SINGAPORE: The push to make Orchard Road a smoke-free zone has drawn a mixed reaction, with the business organisation that covers the area saying it will improve the visitor experience, but some smokers who work there expressed frustration about the inconvenience they will face.
Come January next year, smokers who want to light up along Orchard Road will have to look for one of about 40 “designated smoking areas” scattered in the stretch between Tanglin Mall and Plaza Singapura.
Orchard Road Business Association's (ORBA) executive director Steven Goh said the overall visitor experience will be improved after the implementation of the no-smoking zone.
"Non-smokers will welcome the Orchard Road pedestrian thoroughfare free of cigarette smoke while smokers have an extensive choice of designated smoking areas located 100 to 200 metres apart," said Mr Goh.
However, some people who work in the area that reporters spoke to said they were unhappy, suggesting that it would be more challenging for them to get their nicotine fix once the ban is introduced and they have to search out one of the smoking zones.
Daniel F, 18, who works in Wisma Atria Shopping Mall, said that the ban is unrealistic in that it would be hard to police and is “really ridiculous”.
“Not all smokers on Orchard Road are from Singapore … I think it will be such a turn-off for a tourist to get fined out of nowhere for smoking here,” Mr Daniel said.
He was one of many smokers seen on the sides of the wide pedestrian pavement that runs through Orchard Road when reporters visited on Friday.
Another smoker who gave her name as Azirah, 23, said the smoking corners may not do much to control the flow of the smoke onto the main pedestrian road.
“The smoke that comes from cigarettes is going to go everywhere. Before the implementation of the designated smoking areas, we are already smoking at the side trying to not affect any passers-by. We are trying to be considerate, so I don’t think they should do this,” she added.
Still, some smokers were broadly supportive of the move. Clinic worker Pauline Lee, 55, said she agrees with the ban and said that it will be easy for her as she is not a heavy smoker.
“For me it’s okay, I can choose to not smoke. We have to obey the rules … we will have to compromise and be thoughtful of those who don’t smoke and are inhaling second-hand smoke,” Ms Lee said.
James Teo, 39, said even though the designated smoking spots are not far apart, they may be hard to get to when it rains. Walking to the smoking area will also take time out of his lunch break, he said.
“My lunch break is only 30 minutes. If I want to smoke during my lunch break, the walk to and fro and smoking will probably take 15 minutes. What if it rains? That’s ridiculous. It might make me cut down on smoking but I don’t think I will quit,” Mr Teo said.
National Environment Agency (NEA) said in a press release on Wednesday that having designated smoking areas will keep the main Orchard Road pedestrian thoroughfare free of cigarette smoke.
Some of the designated smoking areas are situated at places like Far East Plaza, Ngee Ann City and Wheelock Place. They should not be more than 10 to 12 meters in size and not sited directly next to the main thoroughfare, NEA added.
Dr Clive Tan, a fellow at the Academy of Medicine Singapore’s College of Public Health and Occupational Physicians, said that there are benefits of such a move for smokers and non-smokers.
For smokers, having to go to a smoking area may help to delay the action of smoking and this could help them quit, said Dr Tan.
“It could help them lose the urge to smoke especially if it’s raining or a particularly hot day. In their mind, they will trade-off and say, ‘Do I really need this cigarette now? Maybe not’,” Dr Tan added.
Having designated smoking areas will also greatly benefit non-smokers because they now know where to avoid second-hand smoke, Dr Tan said.
“It’s like everybody knows where the smoking points are so they can knowingly avoid these areas. Right now, the smokers could be anywhere and it’s almost impossible to avoid (second-hand smoke),” he added.
The curb on smoking on Singapore's main shopping belt started in 2015 with preparations underway to engage stakeholders to transit into smoke-free zone by July 2018. The implementation was delayed for another six months to provide more time following feedback from business owners.
