the world beyond four walls


Fifa corruption inquiries: Officials arrested in Zurich

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Self-radicalised Singaporean youths – one arrested, one detained under ISA

A Singaporean youth has been detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for terrorism-related activities since April this year, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) announced on Wednesday (May 27).

Additionally, another youth was arrested in May under the ISA for further investigations into the extent of his radicalisation.

The youth detained since April, M Arifil Azim Putra Norja’i, a 19-year-old post-secondary student, is the first known self-radicalised Singaporean to harbour the intention to carry out violent attacks in Singapore, said MHA.

Investigations showed that he had made plans to join the terrorist group, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and that his radicalisation began around 2013 when he started viewing terrorist propaganda online, said MHA.

The ministry said Arifil then grew to support the radical ideology and violent tactics of ISIS, and befriended individuals online whom he thought could help him join the terrorist group. Arifil also actively surfed the Internet for information on travel routes to Syria so that he could engage in armed violence there, and had done research on making improvised explosive devices.

Arifil also revealed that if he was unable to join ISIS in Syria, he intended to carry out violent attacks in Singapore, said MHA. He had put “considerable thought” into how he would attack key facilities and assassinate Government leaders. If he was unable to carry out these plans, Arifil planned to carry out attacks in public places “in order to strike fear within our society”, using “easily available” weapons such as knives, added the ministry.

His intentions to carry out violent attacks were subsequently corroborated by several persons who said he had tried to recruit them to help carry out these plans, according to the MHA. Investigations showed that while these people did not fall prey to Arifil’s attempts to recruit them, they also did not alert the authorities about him, it added.

“Fortunately, another person who knew Arifil noticed the changes in him, and had brought him to the attention of the authorities, who were then able to investigate the matter and take action before he could carry out his violent attack plans in Singapore,” said MHA.

The ministry added that another radicalised Singaporean post-secondary youth, 17, was arrested in May under the ISA for further investigations into the extent of his radicalisation. His family was informed of his arrest, and will be kept informed of the outcome of the investigations. Read More


Man who killed himself at Dignitas explains decision in film

Thanks to Zhiyan for sharing this report with me so that i can share this with all of you!

The Guardian/26 May 2015

A businessman with an inoperable tumour has killed himself at an assisted dying clinic in Switzerland – after spending his last seven days making a film for his widow and three children.

Jeffrey Spector died on Monday, six years after he was diagnosed with an inoperable tumour that was growing near his spinal column.

Doctors had warned him the condition would eventually lead to paralysis and death and so Spector said he decided he wanted to be in control of the final stages of his life.

When his illness began to get worse he decided that he had no option but to travel to Switzerland due to UK law. He said: “Assisted suicide is illegal in the UK sHe added that he decided it was time when his symptoms increased in severity. “I put one date off so that my daughter could do her exams – but I was going downhill and was finding it hard to use my hands. I had no pressure in my fingers.

“I felt the illness had crossed the red line and I was getting worse. Rather than go late, I am jumping the gun. I call it the least worst option, which is best for my family in the long term.”

Spector, who was the director of a number of advertising and internet firms in Blackpool, Lancashire, chose to be joined by a film crew for the last week of his life. His decision to be filmed has echoes of the death of Guernsey-based hotelier Peter Smedley, whose assisted death in 2011 was screened in a documentary by the late Sir Terry Pratchett for the BBC.

Spector, whose family joined him at the Zurich clinic, described his condition as “a walking timebomb” as he could be struck with neck-down paralysis at any moment.

In an interview released by Dignitas, Spector said he was not scared of death and added: “Never judge someone until you have worn their shoes.

“I know I am going too early. My family disagree, but I believe this is in their best interests.” Stating he wanted to be “in control of the final stages of my life”, he said: “I was a fit and healthy person and my life has been turned upside down.

“What started as backache in 2008 developed into an illness that led me to having to make this most awful decision. Friends, and most of all my family, have urged me not to go through with it.”

Spector first discovered he was ill when he complained of having a sore back and stiff neck. He collapsed at a hotel after attending a friend’s retirement party and sought medical advice. He said: “I thought I had overdone things. My legs went in the hotel room. I got back home and booked in for an MRI scan.

“The phone call from the clinic asked me to go for another scan, which revealed a large tumour high up in my spine in and around the spinal cord.

“My surgeon was confident he could remove the tumour but tests revealed it would be too dangerous. I woke up thinking it would be out, but he told me he could not even take a biopsy.”

Instead, surgeons removed bones elsewhere in his back to relieve pressure caused by the tumour, but it continued to grow.

Spector added: “Had it been lower down the spine, and I lost the use of my legs, I would have been distraught but I could cope. Where it was meant total paralysis from my neck down.”

As the tumour grew, Spector visited the Dignitas clinic and decided that he would kill himself before the tumour’s advance meant he would be unable to do so.

