1 million kg challenge winner getting a Suzuki Swift

From ‘Engineer loses more than 5kg, wins Suzuki Swift car’, 26 Oct 2014, article by Samantha Boh, Sunday Times

Accountant Dawn Hoe had always been on the big side. But when she ballooned by almost 10kg after giving birth, the 37-year-old mother of two tried all sorts of ways to lose weight, including going to a slimming centre. But these did not work….Tired of her lethargy and having to field questions from relatives about her size, she joined the Health Promotion Board’s Lose to Win campaign in March, which got her going with exercise classes, before signing up for the One Million KG Challenge.

…Organised by the HPB, the challenge is the country’s first national incentive-based weight management programme. It launched its second season yesterday, but not before a grand draw for 10 finalists, including Ms Hoe, randomly chosen from participants who have lost at least 3kg over six months since March.

The winner of the top prize, a Suzuki Swift car, said she signed up for the challenge thinking that it was a compulsory part of another weight loss programme she was already enrolled in. But the mistake helped 44-year-old engineer Ting Yit Lai to lose more than 5kg along the way.

A car as top prize is a bewildering choice for a weight-loss campaign, one that I would expect to promote walking, jogging or cycling  as part of a healthy lifestyle.  Losing weight, like kindness to strangers, should be its own reward, and if you’re doing it for a new car or a trip to Australia, I would be surprised if you could maintain a healthy BMI after a week of celebrating and wine-and-dine, not to mention in the long run. How about a free lifetime gym membership? Or a year’s supply of fat-free yogurt? At least an electric kick-scooter which would require some lower limb power perhaps?

In the reality-TV series Biggest Loser Asia season 2, local boy Raj lost a staggering 67kg to clinch the top prize of USD $100,000. He may have lost his fat but gained some foes during the show because of his ‘manipulative game play’. But if acting like a bastard on public television isn’t bad enough, Raj soon ‘gained back 9kg’ in a matter of days post-season while celebrating his victory, according to his ambassadorial testimonial for Fitness First. I wonder how the former plus-sized heavyweight is doing now. Earlier this year, some NTU students launched the similarly named ‘FIT TO WIN’, where contestants stood to win cold hard cash from a pot if they lose 5% of their body weight. The top prize is a 1 year gym membership, though I believe most people, myself included, would refrain from trying too hard just to win consolation money. Which I would splurge on a buffet as reward for subjecting myself to 8 weeks of zumba.

Very rarely, such weight loss challenges may lead to death if you overdo it, and the weight reduction may not even be as drastic as 5kg. In 2011, a 54 year old man with a history of coronary bypass collapsed after a 2km brisk walk. It was his second Lose to Win attempt and he lost just 2kg, weighing around 70kg when he died. If you find yourself failing to attain any results, you may even be tempted to cheat your way to the Suzuki, like the ‘doping’ scandal that happened on the US version of the Biggest Loser 2013. Interestingly, Duke-NUS have even embarked on a study to see if people are motivated by money to lose weight, except unlike a contest dangling prize money as a carrot, the researchers make you PAY a sum first as a deposit (refundable if you meet targets) to keep you committed. It’s like signing up for gym membership, without the motivation of eye-candy.

HPB has good intentions, no doubt, but using material incentives, which have nothing to do with healthy living, to spur contestants on is questionable, especially for the long haul. The whole contest is also fixated on losing kgs, not ‘getting healthier’ or ‘lowering your risk of myocaridal infarction’, nor are they telling people that it’s OK if you’re overweight but continue to exercise and eat well, even if it means not losing (or gaining) any kilos at all. People should keep fit for themselves and because they enjoy it for its own sake, not for fame, the attention, defeating the ‘competition’, ‘visible results’ or a brand new Suzuki car which they’ll take on joy rides and give up public transportation forever.

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Return My CPF protesters heckling special needs children

From ‘Ugly scenes break out at Hong Lim Park’, 28 Sept 2014, article in Today

Ugly scenes broke out at Hong Lim Park yesterday (Sept 27), where protestors allegedly heckled participants of a YMCA carnival including special needs children. The two events  — the YMCA carnival and a rally called Return Our CPF  — had been given approval to be held at the Speaker’s Corner and were allocated separate lawns, according to a joint statement by the police and National Parks Board (NParks).

