Color Run powder and the risk of cardiac arrest

From ‘Any danger if it is inhaled?’, 4 July 2015, ST Forum

(Ace Kindredzen Cheong): I am relieved that the powder used for the Colour Run in Singapore is different from that used in Taiwan, which caused a fire that has left at least two dead and hundreds injured (“Colour Run to continue in S’pore”; Thursday).

However, I wonder if the powder used in Singapore will trigger allergies and irritate the eyes and skin. Worse yet, will it cause cardiac arrest if inhaled?

Already, there have been cases of sudden deaths due to cardiac arrest during running events in Singapore. Will the powder increase this risk? The event organisers, police and the Singapore Civil Defence Force should ensure that such powders are safe for use, other than being non-flammable.

While Chinese cities like Shenyang have cancelled the event under direction from ‘government agencies’, it seems like we’re going ahead with the ‘Happiest 5k on the Planet’.  The inaugural 16,000-strong race went without a hitch in 2013, and close to 20,000 participants graced the 2014 event. Other than tens of thousands of stained white shirts being sent to the incinerators, there appeared to be little bodily harm that came out a festival inspired by the Hindu ‘Holi’. During the same period, a man died while running a powder-less, ‘normal’ marathon. No one has asked for 42 km marathons to be cancelled over the risk of unexplained death.

But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t minimise the use of potentially hazardous materials if you can help it. The organisers have assured us that the powder has been tested for inflammability and successfully passed ‘the required EU standards’. On their Facebook page, they tell us that smoking is prohibited during the race, and that they use no electrical devices to douse runners with the stuff, though that doesn’t rule out the possibility of a freak ignition happening if a rainbow dust cloud gets zapped by a stray bolt of lightning. I doubt the EU can put such a scenario to the test. The fun people at Color Run encourage you to run in the rain, though.

As with all foreign particles, including baby talcum powder, coloured powder may well irritate the eyes, nose, throat and lungs, and most Material Safety Data Sheets about seemingly harmless corn starch that I browsed through online do alert users about its irritating nature. So you may complete the run teary-eyed, slightly coughing, or take the next day off because of a dye-induced facial rash, but otherwise happy as a lark, which makes running the tiny risk of ‘high pressure corn starch inhalation’ – a life-threatening accident, mind you – worth it. After all, there are considerably more dangerous recreational activities out there that involve jogging; you could break your ankle stumbling over a stone in Macritchie Reservoir for example.

The Color Run’s track record of no exploding-powder casualties speaks for itself, but what we lack information in is its impact not on human health or happiness, but the environment. Where does all the dye go after being washed off, for instance? In a cruel twist of irony, it was the Taiwanese EPA (Environmental Protection Administration) that had a legitimate concern about Color Runs contaminating the soil, groundwater and rivers in 2013. Maybe NEA would want to look into what happens during the clean-up process, lest we all end up drinking chendol-coloured Newater.

Not sure about sudden cardiac arrest, but you may not come out of the Happiest 5K smiling from ear to ear after your phone dies from exposure to green dust.

ST_20140831_P1COLOUR31_623603e

Society will lose out without a natural aristocracy

From ‘PM tackles questions on S’pore system, freedom of speech at IPS conference’, 4 July 2015, article by Joy Fang, Today

…On the dominance of countries such as the US, Sweden and Israel in innovation, science and technology, Dr Zakaria said these communities are common in that there is a culture of a lack of respect for or challenging authority.

“You spent six hours yesterday in a court trying to do this, to instil a culture of respect. And isn’t it exactly the opposite of what you need for your economic future?” the US journalist asked.

In response, Mr Lee said: “You want people to stand up, not scrape and bow. But if you don’t have a certain natural aristocracy in the system, people who are respected because they have earned that and we level everything down to the lowest common denominator, then I think society will lose out … If you end up with anarchy, it doesn’t mean that you’ll be delivered with brilliance.”

A BBC article in 2004 addressed our PM Lee as a ‘philosopher-prince‘ when he ascended ‘to the throne’, so to speak, following in the footsteps of his late father, who is also no stranger to being compared to royalty. In 1961, David Marshall lamented that workers were in the grip of fear under the rule of ‘Emperor’ Lee Kuan Yew, a title used again by ex Malaysia-PM Mahathir to describe LKY’s interventions into Malaysian politics.

When the founding PM passed away, the outpouring of tributes and grief was without doubt a grand farewell ‘fit for a king’. Granted, our leaders don’t go around asking people to kiss their feet or wear crowns, robes or wield sceptres, but if there’s one thing similar between our ‘socialist democracy/meritocracy‘ and any form of ‘aristocracy’, it’s that any dissent towards the elite, the ‘creme de la creme’, will not be tolerated, even if the target of the insult is dead. It’s like Thailand’s lese majeste, just with a lot more beating around the bush before you finally punish the bugger.

