Google Bans Political Ads In Singapore

 

 In this file photo taken on November 20, 2017 shows logos of US multinational technology company Google displayed on computers' screens.
In this file photo taken on November 20, 2017 shows logos of US multinational technology company Google displayed on computers’ screens.

 

Google has banned political ads in Singapore ahead of elections, an opposition party said Wednesday, sparking accusations the tech giant was “kowtowing” to the tightly-controlled city’s government.

The ban was imposed under controversial new rules aimed at fighting disinformation in the city-state, which critics fear could be used to stifle dissent.

General elections are widely expected within months and weak opposition parties are relying on social media to reach voters in a country where the mainstream media typically backs the long-ruling government.

But the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), a key opposition group, said that Google had refused their request to buy ads on the site.

Google had cited the new regulations, which prohibit adverts seeking to influence public opinion, according to correspondence between the US firm and the party posted on the SDP website by chairman Paul Tambyah.

“We have been highly dependent on social media and the internet to get our message across to the people of Singapore,” Tambyah said in a letter to Google chief executive Sundar Pichai.

“This new policy is alarming and very disappointing.”

Ted Osius, Google’s vice president for government affairs and public policy, replied that banning political ads “was not an easy decision to make”, according to a copy of his letter posted by the party.

Google, which has its regional headquarters in Singapore, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Tambyah’s party does not currently hold any seats in parliament, and the city’s fractious opposition groups are not seen as a threat to the long-ruling People’s Action Party.

Brad Bowyer, a member of another opposition group, the Progress Singapore Party, told AFP it was “very disheartening when the national media is controlled and now social media is kowtowing”.

Bowyer had to put up a correction by one of his Facebook posts last week after authorities ordered him to under the new law.

At the weekend, Facebook posted a correction by a post in Singapore for the first time after receiving an official request.

 

AFP

UK Ex-Headmaster Jailed In Singapore Over Drug Case

Vice Principal Gets Life Imprisonment For Raping 12-Year-Old In Ekiti
File Photo

 

A British former headmaster of an international school in China has been jailed for 10 months in Singapore after admitting possession and consumption of methamphetamine, officials said Tuesday.

Damien Michael Charnock used to be the head of Dulwich College Shanghai, a branch of the exclusive London private school.

Police arrested the 60-year-old in March at an apartment in the city-state and discovered bags containing the drug and a glass contraption for smoking it, according to court documents.

The case has echoes of hit American TV show “Breaking Bad”, which tells the story of a chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with cancer and turns to making meth to raise money to secure his family’s future.

Charnock pleaded guilty to three drug charges, and the attorney-general’s chambers confirmed he was jailed on Friday.

His offences represented “a precipitous fall from grace”, defence lawyer Remy Choo was cited as saying by Singapore news outlet CNA.

“His life’s work as a talented and immensely devoted educator lies in tatters.”

He had been smoking crystal meth since 2017 and was employed as a curriculum developer at the time of the offences, the court documents said, without mentioning who his employer was.

Singapore — which has tough anti-narcotics laws — punishes consumption of methamphetamine with a jail term of up to 10 years, and a fine of up to Sg$20,000 ($14,700).

In an interview in 2015, Charnock said he was appointed to work at the Shanghai institution in 2014 after years as a headmaster at a school in London.

Dulwich College, founded in the 17th century, now has several branches in Asia, including in Singapore.

Super Eagles Train In Singapore For Brazil Match

A file photos of Super Eagles of Nigeria during a training session.

 

 

The Super Eagles of Nigeria have begun training sessions in Singapore ahead of Sunday’s international friendly match with five-time world champions Brazil.

Stoke City of England’s Oghenekaro Etebo was a late withdrawal from the roster, but all the other 21 players trained on Thursday morning and would train twice on Friday.

The official training session would take place on Saturday, with the match scheduled to kick off at 1pm Nigeria time the following day.

Eagles’ Technical Adviser Gernot Rohr has opted not to call any more players following the withdrawal of Etebo, and Wednesday’s withdrawal of defender Olaoluwa Aina as a result of injury.

The Franco-German already replaced defender Kenneth Omeruo with Tyronne Ebuehi, while Efosa Solomon-Otabor joined the camp following Samuel Kalu’s unavailability.

Solomon-Otabor and forward Peter Olayinka joined the team for the first time while Ebuehi returned for the first time since the 2018 FIFA World Cup finals in Russia.