The statement said NParks and the police approached rally organiser, blogger Han Hui Hui, 22, to “request her cooperation to speak at the allocated space” but Ms Han “did not heed our advice and continued to hold her event at the same lawn as YMCA”. “Ms Han’s group encroached into the YMCA event area, holding placards and shouting slogans, disrupted performances and frightened participants, including special needs children who were performing at the charity event. The Police will be conducting investigations into this incident,” the statement said.

According to a Channel NewsAsia report, participants of the protest rally ended up marching around the YMCA event at least four times. The protestors also got close to Minister of State (Trade and Industry) Teo Ser Luck, who attended the YMCA event.

In a Facebook post last night, Ms Han claimed the group walked towards the stage after the children finished their performance and YMCA staff “tried to push us back out” of Hong Lim Park.  “The moment we reached the stage area, they pushed those children out (to perform), they were shocked at why there were being pushed out and so were we. We decided to walk off as it’s Teo Ser Luck who we wanted to ask to #ReturnOurCPF.”

The Sunday Times posted this picture of the ‘Y stars’, an ensemble of children with mental disabilities including Down’s syndrome, with the caption: ‘Although the special needs performers were stunned….they SOLDIERED on and finished the slow’, blatantly evoking sympathy for the children and making Han Hui Hui’s angry uncle troupe look like a mob of Satan worshippers looking for young flesh to sacrifice at the altar.

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Without a full picture of what really went on at Hong Lim Park, I find it hard to believe that anyone would deliberately ruin a children’s performance, special needs or not. The Y crew trains once a week and had a ‘modern dance’ routine specially prepared. Imagine how the proud parents recording this special moment on their brand new iPhone 6plus might feel.

Guest of honour Teo Ser Luck revealed to the media that he had to console one the performers who seemed to be shaken by the CPF hecklers (Chaos at Hong Lim Park charity carnival, 28 Sept 14, Sunday Times), despite being himself harassed by profanity-spewing protesters. HHH claimed that the group just wanted to ‘spread the message’ across and argued with some NPARKs director in another video, insisting that she’s free to march wherever her permit allowed her to. Roy, the original instigator of the whole CPF hoopla, seemed to be relegated to flag-bearing duties, upstaged by a pint-sized hothead who has a blog titled ‘Honest, honorable, holistic, humbly unexplainable irresistible’ and the audacity to make a bunch of plainclothes police look like bumbling idiots. When forced to introduce himself, one inspector even BOWED before HHH. Give this guy a Singa the Lion award already. Is he here to chase some bullies away or take your damn order?

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I suppose it’s normal to act in an awkwardly amicable manner when dealing with the likes of HHH in front of a camera, but some situations do call for the police to approach people with a ‘F-off!’ face. This situation probably needed that. Instead of arguing by the letter of the law, the authorities should have managed this the same way they would bust someone having a noisy orgy in the neighbourhood at 2am in the morning.

Contrast this with how the police, in actual uniform, cornered Chee Soon Juan and sister in 2006. HHH should thank her lucky stars she didn’t have to be surrounded in a phalanx of blue.

Even if there’s nothing illegal about crashing someone else’s party if both parties have been granted simultaneous permission for some bizarre reason, there is such a thing as human decency, and if you have a loudspeaker with you and leading an emotionally charged contingent of cantankerous crackpots, you should have the common courtesy to stay clear of a Christian charity event, even if the target of your complaints is Teo Ser Luck. If the intrusion was intended from the beginning to bring attention to #ReturnMyCPF at the expense of one’s dignity, then it has probably succeeded.

Some witnesses claim that the YMCA group started taunting the CPF protesters first. Whichever side started the fracas, the biggest loser in all this, ultimately, is Roy Ngerng. Not only has his limelight been hogged by an attack chihuahua, but this incident does nothing except aggravate his current defamation situation. Tan Chuan Jin has already labelled this a vile and disgraceful act, to add to his repertoire of words meaning ‘bad’ and endless things that he is ‘appalled’ by.

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Arguments about our money aside, I’m sure both sides will agree that the kids deserve a second chance to shine, so #ReturnMyYstarsperformance.