He said: “I know I am going too early but I had consistent thoughts without peer pressure. It had to be a settled decision by a sound mind. If I am paralysed and cannot speak, then what hope is there? I am a proud person – a dignified person, independent and self motivated. It is me who is doing this.”

In the UK, anyone convicted of assisting a suicide can face a 14-year jail term. Pressure group Dignity In Dying, which counted Pratchett as one of its patrons, have long campaigned to change the law.

Labour peer Lord Falconer proposed a bill stating that if someone has a prognosis of less than six months to live, they should be allowed to have an assisted death subject to a number of safeguards and checks. His private member’s bill was debated in the House of Lords in June 2014 and reached the committee stage in parliament in January. However, due to opponents delaying its progress, the bill did not reach the Commons before parliament was dissolved ahead of the general election.

“Some people will criticise me, but do not judge me,” said Spector. “I believe in my human right to dignity. I want the ability to have a cup of tea and hold a phone – I want to be able to do those things myself.

“I believe what I am doing is in the best long term interests of my family. They disagree, but they do accept I have my own opinion.”

A family friend said on Monday: “Jeffrey was not for changing his mind. He did not want to be unable to walk or talk.

“From the outside he appeared as normal – chatty, driving his car, but inside he knew he was getting worse. People have tried to talk him out of this, his own family have begged him.

“But if Jeffrey Spector could not be the Jeffrey Spector we all knew, because of this tumour, this was his way out.


Protests against GMO crops and pesticides target Monsanto, international agribusiness giant

From Paris to Ouagadougou, thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest against the American biotechnology giant Monsanto and its genetically modified crops and pesticides.

The third annual March Against Monsanto was being held in upwards of 400 cities in more than 40 countries.

About 2,500 people staged anti-Monsanto protests in the Swiss cities of Basel and Morgues, where the company has its headquarters for Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Up to 3,000 protesters rallied by environmental organisations including Greenpeace and anti-capitalist group Stop Tafta gathered in Paris, with Monsanto’s market-leading herbicide Roundup the main targets of protesters’ anger.

The controversial product’s main ingredient was recently classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans” by the World Health Organisation.

Organisers said ahead of the marches the multinational biotech giant had claimed that genetically modified crops would actually lead to a decrease in Roundup use.

Coloured powders are thrown during a protest in Mexico City

But they pointed to US Geological Survey data that revealed the use of Roundup’s key component glyphosate had increased 16-fold since the mid-1990s when genetically modified organisms (GMOs) were first introduced.

“Looking for mass suicide? Go for Roundup,” read one placard at a French protest in the western city of Rennes.

In a march in another French city, Toulouse, protesters called for more protection for bees, amid international alarm at recent population declines of the vital pollinator.

Halfway around the planet in Burkina Faso, about 500 people marched against the US giant, which introduced GM cotton into the west African country in 2003.

Demonstrators demanded a 10-year moratorium on the planting of Monsanto seeds so “independent research can be conducted” into the effects of the technology.

Up to 1,000 anti-Monsanto activists gathered in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg as the sun was setting for a minute’s silence “in homage to the existing and future victims poisoned by pesticides”, according to the organisers.

The worldwide March Against Monsanto was begun in 2013 by the Occupy movement and has become an annual event.


As graduate numbers grow, a hard truth: Not all degrees are equal

By Ng Jing Yng/TODAY/23 May 2015

SINGAPORE: After graduating with a second-class upper degree in human resource management, Mr Tan, 30, took some time to land a full-time job and he is currently doing administrative work – buying office supplies and processing claims. “I wished that we were taught more skills in university instead,” he said.

Another graduate, Mr Tang, 27, who has a chemistry degree, has been working in an admin support temporary position for the past 18 months. “Unlike our parents’ time, it seems like there are many people holding a degree now but the fact is there are many jobs out there that do not require a degree holder to do the work.”

On the other hand, there are graduates who have, by their own volition, ventured into careers that have little to do with what they had studied for in university. A PhD holder in biomedical sciences, Dr Christopher Yang, was a research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine when he made the switch into the financial sector four years ago.

The 41-year-old said his biomedical career was going well, having received a grant to advance immunology research. But a series of circumstances – including the outlook of the industry, and the birth of his fourth child – led to him making the career switch. “I had to seriously think about my career path and prospects,” said Dr Yang, who is now an accredited financial adviser.

In Asia, Taiwan and South Korea have been experiencing an oversupply of graduates, with double-digit youth unemployment rates. In contrast, Singapore enjoys close to full employment, and more than 80 per cent of graduates from publicly-funded universities and the more-established private institutions are able to find jobs within six months of graduation. Read More


Church in Ireland needs ‘reality check’ after gay marriage vote May 2015

The first gay marriages are now likely to take place in the early autumn.

Diarmuid Martin, the archbishop of Dublin, said the Church in Ireland needed to reconnect with young people.

The referendum found 62% were in favour of changing the constitution to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.

The archbishop told the broadcaster RTE: “We [the Church] have to stop and have a reality check, not move into denial of the realities.

