KIEL, Germany: The first of four customised submarines designed for operations in Singapore's shallow and busy tropical waters was launched in Germany on Monday (Feb 18).
Speaking to reporters after the launch ceremony in Kiel, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said the acquisition of the submarines was "timely", with the maritime environment around Singapore facing security challenges and other Asian countries increasing their defence spending.
The 70-metre long vessel, christened the Invincible, is the first of four new submarines custom-built to Singapore's needs. Among other things, they will possess longer endurance and greater weapons-carrying capacity.
The new submarines will replace the Republic of Singapore Navy's (RSN) current Archer-class and Challenger-class submarines.
Besides being able to last underwater one-and-a-half times longer than the navy's current submarines, the Type 218SGs can locate enemies faster and identify them more accurately with its improved sonar.
This will enhance the navy's capability to better protect Singapore's waters, and safeguard Singapore's access to the sea lines of communication, the Defence Minister said.
Dr Ng added: “The SAF (Singapore Armed Forces) will have to shape itself to deal with a multitude of security challenges, some of which are conventional, some like terrorism or weapons of mass destruction.
"So the submarines are very much part and parcel of any modern military and I think it’ll add significantly to the RSN’s capability and the SAF’s capabilities in terms of options when the time is needed.”
The minister also said that deterrence is very important to Singapore, and it does not build or operate against any single country.
"When we acquired these vessels, we took into account the other militaries around us modernising their submarines," Dr Ng said.
"Like Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, China, and from further afar. Obviously Australians too. So it’s in keeping with the modernisation of militaries in our region."
THREE REMAINING SUBMARINES UNDER CONSTRUCTION
Following its launch, the Invincible will undergo a series of sea trials before delivery to Singapore in 2021.
The submarine crew can look forward to larger living spaces compared to the RSN’s older submarines, meaning hygiene on board will improve and the crew can endure longer underwater, said Colonel Teo Chin Leong, Commanding Officer of the 171 Squadron, which will receive the new submarines.
He added: "The crew will be undergoing training in phases. First at an individual level before they move on to operate the submarine as a group."
The three remaining Type 218SG submarines - named Impeccable, Illustrious and Inimitable - are still under construction.
SINGAPORE: A man was sentenced to 25-and-a-half years' jail, much more than what the prosecution had asked for, after he prostituted his wife, sexually assaulted his daughter and molested his wife's niece.
He was also ordered 24 strokes of the cane and a fine of S$12,000 to disgorge the profits he had earned from the prostitution - the first case of its kind in Singapore.
All parties cannot be named due to a gag order protecting the victims' identities.
He pleaded guilty to one charge each of sexual assault by penetration of a minor, prostituting his wife, receiving payment over exploitation of a trafficked victim and aggravated outrage of modesty.
Another four charges were taken into consideration in the sentencing of the 27-year-old, whom the prosecution described as a "monster" with "unprecedented" sordid sexual depravity.
The High Court heard that the man married his wife in 2012, but had been physically abusing her even before that, slapping her face, and kicking and punching her.
The assaults became more frequent starting from 2015, happening at least weekly and even when she was pregnant.
His wife was therefore very fearful of him, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Eunice Lau, not daring to contact even her own family as her husband forbade her from doing so. He also threatened to kill her if she reported the abuse to the police.
JOBLESS MAN ASKED WIFE TO WORK AS PROSTITUTE TO SUPPORT FAMILY
As her husband was jobless between 2010 and 2015, the 27-year-old woman supported her family with her S$1,800 salary working as a receptionist and office assistant.
She gave this entire sum to her husband as he demanded and received a stipend in return.
When she stopped working in September 2015, the couple could not support their family and considered aborting their second child. But the man hatched a plot to prostitute his wife so they could pay for their infant son's diapers and other expenses.
The woman asked him to get a regular job, but he refused, saying that prostitution was a quick and lucrative way of earning money. The woman finally succumbed to his request because she feared his assaults and also because she needed to buy milk powder for her three-month-old baby.