MP Intan Mokhtar not knowing what Internet hiding is

From ‘MP says she does not know Yang personally’, 26 Sept 2014, article by Carolyn Khew, Toh Yong Chuan, ST

MEMBER of Parliament Intan Azura Mokhtar said yesterday that she did write a letter of appeal regarding Mr Yang Yin’s application for permanent residency (PR) here. But she did so only at the behest of Madam Chung Khin Chun. Questions had been raised over the former China tour guide’s role in the Jalan Kayu Neighbourhood Committee, after pictures of him at various grassroots activities surfaced online. The People’s Association confirmed that he had been a member of the neighbourhood committee since July 5 last year but resigned on Sept 8 this year.

Dr Intan, who is an MP in Ang Mo Kio GRC and adviser to the committee, said she did not know Mr Yang personally. She recalls meeting him only when he was participating in a cooking activity. She does remember the time Madam Chung approached her.

“She first came to see me and sought my help in May 2011… for her grandson,” said Dr Intan. “This is what she told me and I referred Madam Chung’s request to the authorities.” She said she responded only because Madam Chung was “a resident of my constituency and a Singaporean”.

“If Mr Yang had come to me, I wouldn’t be able to help him because he’s not a Singaporean,” she said. “What I would have told him is that you probably can apply for PR to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority directly.”

Dr Intan also said she later received a piece of “feedback” on Mr Yang. She did not reveal the nature of the feedback as there are ongoing court proceedings concerning Mr Yang, but said it was forwarded to the authorities the same day.

…In recent days, Dr Intan’s Facebook page has been inundated with questions about Mr Yang. Some claimed that she had gone into “Internet hiding” by not addressing the questions and making her Facebook page private.

When asked if comments about Mr Yang had been deleted from her Facebook page, she said the staff administering the site may have done so and she does not know what “Internet hiding” is.

The perks of being a grassroots leader include having reserved parking spots, priority queue in primary 1 registration, and in the case of Yang Yin, probably a chance to meet more lonely widows to swindle. A significant number of grassroots ‘leaders’ are PRs or new citizens. In 2010, it was reported that more than 6000, or 20% of the total grassroots team, were not born in this country. Though I suppose the majority of grassroots activists are probably decent people who want to ‘give back’ to the community, you will get the occasional con-artist,  upskirt pervert and even a ‘third party’, new immigrant or not.

The ICA explains that joining grassroots activities does not earn you extra ‘points’ when it comes to applying for PR or citizenship.  Some considerations hinted at by a 2007 online ‘Naturalisation Eligibility Tool‘ were type of work pass, educational qualifications, annual income, and identity of your spouse and children. In 2009, PRC construction boss Lin Shuliang tried to con the ICA with fake qualifications, ending up in jail. Malaysian pilot Ryan Goh had his PR status revoked for masterminding an SIA protest and pissing off LKY. It appears that the ICA doesn’t take too kindly to liars or rebels. Not sure about shameless gold-diggers, or how Yang Yin, an ex-tour guide, would have qualified based on this internal ‘points system’ if not for a helping hand from his friendly neighbourhood MP. I mean, even a male MASSEUR can pass the ICA criteria, a profession which I suppose the Government believes we’re clearly in ‘knead’ of.

Other than giving a sloppy reason to recommend PR status to someone she hardly knew, MP Intan goes on to feign ignorance about ‘Internet hiding’ despite people not being able to locate her Facebook page anymore. I can tolerate a politician who fudges answers, even to the extent of putting the blame on a lonely widow with dementia, but I have little respect for one who looks away and shrugs nonchalantly when the shit hits the fan, like an army general waltzing away whistling, denying any involvement with a red button after launching a nuclear missile attack.

The Yang Yin fiasco speaks volumes about how the relevant authorities tend to abide blindly to an MP’s referral, and only scurry back to investigate Yang’s PR status AFTER he was called out, by which time he had skimmed off enough of his victim’s generosity to treat his family to Jumbo Seafood or afford to splurge on a $14,000 Frank Muller. Madam Chung probably realised too late that he ‘loved money’ more than anything, including herself. If the ICA had stuck to their guns, they would have saved the embarrassment for both MP Intan and their own sorry asses.

Intan doesn’t concede that it was a poor decision to push Yang for PR, and proceeds to excrete an even poorer choice of words that makes the doctorate holder look, for a lack of a better word, dumb. I wonder if she knows how to turn herself ‘invisible’ while on group chats, because that’s Internet Hiding 101 for social media ‘noobs’. In any case, this is what you can uncover about MP Intan from the Internet, proof that she can jolly well run, but can’t ‘hide’, including some facts that makes her ‘play dumb’ act rather incredulous.