Which inevitably leads to, ironically, a paternalistic ‘bowing and scraping’ culture because people are afraid to throw eggs at their supreme leaders. This despite some members of this ‘aristocracy’ sending conflicting messages and assuring us that nobody will sue you if you call him a ‘stupid fool’. Nonetheless, our PM has no qualms about queuing up with everyday people for chicken wings, like a lord coming down to the village for a taste of hearty rat broth.

Ex president Devan Nair, in a 1983 speech at a President’s scholarship award ceremony, had this to say about ‘natural aristocracy':

..And as in sports, there is a NATURAL ARISTOCRACY of talent in all the departments, disciplines and professions of public life. To abolish the natural aristocracy of talent would be to acknowledge the right of butchers to take over surgical wards in hospitals, or to have your teeth pulled out by carpenters rather than by qualified dentists.

Meaning, as one Total Defence song goes, ‘there’s a part for everyone’, whether you’re a serf, a general, a scientist, or the guy chopping pork at a wet market, and the only way to move up the social ladder is to prove your worth through hard work, sometimes with a stroke of luck.

In PM Lee’s context, however, it’s about ‘respect’, showing who’s boss, that one shouldn’t ‘play games’ and mess around with DA AUTHORITY, otherwise we’d all fall into a state of hellish anarchy, a situation which I suppose includes people not queuing up in an orderly manner for chicken wings anymore. Back in the old days, any duke or baron who got his pride wounded would challenge the offender to a gentleman’s duel. Today, our natural ‘aristocrat of aristocrats’ uses not a sword, nor a pistol, against the likes of Roy Ngerng, but a Davinder Singh.

Grassroots workers getting tickets for 50 BBQs

From ‘Poor ticketing mars Aussie barbeque’, 1 July 2015, ST Forum

(Marc Lim Swee Keat): I applaud the Australian High Commission’s goodwill and generosity in organising 50 Aussie-style barbecues on Sunday evening (“It’s barbecue time for a taste of Singapore life”; Monday). Having been a beneficiary of the Australians’ big-hearted hospitality previously, my group of friends and I had looked forward to being part of the festivities.

To our dismay, however, we were turned away at Bishan Park, as the organisers’ personnel indicated that a ticket was required to enjoy the food provided. This was contrary to what we had understood in earlier reports of the event being freely open to the public (“Steak feast to mark 50 years of ties”; April 18).

Much as our group understood the need for crowd management, the means of ticket distribution left much to be desired. The People’s Association was engaged as the local community partner for the event. But only a select few community clubs had publicised the ticketing requirement prior to the event.

A sizeable majority of the ticket-holders were decked in grassroots attire, though we understood that it was not an exclusive event. Many visitors were left disappointed and confused.

However, many, including my group, were undeterred and had picnics along the river to enjoy the street performances, while soaking in the atmosphere. We had looked forward to an enjoyable evening of Australian hospitality, delectable food and entertainment.

But the poor public communications on the ticket allocation system had marred the true spirit and intent of our gracious Australian counterparts.

Sir there’s a cock on your head

This 50 BBQs event comes fresh after the two nations’ ‘koala diplomacy‘. Much has changed since PM Lee’s late father called Australia the ‘poor white trash of Asia‘. Today, his son, being the good sport that he is, is wearing silly balloon hats with Tony Abbott. We borrowed their marsupials and fired up the ‘barbies’. What next, Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman starring in a Mediacorp drama series? Malaysian PM BFF Najib Razak must be jealous.

For anyone who’s been here long enough, free steaks for everyone is simply too good to be true, and Singaporeans would fight tooth and nail to get a taste of Down Under without paying a bloody cent. The organisers only catered for a max of 1200 people, but 4800 tickets were given out to people on a first-come-first-served basis, which means there are likely to be ticket-holders who went home with an empty stomach. Incidentally, STB once launched a tourism campaign aimed at Australians, telling people to ‘GET LOST’. This steak fiasco is our retribution. You can smell and hear the sizzle from afar but can only stare and drool, as all these VIPs, who probably know shit about Australian history, sink their fangs into a juicy, oozing ribeye hot off the grill. I wonder how much a BBQ ticket would be worth on Carousell. Not more than the $400 NDP ticket I hope.

