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    SINGAPORE - Researchers in Singapore have built an underwater robot that looks and swims like a manta ray, using only single motors and flexible fins to propel it through water in a manner uncannily like its biological cousin.

    It's not the first of its kind - academics have spent years trying to mimic the wing-like movements of rays' pectoral fins - but Chew Chee Meng of the National University of Singapore says it's the first to use single motors for each fin and rely on the interplay of fluid and fin.

    One of nature's most efficient and graceful swimmers, manta rays have long fascinated scientists with a unique propulsion method to cruise through even turbulent seas, flapping their pectoral fins effortlessly to drive water backwards.

    So-called bio-locomotion, says Keith Moored, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and mechanics at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, has been studied for about 30 years. But there is still a lot of work to be done on understanding the fluid flow around bio-robotic fins and the interaction between fluid and structure in flexible fins such as Chew's manta ray robot, he said.

    Chew's MantaDroid is a flat black PVC body with ray-like fins and two rear rudders, which moves through water like its natural counterpart.

    Chew said the fin's passive flexibility allows it to interact naturally with the water, propelling it at a speed of seven-tenths of a metre (yard) every second, to cover about twice its body length.

    By creating a passive fin from a single PVC sheet, rather than trying to mimic its movements with a series of motors and joints, Chew's team found the robot interacted more naturally and efficiently with its environment.

    "You're not fighting against the hydrodynamics of the system," said Chew, an associate professor at NUS.

    The Singaporean team went through 40 different fin designs over two years before settling on using flexible PVC sheets.

    The MantaDroid can swim for up to 10 hours.

    Chew and his team from the university's engineering faculty plan to test the robot in sea waters and incorporate more modes of movement into its fin mechanism.

    He said the team is also working on a ray twice the size of the 35-cm (14-inch) original, and believes such robots would be useful for studying marine biodiversity, gathering hydrographic data and underwater search efforts

    The MantaDroid is part of a growing field of biomimetics, which applies learning about natural systems and robotics to the design of new vehicles, said Thomas Atwood, executive director of the US National Robotics Education Foundation.

    Robots such as the ray, he said, could help carry out underwater mapping and ocean bed surveys, besides military reconnaissance.

    Monday, December 4, 2017 - 22:31

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    Police are investigating the cause of an unnatural death after a charred body of a man was found in the bedroom following a fire at Block 79 in Aljunied Crescent.

    The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) told Stomp that they were first alerted to the incident on 2.16pm yesterday (Dec 4).

    Stomp contributor Michael, who was staying at the block when the fire occurred, spoke to Stomp, "I heard a knock on my door and my neighbour told me that there was a fire."

    "I quickly went down and there was already a big crowd at the void deck," said the Stomp contributor.

    He saw smoke billowing out from the window of 9th floor unit.

    By then, SCDF officers had already arrived and had to conduct forced entry as the main door was locked. They also subsequently gained access into the burning bedroom through a window along the corridor.

    The fire involved the contents of a bedroom and was extinguished with a water jet.

    Window panes of the bedroom were found shattered prior to SCDF's arrival and a charred body of a man was also found in the bedroom.

    In response to queries from Stomp, the police said that the man was found lying motionless and was pronounced dead by paramedics at the scene.

    Stomp understands that a cooking gas cylinder was found in the bedroom of the affected unit.

    SCDF is also investigating the cause of the fire.

    Tuesday, December 5, 2017 - 12:11

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    SINGAPORE - Forty members of the Philippine Army's Special Operations Command were sent to Singapore for a two-week urban warfare training.

    The training, which comes two months after the Philippines ended its five-month campaign against ISIS-linked fighters in Marawi City, is held from Dec 4 to 15, Army spokesperson Lt Col Ray Tiongson said.

    In a separate Facebook post, Singapore defence minister Ng Eng Hen emphasised the need for ASEAN member states to work together to fight terrorism.

    "If extremists gain a foothold in any country around us, they will launch attacks against all ASEAN cities - that is the key lesson in dealing with Al Qaeda and ISIS. These groups can be defeated, but we will be stronger and that much more effective if we do it together," he said.

    The elite soldiers will train at the Murai Urban Training Facility.

    "This professional exchange is mutually beneficial to SAF soldiers who would also be able to learn from their counter-terrorism fight in Marawi," Mr Ng said.

    The crisis started on May 23, when government forces tried to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, who was then the purported emir of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group in Southeast Asia.

    The battle lasted for five months and resulted to massive displacement of civilians and deaths of close to 1,000 people.

    Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana declared the termination of combat operations in Marawi City last Oct 23, a week after the deaths of Hapilon and Omar Maute, the main leaders of the siege.

    Singapore offered humanitarian aid and surveillance drones during the five-month siege.

    Tuesday, December 5, 2017 - 15:48
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    SINGAPORE - 59 talented individuals and teams were lauded at the Institute of Advertising Singapore's (IAS) Hall of Fame Awards, held at the St Regis hotel on Nov 24.

    The annual event held for the third year recognises the people behind outstanding advertising and social media campaigns for their innovation and creativity

    This year, both Young Talent as well as Rising Star (Marketer) category awards were won by OCBC, and Marketer of the Year was Ms Diana Chen of Singtel.

    TBWA\ Singapore led the way with 10 wins in the Talent segments, with Havas Media and GOODSTUPH securing eight wins across the categories. iris Worldwide and GOVT had five wins each.

    INCOME was named Brand of the Year and DDB Group Singapore nabbed the coveted Creative Agency of the Year award.

    Havas Media Group Singapore won for Media Agency of the Year, and GOODSTUPH was named both the Specialist Agency of the Year as well as Independent Agency of the Year.

    GOODSTUPH's work for Changi Airport, incorporating Joseph Schooling Olympic win in its campaign, won Gold for Social Campaign of the Year, while DDB Group Singapore's project for the Ministry of Communications and Information's 'Kungfu Fighter, Hidden Sugar' campaign also won Gold.

    Jacqui Lim, Chairperson of Hall of Fame Awards 2017, Chief Executive Officer, Havas Media Group Singapore said: "The diversity in thinking, perspectives and skills are not only the key ingredients to delivering great work, but also something to be honoured and celebrated in full glory.

    "And as the saying goes, `genius is talent set on fire by courage'. If our passionate professionals continue to keep the fire burning strong, they will continue in their pursuit to produce work of pure genius."

    a1admin@sph.com.sg

     

    Tuesday, December 5, 2017 - 16:06
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    When Amazon Prime Now launched, we were so excited about it because of its 2-hour delivery.

    It is still a relatively new service by Amazon itself, so the variety of goods and products on it cannot be compared to Amazon USA's site.

    Anyway, it looks like shopping on Amazon USA will be less fun now that they are removing free shipping to Singapore.

    Farewell, After Four Years Of Free Shipping

    According to Geek Culture, they verified this with an online Amazon representative.

    Screengrab: Geek Culture

    In this blog post in 2013, the site announced that consumers in Singapore and India get to enjoy free shipping under the FREE AmazonGlobal Saver Shipping service when they have orders above S$125.

    Earlier today, the same blog reported that items from the blogger's purchases from his Black Friday 2017 sale, that used to qualify for the service, now no longer has free shipping.

    In a later update at 1.30pm local time, the tech blogger had clarified the news with an Amazon representative.

    Apparently, the service is still available but buyers have to contact Amazon's customer service to waive the shipping charges.

    But he reckons that it is only a "matter of time before they totally shut it down".

    Screengrab: Lester Chan

    But… Why?

    Geek Culture believes that this probably happened because of the entrance of Amazon Prime Now.

    Some of the products on the mobile app were more expensive than those listed on the US online store.

    So in a bid to retain users and increase user acquisition on the app, Amazon decided to leave Singaporeans with only one choice.

    They also think that it could be because global distributors are turning away from cross-border sales since talks of imposing GST on goods bought online.

    Perhaps local retailers stand to win now as consumers are now left with lesser options.

    As my colleague throws up his hands and said, "I guess the good news is we don't have to wait for our friends to kup to enjoy the free shipping now."

    Wednesday, December 6, 2017 - 09:48
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    A man has attributed a radical change in his daughter's behaviour to her consumption of some slimming pills.

    The concerned father said that after taking the pills, his 19-year-old daughter, Ms Chen, turned from an extrovert to an introvert, became sluggish and even told him that she was haunted by 'unclean things'.

    According to Lianhe Wanbao, the pills contain Sibutramine, a chemical which side-effects can cause irregularity in a person's heartbeats.

    Sibutramine can also cause hallucinations and mood swings.

    Ms Chen is a polytechnic student and her family members describe her as a cheerful and bubbly individual.

    However, they alleged that after Ms Chen started taking a brand of slimming pills about a year ago in 2016, she became overly sensitive, temperamental, and repressed -- almost like another person entirely.

    Her father, Mr Chen, 48, said that three weeks ago, her daughter was on the way home, when she suddenly screamed, saying that someone was following her and whispering in her ear.

