SYDNEY: Australia announced measures to combat foreign interference at its universities Thursday (Nov 14), setting new guidelines around the key areas of research collaboration, cybersecurity, and international partnerships.
There has been growing concern about China's clout on campuses following a series of hacks, controversial donations and incidents of political intimidation linked to Beijing.
The new guidelines push universities to enhance their cybersecurity systems, undertake due diligence before signing partnerships with overseas organisations, and train staff to recognise foreign influence attempts.
Academics are urged to be wary of sharing knowledge on sensitive topics and discern how joint research with international scholars could potentially be misused.
Education Minister Dan Tehan said the guidelines were designed to "ensure universities understand the risks and know what steps to take to protect themselves".
It comes after Australia established a task force in August to help protect sensitive research, cyber-defences, and free speech.
Schools and government officials - including spy agencies - have also committed to more intensive consultation to protect Australia's national interests.
The changes follow a data breach at the Australian National University last year that exposed sensitive staff and student data going back two decades.
The country's universities have also taken tens of millions of dollars from Beijing to establish "Confucius Institutes" that steer clear of issues damaging to China's ruling Communist Party.
They have resisted calls to register the institutes under new foreign interference laws.
Beijing denies interfering in campus life, and has previously called the accusations "completely baseless".
Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology vice chancellor Martin Bean, who worked on developing the new guidelines, said they would "assist decision makers in continuing to assess the evolving risks from foreign interference".
Deborah Terry, chair of lobby group Universities Australia, said higher education institutions had worked closely with the government throughout the process.
"Our shared aim is to build on existing protections against foreign interference, without damaging the openness and global engagement that are essential to Australia's success," she said.
"The intent is not to add to the regulatory or compliance burden for universities, nor to contravene university autonomy - but to enhance resources and intelligence to further safeguard our people, research and technology."
SINGAPORE: A man was fined S$4,000 on Thursday (Nov 14) for smashing a sauce bowl onto a fellow diner's face at Haidilao Restaurant.
Jason Esaias Gao Weijie, 34, pleaded guilty to one charge of voluntarily causing hurt to 33-year-old Eugene Lee Wei Liang.
The victim was with his friends having supper at the restaurant in Clarke Quay at about 3.25am on Jan 12 this year.
He joined the queue at the condiment counter to pick up some sauces and was eating from a bowl while queuing.
When he reached the front of the queue, he placed his bowl on the counter while filling his sauce container.
Gao, who was queuing behind the victim, got angry at him as he felt that "the victim's act of leaving the bowl on the counter was unhygienic", said Deputy Public Prosecutor Shana Poon.
He told the victim to remove the bowl, and the latter said he would do so when he was done filling his sauce container.
This agitated Gao, who began quarrelling with the victim.
After the victim was done, he turned to leave, holding both his sauce container and the bowl.
Gao grabbed his neck from behind out of anger and smashed his own sauce bowl into the victim's face.
He also pushed the victim, and had to be pulled away by onlookers.
His actions were caught on closed-circuit television cameras at the restaurant.
The victim sought medical attention at Changi General Hospital and was found with a 1.5cm facial laceration over his nose and given six days' medical leave.
Gao has made compensation of S$8,000 to cover medical expenses.
For voluntarily causing hurt, he could have been jailed for up to two years, fined S$5,000, or both.
SINGAPORE: Personal mobility devices (PMD) can make a comeback in Singapore if regulations and infrastructure are improved, said Workers’ Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh.
“I believe PMDs will make a comeback in Singapore, provided the regulations are fine-tuned and the infrastructure catches up,” he wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday (Nov 13). “The latter is easier said than done.”
Mr Singh’s post comes a day after Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min held a dialogue session with food delivery riders affected by the PMD ban, the latest in a series of meetings between riders and Members of Parliament (MP) over the past week.
On Nov 5, the Government banned PMDs from footpaths after a rising number of accidents involving the devices.
Despite earlier regulations put in place to reduce speed and make riding safer for both the user and pedestrians, about 370 errant riders are still caught each month.
In September, an elderly cyclist died from her injuries several days after colliding with a non-compliant PMD in Bedok.
Mr Singh said he and fellow Aljunied GRC MP Faisal Abdul Manap had visited the cyclist, Mdm Ong Bee Eng, in Changi General Hospital after the Sep 21 accident.
