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    Pink Dot, an annual event in support of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community in Singapore which started in 2009, has seen its movement grow over the years.

    Its journey, however, has been dotted with controversy and backlash from various groups of Singaporeans. This year, the latest controversy comes in the form of a post found on the Facebook page"We are against Pinkdot in Singapore".

    The original photo, posted by Hana Akari, depicts a Pink Dot campaign poster along one of the escalators in Cineleisure Orchard, along with the caption "Can anyone guess which mall is this? I really want to know."

    Photo: We are against Pinkdot in Singapore/Facebook

    Uploaded only yesterday evening, the post has since garnered over 50 comments, with the majority of them voicing their displeasure over the depicted poster in a shopping mall.

    Some users expressed disbelief at how such an action could be allowed.

    Photo: We are against Pinkdot in Singapore/Facebook

    Many also called for police action to be taken.

    Photo: We are against Pinkdot in Singapore/Facebook

    Some even stated that they were planning to boycott the shopping mall entirely.

    Photo: We are against Pinkdot in Singapore/Facebook

    When contacted, the police declined to comment on any reports that were made. 

    However, they did confirm that Pink Dot organisers were allowed to promote the event in public as long as they had the license to do so.

    nicchew@sph.com.sg

    Tuesday, June 6, 2017 - 11:39
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    Singapore's most hated person at the moment - Thomas Chua Poh Heng - has a slew of dirty secrets, including allegedly threatening to hire people to kill his girlfriend's ex-husband, according to a Chinese media report.

    It was reported previously that Chua, who criticised a traffic policeman who died while on duty last week, was arrested for stealing from Mustafa Centre along Syed Alwi Road on Sunday (Jun 4). He allegedly made off with a bottle of perfume worth $98.

    Prior to his arrest, three other police reports had been lodged against him since Jan.

    However, his dubious track record does not stop there.

    According to Lianhe Wanbao, Chua has been charged with over 10 traffic offences since 2000, including dangerous driving and speeding on the roads.

    Now, his girlfriend's ex-husband has stepped forward to say that Chua threatened to "hire people from Geylang to kill (him)".

    The ex-husband, 43-year-old Mr Chia, told Lianhe Wanbao that although he had divorced his wife - Chua's current girlfriend of two years - they still resided in the same rental flat due to leasing problems.

    On May 17 this year, Chua and his girlfriend had an argument at around 1am in the morning.

    Chua then texted his girlfriend to say that he was going to look for people in Geylang to kill Mr Chia.

    Despite having never gotten into a dispute with Chua before, Mr Chia said it was not the first time he had been harassed by Chua. Last August, Chua posted Mr Chia's photos and home address on Facebook, claiming that Mr Chia was wanted by the police for drug offences.

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

    Mr Chia has since filed police reports for both incidents and investigations are undergoing.

    That's not all, though.

    Chua is also under investigation from the Immigrations and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) on suspicion of crossing customs without producing a passport, reported the evening daily.

    He also used two addresses of properties not owned by him as mailing addresses. The homeowners of the properties have found themselves inundated with letters and fines addressed to Chua.

    One of them, a private property owner, told Lianhe Wanbao that he had been receiving letters addressed to Chua for over a decade.

    The other homeowner, who resides in a HDB flat in Serangoon Central, said she moved into her current home in 2008, but began receiving letters addressed to Chua some time in the last two years.

    The owner of the Serangoon flat added that Grab had also sent a letter addressed to Chua. The letter requested Chua to repay his debts, which were likely accumulated from renting a car and not paying up.

    Both homeowners have since filed multiple police reports.

    pariel@sph.com.sg

    Tuesday, June 6, 2017 - 18:13

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    More dirty secrets have come to light of the man who publicly criticised a traffic policeman who died while on duty last week. Thomas Chua was not only arrested for stealing from Mustafa, he has also been charged for multiple offences.

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    SINGAPORE - Have you ever looked up into the sky and wondered "If only, I could fly like a bird?" That, is 44-year-old Wan Wai Yee's dream.

    Despite her complete blindness, Wai Yee has achieved what may be next to impossible for most people. Her long list of feats includes Spartan Race and Triathlons, some of her favourite pastimes include Muay Thai and rock climbing. She has also starred in theatrical productions.

    "Actually you are the best that you think you are," she said. "If you think you cannot do a certain thing then half the battle is already lost."