    Mr Chen, who was also present during the incident, did not see or hear anything.

    It was at the moment he realised the severity of the matter.

    He also told reporters that his daughter had lamented about 'supernatural encounters' in her school compounds,

    Ms Chen also reportedly told her father that she suspected that she was possessed, before hiding in her room to cry.

    Said Mr Chen: "I suspect that it's the side effects of the pills.

    "Over the past year, she started becoming very sensitive and emotionally unstable.

    "She always looked unsettled."

    He added that his daughter has also become mentally slow, and would only react to him after he calls her two to three times.

    He repeated: "I suspect that the problem lies with the pills.

    "She was already very thin, but she still insisted on taking the pills."

    Wednesday, December 6, 2017 - 11:15
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    Always wanted to drive an electric car but never had the chance to?

    Well, after years (and articles) of anticipation, BlueSG has finally announced that they'll be releasing the first batch of electric cars next Thursday (12 Dec).

    Part of a public car-sharing scheme that allows people to rent these cars - very much like how they do for OBikes - a total of 80 cars will be available at launch.

    By the end of the year, a total of 30 BlueSG stations with 120 charging points will be rolled out.

    18 of these stations would be located in housing estates like Tampines, Bishan, and Punggol. 10 of them would be situated in the city centre, and the remaining 2 would be within industrial and commercial estates at one-north and the Science Park.

    BlueSG aims to have 1,000 electric cars in the sharing fleet and 2,000 charging points by 2020.

    Just Like Renting A Bike - But Much More Expensive

    Graphic: BlueSG

    From the instructions stated on BlueSG's website, the process of renting a car is very much similar to getting an OBike/ofo/Mobike.

    But the price is where there's a difference.

    The car-sharing scheme has 2 types of subscription plans - a premium yearly membership plan priced at $15/month, and a weekly membership plan without any recurring fee.

    For the former, subscribers are charged $0.33/minute for a minimum booking of 15 minutes, and for the latter, users are charged $0.50/minute for a minimum duration of 15 minutes.

    Rental rates are charged based on duration and not distance.

    Graphic: BlueSG

    This means that to use the electric car (without signing up for a premium membership) for the minimum period of 15 mins, it'll cost you $7.50 - not that bad of a deal.

    However, the problem arises when you think about renting the car for a longer period of time - like how you were to get a ride from a car rental company.

    If you're looking at a car just to get from place to place, you could easily rent a small car for just over $50 for a whole day.

    Screengrab: Drive.sg

    An hour of usage of a BlueSG car is $30 (for weekly members) or $19.80 (for premium members) - so go figure on how much that'll cost if you intend to use it for an extended period of time.

    Of course, a Bluecar has an average range of about 200 km, and users would be notified to return the vehicle to a BlueSG station once the charge level drops below 30 per cent - so using them as a replacement for rental cars is probably not the best idea.

    "The cars are typically meant for trips around the city," reiterates BlueSG in their FAQ.

    Another issue that might crop up is if your intended pick-up and destination isn't near any of the parking stations.

    Screengrab: Blue.sg

    At the moment, there aren't too many BlueSG stations around Singapore, so taking public transport or an Uber/Grab might be a more viable option if you don't have much time to spare.

    But putting price aside, I do think that it's great that electric cars are being introduced to Singaporeans as an alternative last-mile transportation mode.

    With BlueSG also promising to create around 250 jobs in its first 5 years here with the setting up of its Global Innovation Centre, Singaporeans can also benefit from the additional vacancies and also EV-friendly facilities.

    Of course, all we're waiting for now is when Elon Musk is finally allowed to bring his Tesla cars here.

    Wednesday, December 6, 2017 - 19:53
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    How far would you go to get a Razer phone for free?

    For one man in Ohio, it meant tattooing the face of Razer's Singaporean CEO Tan Min-Liang on his leg.

    Matt Connelly, 28, had commented on Tan's Facebook post in November, asking if he could get the highly-anticipated gaming smartphone for free in exchange for the tattoo of Tan's face.

    Surprisingly, Tan sportingly agreed.

    He wrote: "Lol sure - permanent tattoo and I'll be sure to sign the box when it's out!"

    With that promise, Connelly went ahead and got the ink done. He even had a name for the piece - 'The TerMINator' - which explains the sunglasses Tan sports in the tattoo.

