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    When enforcement officers raided a woman's home, they found a mini zoo of exotic creepy crawlies including an endangered species.

    The menagerie included 14 exotic lizards, a snake, an ornate horned frog and an endangered 'veiled' chameleon.

    Yesterday (May 31), Tai Qi Hui, 32, paid hefty fines amounting to $6,900 for having those wild animals in her possession.

    The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said in a statement that it has been monitoring her activities after being alerted to her alleged online sales of illegal wildlife.

    The AVA said the animals are now in the care of the Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS).

    A Central Bearded DragonPhoto: AVA

    Reminding the public about the prohibition on keeping wild animals, the authority said they do not make suitable pets as some may transmit zoonotic diseases to humans. They can pose a danger if mishandled or if they escape.

    Animals non-native to Singapore may also pose a threat to the bio-diversity if released into the environment.

    "Demand for such animals would fuel illegal wildlife trade, which severely impacts the wild populations of numerous species," it said.

    Members of the public who are aware of such illicit activities are urged to inform AVA by calling 6805 2992 or using its online feedback form.

    chenj@sph.com.sg

    Thursday, June 1, 2017 - 11:27
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    A Singaporean man was charged in court today (June 1) for hiring 19 foreigners without valid work passes to work at pasar malams (night bazaars) around Singapore last year.

    Sao Wei Loon, 40, was found by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to have hired the Indonesian nationals to work illegally as stall assistants at three pasar malams between June 1 and Sept 16 last year.

    Their employment period ranged from three days to more than three weeks.

    If convicted, Sao faces a fine of between $5,000 and $30,000 or up to 12 months' jail, or both. The case has been adjourned to June 20.

    According to a statement from the MOM, foreigners working in Singapore must hold a valid work pass, and those working in bazaars or pasar malams are not exempted from this requirement.

    Members of the public with information about illegal employment offences can call MOM at (65) 6438 5122 or e-mail mom_fmmd@mom.gov.sg.

    candicec@sph.com.sg

    Thursday, June 1, 2017 - 12:19
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    A 28-year-old man has been arrested for cheating an online buyer, after failing to hand over $500 worth of NTUC Fairprice vouchers in full as promised.

    The victim made a police report on May 16, 2017, claiming that after paying the agreed amount of $470, an envelope she received contained only $250 worth of NTUC vouchers. The online seller then became uncontactable.

    According to a statement from the Singapore Police Force, the suspect was arrested on May 29 along Kampong Java road. Police investigations are ongoing.

    The police reminds members of the public to make purchases from reputable online vendors and to only transact with people that one knows and trusts, to avoid falling prey to online purchase scams.

    "Be mindful that scammers may use a local bank account for the transaction to enhance their credibility. The owner of the bank account may not be the person communicating with you online," said the police statement.

    It added that buyers should "check that the person or company you are buying from is physically located where they claim to be and never give your bank account numbers, credit card numbers and personal information to anyone you do not know or have not checked out".

     

    tarinis@sph.com.sg

     

    Thursday, June 1, 2017 - 16:45
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    The elderly woman who harassed her neighbours at Blk 112 Yishun Ring Road appears to have gone back to her old ways, despite being arrested by the police last Saturday (May 27).

    Lianhe Wanbao reported that the 63-year-old woman made a racket in the early hours of Tuesday morning (May 30) by hitting her kitchen floor with a hammer.

    The din woke her neighbours.

    When Wanbao reporters visited her flat the following morning, no one answered the door, but loud noises could be heard from the inside of the unit.

    For the past two years, the woman had been splashing various substances on the corridors of residents, including dark sauce, oil, and even urine.

    The constant harassment drove one of her neighbours to put up a 'wall' that was topped with cacti and durian husks.

    It was later taken down under the orders of the Nee Soon Town Council for being a fire safety hazard.

    Thursday, June 1, 2017 - 15:11

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    Neighbours
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    A 29-year-old traffic police officer died on Thursday morning (Jun 1) following an accident along Serangoon Road.

    Staff Sergeant Nadzrie Matin was performing traffic patrol duties when he was involved in an accident, police said in a media release.

    He was conveyed to Tan Tock Seng Hospital, where he subsequently died from his injuries.

