Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Watz Online - 3 Jul 2012

Singapore Casino Controls May Fuel Other Bets, Experts Say
Blackjack table inside the Resorts World Sentosa casino in Singapore

SINGAPORE – Since betting big on casino gambling two years ago, Singapore has taken a tough line on locals seeking to make a quick buck at its gaming centers, including restricting access for some residents. But while its stringent methods have helped keep casino-related excesses under control, some observers fear the regulations might be fueling other gambling ills beyond the city-state’s glitzy integrated resorts.

Singapore’s two casinos—intended to help draw tourists and create jobs in the local service sector—have certainly given a shot of adrenaline to the city-state’s increasingly vibrant social scene, lifting tourist arrivals to a record last year. But a number of psychiatrists and counselors fear that policymakers may be focusing too much on the casinos when it comes to tackling gambling addiction.

“The casinos have taken more than the necessary attention from other gambling activities,” said Thomas Lee, a gambling counselor at The Resilienz Mind clinic. “We’ve hardly heard (from the government) about the lotteries or horse racing, for example.”

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Widespread betting at local bowling alleys
Widespread betting at local bowling alleys 
Picture for illustration purposes only. (Photo / Wikimedia)

Bookies have been spotted at bowling alleys taking bets for bowling competitions, leading bowlers to complain.

According to a report in The Sunday Times, a reporter visiting the bowling alley at SAFRA Mount Faber Club one evening saw eight men holding stacks of $50 notes and accepting bets from patrons and players.

When the reporter interviewed one of the bowlers, the bowler said that ‘recreational competitions’ are usually held on weeknights when the bowling alley is not busy. The person added that betting for these competitions started out as small wagers between friends but has escalated to involve bookies, who are seen walking around the bowling alley openly.

Patrons at the bowling alley said that these illegal activities have tarnished the reputation of the bowling alley and that parents are concerned that this gambling is taking place in front of children.

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Police tracking down kidnappers of former Singapore journalist’s family

JOHOR BAHARU: Johor police are in the midst of tracking down two men who kidnapped at gunpoint, former Singapore television journalist Rita Zahara’s two chidren, teenage sister and maid at a petrol station here Sunday morning.

The victims were released unharmed, a few hours later.

The police, who are in the dark over the nationality of the kidnappers, have set up a special team to nab the duo, based on a few clues. Johor CID chief Datuk Amer Awal said yesterday the police were looking for Rita’s white Nissan Sunny bearing Singapore registration plates, which was taken away by the kidnappers.

Singapore’s Channel NewsAsia was quoted as saying the 12.45am kidnapping occurred when Rita, 37, drove to a petrol station near the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Complex to refuel and buy fruits.

Seconds after she alighted from the car, leaving behind the children, aged six and 11, her sister and the maid, one of two men who entered the vehicle drove it away.

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P-Noy wants US spy plane help in China dispute

Manila, Philippines -  President Aquino may soon ask the United States to deploy spy planes in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) to help monitor the disputed waters, a move that could reignite tensions with its giant neighbor China.

“We might be requesting overflights on that,” Aquino said, referring to US P3C Orion spy planes. “We don’t have aircraft with those capabilities.”

The President ordered the pullout last month of a lightly armed Coast Guard ship and a fisheries boat due to bad weather around a group of rock formations about 140 miles (225 km) west of the main Philippine island of Luzon, ending a two-month standoff between the two sides.

But there were reports that the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) will go back to the disputed area to secure Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal and will be assisted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

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Singapore, UN to set up research centre for public service in the city-state

SINGAPORE, July 2 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and Singapore government announced Monday during the meeting of the World Cities Summit that they will jointly set up a research centre to help developing countries in public services.

The research hub, with the name of the Global Centre for Public Service Excellence, is scheduled to be based in the city-state by the end of this year.

As of 2010, 884 million people lack access to safe drinking water and more than 2.6 billion don't have basic sanitation, local media Channel NewsAsia quoted the UN as saying.

So, the provision of clean water and sanitation represent the most significant areas that in urgent need for developing countries.

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Mugabe Singapore trip raises more health questions

(Reuters) - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe flew to Singapore on Monday for what a senior aide called a routine medical check-up, reviving speculation about the health of the 88-year-old leader who has denied reports he has cancer.

Mugabe, Zimbabwe's only leader since independence from Britain in 1980, brought forward his weekly cabinet meeting to Monday before his departure, officials said.

"The president is going on a private visit for a routine medical checkup - not because he is sick or anything like that, but one consistent with his strong belief in getting regular medical examinations in order to stay healthy," a senior official, who declined to be identified, told Reuters.

Asked why the president was going abroad if it was a routine issue, the official said: "I am not going to be dragged into that kind of malicious debate."

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Seeking a Visa for Dr Wee Teck Young

Yesterday, Americans sent two very important and very different communications to our friend Dr. Wee Teck Young, a Singaporean physician and activist who lives and works in Kabul, Afghanistan.  The “We love you!” was a press release announcing that the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) had awarded him their “International Pfeffer Peace Prize” in recognition of his contributions to peace working with dedicated young Afghans in Kabul.