    Such undeterred determination and positive outlook in life propelled Wai Yee to complete many physically demanding activities even an able-bodied individual may not be able to achieve.

    Deeply inspired by Wai Yee, Live Your Dream, a new video series produced by Singapore Press Holdings' Chinese Media Group Digital, decided to fulfil one of her dreams.

    The Dream

    When approached by the team, Wai Yee requested to experience "something that will enable me to fly". "Not really flying lah, but just going as fast as you can," she added sheepishly.

    The Question

    What activity can give Wai Yee a "flying sensation"? To Ken Low, host of "Live Your Dream", that is the biggest question. Ultimately, he decided that ice skating is the best option.

    The Problem

    When approached by the production team, the largest ice-skating school in Singapore "The Rink" voiced their concerns. Due to safety constraints, people who are visually impaired are required to rent out at least a section of the rink should they wish to ice-skate. The coaches have zero experience in guiding visually impaired students on ice.

    More importantly, would Wai Yee risk the fall just to know how it feels to fly?

    Wai Yee has been defying physical limitations with her determination. Will her dream continue to defy gravity? Watch the video to find out.

    "No dream is too big and no dreamer too small." If you have a dream waiting to be fulfilled, email "Live Your Dream" team at zbevents@sph.com.sg.

    About "Live Your Dream" 

    "Live Your Dream"(完成一个梦) is one of 10 SPH-produced short-form digital video series as part of a pilot Public Service Broadcast initiative. In this 13 episode series, host Ken Low Yong Kian (Digital Content Producer, Chinese Media Group Digital) will try his best to fulfil people's dreams no matter how challenging it may be. All episodes come with English subtitles.

    This series is also available on zaobao.sg website, as well as the mobile app.

    Tuesday, June 6, 2017 - 18:20

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    https://studio.brightcove.com/products/videocloud/media/videos/5459641939001

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    Reigning over 160 stores in Japan, three in Hawaii and one about to hit our shores, the man behind Don Quijote is one to be admired.

    Takao Yasuda, 68, is the charismatic founder behind the successful Japanese discount retail chain.

    The wisdom of a creator

    Back in the early days of 1980, Yasuda defied conventions and industry practices to build 24-hour stores when the concept was barely heard of, according to CNBC

    With the desire to build a retail chain, Yasuda was the first to collect information on firms that were about to go bankrupt, taking the opportunity to seize their inventories of disposed-of goods and samples to sell in his own stores.

    Don Quijote, better known as "Donki", then became the convenience chain retailer that boasts a cluttered look, featuring maze-like aisles selling everything you can think of, ranging from toilet paper to discounted luxury items like Rolex watches and Louis Vuitton bags.

    But behind the mess lies the wisdom of a successful entrepreneur. 

    The compressed display of the Donki stores is a farefully calculated strategy to inculcate a treasure-hunt mentality in the shoppers, making them leave the store "feeling like they've missed something", reported The Japan Times.

    Thus, shoppers always discover something new the next time they visit.

    Deserved success

    Standing with a net worth of US $1.6 billion (S$2.2 billion) as of 2017, Yasuda definitely earned his success.

    He has since stepped down as CEO and Chairperson of Don Quijote Holdings since he found a successor, Koji Oohara, in June 2015 and is now an advisor to the group. 

    The succession wasn't unplanned, though, as Yasuda already delayed his retirement for one year to judge the fallout from an increase in Japan's consumption tax in April 2014.

    "I feel it's a must for our group's long-term prosperity for me to step down while I'm still both mentally and physically fit," he revealed.

    According to The Business Times, Yasuda and his wife Ma Yaping have relocated to Singapore, where he bought a villa along Lakeshore View at Sentosa Cove.

    The award-winning house stands on 11,268 sq ft of land and has a built-up area of 8,500 sq ft spanning four levels.
    Photo: The Business Times

    It was reported that the house costs $21.2 million and rests on 8,500 square feet of land.

    Designed by Ernesto Bedmar Architects in collaboration with PADA architects, the house spans across two storeys, an attic and a basement, and won an award in 2010 at the 10th Singapore Institute of Architects' Architectural Design Awards.