Former junior international midfielder Ramon Azeez also made a return, and defenders Abdullahi Shehu and Chidozie Awaziem, as well as midfielder Wilfred Ndidi also returned after missing the 2-2 draw with Ukraine in Dnipro in September.

See the names of the 21 Super Eagles to battle Brazil below:

Goalkeepers: Francis Uzoho (Omonia FC, Cyprus); Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Heartland FC); Emil Maduka Okoye (Fortuna Dusseldorf, Germany)

Defenders: Abdullahi Shehu (Bursaspor FC, Turkey); Chidozie Awaziem (CD Leganes, Spain); William Ekong (Udinese FC, Italy); Tyronne Ebuehi (SL Benfica, Portugal); Jamilu Collins (SC Paderborn 07, Germany); Oluwasemilogo Ajayi (West Bromwich Albion, England)

Midfielders: Alexander Iwobi (Everton FC, England); Anderson Esiti (PAOK Salonica, Greece); Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England); Joseph Ayodele-Aribo (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland); Ramon Azeez (Granada FC, Spain)

Forwards: Victor Osimhen (Lille OSC, France); Moses Simon (FC Nantes, France); Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal FC, Spain); Efosa Solomon-Otabor (PFC CSKA Sofia, Bulgaria); Paul Onuachu (KRC Genk, Belgium); Emmanuel Dennis (Club Brugge, Belgium); Peter Olayinka (SK Slavia Prague, Czech Republic).

Brazil Names Strong Squad For Super Eagles Friendly

 

Five-time world champions, Brazil have named a strong squad made up of the likes of Neymar and Gabriel Jesus for next month’s friendly against the Super Eagles of Nigeria in Singapore.

The 23-man squad also has Manchester City’s goalkeeper, Ederson as well as Premier League stars, Roberto Firmino, Fabiano and Richarlison.

Coach Tite has also invited uncapped goalkeeper Santos, Renan Lodi and Matheus Henrique.

The Super Eagles and Selecao will clash for the second time on October 13 at the National Stadium in Singapore.

In 2003, Brazil defeated Nigeria 3-0 in a friendly game played in Abuja.

Relatives, Officials Attend Mass For Mugabe In Singapore

 

Relatives and government officials attended a mass for Zimbabwe’s ex-president Robert Mugabe in Singapore on Tuesday after arriving in the country where he died to collect his body.

Mugabe, a guerrilla leader who swept to power after Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain and went on to rule for 37 years until he was ousted in 2017, died on Friday, aged 95.

His health deteriorated after he was toppled by the military and former loyalists in November 2017, ending an increasingly tyrannical rule that sent the economy into ruin.

Family members and officials arrived in Singapore, where he was treated for several months before dying, early Tuesday on a chartered flight.

They are due to fly out with his body at around 8:30 am (0030 GMT) Wednesday, said his nephew Adam Molai.

The group, who included Vice President Kembo Mohadi, attended a private Catholic mass for Mugabe at the funeral parlour where his body is, officiated by a Zimbabwean priest.

The mood at the service was “sombre, everybody is sad”, said Molai.

“I will always remember the immense, immense contribution he made not only to the people of Zimbabwe but to the people of Africa,” he said.

Asked whether Mugabe had been bitter about being ousted, he said: “Everybody is human. When you go through an experience of that sort, of course you feel pain.”

Zimbabweans have been divided over how to mourn a former leader once hailed as a liberation hero but who later brutally repressed his opponents.

On arrival in Zimbabwe, Mugabe’s body will be taken straight to his village in Kutama, in Zvimba district west of the capital Harare, for an overnight wake.

On Thursday and Friday the body will lie in state at Rufaro Stadium in Mbare township in Harare – where Mugabe took his oath of office – for the public to pay their final respects.

The official funeral will be held on Saturday at the giant 60,000-seat National Sports Stadium in Harare and foreign leaders are expected to attend.

The location of the burial remains unclear, with Mugabe’s family and President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government apparently at odds over whether it would be at his homestead northwest of Harare or at a shrine for liberation heroes in the capital.

Singapore To Ban Sale Of Elephant Ivory From 2021

FILE PHOTO: Cambodian Customs and Excise Officials looking at the ivory seized from a shipping container at the Phnom Penh port on December 13, 2018. Photo: BAN CHORK / AFP

 

Singapore said on Monday that it will impose a blanket ban on the domestic sale of elephant ivory and products from 2021 as the government tightens its campaign against illegal wildlife trade.