Grassroots members getting perks like priority steaks is nothing surprising anyway. They get priority for Primary 1 registration and parking, among other goodies as reward for serving the community. Once they’ve got their kids’ placing and Aussie steak, some will simply quit the job and go back to being an afterthought ordinary Singaporean like the kiasu buggers that they are. Wouldn’t it be a better idea if the Australian High Commission and PM Lee had flipped burgers for underprivileged orphans and grilled steak for old folks who’ve never been to Jack’s Place in their lives instead of promoting an unrealistic free-for-all meat orgy, causing many Singaporeans to ‘go off like a frog in a sock‘? Otherwise, there should have been a selection process for this, really, like inviting only the top 100 finalists of a ‘Waltzing Matilda’ karaoke contest.

Bring AC/DC here and all will be forgiven.

Self-radicalised teen released under Restriction Order

From ‘Singaporean teen arrested under ISA released, under Restriction Order’, 29 June 2015, article in CNA

A Singaporean youth who was arrested under the Internal Security Act in May has been released from custody and is placed under a Restriction Order (RO) under the ISA for two years from June, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said on Monday (Jun 29).

Investigations showed the 17-year-old had become radicalised after viewing videos, websites and social media materials propagated by radical ideologues and terrorist elements, MHA stated. “He had wanted to engage in armed violence alongside the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and had started making preparations to carry out his plans,” MHA said.

Under the Restriction Order, the youth will have to attend religious counselling and has to stop accessing violent or extremist online material. He will not be allowed to leave Singapore without permission or to issue public statements. Further measures will be taken against him if he breaches the conditions of the RO, or if it is assessed that further measures are needed to protect public, MHA added.

The teen ‘radical’ has not been named, and was arrested sometime in May, which means he’s been under lock and key for not more than 2 months. This leads me to the inevitable comparison of ISIS boy’s fate to another kid around his age, one who got into trouble after badmouthing a certain dead leader. That kid is none other than Amos Yee.

1) Identity

The identity of ISIS Boy remains under wraps. Not so secretive was another 19 year old detained under ISA for planning violent attacks, with the death wish of assassinating the President and Prime Minister. It’s puzzling why the name of this guy got leaked, but not the younger teen whom the ministry folks seem to think can be ‘de-radicalised’ with ‘religious counselling’, and not with that thingamajig used in A Clockwork Orange.

Amos, on the other hand, made a grand show-and-tell of how he felt about LKY, through his own Youtube Channel no less. Despite depicting the man in a rather unflattering position with Margaret Thatcher, he did not call for his followers to gun down the rest of the Lee legacy, or strap themselves with homemade bombs and detonate them inside 38 Oxley Road.

We also know who Amos’ parents are, which school he dropped out from and maybe even where he lives. We know that he LOVES bananas. We know absolutely nothing about ISIS boy or his friends. At least if you see Amos in the streets one day you could run and hide in case he unleashes a torrent of anti-Christianity rants on you. ISIS boy is practically invisible, and exactly how the shady organisation wants him to be.

2) Time spent ‘in remand’

Excluding a pending 2 week stint in IMH, Amos has already spent at least 40 days in remand, and may potentially exceed the time ISIS boy spent ‘detained’. What gives? The kid who’s an actual threat to public safety getting out of prison before another who dissed Christianity and broadcast some cartoon porn for the world to enjoy. Which is the more heinous crime? Amos probably knows more about the history and geography of Syria than any blind follower who looks forward to a training stint there like it’s the Disneyland of the Middle East.

3) Victimisation

Amos has been threatened with castration, and even hit square in the face by a random attacker with dumbstruck reporters standing by snapping away without lifting a finger to help. His fashion sense has been made fun of, and his parents shamed for not doing their job.

What about ISIS boy? Were people afraid of teaching him a lesson in case his secret ISIS brethren begin blowing up our stuff and loved ones? Where was that slapper when we needed him the most?

4) Cause

An eminent psychiatrist from IMH has suggested that Amos may be suffering from autism spectrum disorder, which may explain his behaviour. It’s also the kind of tactic lawyers resort to when they don’t know how to keep extremely rebellious teens out of jail. If diagnosed, Amos may be at the receiving end of the ominous-sounding Mandatory Treatment Order, which has been dished out on maid abusers, bra sniffers, schizophrenics and bipolar disorder sufferers. He may never be the same again after 2 years of forced rehab. Or maybe this was a devious ploy all along to escape NS.

ISIS boy, on the other hand, isn’t suffering from a mental disorder, but merely mixed up with bad company and swayed into some murderous doctrine disguised as rap videos. Unlike Amos, there seems to be hope for ISIS boy, that he shall be guided onto the path of righteousness with religious elder support. Yet, the one labelled ‘sick’ here and set to be coerced into therapy is not the one with aspirations to actually fire weapons at other human beings, but the boy who merely had one too many things to say, and refused to take those words back.