    Perhaps his residence in Singapore may have led to the opening of the first South-east Asian Don Quijote store here. And maybe, we can anticipate Yasuda's appearance at the store as well?

    ongymm@sph.com.sg

    Wednesday, June 7, 2017 - 11:01

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    Founder of Japanese discount retail chain Don Quijote bought a villa at Sentosa Cove earlier this year with his Singaporean wife. Perhaps his residence in Singapore may have led to the opening of the first South-east Asian Don Quijote store here?

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    In case you haven't heard, Changi Airport's going to get even swankier come 2019, when the upcoming lifestyle and retail hub Jewel Changi Airport opens its doors to the public.

    Other than F&B outlets and retail shops, the 10-storey building will also be home to a 40m indoor waterfall and a five-storey garden, as well as a 14,000sqm Canopy Park with play attractions and walking trails.

    Here are 5 attractions that you can look forward to at Jewel Changi Airport:

    1. Forest Valley and Rain Vortex

    The great outdoors is brought indoors at Jewel, with the five-storey-tall Forest Valley housing 2,500 trees and 100,000 shrubs from all over the world.

    The Rain Vortex.Photo: Jewel Changi Airport

    Located in the middle of Jewel is the Rain Vortex, which will be the world's tallest indoor waterfall at 40m. Come nightfall, the waterfall will transform into a light and sound show.

    Canopy Bridge.Photo: Jewel Changi Airport

    Pro tip: If you want to catch the Rain Vortex display upclose, make sure you take a walk along the Canopy Bridge.

    2. Petal Garden & Topiary Walk

    Besides Forest Valley, the Canopy Park on the top floor of Jewel will also feature two specially created gardens - the Petal Garden and Topiary Walk.

    Petal Garden.Photo: Jewel Changi Airport

    Petal Garden will hold floral displays that change with the seasons, while visitors will get to see animal topiaries at Topiary Walk.

    3. Sky Nets

    Instead of staying grounded all the time, Jewel lets visitors take a walk on Sky Nets, which are walking and bouncy nets suspended in the air.

    Also located within Canopy Park, these will be the first large-scale net attractions in Singapore.

    Designed to resemble the flow of a river, there will be two different kinds of nets for visitors to explore.

    Sky Nets.Photo: Jewel Changi Airport

    The 50m-long walking net is higher at 25m above ground and allows visitors to peer through the voids.

    For those feeling a bit more adventurous, the other net is a bouncy one that spans 250m and is suspended three storeys above ground. Talk about thrilling!

    4. Canopy Mazes

    Have some time to kill? Lose yourself in the two mazes at the east wing of Canopy Park.

    There will be two different mazes spanning over 500 sqm for visitors to discover - a hedge maze, and a mirror maze.

    The hedge maze.Photo: Jewel Changi Airport

    But a word of caution: Do this only if you have time, in case you really get lost and miss your flight. 

    5. Discovery Slides

    The Discovery Slides in Canopy Park is a playground for all ages, as well as a sculptural piece in itself. There are four slides - two tube slides and two sliding surfaces.

    The Discovery Slides.Photo: Jewel Changi Airport

    Did we mention? The Slides also serve as a 6.5m-high platform for visitors to look out at Forest Valley and Rain Vortex - a perfect selfie spot for all of us Instagrammers!

    Sounds fun and all, but there's still another two years to go before it opens. Hopefully, it will be worth the wait. 

    on Facebook

    2019 will be an exciting year for us because of the opening of Jewel Changi Airport. Here’s what it's gonna look like!

    Posted by Changi Airport on Saturday, 3 June 2017

    pariel@sph.com.sg

    Wednesday, June 7, 2017 - 17:51
    Assignment

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    The digital arm of Singapore Press Holdings (SPH Digital) has bagged the top prize at the Google PWA/AMP Hackathon for its winning ways to enhance a newspaper digital platform.

    Held on May 16 at Google Asia Pacific at Mapletree Business City, the event saw the four-man SPH team beating seven other teams from regional tech companies and startups.

    The hackathon was a follow-up to the Google Mobile Academy event in April, where organisations had to deploy a working prototype using two technologies - Progressive Web Apps (PWA) and/or Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).

    Called The Straits Times Agile Tech team, the winning group was able to combine the two technologies to enable The Straits Times website to perform better on mobile devices, especially Android ones, and give readers the best user experience.