    Traffic police officer dies after accident along Serangoon Road, driver arrested

    According to a Stomp contributor, the accident apparently involved a van.

    Staff Sergeant Nadzrie had joined the Singapore Police Force in 2009 and was posted to the Traffic Police after he completed his training.

    Commissioner of Police Hoong Wee Teck expressed his deepest condolences to the family: "I am deeply saddened by the sudden loss of Staff Sergeant Nadzrie. He was a dedicated and well-liked officer. We will do everything possible to assist his family during this difficult period."

    The police said a 52-year-old driver had been arrested for a negligent act causing death, and appealed to members of the public to not circulate videos and images of Staff Sergeant Nadzrie out of respect for his family.

    Investigations are currently ongoing.

    pariel@sph.com.sg

    Thursday, June 1, 2017 - 16:15
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    Avolattes, iPhone lattes… What's next?

    Sakura art lattes, that's what. At least in Singapore.

    A trendy coffee joint here was recently in the spotlight for their lattes with pretty foam art, courtesy of the cafe's talented barista, Damien Soh.

    These delicate cups with exquisite drawings are priced at $6 each, but what caught this coffee addict's eye was the lengths you have to go to in order to get your hands on them.

    It used to be so easy - see something on the internet, find out where it's sold, go out and grab it straightaway.

    At Carol Mel Cafe however, there are a few additional steps you need to take to get your hands on these beauties.

    Take note of the following instructions as the cafe is serious about not entertaining anyone who ignores them.

    First, you have to follow Carol Mel Cafe on Instagram.

    Next, follow their barista Damien on Instagram.

    Lastly, drop a DM (direct message) to Damien on Instagram to place a reservation for your drink at least one day in advance.

    According to the cafe's founder Caroline Liew, this is to help customers avoid disappointment as the Japan-sourced matcha powder which is used in the latte is limited in stock and these painstakingly handcrafted beverages take time to create.

    Spotted a design on the barista's Instagram that you want for your own?

    Drop him a request and he'll be able to tell you if it can be done.

    But if it's too much work, the cafe does offer other items on the menu from Western mains such as lamb shank to desserts such as buttermilk waffles.

    Thankfully, you don't have to spare the extra effort if you want to order them.

    ljoey@sph.com.sg

    Thursday, June 1, 2017 - 16:47
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    Japanese retailer Muji in Singapore has recalled its "Apple & Grape 100% Fruit Juice" product, due to the detection of mould in some of them.

    In a statement from the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) Thursday (June 1), it said Muji voluntarily removed the products from shelves and informed the AVA.

    Consumers who have purchased the products are advised not to consume it and to bring the item to a Muji outlet, or contact Muji customer service at 6346 4123 for a refund.

    candicec@sph.com.sg

    Friday, June 2, 2017 - 09:23

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    One and a half years ago at just 26 years old, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer with tumours in his lungs, brain, spine and bones. 

    Sebastian Tan, the head chef of Singapore cafe Strangers' Reunion, has since gone through painful rounds of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and other medical treatments.

    This was possible thanks to the financial help given by the fundraising campaign, "Save a Stranger", that his employers started for him when his cancer was first detected. 

    Earlier last month (May 5), Strangers' Reunion's Facebook page released another call for help.

    Left with $9k from the previously raised sum of $92k, more funds would be required to support further treatments for the Malaysian chef, who has no personal insurance of his own.

    While the treatments were able to keep Tan's cancer under control for a period of time, where he'd managed to go back to work and "play abit of his favourite basketball", it hasn't been so for the last few weeks.

    The Facebook post revealed that his cancer had started to act up and caused a buildup of fluid in his lungs, which led to the pooling of fluid around his heart - a critical condition which required emergency high-risk surgery.

    To continue helping the chef with his battle with cancer, the cafe has since started a second fundraising campaign for their employee at GIVE Asia, along with placing donation boxes outside their three cafes.

    More information about the campaign can be found on its website.

    ongymm@sph.com.sg

    Friday, June 2, 2017 - 16:13
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    Where's the eye-rolling emoji when you need one?