COACHED BY HUSBAND, WIFE STROVE TO MEET DAILY CUSTOMER QUOTA
Coached by her husband, who was familiar with prostitutes as he frequently hired them online, the hapless woman began working as a prostitute.
She met her customers in hotels in Balestier, keeping to a daily quota of customers set by her husband. In this way, she gave sexual services to 138 men, earning about S$11,000 in just three months, which she handed over to her husband.
On top of this, she gave in to her husband's demands to film her sex acts as he had a "deviant fetish" to see them, the prosecution said.
Her prostitution was closely monitored by her husband, who once kicked her in the head as he felt she was taking too long to get customers. He also punched her face when he got jealous or if her clients paid her less than what they had agreed on.
On one occasion, a former classmate of the woman had engaged her services without knowing who she was. The woman's husband wanted a threesome and hit his wife with a dumbbell when she could not persuade her classmate into it.
MAN ORDERED NIECE TO BE DELIVERED TO HIM IN HOTEL
On Aug 1, 2016, after beating his wife up for falling asleep, the man asked her to bring him her 13-year-old niece.
She refused, suspecting that her husband would harm her niece and knowing that the child was taking her Primary School Leaving Examination.
When he threatened to hit her, she fetched her niece from school, lying to the child that her mother had agreed. The child was taken to a hotel in Balestier, where her aunt had booked a room for the accused.
There, the man molested the girl, who cried throughout the attack. The court heard that he stopped only when the child could not breathe due to the pillow he had pressed on her face to muffle her screams.
He called his wife to the room and she apologised to her niece before taking her to a polyclinic.
AFTER HE TARGETS HIS OWN DAUGHTER, MAN'S MOTHER CALLS POLICE
The man's crimes were finally discovered after he sexually assaulted his six-year-old daughter sometime between Jul 20, 2016, and Aug 14, 2016.
The accused had moved the family out to a hotel after an argument with his mother, with whom they had been staying.
The couple had sex and his wife then went to the toilet. Seeing his daughter awake, the man forced her to perform a sex act on him, even though he suspected he had an STD. This was later confirmed in hospital.
When the mother came out of the toilet and saw what was happening, she was furious and shouted at her husband. He warned them not to tell anyone about the incident or he would beat them up.
When the family returned to live with the man's mother, the young daughter told the grandmother what happened and she called the police.
Psychiatric reports from the Institute of Mental Health indicated that the man was "somewhat boastful of his sexual exploits".
He also appeared to have anti-social personality traits and continues to be a risk to his daughter, on top of posing a high risk of violence towards his wife, who has a personal protection order against him.
The jail sentence was much longer than the 22 years the prosecution had asked for.
The prosecution said the three victims, all of whom were vulnerable women in the man's life, must "suffer the trauma and degradation of the accused's actions for the rest of their lives".
KIEV: A Ukrainian court on Friday (Feb 15) placed a high-ranking regional official in custody after he was charged with organising a deadly acid attack on an activist.
Vladyslav Manger will be held until at least Mar 3, with bail of 2.5 million hryvnia (US$91,800), press secretary for General Prosecutor Larysa Sargan said.
Manger, the head of the regional council in the southern region of Kherson, was charged with organising the attack on prominent anti-corruption activist Kateryna Gandzyuk.
The 33-year-old was attacked in July and had a litre of acid poured on her. She died in November after months of treatment, including more than 10 operations.
Her murder sparked shock and protest, with activists accusing the authorities of failing to complete the investigation or identify the mastermind.
General Prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko earlier this week said Manger "ordered and partially organised this crime by financing it".
According to the charge sheet released by Lutsenko, Manger was guided by "personal animosity" because Gandzyuk opposed "illegal logging" in the region.
Lutsenko said the prosecution had obtained enough testimony from witnesses about Manger's role, adding that the attackers had received "no less than 4,000 dollars".
If found guilty, Manger faces up to life in prison.
Manger was a member of the Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, a key rival of President Petro Poroshenko in the Mar 31 presidential election.
He was expelled from the party last week.
Gandzyuk's death has sparked condemnation of the government and drawn renewed attention to dozens of assaults on other anti-corruption campaigners in Ukraine over recent months.
