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    Third time's the charm, they say. Could it ring true for Jia Jia?

    Keepers at River Safari are holding their breaths on the giant panda's pregnancy status, Wildlife Reserves Singapore said in a media release on Friday (June 23).

    Jia Jia and Kai Kai mated in late March this year before Jia Jia was artificially inseminated shortly after.

    Jia Jia undergoing artificial insemination in March 2017.Photo: Wildlife Reserves Singapore

    Since then, she's been taking folic acid - a pre-natal and pregnancy supplement - daily to prepare for a potential pregnancy.

    Her keepers at Giant Panda Forest are also helping her get used to urine collection as well as cub retrieval.

    The collection of fresh and uncontaminated urine samples will help carers monitor Jia Jia's hormonal levels which can indicate if she's pregnant.

    And getting the giant panda used to handing her cub to the keepers will allow her carers to conduct health checks, and to provide supplementary or foster care for the cub if required.

    Jia Jia undergoing a conditioning session for urine collection Photo: Wildlife Reserves Singapore

    However, veterinarians can only confirm in August or September if Jia Jia is expecting, as giant pandas' have delayed implantation during pregnancy.

    Following the recent birth of Ueno Zoo's panda cub, let's hope that we'll hear some good news on our shores soon.

    minlee@sph.com.sg

    Friday, June 23, 2017 - 13:23
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    A newbie property developer and a veteran architect come together to build a unique set of bungalows in King Albert Park. Find out more about this unique design project in BT Weekend this Saturday.

    Also find out which Barcelona restaurant is putting Spanish cuisine back on the map and why travellers are headed to Hung Hom in Hong Kong.

    Old-school bookworms rejoice. Your beloved physical books are fending off electronic disruption. Find out how bookstores are holding onto their turf in a world of screens and digital ink in this week's Brunch feature.

    When you are done feeding your mind, you can turn your attention to nourishing your body. Cult Status examines the vegetarian haven that is Komala Vilas.

    To subscribe, visit btsub.sg/weekend

    Friday, June 23, 2017 - 14:54
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    Three women of foreign nationalities, aged between 37 and 42, have been arrested by the police for their suspected involvement in vice-related activities.

    In a press release on Friday (June 23), police said they conducted a raid on Wednesday (June 21) in the vicinity of Jurong West 65 which resulted in the arrests.

    Photo: Singapore Police Force

    The suspects arrested had allegedly made use of their stay in Singapore on valid social passes to commit vice-related activities and preliminary investigations revealed that they had been advertising sexual services on various online platforms.

    Photo: Singapore Police Force
    Photo: Singapore Police Force

    During the operation, the police seized various items such as condoms and lubricants.

    Investigations are currently ongoing.

    Police would like to remind all that anyone found assisting in vice-related activities will be dealt with severely.

    House owners who rent their premises for vice-related activities may be prosecuted and shall be liable, on conviction, to a maximum $3,000 fine, imprisonment for up to three years, or both.

    Subsequent convictions may result in a maximum $10,000 fine, imprisonment for up to five years, or both.

    ljoey@sph.com.sg

    Friday, June 23, 2017 - 17:20
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    InstaScram touches base at Singapore's art spaces this exciting episode. Our little island is definitely not culture-starved, with annual and monthly events dedicated to the arts such as Singapore Art Week and Singapore Night Festival, to name an excellent few.

    As far as the arts is concerned, the general public is accustomed to seeing art practised, displayed and performed in more conventional areas such as museums, theatres, galleries and even schools. But what about at former military headquarters? Or even in an old mansion, built in the 1930s that once housed a girls' home?

    We ride to explore the 6.4 hectares of the bustling contemporary arts enclave Gillman Barracks. The colonial-style black and white buildings with its multitude of spacious outdoor areas, numerous galleries, public museums, non-profit organisations and even eateries, it is a far cry from the military history that dominates the area.


    Photo: Instascram

    As the name implies, the barracks were first erected in 1936 to shelter military personnel, from the 1st Battalion, Middlesex Regiment and the 2nd Battalion to the Loyal Regiment of the British Army. It was named after General Sir Webb Gillman, a British army general who died in 1933.

    This military outpost was one of the last to fall to the Japanese during World War II. But, when Singapore gained independence, it was developed as a training ground for national servicemen, in 1971. It was vacated in 1990 and it was only in September 2012 that Gillman Barracks was restored and redesignated to an arts hub, catering to art-related enterprises and residences.

