Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Armour-clad Bruno halts Sydney traffic

SYDNEY - Gay fashionista Bruno brought traffic to a halt in Sydney when he appeared at the premiere of his new movie dressed as a knight in shining armour and leading a white charger.

"Vassup Sydney, do you like my helmet?" British satirist Sacha Baron Cohen's alter ego, clad in an armour suit complete with full-metal codpiece, yelled at screaming fans as he made his way to the "Bruno" premiere late Monday.

"Ich have been to seven countries in the last 18 days, which is more than any Austrian since 1941," said the comedian, who dressed as a bull and wore a bearskin hat for earlier stops on his promotional tour.

Bruno, who earlier described Prime Minister Kevin Rudd as "uber-cute," said the bespectacled leader had invited him back to Sydney for the annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade.

"He's invited me back for Mardi Gras, where he says you can wear a mask and run around doing whatever you want without anyone knowing who you are," he said.

Bruno said he hoped the movie, which depicts his efforts to find fame and fortune in the United States, "realises its full global potential and doesn't peter out after a promising start like swine flu."

However, the film received only a lukewarm review from Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper, which said it did not match Baron Cohen's previous effort, "Borat."

"Some running gags - including one involving the adoption of an African baby - fizzle out without any comic spark on display," the newspaper said, adding that some stunts looked "suspiciously staged."

The Sydney Morning Herald questioned why Baron Cohen, at his press conference, banned questions about his Australian fiancee Isla Fisher and the removal of a scene relating to Michael Jackson.

"For someone who has found success putting people on the spot, the comedian Sacha Baron Cohen was not so happy to have the roles reversed," it said. - AFP/ar

New Moby's album - 'Wait For Me' out to buy today

The brand new album 'Wait For Me' is out worldwide today (in the USA tomorrow). You can find links to buy at local download stores here:

Or from the Moby Store here:

The album is available as a download as well as CD and 12" vinyl.

Post your reviews on the Moby Facebook page:

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Faster ferries to Bintan

GETTING to Bintan just got faster and more comfortable. And those willing to pay a bit more will get airline-style business class treatment too.

Two new ferries will cut travelling time between Singapore and the Indonesian resort island by at least 15 minutes, making the trip from the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal in 45 minutes.

The two ferries, which cost $31 million, are also equipped with the latest technology to stabilise them, making the ride smoother and more comfortable, even in the choppiest seas.

For passengers, the good news is that the ticket price for the ferry service remains the same. An adult who buys a Singapore-Bintan-Singapore ticket over the counter will pay $63.20 during peak period and $52.20 when it is off-peak.

Passengers who pony up an additional $36 for return will enjoy the ferries' new 'business class', which comes with bigger seats, complimentary drinks and access to an open deck for fresh air and that wind-in-your-hair experience.

'Emerald Class' passengers also get personalised immigration clearance in their own dedicated lounge and fuss-free luggage collection.

Programmes manager Amaranta Lim, 31, who came back here on the new ferry earlier this month, found the new vessel cleaner and more spacious and the ride, definitely smoother.

For $36 extra, she said she would certainly give the new business class a try. 'During school holidays, it can get quite noisy and tiring to queue up for immigration with all the families and kids. So, I don't mind paying a bit more for more comfort.'

The boats have been named Wan Sendari, after the wife of the legendary founder of Singapore Sang Nila Utama, and Wan Seri Beni, after the legendary Queen of the Riau Islands.

The improved ferry service is part of a 10-year masterplan to boost transport links to Bintan and part of the push to turn northern Bintan into a suburb for Singaporeans to live and play.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Severe haze may hit S'pore

SMOKE haze from Indonesia could make an unwanted comeback this year as an El Nino weather phenomenon develops, bringing hotter and drier weather, Minister for the Environment & Water Resources Yaacob Ibrahim said yesterday.

Though slight now, the haze could worsen in the coming months, and peak in September, deep into the dry season.

Yesterday, 32 hot spots were detected in Sumatra, and 50 in Borneo. Meteorologists are watching as an early-stage El Nino develops over the Pacific Ocean.