Mdm Ong’s “condition was critical, her family distraught”, Mr Pritam wrote.
She died in hospital four days later. A 20-year-old man has been charged with causing her death and given two other charges of riding an unregistered and non-compliant device.
“In the course of our work, the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council MPs and councillors also meet residents who are fortunately not hospitalised, but suffer painful injuries arising from collisions or report near misses, with the safety of children coming up frequently,” Mr Singh said.
However, the devices have also provided opportunities for people to make a living.
"The food delivery business has provided Singaporeans, especially the low-income and those who seek to supplement their income, with on-demand work," said Mr Singh.
“In many cases, the opportunities provided by GrabFood, Foodpanda, etc go a long way to support families where breadwinners find it difficult to secure a job,” he added. “PMD food delivery is an honest job.”
A “LOYAL OPPOSITION”
In his post, Mr Singh also attached a article on Dr Lam calling out an opposition party member for politicising the issue and stoking emotions during his dialogue session with PMD riders.
Mr Singh said that the WP “fundamentally believes” that the opposition plays an "important check and balance role" and forms an "integral part" of Singapore's Parliamentary democracy, regardless of the party in Government and the person represented by the opposition.
“To that end, our objective is not the destruction of our political opponents,” he wrote. “It is beyond the horizon - a better Singapore for all Singaporeans. The way the WP approaches opposition politics is a reflection of this.
“We believe this approach is one that Singaporeans, even People’s Action Party supporters (who we also must level with and persuade rationally) endorse - a loyal opposition.”
Mr Singh also acknowledged that “not every opposition party believes the same thing”, and that opposition unity - despite friendly discussions and relationships among opposition members - remains a “real challenge”.
“Indeed, many Singaporeans hope the opposition can unite and coordinate their efforts so as to become a more relevant political force. Intuitively, the argument makes sense,” he wrote.
“But the reality is that different parties and individuals have different philosophies, both ideologically and in terms of how we engage the issues of the day.”
Finding good food can be easy but those that make our stomach feel warm and satisfied don't come by easy.
Introducing zichar food for all foodies at Block 111 Toa Payoh Lor 1, Jin Hao Wei Seafood. This stall serves savoury dishes with homecooked feel at reasonable prices.
Danielle Gan was recently at their Toa Payoh outlet to try out their signature dishes- ranging from Tom Yum Fried Fish Head, Homemade Beancurd and Claypot Indon Prawn.
"Freshness of the ingredients used in key in maintaining the quality of the food." expressed Danielle. She said that the authentic 'homecooked' taste is also tasted in those dishes.
1st Outlet: Block 111, Lorong 1 Toa Payoh, #01-366, Chang Cheng Mee Wah Coffee Shop 長城美華咖啡店, Singapore 310111
2nd Outlet: Block 539, Bedok North Street 3, #01-593, G Lucky Coffee Shop 金瑞来咖啡店, Singapore 460539
Monday to Sunday, 11.30am - 10.30pm
SYDNEY: A cool change on Wednesday (Nov 13) brought relief for firefighters battling massive bushfires in eastern Australia which destroyed 50 homes and saw flames come within metres of homes on the outskirts of Sydney.
Cooler conditions were expected to ease the danger in the state of New South Wales, where 83 fires were still burning, however changes in wind direction in the northeastern state of Queensland were expected to whip up flames there.
"We were fortunate the catastrophic ranges were not sustained for the long durations that were originally expected," New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday morning.
Dense smoke that blanketed the northeastern part of the state on Tuesday had actually prevented strong winds from aggravating the fires, he said.
Firefighters were battling blazes over a more-than-1,000km perimeter on Wednesday, with more than 1.1 million hectares of land either burnt or burning.
"We're talking an enormous proportion of the landscape, particularly in northeastern New South Wales that remains at risk and continues to be damaged and devastated as a result of these fires," Fitzsimmons said.
Police were investigating some fires that they suspected had been deliberately lit in Queensland and New South Wales. Four people in New South Wales were charged with breaching a total fire ban order, sparking fury from the state's police minister.
"You must have arrived on Mars in a bubble if you didn't know yesterday that the state was in severe danger," he said at the same media conference.
