Sunday, February 4, 2007

Stenson pips Els, Woods in Dubai

DUBAI - HENRIK Stenson, Europe's Ryder Cup hero, beat Ernie Els and Tiger Woods to the Dubai Desert Classic title yesterday.

The Swede, who holed the winning putt against the United States last September, was steadiest among the leaders on a difficult day.

He overcame a 30km/h warm desert wind and sank a testing uphill 10-footer for birdie at the last for a one-shot win over Els.

He had five birdies in his four-under 68 (269 total) to overturn Els' two-shot overnight lead.

The South African (71), a three-time winner here, struggled to recover from a three-bogey outward half of 37.

Defending champion Woods (69) was a further stroke back. Back-to-back bogeys after the turn made his chase almost impossible.

The world No1 managed three straight birdies from the 12th, but it was too late.

Sweden's Niclas Fasth closed with a 68 to join the American in third.

The revelation of the week, 26-year-old Englishman Ross Fisher (71), was alone in fifth on 272.

Stenson reached the par-five 18th with a one-stroke lead over Els.

He laid up in two, while an attack-minded Els hit over the water to the back edge of the green.

The Dubai-based world No14 hit a wonderful approach over the water to 10feet and rolled in the winning putt confidently.

'I fought hard all week and, to beat Ernie by one, it feels awesome,' said the 30-year-old.

'Living down here in Dubai, and having my friends and family with me this week, is something special.'

The Asian challenge fell away on the final day. India's Jyoti Randhawa, who was joint-second overnight, struggled to a 74. He was on 275 with the promising Thai Prom Meesawat (71).


Saturday, February 3, 2007

$151,000 for ST fund

NEEDY children, who do not get lunch money, benefited from clothing store chain Giordano's $151,125 donation earlier this week.

For every $100 that customers spent at Giordano outlets between October and December last year, $5 was given to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund, which the chain has adopted.

A Giordano spokesman said it was 'glad to help young, eager minds remain in school' and get a 'fine education'.

Thailand's ITV wants payment deadline extended

BANGKOK - THAI television network ITV said it has appealed to the Thai government to extend a deadline for the payment of 97.8 billion baht (S$4.19 billion) in fines and interest.

Thailand's Supreme Administrative Court on Dec 13 ordered ITV, a network controlled by Temasek Holdings, to pay 2.2 billion baht in back fees and another 97.8 billion baht in fines by Monday.

The company has made proposals to pay off the back fees while the government has given it another 30 days to pay both.

'ITV begs that the debt repayment be limited to the remaining compensation in an amount' of 2.2 billion baht, ITV chairman Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan said in a statement to the bourse yesterday. 'ITV is now in the process of procuring the money to repay such a debt.'

The TV network, which has a 30-year concession to operate the only network of six in Thailand that is not owned by the government or the military, risks having its broadcast licence revoked if it fails to pay within the extended deadline, said Mr Julayuth Hiranyawisit, Permanent Secretary in the Prime Minister's Office, on Tuesday.

ITV and parent Shin Corp were founded by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a coup on Sept 19.

The fine should be paid after an arbitration tribunal makes a decision about the dispute over the charge, Mr Niwattumrong said. ITV had asked the tribunal to consider the disagreement over the fine, he said.

Its proposal last week to offer the government a controlling stake to offset the back fees, or to pay in instalments, was rejected. ITV has also offered to pay the 2.2 billion baht in 30 days, Mr Niwattumrong said.


Friday, February 2, 2007

Scented oils linked to breast growth in boys

BOSTON - THE lavender and tea tree oils found in some soaps, shampoos, hair gels and body lotions can produce enlarged breasts in boys, according to a study.

These plant oils were linked to abnormal breast development in three boys, a condition called gynecomastia, which was reversed when they stopped using them, said researchers.

The study, published in yesterday's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, suggested these oils can act in ways similar to the hormone estrogen.

'This report raises an issue of concern, since lavender oil and tea tree oil are sold over the counter in their 'pure' form and are present in an increasing number of commercial products, including shampoos, hair gels, soaps, and body lotions,' wrote Dr Clifford Bloch and a team of researchers from Paediatric Endocrine Associates in Colorado.

'Whether the oils elicit similar endocrine-disrupting effects in prepubertal girls, adolescent girls, or women is unknown.'

While it is very common for boys to develop temporary breast enlargement during puberty, the condition is very uncommon in young boys, Dr Bloch's team wrote.

They found the problem in three otherwise healthy boys - ages four, seven and 10 - who had used products that contained either lavender or tea tree oils.

In laboratory tests, scientists at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in North Carolina found that both substances can mimic the action of the female hormone estrogen and block male hormones that control both masculine characteristics and inhibit the growth of breast tissue.


Thursday, February 1, 2007

'Study causes of floods before blaming S'pore'

MALAYSIA'S Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has called for a full study to be done into the causes of the recent flooding in Johor before fingers are pointed at Singapore.

'There have been all kinds of claims, but we cannot draw conclusions without an in-depth technical study,' Bernama news agency reported him as saying in Kuala Lumpur.

He said without a technical study, conclusions could not be drawn on the cause of the recent floods in Johor.

He made his remarks to reporters when asked to comment on Johor Menteri Besar Abdul Ghani Othman's claim that massive land reclamation works by Singapore at Pulau Tekong at the mouth of the Johor River had contributed to the floods in Kota Tinggi.

Datuk Seri Najib said the government was setting up a technical committee and the cause of the floods would be determined by experts.