    PWAs take advantage of new features supported by modern browsers so that web apps, which link straight to the content they link to, can feel more like an actual app and not just a tab. Websites will load faster and can work even without any network connection.

    Mr Julian Tan, Head of SPH Digital, said: "This win shows the commitment SPH Digital has in exploring what can be done with the latest technologies to ensure that our digital products are always stable, secure, and at the top of its class."

    chenj@sph.com.sg

    Wednesday, June 7, 2017 - 16:49
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    The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) has warned the public not to buy or use 'Tati Skin Care 5 in 1' cosmetic set as it contains alarmingly high levels of toxic mercury and other prohibited ingredients.

    In a statement issued today (June 7), HSA said it will take action against online retailers selling the skincare set and warned them about the harsh penalty if they are caught. Those convicted face a jail sentence of up to three years and/or fine up to $100,000.

    HSA said the night cream in the set could pose serious health risks to users as the amount of mercury in it exceeded the permissible limits by more than 20,000 times.

    The treatment cream, another item in the set, was found to contain prohibited ingredients like tretinoin and hydroquinone. The set also includes a day cream, a sun block and a beauty soap.

    Alarmed by the proliferation of online sales of cosmetic products containing banned substances, Assoc Professor Chan Cheng Leng, Group Director of the Health Products Regulation Group, HSA, said: "HSA's surveillance of the online sales platform for cosmetic products have uncovered more than 200 online sellers involved in the illegal sale of adulterated cosmetic products in the recent two months. This shows the widespread circulation of these products.

    "Many of these sellers hide under the anonymity of the Internet. Consumers need to be wary about purchasing cosmetic products with exaggerated claims and which promise fast results, as they may contain ingredients harmful to health."

    Mercury is prohibited for use as an ingredient in cosmetic products, reminded the HSA.

    Regular use of creams containing mercury could lead to rash, skin discolouration and blotching. Chronic exposure to very high levels of mercury may also cause toxic effects to the kidneys, digestive and nervous system leading to organ damage as it can be absorbed through the skin.

    HSA said hydroquinone and tretinoin are also prohibited in skincare cosmetic products and should only be used under medical supervision as they may cause harmful effects if not used properly.

    Inappropriate use of hydroquinone could result in changes in skin colour and reactions such as rashes, redness, tingling and burning of skin. Inappropriate use of tretinoin could cause redness and peeling of the skin.

    HSA advised consumers to buy cosmetic products only from reliable and reputable sources.

    Members of the public who have any information on the sale and supply of 'Tati Skin Care 5 in 1' or other illegal products are urged to contact HSA's Enforcement Branch at Tel: 6866-3485 during office hours (Monday to Friday) or email: hsa_is@hsa.gov.sg.

    Visit www.healthdangers.sg to learn more about the dangers of buying illegal health products from questionable sources.

    chenj@sph.com.sg

    Wednesday, June 7, 2017 - 18:52
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    A Suzuki Swift driver allegedly tried to flee the scene after getting involved in an accident yesterday (June 6).

    It is unclear where and what time exactly the incident occurred, but a video showing the collision aftermath was posted on YouTube by Francis Teo.

    According to the clip, the driver had been involved in a crash with a Traffic Police (TP) bike. A photo circulating online also shows the damaged white car besides a motorcycle.

    In the video, a TP officer was giving chase to the Suzuki Swift driver on foot, while traffic appeared to have come to a standstill.

    The man can be seen running to and fro with the officer hot on his heels, while other motorists watched.

    Smoke, presumably from one of the vehicles involved in the crash, can also be seen.

    It is unknown what happened thereafter.

    The video also identified the officer as a 'stealth biker', meaning he is part of the Traffic Police's Special Operations Team (SOT) which clamps down on motorists who commit common traffic offences.

    Also known as covert officers, the TP's stealth bikers have been on the roads since June 2016.

    Clad in black jackets, the officers ride black 900cc motorcycles that are more manoeuvrable and have proven effective in curbing errant motorists.
     

    Thursday, June 8, 2017 - 09:48
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    Rumours of cat and dog meat being sold at the Geylang Serai Raya Bazaar have been circulating via Whatsapp and Facebook these past two weeks.

    The messages shared on Whatsapp warn of workers at a "stall 124" at the Bazaar being caught by "MOH officials" mixing dog and cat meat into the marinade of their satay.