    And truly, it has since lived up to that aim, helmed by government initiatives, the National Arts Council and JTC Corporation. Currently, the Barracks house 15 galleries displaying local and international art, like Mizuma Gallery and Fost Gallery, and even the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art. Most of the galleries revise its events and workshops, but some galleries are permanent. Visitors are free to walk in anytime during their opening hours to get a fresh dose of the current trends in the art landscape.

    Photo: Instascram

    Is the future of Gillman Barracks as an arts cluster certain? With more limelight being focused on these arts spaces, the hope is that we learn to appreciate them while they still exist. And eateries like Creamier, Masons and Handlebar Singapore are providing great dining experiences as well. Creamier, born out of the heartland estate of Toa Payoh, expanded to Gillman Barracks, serving their unique blend of lovingly handcrafted ice cream and coffee.

    And which other unlikely place is art practised and created? InstaScram's search for art spaces brings us to a mysterious mansion, Mount Emily Mansion, known alternatively as Emily Hill.

    Its first confirmed owner was in 1935, a wealthy Japanese dentist named Jukichi Ikeda. It was also not coincidental that in the late 1930s, the Japanese consulate-general was based there, as a small Japanese community had moved in the area.

    Its vantage point would have been an extremely grand one, overlooking Mount Emily as a whole.

    Photo: Instascram

    This house has served many purposes. It has been the former Mount Emily Girls' Home in the 1980s, a counselling centre for drug addicts, and even part of the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. All its history bears testament to Singapore's need to preserve such cultural pieces of architecture, like all these other beautiful mansions that depict slivers of our past, before we lose all tangible forms of memory altogether. It is in this respect that we ride to explore its history and current legacy.

    And the current team from Emily Hill Enterprise Ltd does just that, with their plan to take over the space as a dedicated arts body and providing a one-of-a-kind space for the flourishing of different types of craft and performance. 11 artists and creatives, and Kult Kafe, a bar, take up residence here. It is also a popular venue for weddings and music performances.

    Its legacy is also explored in fiction. In July 2016, a Young Adult novel, 'Mount Emily Revisited' was published, centering around Mount Emily Girls' School and following the time-travelling capers of two young schoolgirls, Patsy and Elena. The book was penned by Low Ying Ping, and was awarded the 'Best Young Adult Title' at the Singapore Book Awards 2017. It follows the success of the first in the series, 'Mount Emily', which was shortlisted for the Popular Reader's Choice Awards 2016 for the English (Children) Category.

    And even with other centrally-located art spaces like Aliwal Arts Centre, Goodman Arts Centre and even the Esplanade, where you can find a multitude of performances, there is still an urgent need for certain spaces to be demarcated solely for the arts. Only then, can our city-state be fully enriched with cultural vibrancy and diversity.

    Follow @instascram_sg on Instagram for more of the best photogenic places in Singapore, and Facebook for more updates!

     

    Friday, June 23, 2017 - 17:25

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    https://studio.brightcove.com/products/videocloud/media/videos/5480207643001

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    The family of a maid has responded after a photo showing their domestic helper sleeping outside their house started circulating online.

    Stomp readers Eds and Espina alerted Stomp the the image that was apparently taken by a netizen on Jun 18 at a condominium in the east of Singapore, according to Shin Min Daily News.

    In the photo, the maid can be seen sleeping on pieces of cardboard and a headrest in a narrow corridor outside a house.

    The reader Eds told Stomp that the photo was posted on Facebook group 'Filipinos in Singapore' by a netizen. She also informed us that the image was posted on All Singapore Stuff. The post, however, has since been taken down.

    Espina alerted Stomp to an article on Trending News Portal saying that the domestic helper was made to sleep outside the house while the employers were on holiday. According to the article, the maid's employers did not want her to stay in her apartment while they were away.

    The maid's employers have stepped up to provide an explanation of what happened after the photo made its rounds online.

    According to a report by Shin Min Daily News, the family had been on a vacation in India during the time of the incident.

    When reporters spoke to the maid at the condominium, she said: "It was all a mistake.

    "I thought they (employer and family) were returning back to Singapore that night (Jun 18), so I chose to wait at the corridor.

    "I did not want to trouble anyone else, so I just slept on the corridor that night."

    She later found out that her employers did not receive a message that she had sent them. 

    The patriarch of the family also said: "The rumours online aren’t true at all. They’re completely baseless accusations. We did not ill-treat our maid at all."

    He added that he and his wife had received his maid’s message on Monday morning (Jun 19), telling them that the photo had gone viral online.

    However, the family was still in India then.