This comes after a series of moves to clampdown on smoking in public areas as part of the Government's long-term goal to prohibit smoking in public areas apart from designated smoking areas.
SINGAPORE: A woman who subjected her maid to abuse over three months was sentenced to 28 weeks' jail on Monday (Dec 3).
Khoo Mee Choo, 64, had claimed trial and was found guilty in September of four counts of voluntarily causing hurt and one count of using criminal force on Ema Rahmawati.
The court heard that the abuse occurred between January and April last year, soon after Ema began working for the accused in December 2016.
Khoo pulled her maid's hair in her Pasir Ris flat, as she felt that her work was "not up to standard", defence lawyers Anthony Lim and Lee Wei Fan said.
The real-estate agent also pinched her maid's arm after she splashed water on her while washing the dishes, punched her on the head and kicked her buttocks.
On one occasion, after the victim forgot to keep some chopsticks, Khoo used them to hit her on the arm.
On top of this, the victim was also scolded and berated frequently, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Kenny Yang. She was not allowed to speak to others, or to use her handphone.
Khoo would use a Hokkien vulgarity on her, which the victim understood to be an insult.
She was saved after she managed to pass notes to a maid next door, describing some of the assault and abuse.
The prosecutor pointed out that Ema received a total of only S$40 in wages, as she stopped work in April 2017 after she was taken away by the police.
Most of her S$520 monthly salary went into off-setting her agent placement fee.
While the prosecution asked for eight months' jail and a compensation order of S$4,580, the defence asked for three months' jail, pleading for compassion.
Khoo has been diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer, the defence said, and is undergoing chemotherapy.
"She is under tremendous stress and acted out of character," said the defence, adding that she lives with her 93-year-old mother.
The defence said that there was no significant psychological harm, and pointed to the victim's evidence during the trial that she ate and slept well in Khoo's household.
"The accused's action was not premeditated but was on impulse," said Khoo's lawyers. "The accused had no such issues with the previous maids that she had hired and only acted out ... because of the frustration that she felt upon being diagnosed with cancer and or the pain from surgery or chemotherapy."
Khoo has paid her maid the compensation due to her.
LOS ANGELES: A California woman was arrested on Wednesday (Nov 28) for beating and choking a McDonald's manager after discovering there was not enough ketchup in her order, police said.
Mayra Berenice Gallo, 24, apparently went into a rage on Oct 27 after ordering food through the drive-through at the fast food outlet in the town of Santa Ana.
Police spokesman Anthony Bertagna said that an infuriated Gallo stormed into the restaurant through the employee back entrance and started pushing and choking the victim after being told she could not be in that area.
"She was irate that she didn't get ketchup," Bertagna said.
The incident, which was caught on video, ended after a man accompanying Gallo pulled her away.
She was arrested on Tuesday after police received tips from the public and was being held on assault charges.
Bertagna said such incidents are sadly becoming all too common.
"We're seeing more and more of this kind of stuff. Why? We don't know," he said. "We had one guy at a 7-Eleven (convenience store) who tried to buy a bag of almond M&M's and when his credit card didn't work, he basically trashed the store."
SINGAPORE: Changi airport handled 4.3 per cent more passengers in October compared to the same period last year, as all regions registered growth in traffic.
The airport handled 5.38 million passengers in the month as aircraft landings and takeoffs grew 3.2 per cent to 32,800, said Changi Airport Group (CAG) in a media release on Thursday (Nov 29).
Among Changi's top destinations, Denpasar, London and Melbourne recorded double-digit growth.
Traffic to and from the United States rose 28 per cent, albeit from a smaller base.
European traffic expanded by 15 per cent, boosted by travel to the United Kingdom and Germany.
The month of October also saw a new city link for Changi Airport to Belitung with four weekly flights by Garuda Indonesia, while Air India Express started operating four weekly services to Bangalore. Both additions commenced on Oct 29.
