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    Astronomers and star-gazers around the world are looking forward to the great American eclipse on August 21.

    According to The Guardian, it is the first to be visible from the US mainland since 1979 and the first to be visible from coast to coast since 1918.

    While you will not be able to see this solar eclipse in Singapore, rest assured that the galaxy has another surprise in store for you - a lunar eclipse.

    According to The National Geographic, on August 8, the moon will skirt through the northern part of Earth’s dark outer shadow, producing a partial lunar eclipse.

    The entire event will last for two hours, it reported.

    We will not be left out for this one, as Science Centre Singapore states in its list of astronomical events.

    It will start in the wee hours of 1.22 in the morning to 3.18am but the timings can change give or take an hour.

    For a more accurate timing on the lunar eclipse, interested parties can visit here.

    How's that for a pre-National Day present from the sky.

    Another notable event is the Perseids meteor showers that happens on August 12 and 13.

    However, due to Singapore's brightly lit, urban environment, we may not be able to see much of it, the Science Centre report states.

    akosasi@sph.com.sg

    Wednesday, August 2, 2017 - 13:55

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    HONG KONG - Chinese peer-to-peer lending platform Dianrong said on Wednesday it raised $220 million (S$299 million) from a group of investors led by Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC Pte Ltd, looking to step up research of new technology as it expands across China and explores ventures in other countries in the region.

    Other investors in the funding round included CMIG Leasing, a unit of China's biggest private investment conglomerate China Minsheng Investment Group (CMIG), and South Korean fund manager Simone Investment Managers, Dianrong said.

    The Shanghai-based firm planned to use the funds to automate some of its new branches across China, for research and development and potential acquisitions, Soul Htite, co-founder and co-chief executive of Dianrong, told Reuters.

    "Now we've graduated to another level, so people that know finance are also seeing us as someone that is really going to be part of the finance industry," Htite said in an interview.

    The company, co-founded by Htite, who was also behind US online lender LendingClub Corp, already has big backers including the private equity arm of Standard Chartered and technology-focused investment firm Tiger Global Management. It raised $207 million in a previous fundraising round in 2015.

    After launching its platform in 2012, Dianrong has expanded into different services, including supply-chain financing using blockchain technology, as it looks to grow beyond the crowded market in China that has thousands of P2P players.

    The company in 2015 unveiled a joint venture with Seoul-based conglomerate Hanwha Group to offer marketplace lending and other financial technology services in South Korea.

    It recently launched a partnership in Hong Kong to offer a marketplace for Asian investors to buy into US consumer loans, and in July Dianrong bought the asset origination business of Shanghai-based Quark Finance in a bid to increase the volume of loans it matches in its online platform.

    Wednesday, August 2, 2017 - 14:05

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    The 16-year-old student who died after finishing a 2.4km run in Chong Boon Secondary School yesterday (Aug 1) has been identified a Benjamin Sim Wen Ming.

    The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) was alerted to the incident at 8.15am and conveyed a 16-year-old Chinese male to Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), a spokesman told Stomp in response to queries.

    He was pronounced dead at 11.44am.

    Police are investigating the unnatural death.

    Stomp understands that the Secondary 4 student had just completed the run around his school during a Physical Education (PE) lesson when he collapsed.

    Benjamin, who had been a volleyball player on the school team for four years, had keeled over and hit his head on the ground outside the school foyer, reported The Straits Times.

    The victim's father, 55-year-old pastor Davy Sim, said: "We are still in a state of shock, but we have accepted it. We will leave it to the school to investigate what happened. I believe they have done their best."

    He had also written on Facebook,"Thank God who promoted my son, Benjamin Sim, like a whirlwind, as after he finished his running test this morning, he collapsed, & went to be with the Lord!"

    Photo: Facebook

    A Sec 4 student at Chong Boon Secondary, who declined to be named, told ST that it was common for students to do the 2.4km run about once a week during PE lessons, and that the school had cancelled some PE classes after the incident.

    Chong Boon Secondary School principal Yeo Kuerk Heng said: "Benjamin was well regarded and popular among his peers, and was especially known for his cheerful and friendly disposition.

    "He participated actively both in class and in sports. He was also good in English and helped his friends who are weaker in the subject.

    "As the case is under police investigation, we are unable to comment further."

    Wednesday, August 2, 2017 - 13:20

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    A woman took to Facebook to warn others who make payments at AXS machines to be careful after witnessing a strange incident yesterday (Aug 1).

    Kimberly Meagan was waiting in line to pay her bills yesterday morning behind a man she described as "well dressed".

    For some reason, his transaction kept getting cancelled so he apologised to her and asked if he could try again.

    She said "Sure!" and noted how friendly and courteous he was.

    She then overheard him arguing on the phone with someone over money in his own native language.

    She heard him say, "It's okay, there's a lady behind me, it won't time out," before leaving.

    He then stood at a distance while Kimberly proceeded to pay her own bills.

    This was when things got weird.