Both the European Union and the United States have called the attacks on activists unacceptable and urged authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice.
SINGAPORE: A police officer has died of her injuries after being hit by a car, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said on Friday (Feb 15).
Madam Salinah Mohamed, 41, died on Thursday morning after she was hit while crossing Maxwell Road, in front of her office. The accident happened at around 8.20pm last Sunday.
Her husband, Mr Indra Shaiful, wrote on Facebook: “With a heavy heart, I wish to inform that my wife Salinah has left my side to be with our Creator forever at 11.50am.”
The driver has been arrested for dangerous driving, Mr Shanmugam said in a Facebook post on Friday.
Mdm Salinah had spent 21 years in the police force.
“I met her family at the wake. She leaves behind her husband and three young children. A family torn asunder,” said the minister.
“We have over the years stepped up education, enforcement, increased the number of cameras, made our cameras very visible, so that drivers’ behaviour will change.
“But despite these measures, poor driving has been on the increase. Last year we decided that penalties for bad driving will be increased.
“We must try and reduce the risk of losing lives from traffic incidents," he added.
SINGAPORE: A suspected drug trafficker and a pregnant woman were among 92 people arrested this week for alleged drug offences, the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) said in a news release on Friday (Feb 15).
The islandwide operation, which ended on Friday morning, covered areas such as Buangkok, Choa Chu Kang, Geylang, Jurong, Marsiling, Pasir Ris, Toa Payoh, Woodlands and Yishun.
Authorities seized a total of 116g of new psychoactive substances, 111g of cannabis, 58g of Ice, 54g of ketamine, 9g of heroin, 296 Ecstasy tablets and 12 Erimin-5 tablets.
In one of the cases, officers arrested a 39-year-old Singaporean man suspected of drug trafficking.
They raided a private apartment in the River Valley Close area and found 10g of Ice, 24g of ketamine, 91g of cannabis, 10 Erimin-5 tablets and 42 Ecstasy tablets, said CNB.
More than S$7,000 in cash, various foreign currencies and drug paraphernalia, including a digital weighing scale, were also seized.
Officers searched the taxi driven by the suspect and found one Erimin-5 tablet and a variety of unknown tablets, CNB added.
2 CHILDREN PUT UNDER CARE OF 'SUITABLE FAMILY MEMBERS'
In another case, officers arrested two suspected drug users on Tuesday - a 36-year-old Singaporean man and a 29-year-old Singaporean woman.
The woman, who was eight months pregnant, had abused methamphetamine the previous day, according to CNB.
A five-year-old boy and nine-year-old girl were present when the arrests were made at a unit in the Buangkok Crescent area. They are now under the care of "suitable family members", said CNB.
"The bureau is working closely with the Ministry of Social and Family Development to oversee their welfare and ensure that they continue to receive the necessary support," said CNB.
Various pieces of drug-taking apparatus as well as 114 unknown tablets were seized from the unit.
Separately, two Singaporean men - aged 18 and 28 - were arrested at a unit in the Marsiling Lane area.
Officers found a small amount of Ice in the 28-year-old's bedroom, where his seven-year-old son was sleeping.
Preliminary investigations found that both men had been abusing drugs in the unit, said CNB.
"Investigations into the drug activities of all the arrested persons are ongoing," added the agency.
RENO, Nevada: Five people were injured after a Delta Airlines flight travelling from Santa Ana, California to Seattle, Washington on Wednesday (Feb 13) encountered severe turbulence en route.
The flight was forced to make an emergency landing in Reno in the US state of Nevada at 1pm local time.
Three of the passengers were transported to the hospital with minor injuries, said a spokesperson from Regional Emergency Medical Services Authority (REMSA), according to reporters.
Joe Justice, a passenger on the flight, posted a video of the aftermath. A food cart is seen flipped in the aisle, with food and drink items strewn on the floor. Passengers can also be seen checking on one another.
"Crazy turbulence and injuries, but the Delta crew handled it perfectly, even the emergency landing," he tweeted.
"We did a nose dive, twice," said Mr Justice in a follow-up tweet.