1. She’s a Physics grad and MASTER of SCIENCE. Nowhere in her CV does she claim a mastery of tai-chi.

2. She spoke in Parliament beseeching the Government to think twice before BRINGING IN MORE FOREIGNERS. Unless of course they have to do it at the ‘behest’ of someone who owns a $30 million house.

3. Her doctoral research focused on the information literacy education of secondary school students in Singapore. Even if you genuinely have no clue what ‘Internet hiding’ means, at least put some effort into, well, FINDING OUT.

Here’s an idea to escape from the flaming, Dr Intan. Find a shovel. Dig a hole (with the help of your Facebook administrators perhaps?). Then jump into it.

Suzhou Industrial Park ex-CEO probed for corruption

From ‘Ex-CEO of Suzhou Park in graft probe’, 21 Sept 2014, article by Kor Kian Beng, Sunday Times

Suzhou Industrial Park’s former chief executive officer Bai Guizhi, a Chinese national, has been investigated for graft, in the most serious scandal to hit the first bilateral project between China and Singapore.

….SIP’s administrative committee, an arm of the Suzhou city government overseeing the project, is believed to be responsible for Mr Bai’s appointment and that of other key posts in the industrial park.

CSSD chief executives were Singaporeans from 1994 to 2000, when a Singapore consortium held a majority 65 per cent stake in SIP – which was set up with the backing of Singapore’s former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and the late Chinese strongman Deng Xiaoping. The key goal of the 288 sq km industrial park was to replicate Singapore’s industrialisation expertise and to transfer the Republic’s “software” and way of doing things to Suzhou and other cities.

From Jan 1, 2001, Chinese nationals were appointed as CEOs after a loss-making streak in SIP saw Singapore shrinking its stake to 35 per cent and its share of the park to just 8 sq km, instead of the 70 sq km planned. Things have picked up for SIP. It has become one of China’s most successful industrial parks, and garnered international awards.

A Singapore consortium now holds a 28 per cent stake in the CSSD.

To mark 20 years of the ‘special and long-standing friendship‘ between Singapore and Suzhou, the city’s mayor planted 5 Osmanthus flowers (the official flower of Suzhou) at the Gardens by the Bay. Things, however, haven’t been all rosy since its inception in 1994, this sprawling lovechild of LKY and Deng Xiaoping. The latest graft incident would be what our esteemed elder statesman would refer to another of the Chinese government’s ‘municipal shenanigans’. Despite all the ‘teething problems’ which LKY had with the Chinese authorities, Suzhou has been flourishing since, even winning the ironically titled Lee Kuan Yew World City prize recently, despite us having a physical presence of just 8 sq km.

Here are some interesting tidbits about our maiden ‘bilateral’ project:

1. Singapore’s social order was an inspiration for Deng Xiaoping, who in 1978 called us a ‘capitalist version of the COMMUNIST dream’, before the SIP program began. Yet any mention of communism in our media today gets slammed and banned by the government, as what happened to a recent documentary by Tan Pin Pin.

2. The SIP’s estimated cost was $30 billion. For 4 years since it was set up, it was making losses of up to US $24 million annually. Our flagship ‘government to government’ cooperative wasn’t exactly off to a flying start.

3. Lee Hsien Loong disclosed in 1998 that 10 of the 24 companies of the Singapore consortium were government-linked companies and statutory boards. $115 milion was pumped in.

4. In 1998, city vice mayor Wang Jinhua told a group of German investors to pump their money directly into rival and precursor industrial park SND (Suzhou New District), which was run by local authorities, without involving Singapore. LKY complained to President Jiang Zemin about it, despite the situation in China being a case of ‘The mountains are high and the emperor is far away’.

5. The founding CEO of the Suzhou project was former MP Chan Soo Sen. He went on to become Independent Director of a company that calls itself MIDAS Holdings.

6. 2001 was the year Singapore ceded management duties over to the Chinese government. The NY times called it a ‘face-saving’ exercise. LKY blamed the Chinese government for promoting SND instead. Other political observers surmised we had no bloody idea what we were getting into. I believe there’s another Chinese saying for ‘small fry in a big pond’. LKY expected ‘special treatment’ for his baby, but wasn’t prepared for the reality that is, well, competition, underhanded as it may be.