One resident of the mid-north coast area of New South Wales, speaking from an evacuation centre in Taree, said her husband had stayed overnight at their home battling to keep a raging fire at bay.
"It was just chewing up everything," Karen Weston told Australian Broadcasting Corp. "I've survived two other bushfires before this but never anything like this. I've never seen anything like this."
Officials warned that while conditions were easing on Wednesday, a blast of hot air next week meant conditions would remain tough for firefighters.
"It's going to be a long effort yet. Many days, many weeks, indeed many months if we don't get rain before we properly bring these fires under control, establish consolidation and declare them safe," Fitzsimmons said.
Air quality at unhealthy levels in eastern Singapore; Hazy skies due to 'accumulation of particulate matter', says NEA
SINGAPORE: The hazy conditions present in Singapore since early Wednesday morning was due to an "accumulation of particulate matter", the National Environment Agency (NEA) said, as air quality edged into the "unhealthy" range in the eastern part of the country.
As of 11am, the 24-hour PSI reading in the east was 102. The rest of the readings were:
According to the National Environment Agency (NEA), PSI readings of 50 and below denote “good” air quality, “moderate” for 51-100 and “unhealthy” for 101-200.
"The haziness is taking time to clear as winds have remained light since yesterday evening. However, thunderstorms are expected in the afternoon which should help to improve the situation," the authority said in a Facebook post on Wednesday.
The one-hour PM2.5 reading at 11am ranged between 39-58µg/m3. The reading was the highest in the south region, registering at 58µg/m3, which is in the "Elevated"band.
"NEA is monitoring the situation closely and will provide further updates when necessary," the agency added.
PM2.5 is a measure of tiny particles less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter in the air. When the PM2.5 reading is in the elevated range, haze particles can affect the heart and lungs, especially in people who have chronic heart or lung conditions.
According to NEA, one-hour PM2.5 readings are a "good indicator of current air quality", and can be used for those deciding whether to go for immediate outdoor activities, such as a jog.
In September, Singapore experienced several days where the air quality was in the unhealthy range.
SINGAPORE: The Government's main priority is to return safety to pedestrians on footpaths, said Dr Lam Pin Min on Tuesday (Nov 12).
The Senior Minister of State for Transport and Member of Parliament for Sengkang West SMC was speaking to reporters after a dialogue session at Anchorvale Community Club, which was attended by more than 300 people, many of them food delivery riders.
When asked if he had a message for those who have personal mobility devices at home they can no longer use because of the ban, Dr Lam said: "We understand that with the announcement of the ban, there will be people who will be affected. But our main priority is to return safety to pedestrians on footpaths. I think that is the main reason we are doing this."
"We don't want a situation where we do not do anything and (this results) in another fatality on a footpath. I think this is something that is not acceptable," he added.
Dr Lam said the e-scooter ban was a "difficult decision" for the Government, which has "always believed in active mobility".
"These past two years we have been trying to promote the use of active mobility ... but unfortunately, over the past year and months, the situation doesn't seem to have improved and we've seen a significant number of injuries and accidents," he said.
"After looking at the situation, we know that we have to do something to bring safety back to the footpaths and ... this very difficult decision to prohibit the use of PMDs on footpaths (was made)," Dr Lam added.
The dialogue session was held a week after e-scooters were banned on footpaths, and followed a series of Meet-the-People sessions that were attended by food delivery riders who wanted to talk to ministers like Mr Desmond Lee and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Although the session on Tuesday night started out calm, tensions grew and several attendees were seen shouting at Dr Lam near the end. When the session ended, riders could be heard shouting in frustration outside the hall.
One woman said: "We continue to fight, okay?"
Some food delivery riders told reporters as they left the hall that the atmosphere inside was "angry".
“He didn’t answer the question and just kept repeating the same thing,” said Mr Faris Yeo, 34, who has been a full-time GrabFood rider for a year.
He said he left the session early as there seemed "no point" for him to remain. Several others had also left before the session concluded.
“He just brushed us off. He could not give us a definite answer,” said Ms Serene Tan, 39, who has been working as a full-time food delivery rider for several months.
"We don't want to be enemies with fellow Singaporeans," she said. "He just needs to educate fellow Singaporeans (so we can) live in harmony."