In fact, all it would take now for haze to blow by is for the wind to change, said experts. It has already blanketed parts of neighbouring Malaysia.

The pollution standards index (PSI) peaked at an unhealthy 136 in areas such as Port Klang, Shah Alam and Cheras last week, as visibility and air quality deteriorated rapidly.

In Singapore the PSI is in the good range for now. But similar hot and dry weather in 1997 and 2006 fuelled fires in Indonesia, and south-westerly winds sent the smoke onwards.

The haze lasted three months in 1997, with the PSI reaching an all time high of 226 in September. People stayed indoors, health-care costs soared and tourism was disrupted.

According to a World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) report published in 1998, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia suffered losses of more than $2.1 billion in the toll to their economies.

A bad haze year would also have a worrying impact on the prize event in the tourism calendar, the F1 Grand Prix race held in September, the minister said yesterday.

Singapore will continue to work with Indonesia by providing it with the latest up-to-date information of where hot spots are, so that it can do its part, said Dr Yaacob.

Singapore has committed $1 million to help the provincial government implement various programmes designed to prevent or mitigate the incidence of fires.

Friday, June 19, 2009

New mall in Orchard Road

SINGAPORE: Singapore's prime shopping belt Orchard Road will see its first new mall in more than a decade in about two weeks.

The 12-storey Orchard Central is scheduled for a soft launch on July 2.

Developer Far East Organisation said tenants have taken up about 80 per cent of the space launched for leasing so far, a total of 213,000 square feet.

The Organisation said the new mall has already attracted the attention of curious shoppers.

"Orchard Road has been so established as a shopping street in Singapore,” said Susan Leng, Director of Retail Management at Far East Organisation. “This part of Orchard Central honestly has not been maximised in terms of its potential.

“With the new Somerset precinct... with established neighbours like Centrepoint, we'll create a stronger magnet for both locals and tourists who want to visit Orchard Road."

Orchard Central said it will work with neighbouring malls to collectively draw shoppers and capitalise on the physical connectivity between the buildings.

Rather than duplicate other malls in the area, Orchard Central said it aims to offer shoppers and tenants something unique to complement existing developments.

"We're connected by underpass to Centrepoint. It's got Robinson's - a big department stall, and Marks and Spencers, and a supermarket. So we're not competing,” said Leng. “I think this will reinforce our positioning that we are a new precinct.

"So, we actually add value rather than create more of the same. We don't go for anchor tenants, we go for a unique clustering concept."

This involves branding its 12 floors differently – for example, a focus on food on levels 7, 8, 11, and 12.

"We offer this clustering concept where we have a strong fashion accessory concept,” explained Leng. “We have an active and lifestyle cluster, food cluster at the veranda, at the rooftop.

"We will also be introducing a Mediterranean cluster at basement one. All these are various cluster concepts where retailers will say, 'this is the cluster we want to be in', and then they will sign up with us. Shoppers will also be able to reach out – 'this is where I want to be'."

Six super escalators, 46 escalators and 12 lifts will move shoppers between floors.

The bulk of the shopping centre is taken up by fashion, followed by restaurants.

Tenants that Channel NewsAsia spoke to said they welcome the concept.

"Orchard Central is an excellent property with the adjacencies coming," said Nash Benjamin, Chief Executive Officer of FJ Benjamin. "The development with Lend Lease, and with the old Specialist Centre coming up… with Centrepoint across the road I think this is going to be a very interesting density of shopping here and it will attract people."

Restaurant owner Wong Toon King is looking forward to his unique outlet, The Happy People, becoming a talking point for customers.

Said Wong: "We've actually surrounded Orchard Road with our various outlets. We're looking for the right kind of place. When Orchard Central presented to us this unique concept of an urban loft perched on the eighth floor, we thought it'd fit perfectly our concept of Heaven's Loft.

“We were very attracted by the height, this concept of desserts, and being high. We wanted to be perched high up Orchard Central. This was one of a kind concept and location for us.”

The bar of Wong's restaurant, which opens in the evening, offers a birds-eye view of the rest of Orchard Road.

Shoppers at Orchard Central will also be able to appreciate some S$9 million worth of art that will adorn key areas of the mall.

