we are the most updated street directory,” he said, adding that some online maps contain data that’s more than three years old. “Everybody says oh, just use GPS, but the information is not up to date.”
Mighty Minds publisher Mr Singh said drivers should still pick street directories over online maps for reasons of safety.
“People are spending their time looking at their GPS device rather than focusing on the road,” he said, pointing out that delayed instructions could cause drivers to swerve or brake abruptly and lead to accidents. “I call these drivers GPS robots.”
Regardless, Mr Singh said he’ll never stop producing street directories, noting that they’re still used as course material for taxi and private hire drivers in Singapore. “The figures have reduced, but it won’t go obsolete,” he stated.
FROM STREET DIRECTORY TO AUGMENTED REALITY
But keeping things relevant comes at a cost.
Labour, printing and rental fees have all gone up, Mr Singh said, meaning Mighty Minds’ latest edition street directory costs S$16.90, compared to its first edition price of S$4.90. “All that has to come from somewhere,” he added. “We have no choice but to pass it on to the consumer.”
As production costs for older products keep increasing, mapping consultant Mr Mok believes the future of street directories lies in augmented reality. This includes glasses that visually tunnel through structures to give users directions in real time.
“That’s how street directories will evolve,” Mr Mok said. “Google Glass was a viable thing, but it was too advanced for its time. It will come back, in another form maybe.”
Mr Mok pointed out that the technology already exists, noting that it was only a matter of ironing out issues like cost, comfort and speed of connectivity. “If people don’t like the design, that’s it,” he said. “So, it’s hard to predict very accurately in terms of the trajectory of technology and the adoption by humans.”
Nevertheless, Mr Mok said the mapping industry, despite never being at the forefront of cutting-edge technology, has always evolved by “assimilating” different advancements.
“This is a tradition in mapping,” he added. “Mapping is not a leader in technology, but it adopts many leading technologies to make it work.”