    On Dec 3, Connelly shared a photo of the ink he got across his calf on Tan's Facebook page:

    on Facebook

    The TerMINator! As Promised Min-Liang Tan

    Posted by Matt Connelly on Saturday, 2 December 2017

    Tan followed up on Dec 6 by posting their little exchange in a  Facebook post, writing: "The Razer Phone has been sold out constantly due to the insane demand and we've been doing everything to keep it in stock....but there are those who would go to all extents to get a Razer Phone and Matt C has taken it to an all new level - by tattooing my face on himself.

    "Congrats Matt - well played."

    on Facebook

    The Razer Phone has been sold out constantly due to the insane demand and we've been doing everything to keep it in...

    Posted by Min-Liang Tan on Tuesday, 5 December 2017

    Connelly told Channel NewsAsia that he is in correspondence with a Razer employee about his new phone. The report also confirmed that the company would be sending over a brand new Razer phone, signed by Tan.

    Spurred by Connelly's achievement, other netizens have also been trying their luck:

    And making other offers:

    While some thought Connelly had sold himself short:

    Whatever it is, we're guessing this is a one-time-only offer. We can only hope it's worth it.

    candicec@sph.com.sg

    Wednesday, December 6, 2017 - 17:19

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    Singapore Airlines, one of the world's top ranked carriers, has taken measures to reroute some flights in response to North Korea's missile tests, Channel NewsAsia reported.

    The change involves the airline's Seoul-Los Angeles flights and was put in place following Pyongyang's July 27 missile launch into the Sea of Japan, the company reportedly told Channel NewsAsia.

    North Korea has received global criticism for its missile launches. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in October condemned the rogue state for its repeated launches, saying they severely undermined the safety of international civilian flying.

    North Korea, a member of the ICAO, is required to provide prior notice of any activity that could threaten civil aviation, the report said.

    News of Singapore Airlines' change followed a crew on board a Cathay Pacific aircraft seeing a North Korean missile blow up over the Sea of Japan last week.

    Pyongyang launched the latest in a series of ballistic missiles last Wednesday in defiance of international sanctions and warnings against provocations. The rocket, which the regime said could reach the US mainland, crashed into the sea near Japan.

    The crew of Cathay Pacific CX893, which was travelling to Hong Kong from San Francisco, reportedly saw the missile from their plane as it was passing over Japan and alerted the country's air traffic control.

    This article was first published on CNBC.

    Thursday, December 7, 2017 - 12:03
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    A 24-year-old woman was spotted standing on the ledge of Block 241, Bukit Panjang Ring Road yesterday morning (Dec 6), then dangling precariously from a railing as another female resident held on to her.

    Stomp contributor Bugatti alerted Stomp to a video of the incident, which has been circulating online.

    The harrowing video shows the woman walking on the ledge, crossing over to another smaller ledge, and then hanging onto the railing for some time before being rescued.

    According to a Channel NewsAsia report, the woman is a foreign domestic worker who had accidentally locked herself in one of the rooms. She then climbed out the window in an attempt to get back into the house. The resident holding on to her is believed to be her employer.

    In response to media queries by Stomp, the police said they received a call about the incident at 7.58am.

    The woman was eventually pulled to safety by police officers and two members of the public.

    Thursday, December 7, 2017 - 12:08
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    From 1 January 2018, the minimum fixed monthly salary required for EP and S Pass holders in Singapore to bring in family members on Dependant Passes (DP) will be increased to S$6,000. This is an increase of 20 per cent from the current qualifying salary of $5,000.

    In addition, work pass holders will have to meet a minimum fixed monthly salary to bring in their parents on Long Term Visit Passes (LTVP) will be increased to $12,000. This is also an increase of 20 per cent from the current qualifying salary of $10,000.

    The changes were announced by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), and will only apply to new applications made by EP and S Pass holders on or after 1 January 2018. All applications received before 1 January will be assessed based on the existing criteria of $5,000 and $10,000 respectively.

    Moreover, renewals for DPs and LTVPs that are approved or issued before 1 January 2018 will also be assessed on existing criteria, as long as the pass holder holds a valid work pass with the same employer.

    The salary criteria review is said to be part of MOM's periodic updating to ensure that main pass holders remain able to upkeep their dependents in Singapore.

    In an advisory, BAL Global Practice in Singapore noted that applicants who will be disqualified by the new criteria should apply for family members before 1 January.

    For employers, it anticipates that the increases might pose challenges for employers in attracting and retaining foreign talent to Singapore.

    BAL Global also noted that foreign employees' salaries may have to be adjusted so that they can retain passes for their dependents.

    This article was first published in Human Resources.

    Thursday, December 7, 2017 - 14:58
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    Friday, December 8, 2017 - 09:19

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