    The Whatsapp message tell of a "stall 124" at the Bazaar mixing dog and cat meat into food sold. Photo: Whatsapp

    Facebook posts about the incident include several photographs - one of a man being taken away by officials, one with several tubs of satay on the ground, a graphic photo of a mutilated dog, and a photo of several men hunched over a basin skewering meat. 

    Posts like this have been spreading around on Facebook, claiming that the NEA nabbed the man involved. Photo: Facebook

    When contacted, the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said no arrests had been made of sellers mixing dog and cat meat into the food.

    MOM could confirm that the only official arrests made so far were of the 22 unlicensed food handlers and illegal workers in a raid conducted last month.

    Responding to AsiaOne's queries on June 7, NEA stated that they are aware of the claims and are investigating the rumours.

    "The National Environment Agency (NEA) is aware of a message circulating online which claims that a stall in the Geylang Serai Bazaar is selling satay made from dog and cat meat," said the statement.

    "Based on NEA's inspection on May 31, 2017, Stall 124 at the Geylang Serai Bazaar was selling 'dengdeng' and not satay, as claimed in the online posts. Further investigations are ongoing," added the statement.

    Chinese evening newspaper Wanbao reported yesterday (June7), that based on their investigations, the rumours circulated are untrue and only the image of the man being arrested was from Singapore. 

    The rest of the report stated that remaining images were compiled from various sources on the web. 

    This is the third scandal to hit the popular food market following the crackdown on unlicensed food handlers and online furore over how the majority of food sold there were non-halal.

    Stay vigilant people, and don't believe everything you read online.

    ljoey@sph.com.sg

    Thursday, June 8, 2017 - 09:43
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    Stomp contributor Joshua's friend was at Chinese Garden this morning (Jun 7) when he saw a body floating in the waters of Jurong Lake.

    According to Joshua, his friend called the police after seeing it.

    The body was clad in a red T-shirt and black shorts.

    In response to Stomp's media queries, a police spokesperson said:

    "On 7 Jun 2017 at 7.39am the police were alerted to a case of unnatural death at Jurong Lake.

    "A 26-year-old man was found motionless in the water and was pronounced dead by paramedics at the scene

    "Police investigations are ongoing."

    A Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) spokesperson provided Stomp with the following statement:

    "SCDF was alerted at about 7.40am and dispatched two fire engines, two fire bikes and one support vehicle.

    "The body was retrieved by SCDF at around 8.10am."

    Thursday, June 8, 2017 - 10:04

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    When a lift at a block in Geylang Bahru broke down, a helpful mechanic decided to step up, breaking into the lift and freeing three residents trapped within.

    The incident happened at Block 95M Geylang Bahru on Monday (Jun 5) at around 5pm, reports Shin Min Daily News via Lianhe Zaobao.

    The lift had broken down as it was descending from the 12th storey, leaving the three passengers trapped for about half an hour.

    The 38-year-old mechanic said that on the day of the incident, he was on the way back home from a clinic, and waiting for the lift at the ground level.

    Man breaks into faulty Geylang Bahru lift to save 3 trapped residents

    He recalled that the lift had taken 5 minutes to descend to the 11th storey from the 12th storey, after which it was stuck at the 11th storey for another 10 minutes.

    It then descended to the 8th storey and was again stuck there for about five minutes and then the 5th storey, where it was stuck for another five minutes.

    The mechanic said that there were two other residents waiting for the lift with him, and a girl who got impatient left first.

    Said the man:

    "When the lift reached the ground level, there were two men and a woman inside, but when we tried pressing the 'open' button, the lift doors moved a little but wouldn't open."

    He said that although the inner doors moved a little, leaving a small gap, they became jammed after that.

    Assessing the situation, he reached his hand into the gap and managed to pry open the doors, by pushing the left inner door while one of the male passengers pushed the right inner door.

    With the combined might of the two, the lift doors finally opened after five minutes and the three inside the lift were freed.

    The mechanic said that having lived in the block for over 10 years, it was the first time he had encountered a lift breakdown.

    Some residents pointed out the the affected lift was a new lift which started operating about three to four years ago.

    A spokesperson from Jalan Besar Town Council said that inspection from technicians revealed that the incident was caused by a misalignment between the left and right inner doors of the lift.

    The spokesperson also added that the town council would closely monitor the lift.