Said Leng: "We want to bring artwork to the shoppers, to the people on the street. And installation artwork is something that's not pretentious."

There will also be a rock-wall for more adventurous visitors to climb, and a roof-top garden.

- CNA/yb

Singapore's total population grew to 4.84m in 2008

SINGAPORE : Singapore continues to face the long-term challenge of low fertility and an ageing population, according to its latest population report.

But the record number of foreign residents in the country has helped grow the total population to 4.84 million in 2008 - an increase of 5.5 per cent over the previous year.

Foreigners now make up about 25 per cent of the total population.

The National Population Secretariat, which released the figures on Wednesday, said the country needs to press on with efforts to build a sustainable population, even as the economic downturn drags on.

Accountant Madam Elham Hassan Mahmoud Birkia came to Singapore from Sudan in 1990. Little did she expect to stay on in this country for 19 years and even call it home.

Madam Elham and her family members have been Singapore citizens for some three years now. And she said her two daughters, aged 13 and 12, born in Singapore and studying in neighbourhood schools are as Singaporean as you can get.

"They take Singapore as their home. Before, they are Sudanese, but when people ask them, they say I am from Singapore not from Sudan," said Madam Elham.

Madam Elham and her family make up the nearly 100,000 new PRs and citizens last year. The number is up about 20% compared to 2007.

As Singapore becomes home to more foreigners, efforts are underway to better help them integrate into society.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Govt to enhance, extend Wireless@SG programme till March 2013

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans who have become used to surfing the internet on the go will be able to do so for another four years.

The government says it will be enhancing and extending the Wireless@SG programme till March 2013.

Acting Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, Lui Tuck Yew, made the announcement at the opening of the Infocomm Media Business Exchange Tuesday morning.

Mr Lui said since the launch of the Wireless@SG programme in 2006, the programme now boasts 7,500 hot spots across the country and 1.3 million subscribers.

Wireless@SG can be accessed at major public locations such as the main shopping belt at Orchard Road, the Central Business District and major HDB town centres.

The new enhanced programme will include improvements to access speeds of up to one megabit per second, double the current bandwidth, and using a new seamless login process.

Mr Lui says the government will also be rolling out more services over Wireless@SG, such as cashless payments as well as location-based and facility-monitoring services.

- CNA/yt

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Italy's Deputy Minister for Economic Development calls on SM Goh

SINGAPORE: Italy's Deputy Minister for Economic Development Adolfo Urso has called on Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong at the Istana.

Mr Goh and Mr Urso had wide-ranging discussions on the state of bilateral economic ties and the potential for closer collaboration.

Mr Urso expressed confidence in Asia's potential and said that Italy hopes to partner Singapore to explore opportunities in the region.

Mr Goh briefed Mr Urso on recent economic developments in Asia and said that Singapore can be a platform for Italian companies to venture into the region.

Mr Urso is leading a delegation of 80 Italian companies to Singapore from June 14 to 16.

Last year, Italy was Singapore's fifth largest trading partner in Europe, with total bilateral trade valued at S$5.8 billion.

- CNA/yt

Thursday, June 11, 2009

S'pore among top 10 most expensive locations in Asia

SINGAPORE: Cost of living in Singapore continues to be high, propelling it into the top ten most expensive locations within the region.

A report by human resources consultancy, ECA International, found that Singapore is the 10th most expensive city in Asia and 72nd worldwide.

The firm said price rises have not slowed down as much in Singapore as in other parts of Asia in spite of its weakened currency.

In addition, currencies of locations which were previously more expensive than Singapore - like London and Stockholm - have depreciated at a faster rate than the Singapore dollar.

This has led to Singapore becoming more expensive for visitors than many other locations in the survey.

Topping the list for the most expensive city in Asia is Japan's Tokyo, while Angola's Luanda is the most expensive city in the world.

In all, four Japanese cities, Tokyo, Nagoya, Yokohama and Kobe, made it to the top five most expensive places globally.

Joining the region's top ten are Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong in fifth to seventh positions respectively. Kuala Lumpur is ranked 38th and Johor Bahru the 40th most expensive city in Asia.