    Photo: Facebook

    She wrote: "When I got to the "Make Payment" page, his transactions of about $300 [were] there. I only had one bill so it was pretty obvious. I turned to look at him and he looked away. I cancelled his transaction and only paid mine."

    "When I was done, I turned to him and did that finger pointing 'orh-hor' motion and he mouthed 'sorry, sorry' and bowed a little."

    Kimberly then headed to a nearby McDonald's for breakfast before walking by the same AXS machine when she saw him again but this time with an elderly lady behind him.

    She was shocked when he did the same thing, walking away from the machine and standing nearby at the same spot he had earlier.

    Being curious, Kimberly walked up to the lady and said she wanted to check something.

    "Weasel did the same thing!! I helped her cancel his transactions and told her next time must check. I turned around and he was gone. But I went by the counter to let them know what was up but didn't see anyone attend to the machine for the next five minutes."

    She updated the post today (Aug 2) saying that she heard this has happened at other locations as well.

    She ended off the post telling others to be careful and attentive.

    Photo: Facebook
    Thursday, August 3, 2017 - 10:45
    Man allegedly tries to scam people into paying his bills at AXS machine
    Others

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    This morning, the LTA issued a ban on courier services by private-hire as well as taxi drivers.

    According to the rule, drivers aren't allowed to be couriers or deliverymen if no passengers are on board.

    According to ComfortDelGro, taxi drivers have done courier services for companies, including Amazon Prime, although there have always been a passenger onboard. Drivers have expressed however, that a company's good reputation makes them "feel safe", so they'd be willing to courier goods even without passengers.

    Other private-hire drivers have even directed others to Adecco, Amazon's Singapore hiring agent as revenue rates are "generally higher" than passenger fares.

    In January this year, we also covered the rise of private-hire courier services, and how even Uber wasn't explicitly against it.

    According to their Terms page, Uber rides are "available solely for [the rider's] personal, noncommercial use", i.e. only business entities were not allowed to use them for couriers.

    Netizens Flare Up

    Prime Taxi's chairman Neo Nam Heng is clearly not an advocate of it.

    "I have encouraged all the drivers of my fleet of 1,500 taxis to take up such bookings," he told the Straits Times, as it helps them earn during off-peak periods.

    Premier Taxi Managing Director Lim Chong Boo stated that although the companies reminds drivers to not do courier services, such regulations are "very difficult" to enforce.

    Photo: Facebook/The Straits Times

    Scanning through Facebook comments, it would appear netizens are pretty #triggered over the news, with many slamming the LTA for being "inflexible" and being unconcerned of how this would affect the livelihood of drivers.

    Of course, some also chipped in to discuss how this law would be good for official courier services, noting that it is important to strike a "balance".

    There was no mention of how LTA, taxi or private-hire companies would be notified of courier services, so I would assume that it the onus would be on the drivers themselves to make a report.

    Photo: Facebook/The Straits Times

    How feasible would this action plan be in reality.

    It is hard enough to be a taxi driver in Singapore, and recent coverage of fleets of idle taxis prove it.

    Saying no to a courier service would effectively shave down earnings for drivers, especially during off-peak periods.

    For drivers who are renting cars, both taxis and private-hires, the need to make back the rental and other expenses would also dissuade them from rejecting courier requests.

    Similarly, even if a driver were to be caught with a passenger's package, he or she could easily pass it off as their own, or even hide it, to avoid the law.

    One way I'd expect companies would be able to check for courier requests would by monitoring the in-app text or call functions, perhaps crawl the transcripts for keywords like 'courier', 'deliver' and 'packages'.

    on Facebook

    What happened to Transcab? Lots of cars not taken up for rental. Probably Uber & Grab is hitting hard. More vids at Thelocalsociety

    Posted by Thelocalsociety on Tuesday, 27 December 2016

    Another existing solution would be for Grab or Uber to introduce a transport arm specifically for courier services. These services have already been implemented, such as with GrabBike in Indonesia.

    The only question is, would they do it? Because right now, unless drivers take the initiative, it would be difficult to monitor for law breakers.

    So would LTA stick to their guns, or revise the rules for more flexibility?

    Given the way Singapore is governed however, the latter seems an almost impossible option.

    What do you think?

    Thursday, August 3, 2017 - 13:38
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    A man was caught on camera taking money from a driver's bag while seated in the backseat of a car.

    A Stomp contributor alerted Stomp to the video that has been circulating online.

    According to the video's time stamp, the incident happened on July 23 at 5.28am.

    The incident apparently happened in Singapore, although this cannot be confirmed.

    In the video, the man is in the middle seat behind the driver.

    While the driver is concentrating on the road, he leans forward and grabs something that looks like a bag.

    When he finally manages to grab the bag, the man then sifts through the contents before taking out several money notes.

    He then takes the notes and puts them into his pocket before placing the bag back in its original position.

    When the driver arrives at the passenger's destination, the passenger pays him and leaves.

    A screenshot of a WhatsApp conversation between a man who is believed to be the driver and another person has also circulated online along with the video.