Connectivity to the United States was strengthened with Singapore Airlines’ and United Airlines’ seven additional services to Los Angeles and San Francisco respectively, CAG said. Singapore Airlines and Air New Zealand also jointly launched a third daily service to Auckland from Oct 28.
The amount of cargo passing through the airport also increased by 2.1 per cent to reach 190,000 in the month.
SINGAPORE: Food delivery companies in Singapore have stressed that their riders who use Personal Mobility Devices (PMDs) must comply with the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) rules and regulations.
Last week, a 33-year-old food delivery man was stopped by LTA officers for riding an e-scooter which exceeded the maximum allowable weight of 20kg.
The man “became emotional” after he was stopped along Yishun Avenue 2 and was subsequently handcuffed and arrested.
In response to queries from reporters, the four main food delivery companies in Singapore – Foodpanda, Honestbee, GrabFood and Deliveroo – all outlined the importance of adhering to Singapore’s road safety laws.
Managing director for Honestbee Singapore Chris Urban told reporters that its riders are informed of safety standards that they have to adhere to and some good practices they should abide by.
“Delivery 'bees' who are found to be using non-compliant PMDs will be taken to task, and we will not hesitate to terminate their contract if we deem necessary after a proper investigation,” said Mr Urban.
For GrabFood, riders who join are required to inform the company about the mode of delivery they will use – whether by motorbike, PMD, bicycle or on foot.
This registration process allows the company to verify and ensure that the rider’s PMD is compliant with Singapore law.
All four companies told reporters that they educate their riders on the importance of adhering to PMD regulations during the onboarding process.
A Foodpanda spokesperson said its delivery fleet, which includes riders using PMD and power-assisted bicycles, is trained on “all road safety and regulations as well as code of conduct via a compulsory orientation programme”.
GrabFood said its riders are educated on the Active Mobility Act, a set of rules and a code of conduct for cyclists as well as riders of PMDs and power-assisted bicycles (PABs).
According to the Act, which was passed in Parliament in January 2017, PMDs and PABs used on public paths must not exceed 20kg, are allowed a maximum width of 70cm and the speed is capped at 25kmh.
SOME RIDERS BREAK LAW DUE TO TIME ‘PRESSURE’
Mr Khairul (not his real name), a PMD rider with one of the major food delivery companies, told reporters that while his e-scooter is certified legal, he does “occasionally” ride on roads, instead of public paths.
“It can’t be helped. Sometimes there are delays with the restaurants and we are under pressure to meet the estimated delivery time,” said the 23-year-old.
“I only do this late at night, when the roads are empty. It’s easier to navigate compared to the foot paths,” he added.
Mr Raymond, a rider with GrabFood, said that he has seen fellow riders from different companies use illegal PMDs, modified to travel fast, so that they can make more deliveries.
“They want to meet their incentives or simply do more jobs, so they boost the engines (to increase the speed),” said the 28-year-old.
For Mr Raymond, he recently purchased the Segway Ninebot ES2 an LTA-compliant e-scooter, to make deliveries.
“I don’t want to break the rules. Plus Grab does not have a time limit for riders. If we are late, the app would update the customer that there’s a delay,” he added.
GrabFood and Deliveroo confirmed to reporters that their riders are not restricted by a time limit.
Deliveroo Singapore’s General Manager Siddharth Shanker said: “We don’t impose time limits on riders to complete their deliveries, as our priority is safe delivery.”
TRAINING PROGRAMMES TO EDUCATE RIDERS
Additionally, Grab and Deliveroo both said they offer additional training and support to all their riders to educate them on the importance of committing to road safety.
Grab said it recently launched a “Safer Everyday” commitment where it partnered various Government agencies to promote health and occupational safety for its drivers and delivery partners.
One of Grab’s partners is Unique Speed, which offers a programme to ensure that GrabFood riders using PMDs “are conscious of the space they share with other road users and pedestrians”.