ECA International said the cost of living in Asia has become more expensive as Europe and the US are bearing the brunt of the recession.

ECA carries out the cost of living survey twice a year, comparing a basket of commonly purchased consumer goods and services in over 370 locations worldwide. - 938LIVE/CNA/vm/al

Gmail notifier for Windows 7 taskbar

Windows 7 only: Gmail Notifier Plus displays your unread email count right in the Windows 7 taskbar, including popup message previews and Jump Lists integration.

Once you've launched the application, you will be prompted for your Gmail account information—after which you will see the unread count as an icon right on the taskbar button and hovering your mouse will show a preview of your unread email. Right-clicking on the button uses Windows 7's excellent Jump Lists feature—with quick and easy access to frequent tasks like opening your inbox or composing a new email message.

Gmail Notifier Plus is a free download for Windows 7 only—hit the link for more screenshots and the free-registration-required download, or use the mirror to just download it quickly. For more ways to add email notifications, check out Growl for Windows or Gmail Notifier for Ubuntu.

Gmail Notifier Plus [mirror] [Neowin Forums]

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Singapore is 11th most liveable city in Asia

Singapore is the 54th most liveable city in the world, below San Francisco (US), and a notch above Budapest (Hungrary). Its placing also puts it above cities like Seoul (58th) and Taipei (62nd), but below Hong Kong (39th), Osaka (13th) and Tokyo (19th).

Singapore's placing also makes it the 11th most liveable city in Asia, including cities in Australia and New Zealand.

Vancouver remains top of the league table, benefiting from strong Canadian infrastructure and Harare sits at the bottom thanks to the unfolding crisis in Zimbabwe.

The results are according to the latest Economist Intelligence Unit global liveability survey, which has put cities in Australia, New Zealand and Japan close to the top of the ranking of 140 cities.

At the other end of the ranking, most of the poorest-performing locations are in Africa or Asia. Dhaka in Bangladesh is the lowest-scoring city in the region in joint 138th, just one place above last-place Harare.

Asia accounts for eight cities out of the top 20 (although these are found in just three countries: Australia, New Zealand and Japan) and ten cities out of the bottom 20.

Jon Copestake, editor of the report, said: "The performance of Asian cities reflects the diverse levels of development throughout the region. Australian cities represent many of the best aspects of liveability while instability in countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh means that cities in South Asia fare much worse."

Friday, June 5, 2009

Hady is handy for the return of Idol-mania

SINGAPORE: The success of "Singapore Idol" can only be spelt in two words - Hady Mirza. So it's no surprise that the 2009 season will see the winner of the Singapore talent search and also Asian Idol, joining the stellar line-up.

Playing the role of 'big brother', Hady will share his first-hand experience that should prove to be valuable to the next generation of "Singapore Idol" hopefuls.

The multi-talented Gurmit Singh will lead season three of "Singapore Idol" which is slated to be the toughest yet.

Taking the judges chairs once again will be Singapore's answer to American Idol's Simon Cowell - local music producer Ken Lim, as well as musical genius Dick Lee and Florence Lian, who will be the 'rose among the thorns' but don't forget roses can be prickly!

Leaving the show are two familiar faces from season two - judge and jazz singer Jacintha Abisheganaden and Gurmit's co-host Daniel Ong.

And don't expect it to be business as usual.

In a new twist this season, "Idol" fans can start voting for their favourites from the start of the show, so expect to see who’s in and who’s out 'Live' on the same night.

As for the contestants who stand to win a recording contract with Universal Music, they don't just get to compete on how well they can belt out a tune.

The hit series will empower contestants who get to showcase talent that makes them stand out from the pack by being allowed to play musical instruments from the theatre rounds onwards.

Other new elements to "Singapore Idol" include the Judges’ Save – a one-time privilege used by the judges to prevent one contestant from going home during the “Spectacular” episodes, and the Salvation Song – which is a common song that all contestants will prepare and can be performed by the two bottom-ranking contestants to stay in the competition.

"Singapore Idol" hits the TV screens on 9 August with a peek into the auditions that start Saturday 6 June, and climaxes on 20 December with the finale.

Get ready for Idol-mania!

- CNA/sf