    On Tuesday (May 30), irate netizen Peng Jia Rong (彭嘉荣) went on a tirade against rainbow cakes, and posted his rant on the "We are against Pinkdot in Singapore" Facebook group.

    According to the post, he was at a "young punk" cafe in Singapore when he spotted a "rainbow cake".

    Triggered by the multi-layered gateau, he wrote that "these are not rainbow cakes. (A) rainbow has 7 colours".

    "These are gay cakes. Nothing wrong with a gay cake, sure, but please call a spade a spade. Stop covering up gay agenda. Now."

    So if we're to follow his line of reasoning correctly, a rainbow has seven colours and this cake has six. The missing colour was not an "unknowing" mistake on the part of the baker.

    Therefore, it's only logical that the six-coloured desert he spotted supports what he calls the "gay agenda".

    Well… there's a spurious argument if there ever was one.

    Or is it?

    An online media outlet suggested that Mr Peng might have likened the rainbow cake to the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) pride flag which also has six colours.

    "The flag was designed with six colours after the assassination of San Francisco commissioner Harvey Milk so that an even number of colours could be distributed evenly between parade marchers as they demonstrated solidarity."

    But the article conceded that Mr Peng's argument might be "stretching it" and the baker might have decided to combine indigo and violet into one layer for convenience sake.

    Reactions to the original post have been a mix of hilarious and tongue-in-cheek.

    Like-minded members of the group seem to support his dubious claim.

    Others provided a more practical explanation of the six-layers.

    Yet others have a more… specific preference.

    In other pastry-related news, a pastor claimed an anointed cake magically "saved" a gay bartender.

    Maybe Mr Peng will like that cake better.

    ljoey@sph.com.sg

    Friday, June 2, 2017 - 13:15
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    A GrabHitch driver allegedly touched the legs of a professional dancer as he uttered the words: "You have super legs."

    The passenger, Rocio Yap Jia Han, was so incensed with his behaviour that she lodged a complaint with Grab ride-hailing company as soon as she got off the car yesterday morning (June 1).

    Writing on Facebook shortly after the incident, she said she plonked herself down in the front seat when she began the ride at Marina Boulevard. But when the car arrived at her Beach Road destination, the driver allegedly molested her as she was in the midst of making payment.

    The former Raffles Institution (Junior College) student said in her post that she would normally take the front seat as GrabHitch drivers are Singaporeans just "like you and me".

    Although the man "seemed a little dodgy", she still sat in front after telling herself not to "judge a book by its cover".

    "He was okay (sic) the whole way, just normal conversation on how to get there and I was busy settling emails on my phone so I didn't make much conversation. I barely made eye contact," she wrote.

    on Facebook

    Today I was molested by my GrabHitch driver. I generally sit in front for hitch cos they aren't grab drivers but just...

    Posted by Rocio Yap Jia Han on Thursday, 1 June 2017
    Rocio shows her bill which also shows photos of the driver and his vehicle, both of which were shaded in a few areas.Photo: Rocio Yap Facebook

    Nightmare begins during payment time

    As she tried to reach for her bag, which was under the seat, her leg somehow touched his hand, which was on the gear stick, as the "space was very (sic) tight".

    "I quickly pulled to the side and said sorry. Then while I was looking down, he quickly touched my leg and said "you have super legs". When she let out an incredulous "what?", he repeated what he had just said: "You have super legs."

    Feeling more agitated, she said: "Huh?". But the driver continued to be obsessed by her legs as he flashed "a really creepy smile" and said: "I think your legs are really sexy."

    "I shot back (with) a very disgusted "okay.." And tried to settle the payment as fast as I could. When it was settled I just said "thanks" while I grabbed my things and he took the opportunity to stroke my leg even (sic) longer...and said "I really.. love your legs".

    "I was honestly in shock and I didn't want to do or say anything in case he locked me in the car or anything so I quickly just rushed out and slammed the door," wrote Rocio, whose post has since been shared more than 2,100 times.

    Driver suspended

    Giving an update hours after her post, she said she was informed by Grab that the driver had been suspended and that the company would be making a police report.

    Separately, Yap would be making a police report too, she said.

    Her agony did not end there.