His comments came as Singapore's Ministry of National Development (MND) yesterday rejected Datuk Abdul Ghani's claims as unfounded. Responding to media queries on the Johor Menteri Besar's remarks, an MND spokesman said in a statement: 'The comments are unfounded.

'This is confirmed by the results from technical studies that were commissioned separately by both the Malaysian government and the Singapore government as part of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) dispute settlement proceedings on Singapore's land reclamation works at Pulau Tekong and Tuas View Extension.

'A coastal hydraulic study undertaken by Malaysia's Department of Irrigation and Drainage in September 2002 on the impact of Singapore's reclamation works concluded that...there is no increased flooding due to Singapore's reclamation works.'

It added: 'A separate Environmental Impact Assessment report prepared by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia commissioned by the Malaysian government reported similar findings.

'Technical studies commissioned separately by the Singapore government in 2003 also reached the same conclusions.

'In fact, based on the results of these studies, the Group of Experts which both governments appointed to study the impact of the reclamation works had recommended that it would not be necessary for the flood impact to be further assessed by the technical consultant appointed for the joint study.

'This was accepted by both governments. There is therefore no scientific basis to the allegations that the flooding is caused by Singapore's land reclamation works at Pulau Tekong.'

A News Straits Times report yesterday said the land reclamation work by Singapore at Pulau Tekong might have contributed to the recent floods in Johor.

The land reclamation is said to have narrowed the river mouth of Sungai Johor, causing the massive destruction in Kota Tinggi.

Datuk Abdul Ghani told the paper that the narrowing of the river mouth had slowed the discharge of excess rain water into the Johor Strait.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Manager jailed for taking bribes to rig Biopolis deal

AN OPERATIONS manager at a multinational company who took bribes to fiddle a contract at the Biopolis project has been sentenced to 10 months' jail.

Lim Niann Tsyr, 40, was yesterday also ordered to pay a penalty of about $176,000 - $27,000 plus US$96,000 (S$149,000) - the amounts he accepted as bribes from the chief executive officer of Linair Technologies Tommy Oh Boon Hua.

The penalty will be paid from the bribery money that Lim had surrendered to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau during its investigation in March 2005.

Lim is appealing against the sentence, and is out on $120,000 bail pending the outcome.

At the time of the offences in 2003 and 2004, he worked for Honeywell and was in charge of part of the Biopolis project, Singapore's biomedical research complex.

Honeywell had engaged its subsidiary, Phoenix Controls Corporation, to supply and commission a laboratory air-flow control system for various blocks at the Biopolis.

The court heard that Phoenix regional sales manager Anthony Lim Tiong Teck offered Lim about $100,000 to convince Honeywell's management to allow Phoenix to sub-contract the job to a local representative. Lim agreed.

Mr Lim of Phoenix had Linair in mind as the local representative company.

Linair, together with a front company set up by Mr Oh called Integrated Solutions Engineering, was subsequently appointed to carry out the works. The job was estimated to be worth US$935,000.

Lim pleaded guilty last week to two corruption charges and one of cheating Honeywell of $21,445 relating to fictitious supplies.

Four other corruption charges were taken into consideration.

None of the others has been charged.

Defence counsel Nicholas Narayanan had asked for a fine, saying it was Mr Anthony Lim who had made the unsolicited offer of money to his client, who succumbed in a moment of weakness.

Lim, whose wife is expecting their third child and having a difficult pregnancy, had co-operated with the authorities.

Now unemployed, Lim could have been fined up to $100,000 or jailed for up to five years, or both for each corruption charge. The maximum penalty for cheating is a year's jail or fine, or both.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

ERP rates at three expressways to go up by 50 cents

ELECTRONIC road-pricing rates are going up next week.

When the next round of revisions kicks in on Monday, it will cost as much as $4 per pass for car owners - the highest since ERP was introduced in 1998.

The new rate is a result of a 50-cent increase for use of the Central Expressway (CTE), East Coast Parkway (ECP) and Pan-Island Expressway (PIE).

For car drivers using the PIE slip road into the CTE between 8.30am and 9am, the 50-cent hike takes the charge up to $4. For drivers of very heavy goods vehicles, this levy is $8.

The new $4 charge is raising eyebrows.

'I foresee 40 per cent of my customers will not take that route,' ventured 51-year-old cabby S.H. Ngiam. 'They will bypass that and cause bottlenecks elsewhere.'

Car drivers passing the CTE gantry north of Braddell Road towards the city will pay $2 between 7.30am and 9am - up from $1.50.

Those passing the ECP Fort Road gantry will pay $1.50 between 7.30am and 8am; $2.50 between 8.30am and 9am and $1 between 9am and 9.30am - up from $1, $2 and 50 cents, respectively.

And on the PIE slip road into the CTE between 7.30am and 8.30am, drivers will pay $3 - from $2.50 now.

Charges at all other gantries will remain unchanged.

Transport researcher Paul Barter described the $4 rate as 'kind of alarming', but noted that ERP rates changed according to traffic patterns.

The assistant professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy predicted that the next generation of ERP might 'spread the charges around' to more roads to avoid sharp pricing at isolated gantries.

He also envisaged distance-based charging, in which motorists pay according to the length of the journey rather than the current flat rate.

One way to make this palatable, he said, was for ERP revenue to be used more directly to improve public transport in congested corridors.

The Land Transport Authority reviews ERP rates quarterly to 'achieve optimal traffic flow' - defined as speeds of 45kmh to 65kmh for expressways, and 20kmh to 30kmh for main roads.

Rates for some gantries were reduced by 50 cents during the last review, in November last year.

The next review will be in May.