In a report from Fox Reno, Brian Kulpin, a Reno Airport spokesperson, said that the passengers would continue their journey on another aircraft coming in from Salt Lake City, Utah.
Delta Airlines said that there were 59 passengers and four crew members aboard the Embraer 175 aircraft.
"Compass Airlines flight 5763 operating as Delta Connection from Orange County, CA to Seattle diverted to Reno after encountering severe turbulence. The aircraft landed safely and customers exited normally through the main cabin door," Delta Airlines said in a statement to Fox Reno.
"Delta is making resources available to take care of and support our customers. We apologize for this experience as we work to get customers to Seattle."
Compass Airlines is aware of the injuries resulting from the turbulence.
A spokesperson for the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed that Compass Flight 5763 was diverted to Reno and landed at about 1pm local time, after turbulence was reported by the crew.
Passengers were served pizza and soda after landing in Reno.
A strong winter storm moving into the region could create dangerous flying conditions with extreme turbulence, warned the National Weather Service earlier on Wednesday. A winter storm warning is in effect for the Lake Tahoe area through 11pm local time on Thursday.
SINGAPORE: Electricity supply to some areas in central Singapore was disrupted on Thursday afternoon (Feb 14).
Blackouts were reported at the Bras Basah Complex, Odeon Towers and several MRT stations at around 1.30pm.
Mr Ho Shao Dong, who was at Bras Basah Complex, said it appeared that the whole building experienced a blackout.
Ms Vera Ang, who works at Wilby Central along Queen Street said that the lights in her office blacked out "for a second" and the Wi-Fi stopped working.
"A colleague who was at the coffee shop opposite the road said the same thing happened there. After that, we heard a lot of horns and sirens as fire trucks zoomed past," she told reporters.
A commuter who wanted to be known only as Ms Ju said that Boon Keng MRT station was experiencing a blackout when she entered at about 1.25pm. She then took a train and reached Dhoby Ghaut MRT station, which was also experiencing a blackout, but the power gradually came back on.
"Announcements were made at Dhoby Ghaut MRT station for commuters to use the stopped escalators as stairs as there was a minor power trip," she said.
"They also apologised for the inconvenience."
SBS Transit siad that seven stations - HarbourFront, Outram Park, Chinatown, Clarke Quay, Dhoby Ghaut, Boon Keng and Potong Pasir - on the North-East Line was affected.
"This was due to a dip in the power grid network. Emergency lights were turned on during this period which lasted less than 25 minutes," said Ms Tammy Tan, senior vice-president of corporate communications at SBS Transit.
"Train services were not affected by the power outage."
"This was due to a dip in the power grid network. Emergency lights were turned on during this period which lasted less than 25 minutes," Ms Tammy Tan, senior vice-president of corporate communications at SBS.
"Train services were not affected by the power outage.”
SP Group said that its officers were immediately deployed to the affected areas.
"Our priority is to restore supply as safely and quickly as possible. Supply has been restored to most of these locations," it said in an update on Facebook at about 2.30pm.
"We are investigating the cause of the incident."
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) also said it responded to a fire incident at the Carlton Hotel at around the same time as the blackouts.
It is not clear if the incidents are linked.
The hotel said that there was a fire in the switch room which was extinguished by SCDF. Close to 1,000 people, including hotel guests and visitors, to the hotel were affected.
SINGAPORE: There were reports of explosions heard from Carlton Hotel in Bras Basah on Thursday afternoon (Feb 14), with power outages reported in the area.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said it responded to a fire at 76 Bras Basah Road, which is the hotel's address.
Photos on social media show SCDF vehicles around the hotel.
Facebook user Ricardo Sentosa posted a video on the social media site showing smoke and a blackened door at the hotel.
He said a "small explosion" was heard around 1.20pm, which was shortly followed by a second explosion.
The hotel's staff was then evacuated from the premises, he added.
Mr Ho Shao Dong, who was at Bras Basah Complex, said it appeared that the whole building experienced a blackout.
Netizens also reported blackouts in offices and MRT stations around the Bugis area, but it was not clear if these events were related.