    The irony was that the driver tried to reach her on her mobile phone while Grab was informing her that the company had told him not to contact her any more, the dancer revealed.

    "Obviously I did not pick up. The operator from Grab then assured me by helping me contact him to remind him not to call me again," she wrote in her post update.

    chenj@sph.com.sg

    Friday, June 2, 2017 - 13:04

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    GrabMolest
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    The sanctity that is the Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar has been threatened and it's worrying.

    For Muslims around the world, the holy month of Ramadan is a time of self-reflection. It's also about giving back while undergoing the widely known practice of fasting from dusk until dawn.

    Alongside this holy month, Muslims would converge on Ramadan bazaars for delicious street food to break fast with, while doing a little bit of shopping in preparation for the Eid al-Fitr celebrations that comes after Ramadan.

    The thing we will be highlighting today is the street food in particular.

    Photo: The Straits Times

    The Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar Controversy

    When one walks into a Ramadan bazaar, you would expect the food sold to be Halal right? That no longer seems to be the case for Singapore's largest bazaar in Geylang Serai.

    Over the weekend, the good people over at Halal Food Blog and Halal Food Hunt conducted their own investigations - they approached every food vendor to find out if the stalls were either Halal certified or owned by a Muslim boss - two ways to identify if an establishment is safe for Muslims to dine from.

    And their findings are worrying at best - a great number of stalls fail to satisfy either one of the conditions.

    They have a list of food stalls confirmed to be either Halal or Muslim-owned, as well as another for those that weren't (the list has since been removed).

    The Situation On The Ground

    As someone who practically lives in Geylang Serai, I am well aware of the changing food trends that shifts yearly in the Ramadan bazaar. In recent years, the presence of non-halal certified food stalls has definitely been growing.

    Back then, they were limited to a minority that everyone just "closed one eye" to. This year however, the situation has been turned on its head.

    You don't have to venture that deep into the bazaar to see what the food blogs were talking about.

    Starting with the main tent along Engku Aman Road, go a little further in and it feels like little Thailand. Rolled ice cream, mango sticky rice, and Thai milk tea everywhere you turn.

    What I noticed instantly is how present the Instagram generation is - the 20-something "influencer" types on a quest for unicorn-coloured everything.

    And that's precisely where the queues are. Just look at the stalls offering scotch eggs, rainbow bagels, and other "Instagram-worthy" food.

    A visitor to the Geylang Serai Market takes photos of her food infront of an 'instagram booth' set up by the sellers.
    Photo: The Straits TImes

    An Ominous Sign

    I'm all for diversity and having our multi-racial Singaporean community participate in the festivities of a particular ethnic community. With that said, it would be better if they actually got to experience the cuisine of said race.

    Take a walk down the Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar and it feels like another Artbox.

    I would also fault social media for distorting what food is picture worthy and what's not, especially among the younger demographic.

    If you are a real foodie, a freshly barbecued Ayam Percik can look as good, or even better, than a Unicorn anything on your feeds.

    Salmon burger with wasabi mayo from Sahwon sold at Geylang Serai Hari Raya Bazaar.Photo: The Straits Times

    The moment the organisers allowed it to come to this, you know something is terribly wrong with how the Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar is perceived now.

    Granted, theres's a temporary exhibit showcasing the history of Geylang Serai and Hari Raya, but that's the only extent to educating the public.

    Just text and images on walls and pedestals.

    There's this missed opportunity to extend the experience into the bazaar itself.

    After all, are we that deprived of Malay artisans and cuisine that we have to resort to Korean fried chicken and melon sundaes to fill up the spaces?

    Rainbow Bagel from Word sold at Geylang Serai Hari Raya Bazaar.
    Photo: The Straits Times

    Keeping Up With The Times?

    "While being a platform for commemorating Ramadan, the annual Hari Raya Light-Up also provides an opportunity for local and international visitors alike to explore the precinct and understand more about the Malay culture in Singapore," - Dr Teo Cheng Swee, chairman of Hari Raya Light-Up 2017 organising committee.

    It seems to me that people will be learning more about Thailand and food trends in the US than about the Malay culture in Singapore.

    Someone somewhere seems to have this idea that light decorations inspired by Malay elements and Malay cultural performances over the weekends is all that's required.