    He added: "When we saw how out of hand the situation had become, we contacted the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) immediately to schedule an appointment.

    "The moment my wife and I touched down in Singapore this morning (Jun 20), I brought maid to MOM to clarify the matter. 

    "MOM is still investigating the mater and the moment that ends, we will publicise that we are innocent."

    Friday, June 23, 2017 - 18:54
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    According to Anthony Bourdain, the No.1 determiner of where Americans are going to go and spend their tourism dollar is the food.

    "Arriving in a country that doesn't care about food is like finding that they don't care about music and you will think to yourself, what are we going to talk about now?"

    If there is one name that counts when it comes to gastronomic tourism on television, it is Bourdain, whose shows Parts Unknown and No Reservations have fired an entire generation around the world to seek the adventurous and the truly tasty when they travel.

    The chef and superstar of real food, known for his no bulls**t approach, was the keynote speaker to round up two days of intense dialogues to Reimagine Possibilities at the recent World Street Food Congress in Manila, an event supported by the Philippine tourism board.

    Bourdain spoke about the deep ways in which the traveller connects to a place through food.

    "On the streets in Mexico, vendors roll a taco with their hands, and hand it to you with their hands… there is an intimate transfer going on; they are telling you that this recipe is a reflection of what my parents taught me, my grandparents, my region, my language, culture, and history. This is what I do, what I am good at; this is who I am and what I am and I would like to share it with you.

    "This is why street food is so, so vital. I hang out with - I don't want to brag - some of the greatest chefs in the world and when they knock off their shifts at the end of the night, they don't want to sit down at another three-star Michelin restaurant. This would be for most of my friends a living hell; think four hours of 19 courses, 17 bottles of spectacular wines.

    "What chefs crave after work is a simple good thing. Whether it is a bowl of pasta or pho, some lechon; something you can eat with your hands and experience emotions, and not have to think critically about.

    "For some 30 years, I was in the restaurant business, [and today] I don't want to think about my food, write down evaluating or tasting notes or score it… I want to experience it emotionally like a child. I want to be lost in the moment, to take a bite of food and let it take me to another place and another time - whether it is my childhood or somebody else's childhood. Any grandma's food is preferable in my mind to a fine dining restaurant in almost every case."

    Colourful Mexican tacos served at the World Street Food Congress jamboree session. 
    Photo: The Star/ANN

    Street food, he said, is under threat. Street food is seen first of all as unsanitary, and a quality of life hazard. People are asking, "Who are these dirty people in the corner with their stands or trucks? They don't look good; they don't fit in with the real estate. Street food is taking away business from brick and mortar restaurants".

    "I say that's bulls**t. Particularly in New York, a city of immigrants, where everybody is from some place else.

    "And shockingly, scandalously enough, we don't have a real [food] market. We don't have a place like Singapore has, or Hong Kong with their dai pai tongs… a democratic space where people value a good bowl of noodles for a dollar ninety-five just as much as [something more fancy] because they are equally good."

    To bring home the point he gave the example of chef Ferran Adrià comparing a truffle and a peach. Which is better, the truffle or the peach? Both are of the same size, the truffle costs US$1,200 (S$1,663); the peach, US$2.

    "We know which is better [the peach], and which is more expensive… and this is the thing that always attracts me and makes me respond emotionally again to Singapore where you have, first of all, street vendors."

    To him, Singapore has solved the problem of hawking in an elegant manner.

    "Singapore understood that street food is a good thing and tried to find a way to save it by moving it all indoors, and imposing some regulations for safe food handling. They have this understanding that street vendors are multi-generational operations of people who have more or less been doing the thing they are doing very well over time. That this is something worth saving and preserving, [in the face of] the terrible onslaught of generic fast food chains."

    So in Singapore, you can still go where you can line up with people rich and poor, all of whom value the S$2.95 bowl of noodles just as much as something in a fancy restaurant.

    Is the appearance of a Starbucks in the history of the world a good sign for a neighbourhood?

    "No, it's a sign of an apocalypse," said Bourdain to great applause from the international media, trend trackers and food enthusiasts attending the forum.

    Street food is the cure for fast food chains.

    - Anthony Bourdain

    Street food is the cure for fast food chains, he said. A street hawker is that single person or limited number of people who have figured out that "this is who I am, what I am good at doing, and proud of". And the business dynamics play out by itself on the streets, as each vendor had to make sure that they make the best version of their food on the block, because they have to, as four stalls down, someone else is selling the same thing.