Electricity supply to some areas in central Singapore was disrupted, SP Group confirmed.
"Our officers were immediately deployed to the affected areas and our priority is to restore supply as safely and quickly as possible," it said in a Facebook post. "Supply has been restored to most of these locations."
SP Group said it is investigating the cause of the incident.
RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil is going through a rudderless period as President Jair Bolsonaro lies in a hospital bed following stomach surgery, with high-priority political issues such as pension reform on the backburner until he recovers, analysts and observers say.
The limbo, which has lasted more than two weeks, might finally be coming to an end this week, according to reports.
But it has exposed tensions and jockeying for power within his young government, which took office at the beginning of January - including notably between Bolsonaro and his vice president, Hamilton Mourao, who briefly served as acting leader.
"Do you want to kill me?" Bolsonaro asked Mourao in a telephone call at the weekend, the latter said, making clear the president was joking, according to multiple reports in major Brazilian media.
Political observers in Brazil, however, perceived that as just the latest in a series of growing signs of disunity and of a troubling absence of leadership in Latin America's biggest economy.
"There is a kind of power vacuum in these weeks with the president's lengthening absence while in hospital," one political analyst, Thomaz Favaro, with the political risk consultancy Control Risks, said.
There was "a bit of worry" among hundreds of officials appointed to run government ministries, agencies and state-run companies on how to implement Bolsonaro's agenda, Favaro said.
Bolsonaro, 63, has been out of action since a Jan 28 operation to remove a colostomy bag and seal intestines perforated in September 2018 by a lone assailant who stabbed him while he was campaigning.
His recovery has taken longer than expected. But Bolsonaro insists he is keeping up with his duties from his hospital bed.
A far-right former paratrooper who sees himself as the "captain" of his government and country, Bolsonaro has been in office for just over six weeks.
In hospital, he has sought to project an image of a leader still at the helm despite being weakened, drip-fed nutrients and with restricted visitor access. On social media, he comments on various political issues, and posts pictures of meetings with his officials wearing face masks for hygiene.
His spokesman has spoken daily of the president's improving health - even as the president's expected discharge date was pushed back repeatedly because of vomiting, fluid build-up and then a bout of pneumonia.
Bolsonaro is now deemed medically well enough to be released from hospital from Wednesday, but the decision rests with the presidency, his chief surgeon Antonio Luiz Macedo told the Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper.
When he does get out, Bolsonaro will have two priorities to tackle: setting out the contours of a much-anticipated reform of Brazil's unsustainable pension system - and re-imposing his authority on a government riven by headstrong officials.
Chief among the latter is Mourao, a retired general who is said by Brazilian political columnists to have irritated Bolsonaro's entourage - especially his sons, three of whom are also politicians - by expanding his power base and influence through meetings with congressional heavyweights and diplomats and comments to the media.
The vice president particularly enraged them by publicly questioning the anti-crime justification of a decree Bolsonaro signed to ease gun ownership laws, and Bolsonaro's controversial promise to eventually move Brazil's embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
The question Bolsonaro shot Mourao on Saturday was seen to stem from that friction.
The Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper lamented the "administrative paralysis" caused by Bolsonaro's extended hospitalisation and what it saw as his sons' undue influence.
"The government today is run by someone not in sufficient health to do so, and who suffers direct and broad influence from his sons - who received no vote to be president nor occupy any ministerial posts," it said in an editorial.
STRUGGLE OVER PENSION CHANGES
The pension issue promises further struggles behind the scenes.
Bolsonaro won office partly by wooing investors with a pledge to overhaul of Brazil's limping, protectionist economy. That task has been largely delegated to his economy minister, Paulo Guedes, a US-trained free-marketeer.
Guedes has publicly toed the line set by Bolsonaro. But rumors of tensions between him and the president's chief of staff, Onyx Lorenzoni, have not been dissipated by ostentatious pictures of the two lunching together.
And Guedes and Bolsonaro have differed on basic principles of the pension reform. Lorenzoni said the package would be unveiled at the end of this week before being sent to Congress, but only after Bolsonaro gave his green light.