SAF getting first female Brigadier General

From ‘SAF promotes first female to Brigadier General’, 26 June 2015, article by Chan Luo Er, CNA

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) now has their first female Brigadier-General (BG). Col Gan Siow Huang was one of seven Colonels promoted to the rank of BG and RADM (One -Star) at the annual SAF promotion ceremony on Friday (Jun 26). She will assume her rank on Jul 1.

She was among the first four women to receive the SAF merit scholarship in 1993, and she now heads the Joint Manpower Department. In recent years, she has been making calls for more women to choose the SAF as a career. Currently, close to 1,500 women hold combat jobs in the SAF, less than 10 per cent of SAF regular personnel. Every year, about 60 women join the army.

As women make progress in the armed forces, Singapore continues to lag in terms of female presence in boardroom positions (9% of board seats). This despite instances of negative gender stereotypes in army recruitment ads, such as the ‘Shades of Green‘ campaign that suggested that there’s still a little vain princess in every woman looking at a career in SAF, rather than a GI Jane. It’s probably a matter of time before we get a female Chief of Army, and this is likely to be even before we get our first female Prime Minister.

Here’s a timeline of achievements by women in uniform in an organisation that is traditionally helmed by men with moustaches. As expected, those in the honour roll who are also mothers are lauded for their ability to ‘balance work and family commitments’, and talk about how their husbands are always ‘supportive’ and OK with the fact that their spouses have more balls than they do.

1967: First deployed doing clerical and logistics work.
1971: First military car drivers.
1987: First Senior Warrant Officer (SWO).
1987: First combat instructors. In this article, the now derogratory phrase ‘fairer sex’ was used.
1999: First Lieutenant Colonels (LTC) (High-flying women, 30 June 1999, ST)
2000: First Commanding Officer (CO) of an an army combat unit
2005: First colonel. Like BG Gan, Karen Tan (now retired from SAF) is a working mother.
2006: First Regimental Sergeant Major
2007 (?): First F-16 fighter pilot
2014: First Apache helicopter pilot. Captain Joyce Xie was formally trained in molecular and cell biology.
2015: First BG.

As you can see, women in uniform have achieved more in 15 years than their counterparts in Parliament. Our Cabinet is still predominantly male. Maybe Jack Neo, currently bleeding the Ah Boys franchise dry, may want to consider an ‘Ah Girls to Generals’ movie trilogy.

Ex-MP Phey Yew Kok on the run for 36 years

From ‘Ex-PAP MP Phey Yew Kok faces charges more than 30 years after he fled Singapore’, 24 June 2015, Today

More than 30 years after he jumped bail and fled the country, former PAP Member of Parliament and president of the National Trades Union Congress Phey Yew Kok was finally brought to justice today (June 24). He appeared in court today to face the charges that were served on him in 1979.

On Dec 10, 1979, Phey was charged on four counts of criminal breach of trust involving a total sum of S$83,000. He was also charged on two counts under the Trade Unions Act for investing S$18,000 of trade-union money in a private supermarket without the approval of the minister.

On Jan 7, 1980, Phey failed to turn up in court and a warrant of arrest was issued against him on the same day. Phey surrendered himself at the Singapore Embassy in Bangkok on June 22, 2015, said the CPIB in a press release. He was accompanied back to Singapore yesterday. “Phey will be required to assist CPIB in further investigations in relation to other offences he may have committed,” said CPIB.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in response to media queries: “Phey Yew Kok was facing charges of Criminal Breach of Trust when he absconded while on bail in 1980. He has now turned himself in and returned to Singapore.

…”We have maintained a clean and non-corrupt system in Singapore for half a century because we have zero tolerance for corruption. When we discover wrongdoing, we do not hesitate to act. We will not allow any cover up, even when it is awkward or embarrassing for the Government.”

The National Trades Union Congress said it noted that Phey “has surrendered himself to the authorities. We must now let the law take its course”.

Little mention has been made of this man, and even though he was on the ‘wanted list’ all this while, he didn’t make it on a recent list of ‘Singapore’s Most Wanted‘, which includes rogue lawyer David Rasif, CID detective Mark Koh, murderer Harvinder Singh, and a woman who’s likely the previous record holder of most number of years on the run, bank executive Siak Lai Chun, eluding the Police since 1997. The curious thing is, it wasn’t a case of the authorities finally smoking him out of his rabbithole. He turned himself in at the ripe old age of 81, in the very same city that CPIB officers went on a manhunt back in 1989.