Riders reporters spoke to before the session echoed the view that they were being unfairly targeted by the public.
Mr Mohd Azri, 25, said he had encountered many pedestrians walking on cycling paths and getting in the way of bicycles and PMDs.
"You have to blame the pedestrians too," he said.
He was also frustrated by the overnight ban, despite many PMD riders having followed the Government's instructions to convert their PMDs to UL-2272 certified devices and to drive within speed limits.
“I just think it’s not fair... Now we become criminals ... The Government should show us more transparency,” he said.
Full-time GrabFood rider Alam Mohd Nor, 54, said that the ban has affected his duties as the sole breadwinner of his family. When asked what he planned to do next, he said he would wait and see.
DR LAM URGES PEDESTRIANS AND PMD RIDERS TO BE GRACIOUS
On Wednesday morning, after the dialogue session, Dr Lam said in a Facebook post there was "no perfect solution".
In his post, he acknowledged that the ban has affected the livelihoods for some PMD riders who rely on the devices to deliver food.
"Every family has a different story to tell.
"Those with unique circumstances can also go to their respective MPs to have their issues looked into. I am sure my fellow parliamentary colleagues will try their best to provide tailored assistance, whenever feasible."
Dr Lam added that both pedestrians and PMD riders have a role to play, and urged for graciousness.
"As we move forward from here, I hope that pedestrians can also spare a thought for responsible PMD riders and keep to footpaths where possible, and for PMD riders to also play their part and look out for pedestrians.
"Graciousness is a two-way street, and key in a society that is learning to grapple with disruptive technologies in our lives. Only by looking out for one another can we overcome our current challenges and realise our original vision of active mobility."
Microfilm 'A+ Detective' to hit the screen; Lead actors Danielle Gan & Rex Chua excited for film trailer
Actor and host Danielle Gan recently participated in the micro-film shooting which took only three days and two nights to shoot in order to accommodate with the busy schedule of actors, directors and crews.
Microfilm ‘A+ Detective’ finds lead actress Danielle Gan, artiste under Royal Entertainment, to play a female detective with high intelligence and strong analytical ability. The lead actor is Malaysian artiste Rex Chua. The whole show is full of climaxes and surprises.
With the microfilm poster out, this means the promotional activities are in the pipeline to market the microfilm to the audiences in the region.
Danielle Gan said through interviews that she is very happy to cooperate with many actors. Director John Lee maintains professionally throughout the filming process and constantly guides the actors in what emotions should be played. The shooting process was also very enjoyable, and the staff also joked in the tight schedule, just to make the whole shooting environment easy and enjoyable.
Danielle Gan also had martial arts scenes in A+ detectives. She said that this was the first time to shoot fighting scenes, which was different from what she imagined, but it also felt very interesting. She was nervous about her first shooting martial arts, and she didn't know if she had the perfect feeling of what the director wanted, so she was looking forward to the finished product.
Finally, Danielle Gan expressed her gratitude to company- Royal Entertainment for her role as the A+ detective actress, and also to the sponsors Asia Farm and ShareShare. She expressed gratitude to all the crews of A+ Detective and believed that because of their professionalism and hard work, the filming could be carried out smoothly.
Microfilm A+ Detective will be launched very soon, so do join them in the series of publicity for the microfilm. It is definitely a work that cannot be missed.
HILLVILLE, Australia: Dozens of fires fanned by gale-force winds, scorching temperatures and tinder-dry bushland burned out of control in eastern Australia on Tuesday (Nov 12), as residents up and down the coast were warned it was now too late to leave.
Thousands of firefighters had spread out across New South Wales in anticipation of what they called "off the scale" fire risk and "catastrophic" conditions, but they were unable to prevent several bushfires from breaching containment lines.
Authorities told residents in fire-stricken regions to seek shelter, warning they had no time to escape before their communities were engulfed.
Eleven of the more than 100 bushfires scarring the countryside from Sydney to Brisbane were declared emergencies, with numerous towns under direct threat.
"Plenty of people have heeded the warnings and have left early," said New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons. "Obviously, others have chosen not to."
"Our advice to those who still may be there is that it is too late to leave on most of these fires, and sheltering is now your only option."