    Thursday, June 8, 2017 - 10:57

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    Local actor Julian Hee was physically assaulted after being involved in a spat with a fellow motorist at Old Airport Road Food Centre recently.

    In a Facebook post yesterday (June 7), the 38-year-old shared how a man had opened his car door next to the actor's car, hence "knocking onto my car hard".

    He wrote, "My whole car shook. I came down and said 'come on!'

    "He started a tirade against me and asked me if I see any damage on my car. I spotted a dent.

    "He yelled 'you idiot my car door cannot reach that dent'.

    "I said 'don't call me an idiot'.

    "He pushed me. And started hammering me. I blacked out and fell on the floor. I went unconscious."

    Former Manhunt winner Julian Hee was allegedly assaulted till he blacked out

    on Facebook

    At old airpot road hawker centre. A guy open his car's door next to my car , Knocking onto my car hard. My whole car...

    Posted by Julian Hee on Wednesday, 7 June 2017

    Adding that someone then called the police and ambulance, Hee asked, "What is this world coming to???"

    In response to his post, netizens wished Hee a speedy recovery, with some calling for action to be taken against the other party.

    Hee is a Singaporean Chinese actor and model, who also won the title of Mr. Manhunt Singapore in 2002.

    He has starred in several television shows such as Channel 5's Heartlanders (2004) and Red Thread (2009), as well as popular dramas like The Champion (2005) and C.L.I.F. (2011) on Channel 8.

    Hee accused of road rage before

    In 2013, Hee was accused of road rage by a retired school principal, who posted about the altercation with the actor on Facebook.

    Mr Adrian Cordeiro, 65, said that Hee twice cut into his lane along Bedok South Avenue 1, then "spoiled for a fight" by "flexing his muscles".

    According to The Straits Times, Hee allegedly plucked Mr Cordeiro's glasses from his face and threw them to the ground. When the older man put them back on, Hee reportedly repeated his actions.

    Both parties made a police report and Hee denied the accusations.

    He said, "His reckless driving almost got a motorcyclist killed. My conscience is clear and I am confident that justice will prevail."

     

    Thursday, June 8, 2017 - 11:50

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    Singaporeans may often have differing views regarding various topics, but there's at least one thing they have in common - their high standards for National Day Parade (NDP) theme songs.

    Despite this difficult standard all NDP songwriters inevitably face, local digital media group GRVTY Media have stepped up and written a National Day song of their own.

    They even attempted to follow all the traditional guidelines a typical NDP song should abide by.

    Since the video, titled This City, was uploaded on Facebook less than a week ago, it has managed to garner more than 400 reactions and 350 shares.

    Comments and feedback for the song have largely been positive. 

    Here is the video for you to judge for yourself.

    on Facebook

    A couple of weeks ago, we challenged ourselves to write an Unofficial NDP Theme Song. We didn't think it'd be...

    Posted by GRVTY Media on Friday, 2 June 2017

    The organising comittee for this year's NDP celebrations released the official song some time last month.

    The song was (once again) blasted mercilessly by a majority of Singaporeans.

    For a rough idea of what people are saying about this year's NDP song, this video by Mr Brown should pose as a good example.

    Here is this year's NDP theme song, titled Because It's Singapore.

    What do you think about the two versions? Let us know in the comments!

    Thursday, June 8, 2017 - 11:34

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    "Do you want to apply for a BTO together?"

    So goes the unromantic question that many a pragmatic Singaporean man has asked his girlfriend - even before proposing marriage.

    With an average wait of three to four years for the completion of a Build-To-Order (BTO) flat - often the most affordable option for young couples - planning far ahead has long been the norm.

    But a slew of initiatives announced by the Ministry of National Development in March aims to help couples find a flat faster and more easily.

    New measures include a new batch of BTO flats with a shorter wait of about 2 ½ years, and lowered monthly rental rates for first-timer families under the Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme - where families can rent units while waiting for their Housing Board flat to be completed.

    These schemes come hot on the heels of a debate sparked last year about how the long wait for a flat has delayed some couples' plans to get married and have kids. Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Josephine Teo had said in an interview with The Straits Times that couples do not need a big space to have sex.

    To save time, some Singaporeans have chosen to cast their lots at a younger age, even before getting engaged. Unmarried couples can apply for an HDB flat under the Fiance/Fiancee scheme, but are given three months to register their marriage after getting the key, earlier if they have applied for grants.