Similarly, Deliveroo’s Mr Shanker said it offers its riders additional training and support through a “Safe Riding Programme”, which was launched in August.
He said the programme covers safe riding practices for cyclists, PMD users and power-assisted bicycle riders.
“Two sessions were held this year, and more sessions will be held for riders in the coming months,” he added.
“We actively encourage all our riders to take part and have incorporated key content from the SRP curriculum, as well as the latest rules and regulations into our existing road safety guidelines."
SYDNEY: Flights were cancelled, railway lines closed and motorists stranded on flooded roads as a month's worth of rain fell on Sydney early on Wednesday (Nov 28), leaving emergency services battling to respond.
Severe thunderstorms and heavy rainfall lashed Australia's largest city, with the local Bureau of Meteorology reporting more than 73 millimetres of rain fell in less than an hour in some places.
The city usually sees an average of 84 millimetres for the entire month of November.
Electricity providers reported at least 3,500 people were left without power, and emergency services said they had received at least six flood rescue requests even before most workers had finished their morning coffee and begun the daily commute.
They urged residents to use caution and not drive vehicles into flooded roads: a "major cause of death during floods is by people entering floodwater. Find an alternate route and avoid unnecessary travel."
At the city's main international airport, multiple flights were cancelled or delayed and aircraft were left stranded on the tarmac as ground crews took shelter from the downpour and electrical storms.
"Due to adverse weather conditions today, we expect that International and Domestic terminals will experience some flight delays and cancellations," said the airport authority.
Rainfall was forecast to slow, but continue throughout the day.
Australia is no stranger to extreme weather, experiencing flash floods, sandstorms and even extreme drought in areas that are now being inundated.
SINGAPORE: The Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) has dismissed a lecturer for leaking examination questions and solutions, a spokesperson said on Wednesday (Nov 28).
"SUSS confirms that the associate faculty's service has been terminated with immediate effect," the spokesperson said.
"He was found to have released the questions and solutions during two extra revision classes he conducted."
SUSS did not reveal if the leak for the FIN303 Financial Management exam was done intentionally by the lecturer.
The university will now record all revision classes moving forward, the spokesperson added.
Although this rule was already in place when the leak was done, there were no recordings in this case because the classes were extra.
The financial management exam, which was held on Nov 20, has been voided.
Earlier, SUSS said that the 590 part-time and full-time students affected by the leaks would have to choose between accepting their Overall Continuous Assessment Score for their final grade or sit for a supplementary exam paper scheduled for Dec 4.
Facebook admits 'serious mistake' after Edwin Tong questions failure to remove hate post in Sri Lanka
LONDON: A Facebook executive has admitted that the company “made a mistake” in not removing a post that incited racial hatred in Sri Lanka, an international hearing on fake news and disinformation in London heard on Tuesday (Nov 27).
Mr Richard Allan, Facebook's vice-president of policy solutions, was questioned by Singapore Member of Parliament Edwin Tong over a post, written in Sinhalese in March, which called for the killing of all Muslims. Mr Tong asked if the post breached the social media company’s terms of service.
Mr Allan agreed it did.
“It was put up at a time when there were significant tensions between the people of Sri Lanka and Muslims, causing damage to property, deaths even. Riots. Damage to mosques. And eventually it resulted in the Sri Lankan government declaring a state of emergency. Would you agree?” Mr Tong said.
Mr Allan replied: “Yes.”
“Would you agree that in the context of that kind of tensions occurring in Sri Lanka, putting up such a post would invariably travel far, divide those tensions, or stress those tensions even more, and divide the community?” asked Mr Tong.
Mr Allan replied: “Yes, that’s high-priority content for us to remove.”
When Mr Tong asked why Facebook refused to take down the post in question, even after it was highlighted by Sri Lanka’s communications minister, Mr Allan said it was a “simple error" on the part of a Facebook employee.
At this point, Mr Tong interjected. He argued it was no mistake and Facebook had replied to a user that the post does not go against its community standards.