7. The Economist referred to the SIP as an attempt to ‘clone’ Singapore in a Chinese city. Other extensions of our ‘software replication’ would sprout up in Tianjin and Vietnam. In May rioters set fire to 3 factories in the Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Park complex. Seems like the ‘software’ was not flameproof.

8. In 2009, despite his disappointment with Chinese business practices, LKY maintained that SIP was the ‘right decision’. Not sure if it was ‘right’ for bilateral relations,  or ‘right’ for Singaporeans in general, especially since to the layman, the Suzhou incident appears to be a case of the Chinese ‘borrowing’ our ideas and hijacking the Singapore brand, then running off with it, applying our ‘software’ to copycat cities to the tune of billions of dollars; i.e it turned out ‘right’ for the Chinese. Then every 10 years, they come down and plant token flowers in our $1 billion garden. Which is NICE, rather than just ripping us off like this thing they did with Apple without giving credit where credit’s due.

Success or flop, there are take-home lessons from our experience with SIP, yet our government continues to woo China like an infatuated puppy, still stuck in its Sinophilia, insisting that the SIP was a resounding masterstroke of the genius that is LKY despite the apparent ‘glitches’ in the software. A Guangzhou Knowledge City is in the pipeline as we speak, lauded as one ‘driven by the private sector’ unlike the previous projects, which is in fact a 50:50 venture involving Temasek Holdings-owned Singbridge International. The man in charge? Wong Kan Seng, who had always believed that there was ‘money to be made‘ in China. Isn’t that the guy who…never mind.

If the SIP and similar ventures were products you could pick up off the shelf, you can be certain that it’ll say ‘Made in China’ on the labels, and next time when a foreigner asks you if Singapore is ‘somewhere in China’, he wouldn’t be totally off the mark. Maybe it’s time for some software updates and bug fixes, before we go around pointing to SIP and claiming credit like an excited kid telling his parents that this entire city would never have existed if he hadn’t built a Lego model to inspire it from the beginning.

F1 Grand Prix is not a $25 chicken rice race

From ‘Singapore GP not a $25-chicken-rice race: organisers’, 14 Sept 2014, article in CNA

The Singapore Grand Prix is meant to be a great experience and not a ‘$25-Chicken-Rice’ race, said the organisers of Formula One’s (F1) only night race, in response to a report that showed the city-state may not be the most affordable place to catch an F1 race.

Race organisers say Singaporeans consistently make up about 60 per cent of the over 80,000 race-goers each year. This applies to every price category – from the cheapest walkabout tickets to the Pit Grandstand.

“Over and above a sporting occasion, it is a huge social occasion now. Singaporeans like a good party,” said Mr Michael Roche, executive director of the Singapore GP. “I think this loyalty has grown among Singaporeans – they’ve become quite proud of the Singapore Grand Prix and they like it when the world is watching Singapore and the skyline.

“We don’t want to be a ‘$25-chicken-rice Grand Prix’. We want to be a great experience.”

But there is a price to be paid for the chance to experience F1’s only night race. Travel website TripAdvisor ranked the Singapore Grand Prix as the seventh most expensive, out of the 19 races worldwide. It said the price of catching the Sunday final race here is S$622.67. This includes the cost of the cheapest tickets at S$207.33, a meal and a night’s stay at a hotel near the track.

Roche’s analogy of a ‘$25 chicken rice dish’ is likely a snub at the famous house special at Meritus Mandarin’s Chatterbox, which now incidentally costs $27. Curiously enough, the ‘legendary’ chicken rice was created by a German chef back in 1971, who was inspired by the hawker version to create a premium dish, made from COBB 500 chickens, medium grain jasmine rice and homemade ginger and chilli sauces. I wonder what former executive chef Peter Gehrmann would think of the comparison, with Roche suggesting that $25 for a plate is overpriced, overrated when it seems like only top-grade ingredients went into its concoction. Chicken rice will never be ‘sexy’ or ‘glamorous’ like an F1 race no matter how you mark it up. And honestly, thank God it’s not.