    The driver tells his friend in Malay that he had picked up the passenger at Ang Mo Kio and dropped him off at Jalan Kayu.

    He added that the man had taken $500 in cash from the hard-earned money he had made over three days.

    From the conversation, it also appears that he is a Grab driver as he tells his friend that once he drops off a passenger, he loses their contact information.

    Thursday, August 3, 2017 - 17:08

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    Uber driver Koh Seng Tian had just dropped off a passenger in a residential neighborhood in Singapore when he smelled smoke in his Honda Vezel sport-utility vehicle. Flames burst from the dashboard, melting the interior and cracking a football-sized hole in his windshield.

    Mr. Koh walked away unhurt, according to the accident report filed with authorities. But the fire this January caused panic at Uber Technologies Inc.

    The ride-hailing company had rented the Vezel to Mr. Koh after Honda Motor Co. recalled the model in April 2016 for an electrical component that could overheat and catch fire.

    Uber managers in Singapore were aware of the Honda recall when they bought more than 1,000 defective Vezels and rented them to Mr. Koh and other drivers without the needed repairs, according to internal Uber emails and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and interviews with people familiar with Uber's operations in the region.

    Three days after the fire, executives at Uber's San Francisco headquarters were briefed on a response plan, according to the emails and former Uber managers in Asia: The company would deactivate the faulty devices and leave the cars on the road while waiting for replacement parts. The plan called for seeking approval from Singapore authorities and advice from auto-repair experts.

    In the wake of the Vezel fire, Singapore managers sought to add new safety measures, Uber said. After the fire, "we took swift action to fix the problem, in close coordination with Singapore's Land Transport Authority as well as technical experts," said an Uber spokesman. "But we acknowledge we could have done more-and we have done so."

    Read the full article here.

    Friday, August 4, 2017 - 08:09

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    Uber knowingly leased defective Honda cars to drivers in Singapore
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    Update (Aug 4): Mr Bean Group has clarified that it is not involved in Gong Cha's return to Singapore, putting widespread rumours to rest, according to Marketing Interactive.

    It reported that the confusion may have come about because Mr Kang Puay Seng, who is registered as director of Gong Cha Singapore, happens to be one of the initial co-founders and former managing director of Mr Bean, but he left the company in 2015. -AsiaOne


    Gong Cha's last sale in Singapore was on June 5 - and pretty much the whole of Singapore mourned its loss.

    But just a month after its sudden departure, Gong Cha announced on its Facebook page that it will be "serving [Singaporean customers their] favourite bubble tea very soon," and the social media was soon abuzz with excitement over this news.

    Upon hearing the news, we wrote about its impending comeback - and Rodney Tang, General Manager of RTG Holdings and ex-franchisee of Gong Cha, said, "It's expected, so why worry?"

    A rather cool reply, given how Tang revealed how he felt "betrayed" by the secret sale of Gong Cha's parent company, Royal Tea Taiwan, to Gong Cha Korea.

    So Who Won The Race To Bring Gong Cha To Singapore?

    With the promise of bringing the chain in the next few months in a "bigger, better, upgraded format", Kim Soo-Min, president of Unison Capital and co-owner of the Gong Cha brand alongside founder Royal Tea Taiwan Co. also mentioned that they are "not here to compete with LiHO."

    Photo: Screengrab from Gong Cha Singapore

    "It is not LiHO versus Gong Cha"

    "I think it's time to bring new colour to the Singapore market, for example, by introducing a more modern look to our stores and logo and a new menu which we'll customise for Singapore customers."

    Thus, rumours were rife on whether or not the Singapore operation would be managed by the parent company, or operated as a franchise as before.

    According to iCHEF's blog, the bringer of hope is Kang Puay Seng, managing director and founder of soya bean chain Mr Bean, who registered as Gong Cha Singapore's director last week.

    Kang Puay Seng (left), founder of Mr Bean Photo: biranger.jp​

    With over 22 years of experience of building Mr Bean up from a stall in People's Park Complex, to over 60 outlets in Singapore and overseas, Kang and his team are certainly no greenhorns when it comes to managing outlets with high sales volumes and high foot traffic.

    iCHEF also brings up that the company is also an innovator, constantly launching new products to keep offerings fresh - something that ties in line with Kim's vision of the revamped Gong Cha.

    Mr Bean is also commonly found in locations with high foot traffic, and Kang's network could potentially allow Gong Cha to have "access to prime locations, not to mention stronger negotiating power over rent with landlords since they may take up multiple units in the same mall".

    This comes especially handy because the new Gong Cha would basically need to start finding new spaces to set up in.

    Lastly, making use of Mr Bean's central kitchen could also potentially help in Gong Cha's efforts to scale up and meet demand.

    What do you think about the new 'partnership'; and do you think that Gong Cha's comeback would be even stronger with Kang's experience? Let us know in the comments below!

    Friday, August 4, 2017 - 10:29
    Mr Bean Group clarifies it's not involved in bringing Gong Cha back to Singapore
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