Mr Allan disagreed. “That was a mistake,” he said. “I just want to be clear that somebody has made a mistake in the review.”
He also disagreed with Mr Tong’s subsequent query on whether this case showed that Facebook “cannot be trusted to make the right assessment” on what can appear on its platform.
“We make mistakes … serious mistakes; our responsibility is to reduce the number of mistakes,” he said.
“We are investing very heavily in artificial intelligence, where we would precisely create a dictionary of hate speech terms in every language.”
He added: “The best way to resolve this is a dictionary of hate speech terms in Sinhalese, which gets surfaced to a Sinhalese-speaking reviewer, who can make sure that we do the job properly.”
Mr Tong replied: “Mr Allan, in this case, whilst one excuse might be that your users or your reviewers don’t understand Sinhalese, when you have the communications minister of Sri Lanka telling you that this is hate speech and to take it down, and you review it, your people review it, and you said hundreds of thousands of people review it, but they don’t seem to abide by the same philosophy as you have expressed in your own policies.”
The post was only stopped from circulating after the Sri Lankan government blocked Facebook.
When Mr Tong asked if governments would have to resort to such measures to deal with the issue of deliberate online falsehoods, Mr Allan said Facebook would “prefer not to”.
“This is where I think the openness has to be … and I hope that you have a constructive relationship with my colleagues in Singapore who work in these issues,” said Mr Allan.
“I want us to be in a position where we share with you the good and the bad, about how we think we’re doing, in full expectation that you will be pushing us always to be better.”
To this response, Mr Tong replied: “Well we look forward to that, because what’s happened, by way of example in Sri Lanka, and there are several others as well, should not be allowed to happen ever.”
Mr Allan said: “No, and as an employee of Facebook I am ashamed that things like this happen and they do and they shouldn’t.”
ON FACEBOOK AND ELECTIONS
Mr Tong was joined by two fellow Members of Parliament from Singapore, Mr Pritam Singh and Ms Sun Xueling, at the hearing in London. Mr Singh asked Mr Allan what Facebook was doing to combat the prospect of elections from being “tampered with”.
Mr Allan said that for “every significant election”, Facebook now creates a “war room” – a task force consisting of specialists whose job is to understand the risks of that election and deploy the necessary tools and technology to deal with those risks.
Mr Singh asked if smaller countries would also fall under Facebook’s “war room” concept.
“In an ideal world, it’s every election, everywhere, all of the time. Our current resourcing I think allows us to look at all national elections,” Mr Allan said.
“So if there’s a national election in Singapore, for example, that would be covered.”
He added: “We had a similar task force around the Latvian election. So we are looking at every election whether the country is big or small, at a national level. And then the question is can we expand that also into regional and local elections.”
Mr Singh also asked if Facebook would consider working with local election authorities and political party representatives to remove or flag posts that would compromise the political process.
“We think that’s essential. And again I want to repeat … the people who decide if an election is free and fair is you, and your authorities, and the political parties,” said Mr Allan.
“So we want to do, whatever is necessary in order for everyone to have the confidence that the election is free and fair - and we can’t do that on our own.
“We can make tools, we can work with you, but ultimately we need to engage with you in order to meet that shared objective that we contribute to positively rather than negatively to the election in your country.”
A Singaporean student has been released on bail in Australia after being charged with causing an accident in Windermere, more than 100km from Melbourne, over the weekend.
Nasuha Nasser, 21, a psychology and media and communications student at the University of Melbourne, was driving a blue Renault along Madden Road on Saturday at about 8.15pm (5.15pm Singapore time) when the accident happened.
Nasuha was charged by the Victoria Police's Major Collision Investigation Unit with dangerous driving causing serious injury and negligently causing serious injury.
The New Paper had reported yesterday that there were four others in the car, all Singaporean students, including Nasuha's twin sister Miss Naimi Nasser.