    A check with HDB found that an average of 6,500 applicants who apply for new HDB flats under the scheme are aged 25 and younger. HDB says this figure has remained fairly constant for the past five years. This group made up a third of the applicants for the scheme last year.

    HDB declined to say how many young applicants end up giving up their flats, although there have been stories of break-ups. These couples may end up forfeiting the sum they have already paid, which is about 5 per cent of the flat's price.

    While some may think these applicants too young to make such a big decision, sociologist Paulin Straughan says this is an encouraging statistic.

    "It'll encourage them to think seriously about marriage and parenthood. People think that before 25, you're still a kid, but if you turn back the clock 20 to 30 years, people were getting married at that age.

    "Once you've made that decision, you better start investing in your courtship - it's the start of a long commitment," she adds.

    Applying for a BTO flat way before marriage may seem unromantic, but couples point out that it is still the best way to secure good locations at good prices, especially if they want to get married by a certain age.

    Some start when they are in their early 20s and still in school.

    One of them is undergraduate Isabelle Lim, 21, who is in her second year in Singapore Management University (SMU) studying social sciences. She has been dating Benjamin Wong, 25, who is studying banking and finance in SIM Global Education, for more than three years.

    "It would be nice if I could find a home when I graduate and have the money to buy one, but I'm in Singapore. I don't think houses will get much cheaper, the longer I wait."

    They successfully applied for a four-room BTO flat in Clementi in February. The location - which is near Mr Wong's parents' home - was too good to let slip. The flat costs about $520,000.

    This is her third relationship and his second. They are not engaged, although she says they have not entertained the possibility of a break-up.

    Other couples are more wary of the financial commitment.

    Before applying for her BTO flat with her 27-year-old financial planner boyfriend, marketing executive Amanda Seow, 25, decided that if they should break up, they would split the cost of the down payment - which would be forfeited - equally. They were successful in their bid for a four-room flat in Bidadari last year. It costs about $485,000.The long wait for a flat put pressure on her to "BTO earlier" as she wants to get married by 28.

    While most people The Sunday Times spoke to bought a flat as a precursor to getting married, not all agree it is crucial to secure a flat before marriage.

    SMU undergraduate Gary Wong, 23, and his wife Tan Yi Ying, 21, a project analyst, who got married last September, did not defer marriage to wait for a flat - even if they had to live with his parents afterwards. They successfully applied for a flat last November.

    He says: "I would prefer a shorter wait time, but my wife prefers to live with family for the time being.

    "At the end of the day, the most important thing is to consider the wishes of your other half."

    Motivated by friend's failed home-buying attempts

    For undergraduate Guo Jing Yang, 24, and administrative clerk Janice Ng, 23, it was a "BTO horror story" that prompted them to apply for a Build-To-Order (BTO) flat.

    After hearing that a good friend had failed in six attempts to get a BTO flat, Ms Ng was motivated to start searching early for a home with her boyfriend of four years.

    "I didn't even tell him the first time, I just went ahead and applied. I thought I would give him a surprise," says Ms Ng, who applied for a BTO flat in Bidadari in May last year using Mr Guo's identity card number. They did not get the flat.

    Thankfully, the laid-back Mr Guo was not offended by her actions, but agreed that applying for a BTO flat early was the most pragmatic thing to do.He is in his fourth year studying architecture at the National University of Singapore.

    Their second try in applying for a flat in August was successful. Their four-room Housing Board flat in Tampines costs about $350,000 and is expected to be ready in five years.

    The timing suits them. By the time the flat is ready, Mr Guo would have graduated and been working for a few years.

    Ms Ng has already been working for more than a year now.

    The couple feel their relationship is stable, especially as they have seen many relationships around them fail multiple times. Marriage will come later, says Mr Guo, as he is still concentrating on his studies.

    In fact, he worries less about breaking up than paying his share of the down payment.

    "I'm not sure if she can come up with the down payment on her own," he says, adding that as he has little money in his Central Provident Fund account, he cannot contribute to the flat now. His greatest worry is that he would have to ask his parents for help with the flat, which he feels "isn't right".

    Still, they say the risk is worth it as they want to get married before 30.

    He says: "I encourage my friends to consider getting a BTO too if they think they're with the right one. You might think it's early, but when the flat is going to be done in only five years, that's too long."