“We won’t begin again with a sense of renewal, with a sense of denial. I appreciate how gay and lesbian men and women feel on this day. That they feel this is something that is enriching the way they live. I think it is a social revolution.”

The archbishop personally voted “No” arguing that gay rights should be respected “without changing the definition of marriage”.

“I ask myself, most of these young people who voted yes are products of our Catholic school system for 12 years. I’m saying there’s a big challenge there to see how we get across the message of the Church,” he added.

Ireland is the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage through a popular vote, and its referendum was held 22 years after homosexual acts were decriminalised in the Republic of Ireland.

Among those voicing their approval of the outcome was UK Prime Minister David Cameron who tweeted: “Congratulations to the people of Ireland, after voting for same-sex marriage, making clear you are equal if you are straight or gay.” Read More


Singapore to offer US$200,000 to support countries providing help to Rohingyas

The Singapore Government will offer an initial contribution of US$200,000 (S$267,000) through ASEAN to support the efforts of countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia that have been aiding Rohingya refugees, said Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Saturday (May 23).

Singapore is concerned about the situation and welcomed efforts by countries, in particular Malaysia and Indonesia, which agreed to provide temporary shelter for the Rohingyas, said Mr Shanmugam.

He said the financial aid is part of an ASEAN-led initiative, adding that Singapore is prepared to consider further assistance, if there are specific requests.

Mr Shanmugam said the Rohingya crisis has raised two key issues – one is how to help those currently on boats and stranded at sea, while the other is the need to deal with the problem at its source.

This would require looking at living conditions created by countries of origin as well as the criminal organisations putting them on boats, subjecting them to terrible conditions. That, he added, is a “more serious problem” because tens and thousands of refugees could potentially suffer.

Mr Shanmugam stressed that the countries where the refugees originated from should take responsibility, and both ASEAN and the international community needs to address this issue.

Singapore’s contribution comes days after the Government said it is unable to accept any refugees or those seeking political asylum because it is a small country with limited land.

Over the past week, countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia have provided shelter to Rohingya refugees who have landed on their shores. Food and medical aid were also provided.

Up to 2,000 migrants are thought to be stranded in the Bay of Bengal, many at risk of falling victim to people smugglers. Most are Muslim Rohingyas from the western Rakhine state in Myanmar.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said finding and saving the lives of those migrants should be a “top priority”.


Silicon Valley attracting women to technology

Silicon Valley attracting women to technology
21 May 2015 Last updated at 05:18 BST
For years women have been a minority in the high-tech world of Silicon Valley. Geeky, laddish culture has come to dominate.
But the voice provided by social media, books by high-powered women in tech, and the realisation that it is bad business to discriminate against half of the world’s biggest brains is forcing change.
Traditionally in both the tech boardroom and on the coding floor there have been far more men, but all-women projects to help support and mentor entrepreneurs are having an impact.
BlackBox Connect brings together company founders from all over the world to introduce them to the energy, the ethos, and hopefully the money of Silicon Valley.
They’ve held their first all-female course as part of the growing momentum for equality in the world of tech.


Ireland goes to polls on historic vote on same-sex marriage

Dublin, Ireland (CNN)/22nd May 2015

Irish voters were choosing Friday whether to change the country’s constitution to allow same-sex marriage.

It’s a landmark referendum that, if passed, would make Ireland the first country in the world to adopt same-sex marriage through a popular vote.

Ireland’s voters will be asked to approve this statement: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”

If more say “yes” than say “no,” the change to the constitution will give gay and lesbian couples the right to civil marriage, but not to be wed in a church.

As in many other countries around the world, the issue is a polarizing one. And the referendum will be a test of whether in Ireland, a majority Catholic nation, more liberal thinking wins out over conservative, traditional leanings.

Opinion polls in the run-up to the vote suggest the “yes” vote is on track to come out on top — but that the gap is narrowing.

It wasn’t hard to find evidence of the divide in the streets of Dublin on the eve of the vote.

Read More


ake rice made of plastic reported to have reached shores of several countries in Asia

The Straits Times/May 19 2015

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – The sacred bowl of rice that used to save lives could now be harmful – and even deadly.

Plastic rice laced with poisonous resin has reportedly reached the shores of several Asian nations. The rice is said to stay hard after it has been cooked.

The plastic rice, reportedly made from potatoes, sweet potatoes, with synthetic resin moulded into the shape of real rice, is said to have made its way into countries with large rural populations such as India, Indonesia and Vietnam.

One latest rumour said that the fake rice had entered Singapore, although a thorough check revealed this allegation to be at least five years old

Health experts and dieticians have warned that consuming such fake grains could be lethal or seriously damage the digestive system.

News of the fake rice, commonly sold in Chinese markets, especially in Taiyuan in Shaanxi province, has been circulating on popular social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook.

But the Malaysian Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry has said it has not received any reports on fake rice. Read More