Experts have described the conditions as the worst on record, as spring temperatures climbed toward 40 degrees celsius (104 Fahrenheit) and winds topped 80km per hour across a zone which has been plagued by persistent drought.
Even before unfavourable weather hit, days of fires had killed three people and destroyed at least 150 homes.
Strong west-to-east winds have spread existing blazes from dusty bushland to population centres nearer the coast.
"The conditions are expected to get worse," Fitzsimmons said, warning residents in adjacent areas to stay alert.
"Complacency kills," he added.
Up to 600 schools were closed, as well as many national parks, a total fire ban was introduced and Rally Australia - due to be held in Coffs Harbour at the weekend - was cancelled.
The military pitched in, helping firefighters with logistics and water-dropping sorties using more than 100 aircraft.
"WE'LL FIGHT IT FIRST"
In the town of Hillville a fire that has ripped through an area the size of almost 25,000 soccer fields approached the home of Daniel Stevens.
Like many, his family - including his mother nursing a broken leg - have packed their bags but have struggled over whether to leave their house and everything they own.
"We'll fight it first," he told reporters, "but if it jumps the fence line into the paddock, we'll go."
In the nearby town of Taree, dozens of people have already moved to a showground that has become a makeshift evacuation centre.
Fifty-nine-year-old Caroline Watson arrived last night with her husband and their dog.
"The fires are just rife. They are absolutely everywhere" she told reporters. "They didn't ask us to get out, but we figured it was coming."
Further south in the Blue Mountains on the outskirts of Sydney, veteran Winmalee firefighter Alan Gardiner said locals were "terrified and on edge".
The town still bears the scars of a 2013 blaze that destroyed 200 homes, and residents are acutely aware that with few roads in and out of the mountains, a decision to leave too late can be fatal.
Efforts to burn fuel in a controlled way have been limited by months of drought-like conditions that made it too dangerous.
"If there is a fire, it's going to be catastrophic," firefighter Gardiner said.
Resident Julie Jones almost lost her home earlier in the week, her garbage bins melted and a caravan exploded as the fire came up to her door.
"I'm staying here. I'm not going to let it go now," she told reporters.
"This used to be the worst area for bushfires, but now the whole east coast is on fire. I think it's climate change."
In nearby Sydney, the authorities do not expect the city's four-plus million people to be under direct threat, but a health warning was issued as a cloak of smoke haze drifted into the country's biggest city.
Australia's deadly blazes in the last week have already spread acrid smoke as far away as New Caledonia.
Sue Johnson, who lives in Sydney's north, helped move horses from fire-risk areas in outer Sydney to safer ground.
"I brought two horses down in the middle of the night," she said, adding that she cut down vegetation around her home and was ready to fill her gutters with water.
People in the local community were "scared, very scared" of the fire hitting, she added.
This bushfire season is in its infancy but is already on track to be one of Australia's worst on record.
In New South Wales alone more than a million hectares - roughly the area of Jamaica - have already burned, three times more than the whole of the last season.
SINGAPORE: A moving services company director who tried to scrimp on disposal fees ended up paying far more for illegally dumping bulky furniture.
The man was fined S$9,000 last Thursday (Nov 7) for dumping more than 20 pieces of bulky furniture along Jalan Terusan in Jurong, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Tuesday.
NEA officers found the illegally dumped furniture during "routine surveillance", and traced it to the director.
Investigations found that the man had provided moving services on Sep 30 last year to a customer. Instead of sending the unwanted furniture to a second-hand dealer or recycler, he decided to save on the disposal fee and dumped the furniture along Jalan Terusan.
A photo provided by the NEA showed a pile of haphazardly stacked office chairs by the roadside.
The man was charged with dumping waste from a vehicle in a public place under the Environmental Public Health Act.
He could have been fined up to S$50,000 and jailed for up to 12 months. For repeat offenders, the fine may be as high as S$100,000.
"Illegal dumping of waste in a public place is a serious offence as it causes pollution and public health hazards," said NEA in a media release.
In response toreporters queries, NEA declined to provide details on the identities of the company and director involved.
The agency said it welcomes tip-offs from members of the public on illegal dumping activities.
The number of illegal dumping cases fell from 160 in 2000 to 53 cases last year, it added.