The announcement on World Elephant Day followed two years of consultations with non-government groups, ivory retailers and the public.

Authorities in the city-state made their largest ever seizure of smuggled ivory last month, impounding a haul of nearly nine tonnes of contraband tusks from an estimated 300 African elephants valued at $12.9 million.

The illegal cargo was discovered in a container from the Democratic Republic of the Congo being shipped to Vietnam via Singapore and also included a huge stash of pangolin scales.

Singapore has banned international trade in all forms of elephant ivory products since 1990.

Such items could be sold domestically if traders could prove they were imported before that year or acquired prior to the inclusion of the relevant elephant species in an international convention protecting endangered species.

In a statement Monday, Singapore’s National Parks Board banned the sale of elephant ivory and products with effect from September 1, 2021.

Violators face a jail term of up to one year and fines on conviction.

Traders can donate their ivory stocks to institutions or keep them after the ban takes effect, the board said.

Public consultation by the government last year showed that 99 percent of those who responded were in favour of a total ban.

Elephant ivory is coveted because it can be fashioned into items like combs, pendants and other jewellery.

The global trade in elephant ivory, with rare exceptions, has been outlawed since 1989 after the population of the African giants dropped from millions in the mid-20th century to around 600,000 by the end of the 1980s.

AFP

‘Brownface’ Ad Sparks Anger In Singapore

This photo illustration shows a person looking on a computer screen at an advertisement featuring a local Chinese actor dressed as people of different ethnicities in Singapore on July 29, 2019.  Roslan RAHMAN / AF

 

An advertisement featuring an actor of Chinese origin with his skin darkened to portray different races has sparked anger in multi-ethnic Singapore, prompting an apology from the country’s state-owned broadcaster.

Race is a sensitive issue in Singapore, which is home to ethnic Chinese, ethnic Indians and Muslim Malays, as well as a large number of expatriates from all over the world.

The ad, part of a government-initiated campaign for cashless transactions in the tech-savvy city-state, featured actor Dennis Chew from broadcaster Mediacorp as four characters.

His skin was darkened to depict an Indian man and a Malay woman wearing a headscarf, and he also portrayed a Chinese man and a Chinese woman. Each character was shown holding a plate of food paid for electronically.

“Brownface in a Singaporean ad in 2019. I thought we already went over this,” magazine editor Ruby Thiagarajan said on Twitter, in a post that had been retweeted nearly 3,000 times by Monday.

“Brownface” or “blackface” are terms referring to the practice of darkening an actor’s skin to portray a person of a different race.

Mediacorp, through its celebrity management arm The Celebrity Agency, apologised “for any hurt that was unintentionally caused”.

“The message behind this advertising campaign is that e-payment is for everyone,” it added.

The broadcaster would not confirm whether the ad had been pulled but it had disappeared from a website as well as some public places where it was displayed last week.

Most of the criticism centred on how the ad had used just one actor from the country’s main ethnic group, rather than getting other performers to play the different roles.

“They could have hired an artist for every single race?? Is it really hard?” one Twitter user said.

A Singaporean office worker told AFP she found the ad “very, very insensitive”, but other social media users said they thought there was nothing wrong with it.

“I don’t see the issue, don’t be too sensitive over ads like this,” one comment said.

Two Nigerians Charged Over Internet Scam In Singapore

 

Two Nigerian men believed to be members of an internet love scam syndicate were charged in Singapore on Tuesday with recruiting local women to collect money for them, police said.

Such scams, where victims part with cash after a fraudster feigns romantic interest in them, are a growing concern in the city-state with police reporting 660 cases last year.

The Nigerians — identified in local news reports as Oladayo Opeyemi Awolola, 34, and Gbolahan Ayobami Awolola, 37 — were arrested by Malaysian authorities in Kuala Lumpur last month and sent to Singapore on Monday.

The men allegedly recruited two Singaporean women “as money mules to receive criminal proceeds linked to internet love scams in Singapore” between 2017 and 2018, according to a police statement.

The women received Sg$85,700 ($63,000) during that period and turned the money over to syndicate members in Malaysia, police said.

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The Nigerians could be jailed for up to five years each and fined if convicted.