According to a leak last week of an early draft proposal, the minimum retirement age would be hiked to 65 years for both men and women. Bolsonaro initially wanted a softer regime of 62 years for men and 57 for women, but is said to be ready to settle for 65 and 60 respectively.
Guedes was to receive a finalized proposal Tuesday.
The reform will require changes to Brazil's constitution, to be voted by a congressional supermajority. If it is passed, it is expected to yield savings of up to one trillion reais (US$273 billion) over a decade, according to Guedes.
Currently in Brazil, workers can make early retirement after contributing for 35 years in the case of men and 30 years for women.
SINGAPORE: The Singapore tourism industry had a record year in 2018, with 18.5 million visitor arrivals - a 6.2 per cent spike from the year before.
Tourists to the island spent a projected S$27.1 billion, also a new high and an increase of 1 per cent from 2017, said the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), which shared preliminary estimates for 2018 in a press release on Wednesday (Feb 13).
Receipts and arrivals from the Business Travel and Meetings, Incentive Travel, Conventions and Exhibitions (BTMICE) sector saw bumper growth.
From January to September last year, BTMICE spending rose by 10 per cent to S$3.44 billion, compared to the same period in 2017, while visitor arrivals rose 14 per cent year-on-year to hit 2 million.
STB highlighted that it took advantage of opportunities in 2018 to promote Singapore as a destination - via events such as the launch of movie Crazy Rich Asians which is set in Singapore, the Trump-Kim Summit and the Bloomberg New Economy Forum.
Singapore relies on tourism for about 4 per cent of its economic output.
MORE SPENT ON SIGHTSEEING, LESS ON SOUVENIRS
Tourism spending grew mainly on the back of growth in visitor numbers, as there were declines in spending on shopping (-14 per cent), accommodation (-5 per cent) and food and beverage (-4 per cent).
This was because there were more day-trippers to Singapore and more travellers who went to multiple destinations, resulting in shorter stays in the country, STB shared. There was also less spending on souvenirs and gifts.
However, visitors splashed out on other past-times, such as sightseeing, entertainment and gaming, which saw a 6 per cent hike.
The largest increase (21 per cent) came from "other tourism receipts", which STB said was mainly due to a rise in airfare revenue as more visitors flew in on Singapore-based carriers.
GROWTH IN 14 TOP MARKETS
The growth in visitor numbers was driven by record-high visitor arrivals from seven of Singapore's top 15 markets - China, India, The Philippines, The United Kingdom, United States, Vietnam and Germany, STB said.
Fourteen of these markets registered growth in 2018, said STB.
Arrivals from India, in particular, rose 13 per cent with cruise arrivals going up by 27 per cent. The number of visitors from China, Singapore's largest market, went up by 6 per cent.
STB attributed the rise to greater air connectivity and the agency's marketing into more cities within the countries.
"For China and India, there was growth from both tier one and tier two cities, due to strong travel demand and increased flight connectivity," said STB.
For example, there were new and increased flights last year between Singapore and Nanchang, Haikou and Jinan in China, as well as new flights to Guwahati, Pune and Vijaywada in India.
STRONG YEAR FOR HOTELS, CRUISE INDUSTRY
The hotel industry continued to do well in 2018, with higher room revenue (7.4 per cent) that reached S$4 billion.
Hotel occupancy rose by 1.2 percentage points to 86 per cent and the average room rate increased 0.9 per cent year-on-year to S$219.
The number of cruise passengers jumped by 35 per cent to reach 1.87 million.
STB chief executive Keith Tan said that Singapore’s tourism sector performed well in 2018 "despite some economic uncertainties".
"We were fortunate to have benefited from a confluence of positive factors such as strong Asia-Pacific travel demand, increased flight connectivity to Singapore, and various high-profile events," he said.
For 2019, STB forecasts tourism receipts to be in the range of S$27.3 to S$27.9 billion and international visitor arrivals to rise to the range of 18.7 to 19.2 million.
"We are still forecasting growth from China this year. It will probably be a little bit more moderate compared to past years," said Mr Tan.