    Discussing a home six months after dating

    Mr Yee Jen Siong, 25, who is in the education sector, and National Institute of Education undergraduate Denise Chng, 21, will get the keys to their five-room Housing Board flat this year.
    Photo: ST

    Some couples may have just shared their first kiss after six months of dating.

    But half a year into their relationship, Ms Denise Chng, 21, and Mr Yee Jen Siong, 25, began talking about marriage and getting a flat together.

    "We were quite sure of a future together when we started dating, and after a few more months, I guess we decided we can spend the rest of our lives together," says Ms Chng, a final-year undergraduate at the National Institute of Education (NIE). The couple have been together for 2 1/2 years.

    Well aware of the often long wait for a flat here, they started searching for their future home one year into their relationship after realising they would qualify for a better grant amount as their combined income was low.

    Mr Yee is in the education sector.

    They got their five-room Housing Board flat in Bukit Batok, which cost about $420,000, at a Sale of Balance Flats exercise in May last year. It is expected to be ready by the end of this year.

    The two, who are staunch Christians, want to start a family before turning 30. They entered their relationship keenly aware that they are dating with the intention of getting married.

    "I want to start a family early. My parents are getting old, I want them to have grandbabies soon too," says Mr Yee. He is the only child of a 68-year-old retiree and a 63-yearold housewife.

    "Getting a bigger flat, we can all live under the same roof, so it'll give me a better chance of looking after them."

    Early planning helped them snag a bigger amount from the Additional CPF Housing Grant, which offset most of the 10 per cent down payment for their home. The remainder was paid using Mr Yee'sCPF Ordinary Account.

    To get the flat, they will need to produce a marriage certificate - which means Mr Yee has to propose soon.

    In fact, he says the flat pushed his proposal plan forward by half a year.

    "I don't mind it. I will marry her eventually, so the only pressure is the shorter time span in selecting a ring and getting a good location (to propose)," he says with a laugh.

    Planning for a flat at age 15

    PhD student Abigail Leon, 22, and her fiance Lee Kern Choong, 25, applied for their flat last year, two weeks after getting engaged.
    Photo: ST

    PhD student Abigail Leon, 22, has been preparing for a Build-To-Order (BTO) flat since she was 15.

    In Secondary 3, she subscribed to an e-mail service which would give her alerts every time a new BTO flat launch was announced.

    "I like to calculate these kind of things, like to find out how much it would cost, how much we'd need to save and how much we'd need to save by what age," she says with a laugh.

    Planning ahead for the future has been something that her father, a 51-year-old professor, had encouraged her to do since she was young, she adds. She is studying underwater acoustics communication at the Singapore University of Technology and Design.

    Last year, she and her fiance Lee Kern Choong, 25, a programmer analyst, applied for a flat in Bedok. They had been engaged for two weeks.

    Their three-room Housing Board flat, which costs slightly more than $300,000, is due to be completed in 2020.

    They estimate their wedding date to be around the time that the flat is ready.

    They both say the long engagement period is a boon.

    "Isn't it nice when you can do it slowly, instead of having to do everything in one year at one shot?" says Ms Leon.

    Mr Lee says: "It adds an element of certainty so you can plan better for a certain outcome."

    This article was first published in The Straits Times on June 4, 2017.

    JOIN THE GAIN CITY GROUP BUY!

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    Date and venue to be advised. Interested parties can sign up for the event here: https://gaincity.com/bto-registration
    Thursday, June 8, 2017 - 13:00
    Others
    Many young couples do not regret applying for a Build-To-Order flat before getting married or engaged, citing the long wait and HDB grants.

    0 0

    Singaporeans no longer need to have a visa to travel to Mongolia if their stay there is not more than 30 days.

    Starting from today (June 8), the Government of Mongolia is waiving the visa requirement for Singaporeans following an agreement sealed after the visit of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to Mongolia in July 2016, said a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

    It said: "The exemption of visa requirements will facilitate greater tourism and business exchanges, and strengthen the friendly relations between Singapore and Mongolia."

    The latest news certainly adds another benefit for holders of the Singapore passport, which is now widely regarded as the most desirable in the world for international travel.

    chenj@sph.com.sg

    Thursday, June 8, 2017 - 13:15

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    Mongolia
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