    Let's be realistic. If you are not celebrating Hari Raya, you would just be coming for the food. But in that, the draw that brings you here would no longer be about Ramadan.

    Spicy Korean Yoghurt from 365 Foodologist sold at Geylang Serai Hari Raya Bazaar.Photo: The Straits Times

    It's All About The Dollars

    We can also put the blame on Malay vendors who in recent years, have been moving towards "Instagrammable foods", so much so that the organisers felt it necessary to have more of them.

    A simple Google search of "Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar" would yield the local foodie sites listing the bazaar's most Instagrammable foods.

    There are many Malay-Muslim establishments re-imagining their cuisine, or infusing its flavours into well-known dishes, so there's definitely no shortage of ingenuity.

    But a deterring factor for them might be the prohibitive rental costs at the bazaar.

    We haven't even talked about other random stalls like those selling cars and motorcycles, even insurance. But with the rents spiralling up every year, it has turned into a case of who has the money.

    Having lived through more than two decades of the bazaar, I have seen recurring vendors suddenly disappearing the year after, and the cycle repeats itself today.

    It's truly unfortunate that the bazaar has come to this.

    The tentages that come once a year for 30 days, where the Muslim community can freely buy food from, is now a thing of the past.

    It's called a Ramadan bazaar for a reason, guess the organisers gravely missed the point.

    For now though MUIS urges Muslims going to the bazaar to practice self-discretion when buying the food there. If you have doubts on its Halal status, don't eat it.

    Friday, June 2, 2017 - 14:23
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    Ramadan will soon be upon Muslims - and we're talking about in a matter of hours, since it starts tomorrow in Singapore.

    If you're not familiar with the concept of Ramadan, it's the period before Hari Raya Aidilfitri where Muslims are required to fast for a whole month.

    During the holy month, Muslims are advised to stay away from sinful behaviour, including swearing, talking behind others' back and other actions that have ill intentions.

    If you have Muslim colleagues or just want to know more about the fasting month, scroll the gallery to find out more.

    You don't have to stop talking about food around your Muslim colleagues

    Photo: The Straits Times

    Just because they can't eat, it doesn't mean they can't talk about food.

    If your Muslim colleagues tell you that they're not allowed to speak of food, they're either trying to pull a fast one on you, or they're trying to minimise temptations because let's be real, talking about food can make you feel hungry. 

    It's not a must to eat before dawn

    Photo: AFP

    Some people don't do well with breakfast and if you can tahan till dawn without eating or drinking anything, you really don't have to wake up before to have your predawn meal, known as sahur.

    However, you need to remember to say your prayer the night before your fast to be valid.

    You can't forget your prayers

    Photo: AFP

    There's a specific prayer you have to say after having your sahur. What if you forget to say the prayer until the cut-off time? Your fast will be considered void, unfortunately. 

    There are no fast days for women

    Photo: The Straits Times

    Women are exempted from fasting when they're on their period - in the same way they can't do their daily prayers when it's that time of the month.

    The exemption also extends to women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and those who are ill or old.

    However, while you're absolutely prohibited to fast when you're on your period, the others can continue to fast if they feel up for it.

     You need to pay back what you owe

    Photo: The Straits Times

    If you're wondering why some of your colleages are fasting even when it's not the fasting month, there could be two reasons: they're doing it voluntarily to accumulate reward, or as a "pay back" for the number of days they didn't fast.

    This debt can be repaid after the fasting month, and before the next one the following year, save for a few prohibited days.

    You have to break fast at a specific time

    Photo: Reuters

    It's recommended that you break your fast during dusk.

    If you're commuting, you can drink a sip of water or eat a sweet to break your fast.

    While your fast won't be considered void if you fail to do it, it is not advisable. But no, you can't break fast any time before dusk. 

    There's no such thing as a half-day fast

    Photo: Reuters

    Fasting is not like taking annual leave - you can't just decide that you'll fast for half a day.

    Yes, there are kids who do that, but it's a way of getting them used to the idea of fasting. But you can't do this as an adult, unless you're a recent convert who is fasting for the first time. 

     

    Friday, June 2, 2017 - 18:00

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