    "You see this market force works very much in Singapore. That is a beautiful thing and we can certainly celebrate it and preserve it to the extent that we can replicate it and bring it to places like New York, Paris, San Francisco or Los Angeles. For sure, the world will be a better place for this.

    "Why don't we have this in New York, or Europe? This is why we are trying to put together this enormous project in New York."

    Slated for opening in 2019, the US$60-million food market at Pier 57 on the Hudson River in New York has been billed as the "food market of the century" by Eater.

    At the heart of the market will be 100 of the world's best street foods. What is Bourdain looking for in a hawker as a potential partner? Must he like the food or is he looking to please the palates of New Yorkers?

    "Obviously it's about my taste," he said. "There are certain things I am passionate about. Some of these things I'm not sure New Yorkers will take to… but you should not consider what the people want or expect.

    "Is there a market in New York for char kway teow? I don't really give a s**t. I love it and I'm pretty sure that if New Yorkers are introduced to a really good char kway teow, they will love it too.

    "The determining factor to me is if a Singaporean grandmother and her grandson would be able to recognise it; that this is not some bulls**t Disneyland version of Hawker World. We are talking of a wide selection of the real deal."

    We crave authenticity but what does authenticity even mean?

    "Food is always changing… cultural appropriation is happening everywhere… and many times people come to America and ask, 'what do the stupid Americans like? Do I have to change my food?' And they do. So you don't get the real level of heat, funk or fermentation. Is that a good thing?

    The World Street Food Congress in Manila brought in hawkers such as these ones from Vietnam. 
    Photo: The Star/ANN

    "Yes and no - anything that gets us across to enlightenment is a good thing; to get the dining public to try something new is a good thing. What is real Korean food for Korean children who grew up in east LA anyway?"

    The issues facing such a monumental project as the Bourdain Market are many. How is he going to uproot a hawker entrenched in his little corner in Hanoi to New York?

    The same motivation as always, he said: money, opportunity, freedom to try a new thing.

    "Obviously we would need to be making some compelling arguments to move someone who has a good thing going in a street corner in Hanoi to go to a strange and terrible new world where everything is uncertain and we are going to have to give certain assurances. We can make certain financial promises but to say to someone that 'this is a project that is worth doing or is good for you' is something that, if I cannot make that argument in good faith, I will not be making that argument," he said.

    While Bourdain has the last say on who gets on the list, he is working with the Street Vendor Project nonprofit and has enlisted the help of Asia's guru of grub, the Singapore-based KF Seetoh, founder of Makansutra and the World Street Food Congress, whom he credits for showing him "some of the best meals of my life".

    The list is still a work-in-progress but they know the must haves.

    And since we are in the Philippines, "You gotta have lechon," said Bourdain. And the No.1 dish that will set the world on fire and has the highest possibility of success everywhere in the world?

    "Sisig is the ultimate drinking food. It's really perfect, resonate with the current young and hip, the people who go out, and it captures the zeitgeist of the moment - it's affordable, fun and you can share it.

    "Americans and Europeans and the younger set are increasingly into hooves and head and snout. Sisig's got more: it's got flavour, texture, integrity. It's not pretentious and it's absolutely delicious. If you ask me, it's absolutely the most delicious food on the planet.

    "This is the dish of the Philippines, the breakout dish. Fifteen years ago, you would say the egg thing, the balut thing. End of discussion, right? Now I promise you people will be crazy for sisig everywhere - with or without us."

    Of the Malaysian hawkers who have made it to the list are the Choon Hui Cafe Sarawak laksa in Kuching, which goes down in Bourdain's book as a "breakfast of gods", and Line Clear nasi kandar in Penang which Bourdain declared "awesome".

    "Line Clear," said Seetoh, "oh man, that's definitely on our wish list. Assam laksa, Ipoh curry noodles … I am still looking at something in Melaka; I mean, come on, Melaka is the birthplace of nonya cuisine. From Malaysia, it is more than Line Clear and Sarawak laksa if you ask me."

    How hard is it to come up with 100 of the world's best hawkers? Both Bourdain and Seetoh looked a bit stunned and laughed. (Read: Are you kidding me?)

    "The hard part is to convince people to actually take the chance to set up in New York," said Bourdain. "And the logistics, paper work and commitment on our side."

    Saturday, June 24, 2017 - 10:21
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    The Police are appealing for help in locating a 26-year-old woman, who was last seen at Block 537 Choa Chu Kang Street 51 on June 20 at about 6.30pm.

    Ms Chee Hui Ying was last seen wearing a red t-shirt and black slippers.