While Chatterbox used to be a ‘coffee house’ in those days, today it’s a casual diner and its ‘award-winning’ chicken rice still wins the hearts of some locals who appreciate the generous servings of meat, describe the sauces as ‘sublime’ and the meal as an ‘annual pilgrimage’ (WHAT awards exactly, I wonder). Perhaps the Night Race is more of a $25 XO Chai Tau Quay instead? 20 years ago, Chatterbox charged their chicken rice at $16 per plate (Is $16 too high a price for chicken rice, 17 Aug 1995, ST), which is still cheaper than what you can get for a BURGER at F1 ($17) today.  In 2009, food stalls in the F1 zone were charging chicken rice and HOKKIEN MEE at $8, which was expected since the whole event was designed to milk the most out of rich people, though if I had to choose between a sub-par, measly $8 chicken rice and the Chatterbox dish, I’d rather splurge on the latter. According to Trip Advisor, we also sell the most expensive pint of beer in the history of F1 ($13.58), no thanks to our recent increase in sin taxes. Nobody seems to be overly concerned about a riot breaking out on the grandstands.

But look at the discrepancy between our minimum ticket price vs Malaysia just across the Causeway ($207.33 vs $39.12). The CNA article also didn’t mention that, according to the BBC, Singapore has the MOST EXPENSIVE 3-day ticket OF ALL (1,109 pounds) (2013). The second most expensive ticket in the world was from Brazil, at a distant 745 pounds per ticket. This year, for $42276.50 you could book a GREEN ROOM (Oops, you can’t now, it’s sold out!). What the F1 organisers are avoiding to explain really is WHY so expensive compared to the rest of the region (i.e Malaysia), even for a night race. It’s not that we have the most ardent racing fans so much as we have the greatest concentration of goddamn billionaires  (26) here.

Not to mention the other intangible costs of a night race on our environment, namely the excessive use of lighting. No, the F1 isn’t a $25 chicken rice dish. Ecologically speaking, it’s a $25 triple-decker Big Mac, sinful beyond redemption, greasy, artery-clogging, too much of which will eventually kill you. In the government’s eyes, it’s a billion-dollar baby.

Playing football on Sports Hub field like running on the beach

From ‘Inaugural football game at Sports Hub a letdown’, 19 Aug 2014, Voices, Today

(Mohamad Farid Harunal Rashid): I watched the game between the Singapore Selection and Juventus at the Sports Hub on Aug 16, and was disappointed on several levels. First, while the National Stadium’s physical structure was impressive, the pitch was below par.

It was sandy, with many barren patches, not at all like the state-of-the-art turf mentioned in reports. Indeed, Juventus rested one of their star players, Carlos Tevez, reportedly due to concerns about the safety of the pitch.

The game itself was lacklustre and pedestrian. Notwithstanding that it was a friendly at the end of a long and busy post-season in a World Cup year, the quality of football was below expectations.

Ex-national player Nasri Nasir described his experience playing Juventus as ‘running on a beach’ (Sports Hub field far from pitch-perfect, 19 Aug 2014, ST). With all the patches of sand on the crowning centrepiece of our new Sports Hub, maybe it was a tad ambitious challenging the Italian Serie A champion on its first run. We could have started with a celebrity model bikini beach volleyball charity extravaganza instead. Then no one would be complaining about uninspiring attacks, balding pitches or miniature sandstorms being kicked up all over the place.

The ‘state-of-the-art’ field in the Sports Hub is the Desso Grassmaster, dubbed as the pitch of the 21st century. It boasts ‘good traction’ and ‘modifiable levels of hardness and ball bounce’ all thanks to its 3% artificial fibre meshed with 97% natural grass. Installed in global arenas like Wembley and Emirates stadium, the Grassmaster is undoubtedly the field of champions, able to withstand the harshest, most unpredictable weather and the most violent of rugby scrums. You’re not just running around on a grassy field, but a SYSTEM engineered to bring out the best in athletic performance. Unfortunately the Singapore version also happens to be too dangerous to play Carlos Tevez on. You came all the way to Singapore for nothing, Tevez. Nothing at all.

Spending $800K on reinforced grass alone is nothing more than a mere vanity project if you don’t have internationally recognised National teams making it its home turf. The only thing more wasteful is building a massive indoor snow landscape as a Winter Olympics training facility. That amount of money could have went into school sports development programmes, maybe more swimming pools or badminton courts for the public, but instead we blow it a technological showcase which not only has to accommodate rugby players, but stampedes of Jay Chou fans come November. To purists who still gush over Malaysia Cup nostalgia, no amount of grass science can bring back the glory days of the Kallang Wave.