Nasuha had allegedly failed to stop at the intersection, causing a white Triton to slam into the left side of the car.
The Renault came to a halt after crashing into a nearby tree.
While Nasuha and a man and woman passenger were taken to Ballarat Base Hospital with minor injuries, her sister Miss Naimi, a Business Management student on the Dean's list at Singapore Management University, suffered critical head injuries and had to be air-lifted to Royal Melbourne Hospital. She is currently in a stable condition.
Another passenger, a 26-year-old woman student who suffered critical head and chest injuries, was flown to Alfred Hospital where she is fighting for her life.
The 48-year-old driver of the white Triton was not injured, but his 10-year-old daughter who was in the car with him suffered minor injuries.
According to news site The Courier, Nasuha appeared in the Ballarat Magistrates Court yesterday dressed in a tie-dye rainbow shirt and mussed hair and kept her head bowed during the bail application.
Detective Sergeant Amos said she was interviewed on Sunday evening and that she was "open, honest, and a full and frank discussion and account of events was provided".
The court heard that there is a sign 150m from the junction on Madden Road notifying drivers of the upcoming intersection and stop sign there.
But Nasuha said she was "unable to stop" when she arrived at the intersection and saw the stop sign.
While the prosecutor opposed bail, Detective Sergeant Amos said she would not be a flight risk if bail came with a condition of no travel.
Magistrate Gregory Robertson granted bail on the condition that Nasuha surrenders her passport and travel documents and reports weekly to the Melbourne North Police Station.
"On the basis that there's no risk of her fleeing, and given I accept that it was an oversight, not intentional or with aggravating features like her trying to kill people or run away from police... I grant bail with some conditions," he said.
A spokesman for the University of Melbourne confirmed to The New Paper yesterday that three of the Singaporeans, including Nasuha, are students there.
"A representative from the University is visiting the students in hospital and is speaking to their families," he said.
"The University will continue to provide support to the students and their families."
A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told TNP yesterday that the Singapore High Commission in Canberra is rendering consular assistance to the five Singaporeans and their families.
If convicted, Nasuha can be jailed up to five years for dangerous driving causing serious injury, and up to 10 years for negligently causing serious injury.
The maximum penalty for culpable driving and dangerous driving causing death is jail for 20 years.
Nasuha is expected to return to court in February.
SINGAPORE - Passengers on a Scoot flight bound for Singapore were kept waiting for almost 30 hours in Tokyo and Bangkok on Monday (Nov 26) due to an aircraft technical issue.
A spokesman for the budget carrier told The Straits Times on Monday night that Flight TR869 was due to depart Tokyo for Singapore with a stopover at Bangkok's Don Mueang International Airport at 9.35am local time.
But a technical issue forced the plane to return to Narita International Airport.
"Engineers immediately began rectification works, but in view of the expected time required, a decision was made to ground the aircraft instead," the spokesman said.
Passengers were informed that the flight from Tokyo would be re-timed to depart at 3.50pm local time on Tuesday instead, while those in Bangkok were scheduled to depart at 10.10pm local time.
Facebook user Jie Vonn Memories said in a post on Scoot's Facebook page on Monday that she was stuck in Bangkok and facing a "horrible delay" of 30 hours.
The Scoot spokesman said that it has tried to transfer some affected passengers to another flight, TR899, which was heading from Japan to Singapore via Taipei.
To ensure that affected customers in Bangkok would be able to return to Singapore as soon as possible, Scoot said that it would have an additional flight, TR8869, which is scheduled to depart Bangkok at 4.10pm local time.
Some customers will also be transferred to TR611, which will depart at 6.15pm local time. A bigger aircraft with more seats would be used for this flight.
Those who were not able to get onto flights from Tokyo or Bangkok were provided with accommodation and meals, where necessary, the spokesman added.
"Safety is our top priority, and we sincerely apologise for the disruption caused to our customers' travel plans."