    Anyone with information is requested to call the Police Hotline at 1800-2550000 or submit information online at www.police.gov.sg/iWitness.

    All information will be kept strictly confidential.

    Monday, June 26, 2017 - 08:34

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    The Police are appealing for information on the whereabouts of 73-year-old Madam Liow Siew Kim, who was last seen at Block 248 Jurong East Street 24 on June 22 at about 6pm.

    She was last seen wearing a long dress and slippers.

    Anyone with information is requested to call the Police Hotline at 1800-2550000 or submit information online at www.police.gov.sg/iWitness.

    All information will be kept strictly confidential.

    Monday, June 26, 2017 - 08:59

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    A lorry and a car were involved in an accident along Guillemard Road earlier today (June 26), just slightly before 4am.

    The 61-year-old car driver was conscious when conveyed to Tan Tock Seng Hospital, while the 27-year-old lorry driver was arrested for suspected drink-driving, police said.

    Stomp contributor Danny contributed photos showing both vehicles damaged.

    Paramedics were also at the scene.

    In response to media queries, the Police told Stomp that they were alerted to an accident involving a lorry and car at the cross junction of Guillemard Road and Guillemard Crescent at around 4.06am.

    Investigations are ongoing.

    Driver, 61, sent to hospital after collision with lorry at Guillemard Rd

    Monday, June 26, 2017 - 18:22

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    Brother of Singapore's prime minister, Mr Lee Hsien Yang, and his wife, Lim Suet Fern, were spotted in Hong Kong on Sunday (Jun 25) after taking a Cathay Pacific flight from Singapore.

    Mr Lee is embroiled in a public feud with his brother, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, over their late father's house at 38 Oxley Road.

    Hong Kong media reported that when approached by reporters, Mr Lee Hsien Yang only said that he was "visiting friends", and declined to comment on his dispute with PM Lee nor his plan to move overseas.

    Read more here.

     

    Tuesday, June 27, 2017 - 11:20
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    Singaporeans, look out for your upcoming 2017 GST Vouchers (GSTV) and Medisave top-ups. 

    A total of 1.57 million eligible citizens will receive notifications on their 2017 GSTV - Cash and Medisave top-ups where they can view their benefits online by logging in with SingPass at www.gstvoucher.gov.sg, said a statement by the Ministry of Finance today (Jun 27).

    Younger recipients with mobile numbers updated with SingPass will be notified via mobile SMS notifications, and other recipients will receive letter notifications.

    The vouchers and top-ups will cost the Government $1.2 billion.

    About 1.37 million eligible Singaporeans will receive up to $500 in GSTV - Cash in 2017, comprising a payment of up to $300 in August 2017 and a one-off Special Payment in November 2017.

    Eligible citizens are encouraged to log in and update their payment mode to direct bank crediting at www.gstvoucher.gov.sg if they have not already done so, as cheque payments will take two weeks longer to process.

    About 450,000 Singaporeans aged 65 years and above will receive the GSTV - Medisave top-ups of up to $450 in August 2017.

    In addition, Singaporeans who are born on or before Dec 31, 1959 (58 years and above in 2017) and do not receive Pioneer Generation (PG) benefits will receive a Medisave top-up of up to $200 in 2017 and 2018.

    It will be credited into eligible citizens' Medisave accounts in August 2017.

    In total, a non-Pioneer aged 65 in 2017 and who is living in an HDB flat (and does not own a second property) can receive $450 of Medisave top-ups this year.

    Pioneers will also receive their PG Medisave top-ups of $200 to $800 in July 2017.

    Taking both the PG Medisave and GSTV - Medisave together, a Pioneer aged 70 in 2017 who is living in an HDB flat (and does not own a second property) will receive $450 of Medisave top-ups, while a Pioneer aged 85 in 2017 who is living in an HDB flat (and does not own a second property) will receive $1,250 of Medisave top-ups.

    The GSTV - U-Save is given every three months to help offset utilities bills directly.

    As announced at Budget 2017, there will be a permanent increase of between $40 to $120 to the annual U-Save rebate from July 2017.

    Following the increase, the GSTV - U-Save will cost about $265 million, and benefit about 880,000 eligible Singaporean HDB households.

    The one-off Service & Conservancy Charges (S&CC) rebate was announced at Budget 2017 to provide additional support to households.

    Around 880,000 eligible Singaporean HDB households will receive 1.5 to 3.5 months of S&CC rebate in FY2017, depending on their HDB flat type.

    spanaech@sph.com.sg

    Tuesday, June 27, 2017 - 13:44

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