The “Stay out!” was from the American government, refusing him a visa to enter the United States with these young people, in the furtherance of this work.  It seems all too likely that the actions and choices which have earned him his well-deserved award are the same factors that persuaded U.S. consular officials to deny him entry to the United States.

The question is whether we can be a voice to affirm that his work, and the work of the young Afghans working with him, has value in the United States, where awareness of the costs of war, and of the lives of ordinary Afghans, is desperately needed.

U.S. consular officials considering a visa application want, perhaps above all, strong assurances that prospective travelers will have compelling interests calling them back home when their visa expires. They look for conventional signs of a family, an income, a job – all of which our friend Dr. Wee Teck Young has given up in the cause of peace.

Although a qualified physician fluent in several languages and educated in leading Singaporean schools, Dr. Wee Teck Young earns no income, has no more personal belongings ( except his guitar ) than will fill a duffel bag and his family, for all intents and purposes, has been the small community of young Afghan Peace Volunteers ( APVs ) with whom he has shared quarters nearly identical to those of Afghan villagers well below the poverty line.  He shuns his official title, preferring “Hakim,” the name bestowed on him after he had served as a public health doctor among refugees on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.  In the Dari language, “Hakim” means “learned one and local healer.”

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NOL to Sell Singapore Headquarters

Liner shipping subsidiary APL could lay off as may as 400 employees

NOL plans to sell its Singapore headquarters building as part of an ongoing cost-reduction and restructuring program that is producing wide-spread layoffs globally.

The liner-shipping, logistics and port-operating group said Monday it has not decided on a reserve price for the 29-year-old building but is selling it to release capital for strategic investment.

NOL has retained the commercial real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle to market the property. The 26-story tower is located near the foot of Alexandra Road in Singapore.

APL, NOL’s liner-shipping subsidiary, is in the middle of a global effort to reduce costs by as much as $500 million in the coming year. After NOL announced a first-quarter loss of $254 million, APL, the world’s seventh-largest container line by vessel capacity, started laying off as many as 400 employees at offices around the world.

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Man jailed 18 weeks for molesting woman

An Australian national was sentenced today to 18 weeks' imprisonment for molesting a woman at a farewell party.

55-year-old Paul Joseph Smith was found guilty last Wednesday of squeezing the breast of a 38-year-old IT consultant twice outside a Mohamed Sultan Road restaurant on Sept 3 last year.

The victim was having dinner with Smith and three others at the restaurant as a project which they were working on was ending.

While shaking hands and bidding goodbye to each other, the victim reportedly felt two squeezes on her right breast.
She then shouted at him and reacted by pinching his breast hard.

He remained very calm even though she stared at him throughout the incident.

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Pastor is target of watchdog group

His deputy, Tan Ye Peng, 39, preached at a Chinese service in Jurong West yesterday.

Both men and three other church leaders were charged in court last Wednesday with allegedly misappropriating funds worth $50.6 million.

Of this, $24 million was allegedly misused from the church's building fund, largely to fund the music career of singer Ho Yeow Sun, Kong's wife. The church is a registered charity.

A City Harvest spokesman said the Commissioner of Charities was aware that Kong and Tan were preaching yesterday.

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Singapore man given 5-years over sex trafficking

Vietnamese women face trafficking as sex workers. 

KUALA LUMPUR: A Singapore court has sentenced lawyer Spencer Gwee Hak Theng to five years in prison for his role in a human trafficking sex ring in the country involving Vietnamese women. It is the latest sentence against the man for his participation in illegal human trafficking and sex work.

According to the court, he and his wife, Ngo Tien, of Vietnamese decent, imported women from Vietnam to work in Singapore as sex workers.

Police arrested the couple last August after discovering some 30 women who were working in the sex industry in the city-state in Joo Chiat and Geylang.

A number of the girls rescued were under 18-years-old and had been forced into the business by the Singapore-Vietnam couple.

Seng faced four charges of harboring sex workers, four counts of receiving them at Changi Airport, four counts of living in part on earnings of sex work, two counts of abetting to obtain commercial sex with minors and one count of managing a place where the sex workers were assigned.

Seng was sentenced to five years’ jail on April 11. The next day, his sister-in-law, Ngo Ngoc, 27, was jailed for 18 months.

His wife has fled the country and is on the run after leaving Singapore for Vietnam last July. The whereabouts of her older brother, known only as Ba, are unknown.

Besides Gwee, 10 other men were also charged for having paid sex with an underage girl. Two of them have been convicted and sentenced to jail.

Taxi driver Chong Heng Kow, 52, who paid $100 twice for sex with a 16-year-old Vietnamese sex worker on July 3 last year, was jailed for three months on Monday.

Odd-job worker Tan Wah Eng, 60, was jailed for four months on June 15 for having sex with a then 17-year-old Vietnamese sex worker on June 19 last year.

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