It is the first time that suspects based overseas and involved in internet love scams have been arrested and sent to Singapore for prosecution, police said.

Most of the internet love scams reported last year in the city-state involved fraudsters claiming to have sent parcels containing luxury items or money.

Their local accomplices would call the “recipients” and claim the parcels were being held by the authorities for inspection, and would only be released if they transferred money to a bank account.

AFP

500 Evacuated As Fire Hits Hotel In Singapore, No Injuries

 

About 500 people were evacuated Wednesday after a fire at a luxury hotel in downtown Singapore but there were no injuries, emergency services officials said.

Television footage showed thick black smoke billowing from the Grand Hyatt Hotel near the Orchard Road shopping district, but the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said the fire was quickly put out.

The blaze involved a kitchen stove and an exhaust duct in a restaurant on the second floor, the SCDF said, adding it was extinguished by water sprinklers before firefighters arrived.

READ ALSO: Six Die In Mali Attacks As UN Urges End To ‘Spiral Of Violence’

“There were no reported injuries. The cause of the fire is under investigation,” it said.

“The smoke was really terrible … it got into my throat. I think it was quite thick,” Nadiah Yayoh, 40, who works at a boutique in the hotel, told AFP.

“Usually we have fire drills and normal evacuations, as well as fire practice … This is a lesson learnt not to take it lightly.”

An AFP reporter on the scene said guests were still checking in around two hours after the blaze, but a burning smell lingered at the lobby and the second floor was dark.

It was the second luxury hotel fire in Singapore this year.

About 1,000 guests were evacuated due to a fire at the downtown Carlton Hotel on February 14, but no injuries were also reported.

AFP

Elina Svitolina Wins WTA Finals In Singapore

Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina celebrates with her winning trophy after defeating Sloane Stephens of the US in their singles final match at the WTA Finals tennis tournament in Singapore on October 28, 2018. Roslan RAHMAN / AFP

 

An unwavering Elina Svitolina claimed the biggest title of her career with a gritty comeback victory against Sloane Stephens at the season-ending WTA Finals in Singapore.

The Ukrainian once again dug deep to triumph 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 in two hours and 23 minutes on Sunday. She is the first player to go through the WTA Finals undefeated since Serena Williams in 2013.

Svitolina has been in brilliant, aggressive form in Singapore, beating defending champion Caroline Wozniacki, Czech players Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova at the group stage, and Kiki Bertens in the semi-finals.

“It’s a very special moment for me, I played great tennis this week,” Svitolina said after the match. “This is going to bring a lot of confidence, as I have finished the season on a high note.”

Stephens said she was satisfied with her debut WTA Finals. “Not the way I wanted to finish but I worked really hard to get here and I can be really proud of my results,” she said.

Having started slowly in the semi-finals, it was Stephens who made the running early and she broke Svitolina to love in the second game.

It was a matchup of similar styles between the athletic counterpunchers and lengthy rallies punctuated the contest.

Svitolina looked sluggish after playing the two longest matches in the tournament against Wozniacki and Bertens.

She saved three break points in the sixth game but was unable to convert two chances of her own in Stephens’ next service game.

Stephens’ blistering forehand dictated proceedings, as she ran away with the first set.

A more aggressive Svitolina went for her shots and clawed back into the contest. Even though she still struggled on serve, Svitolina attacked on return and broke twice to wear down a suddenly passive Stephens.

Svitolina fittingly forced a decider in a tournament which has had a record-setting amount of three-set matches.

The 24-year-old’s momentum continued as she produced an astounding run down winner to break Stephens in the second game.

But Stephens wouldn’t roll over as she attacked Svitolina’s serve and broke in the fifth game.

The twists continued as Svitolina hit back immediately and stormed home as a wayward backhand from Stephens sparked jubilation from the number six seed.

Svitolina could rise three spots to world number four on the rankings after her triumph and she has now won nine straight finals.

It ended the tournament’s five-year run in Singapore with the season-finale moving to Shenzhen.

Earlier, Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic played a masterclass to upset world number one Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova in the doubles decider.

The world number three held the edge throughout to triumph 6-4, 7-5 in 84 minutes.

Hamilton To Tighten Title Grip With Fifth Russia Win

 

Mercedes’ British driver Lewis Hamilton holds up the trophy on the podium after winning the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix at the Marina Bay Street Circuit in Singapore on September 16, 2018.Manan VATSYAYANA / AFP

 

Defending champions Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes will seek to tighten their grip on this year’s Formula One world championship with a fifth triumph in five years at the Russian Grand Prix.