In the 80’s we experimented with the artificial football field known as ‘Astroturf’, which sounds like what the Jetsons play Astro-Golf on. Heralded as the ‘future of football in Singapore’ in 2004, it was supposed to optimise training rain-or-shine. A decade has passed since and the only thing ‘space-age’ about the state of football today is that it is still in deep LIMBO. Let’s hope the Grassmaster holds out in this crazy weather and not turn into a hybrid beach instead of the perfect luxurious pitch as promised. Otherwise, there may be other avenues which we may want to consider in our pursuit of sporting excellence. Like, I dunno, chariot racing or something.

Muslim woman demanding full refund for pigskin shoes

From ‘Muslim seeks refund for shoes lined with pig skin’, 24 June 2014, article by Melissa Lin, ST

A MUSLIM woman who bought a pair of $279 shoes was incensed to find out, after wearing them for six months, that the shoes were lined with pig skin. Administrative assistant Nur Najwa Abdullah, 43, is demanding a full refund from foot care chain Happy Walker, claiming that the sales staff had told her the shoes were made of calf skin.

Ustaz Firdaus Yahya, manager of the Darul Huffaz Learning Centre which promotes understanding of the Quran, said: “In Islam, anything related to pork, such as the meat or skin, is considered unclean.”

Islamic experts say while the use of pig-skin products is not considered a sin, a Muslim should go through a cleansing ritual if he or she has used the product….She complained to the Happy Walker outlet and told the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) about it. Muis advised her to discard the shoes and wash her feet with water and clay, a ritual cleansing.

If I were the manager of a shoe shop and someone asks me for a FULL refund for religious reasons, my natural reaction is to determine if I have in fact inflicted spiritual duress on the complainant and if the offence were indeed in accordance to what the scriptures prescribe. Granted, this Unhappy Walker customer was misinformed about the nature of the product, but MUIS have already declared that it’s ‘not a sin’ and Happy Walker was willing to offer half the money back out of goodwill. I would assume a 6-month old $279 pair would still be in good working condition, so this isn’t returning a ‘defective’ product, so much as a defective lapse in communication and understanding of how Islam works when it comes to dogs and swine. A waste of a perfectly good pair if MUIS’s recommendation is throwing the wretched filth away, short of burning it with fire.

Curious about what our Islamic authority has to say about touching nasty, forbidden things, I browsed a MUIS’ FAQ webpage, but came away with more questions than answers. Here’s a sample:

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Does ‘hides’ include chemically treated, tanned leather?
If the pig and my hand are both dry, do I still need to wash the affected area 7 times?
How do I know if the earth/sand I use is not also contaminated with heavy Najis? Does MUIS have an analytical lab to sniff out najis compounds?
How pure should ‘pure clean water’ be? Will tap water do? Or do I need an entire lab apparatus to distill water for the purposes of ritual cleansing?
If I accidentally exposed my mouth and gums to pig-hair toothbrushes do I have to gargle with 6 parts water and 1 part water/earth too?

Pigs aside, what struck me most were these answers below as to whether it’s OK for a Muslim to TOUCH a DOG.

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So is it OK to touch a dry dog with a dry hand and not cleanse after that?
Do I need to wash if I touched dried dog saliva in a cab?
Do I need a measuring jug to measure exactly 6 parts water and 1 part water and earth?
Must the water be pure and distilled as well?
If I step on fresh dogshit with shoes on, do I need to purify the dirty shoe?
If I step on dogshit with bare feet can I wash with soap first before doing the ritual wash?
Does ‘dog’ include coyote, wolf and dingo?

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What if I have chronically sweaty palms?
Can I swim, bathe, play sweaty sports with someone who eats pork?
Can my child play with toys in the image of a pig but made of non-porcine material?
How small are these ‘particles’ you speak of. Crumbs, or molecules?
Can I drink from the same bottle as a pork-eater?
What happens if I get bitten by a mosquito that just sucked dog’s blood?
If my non-Muslim friend became vegetarian just a day ago, how long must I wait before not a trace of pork filth is retained in his body?

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