Although our PM asserts that there is no cover up, and you may be charged for contempt if you suggest that there is, the fact is no one, not since the 80’s when JBJ was haranguing Parliament for answers to his whereabouts, seemed to even want to mention this guy’s name. It’s like refraining from pointing out a VIP’s crotch stain while at a formal dinner party. Those born just around the time he fled, as I was, would be more familiar with dissidents like Francis Seow and other fugitives/exiles featured in Tan Pin Pin’s To Singapore with Love Film than this guy, who was supposedly a rising star in the political arena before he got into hot soup lining his pockets with dirty money, and retreated into obscurity since flying the coop.

Talking about ‘awkward’, the PAP didn’t hesitate to let Speaker of Parliament Michael Palmer go some years back when he confessed to an affair and promptly resigned. On the other hand, other ex PAP MPs like Choo Wee Khiang got to be President of some table tennis association even after getting charged and jailed for corruption. Phey Yew Kok, before the news of his surrender was out, was practically unheard of before the news of his surrender broke (except given a nod by Pritam Singh in this FB rant about crooked PAP MPs in 2012). It’s like a father refusing to talk about a disowned son to his family, an enigma unfamiliar to many of us as the name of his constituency was. Where the hell was ‘Boon Teck’ anyway? (My guess is it’s somewhere near Toa Payoh). Suddenly the media is hot on the history of Phey’s ‘rise and fall’ in an attempt to make his re-emergence as sensational as if he was dragged back to the homeland by an elite squad of special forces who spent the last decades chasing a slippery mastermind around the globe, through jungles, snowcaps and what not.

One interesting tidbit of the man is that he used to be President of the Singapore Boxing Association in the 70s. There were also rumours that he once worked in Taiwan. He supposedly had his Singapore PASSPORT with him all this while, which wasn’t impounded by the Police after he was charged. His 2 bailors also lost $95,000 because of him, and if they’re still alive, are probably waiting to settle this 30 year old O$P$.

Well, all I can say is this – about damn time.

Kopitiam staff sacked for washing shoes in sink

From ‘NEA to take action against Kopitiam after employee was caught washing shoes in sink’, 23 June 2015, article by Lee Min Kok, ST

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said it will take action against food court operator Kopitiam after one of its employees was caught on camera washing her shoes in a sink at an outlet in the National University Hospital (NUH). The employee has been sacked after the incident was highlighted on social media.

The clip, which lasts almost two minutes, shows the woman scrubbing both her shoes with a brush under a running tap within the cold desserts section of the food court. She then appeared to return the brush to a container which held other kitchen utensils.

…Kopitiam, known for its chain of food courts in Singapore, has since apologised for the incident. In a post on Facebook on Tuesday morning, it assured customers that the washing equipment used by the employee had been replaced and the sink disinfected.

You may not be a frequent visitor to NUH Kopitiam, but patients from the wards are. Imagine if you were hospitalised for a severe bout of food poisoning and you decide to give yourself an icy treat near recovery, only to spend another few nights retching away because your Ice Kachang comes with ‘extra toppings': Someone’s inner sole leather shavings.

Food courts in hospitals should be held to a more stringent hygiene standard than the ones in your average shopping mall. For an environment already teeming with bugs, the last thing you need is someone introducing ‘foot-borne’ ones into your meal. Rival food chain Koufu was once flanked by an army of cockroaches, and a kid lost his life after eating tainted Nasi Padang in Northpoint’s Kopitiam branch.  Yet, despite all these horrific lapses in hygiene, Singaporeans still flock to these places because they’re willing to eat mediocre, sometimes atrocious, food as long as there’s air-con and staff discounts.

The rest of us with more discerning stomachs but on an equally tight lunch budget often turn a blind eye to the filthy practices at hawker centres, nor do we stand by and film elderly cleaners using the same piece of cloth to wipe tables, plates and trays and cost them their jobs after posting videos on Stomp.

There are worse things than giving your shoes a rinse-over in the sink, though. Here are some real-life tummy-churners:

1) Cleaners washing glasses in a pail of dirty water.

2) Washing raw food with rainwater from the roof.
4) Putting raw chicken on the floor.
5) Smoking while flipping prata.

Seriously, most of us are too hungry to scrutinise a hawker’s fingernails, how he handles our money, where he wipes his sweat, or how the dishwashing is done behind the scenes. Let this be a wake-up call not just for kopitiam vendors, but anyone with a licence to sell food, that whenever public health is compromised by a gross act of negligence, someone will be watching, complaining and NEA will step in and not hesitate to give the offender, well, the BOOT.

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