No other team has tasted a ‘vodka-laced’ victory since the event began at the former winter Olympic Games venue in 2014, Hamilton winning then and in 2015, Nico Rosberg in 2016 and Valtteri Bottas last year.

And with a 40-point lead on Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in the title race, four-time champion Hamilton looks set to go into the final six races of the season in confident fashion after registering four wins in his last five outings.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff, however, has warned against complacency as they enter the championship’s most critical spell.

Hamilton’s dazzling triumph in Singapore, where his pole lap was widely regarded as one of the greatest of all time, may have lifted him into a position with a clear advantage, but Wolff has stressed that rivals Ferrari will be a serious threat in every contest.

“Obviously, it’s better to have a lead than not to, but there are six races to go and plenty of points to score –- so it doesn’t give us any comfort,” he said.

“We will continue to concentrate on every single session, trying to optimize the car in every possible area –- and we will go for the race win.

“There is no naive optimism about our situation within the team.

“Our mindset is very positive, we are energized, the factories are buzzing and we’re excited for the fight that we will certainly have in the next six races.

“We have a good track record in Sochi, but we know that Ferrari and Red Bull will give it everything to break our winning streak so we must fight as hard as ever.”

Wolff made it clear also that he will not be surprised to see Bottas recover his best form at a circuit where he won last year despite slipping out of serious contention in the title race.

“For every racing driver, it’s a very difficult situation because everything you dream about and everything you work for is to win the world championship,” he said.

 ‘Botta’s work ethic’

“When you realize you’re not in the hunt anymore, it’s very difficult to handle, but Valtteri has shown that he has the speed, the talent, and the work ethic to win in a Mercedes.

“He has always been a team player and that is one of his greatest traits. He could have won races this year, but the odds were against him.

“But luck isn’t a one-way street and I know Valtteri has every ingredient required to win at this level. He needs to work hard and trust that the tables will turn for him.”

Vettel, also chasing a fifth drivers’ crown, knows he also has to deliver this time after an unexpected struggle to third place in Singapore.

“I think Russia has been getting better for us in the last few years,” he said.

“It should suit our car too. I don’t think we have to fear any of the tracks that are coming up now.

“Our car is working pretty much everywhere and that’s a strength.”

Yet Vettel has claimed only one win in five as he has slipped behind an in-form Hamilton since his Singapore Sling.

Another victory on a weekend when he could claim his 80th pole and a 70th win would leave him, Hamilton, knowing that he can finish second in all five final races and, even if Vettel wins, still be crowned champion.

Red Bull could be a serious threat to both Ferrari and Mercedes, however, as Renault-bound Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, who will turn 21 on Sunday, try to make the most of the tight street track that may favor their car’s performance.

AFP

Singapore Records Increase In Suicides Among Elderly People

The number of elderly people committing suicide in Singapore reached a record high last year, a non-government group said on Monday, urging stronger support for the over 60s in the rapidly ageing city-state.

Samaritans of Singapore (SOS), which focuses on preventing suicides, said the fear of becoming a burden to the family, social disconnection, physical impairment and deteriorating mental health is the most common challenges faced by the elderly.

With persistently low birth rates and longer lifespans, affluent Singapore is grappling with a rapidly ageing population which has been described as a ticking “demographic time bomb”.

SOS said in a statement posted on its website that the number of people aged 60 and above who took their own lives in 2017 rose to 129, which was the highest on record and accounted for nearly 36 per cent of that year’s total suicides.

“It is very worrying that many elderly are turning to suicide as the only choice to end their pain and struggles,” said SOS executive director Christine Wong.

“The ageing population in Singapore is set to bring more challenges to current available social support services. There is an imminent need for stronger support networks as the number of elderly Singapore residents living alone continues to increase.”

SOS said the rise in cases of elderly people taking their own lives came as the number of overall reported suicides in the country declined in 2017 to its lowest level since 2012.

Official projections show the number of Singapore citizens aged 65 and above will double from 500,000 in 2016 to 900,000 in 2030.

Other developed nations also face challenges due to ageing populations. Japan said last month it plans to bring in more foreign workers to tackle a serious labour shortage caused by the country’s ageing, shrinking population.