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Culture Lifestyle

Are Socially-Distanced Festivals Part of Our New Normal?

We live in strange, strange times. As the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has crippled most of the world, we’ve had to struggle to adapt to what’s colloquially called the “new normal”. This translates to masks being a permanent face accessory, only being able to go out in groups of five, figuring out how to work remotely from home, and so on.

However, as various governments start to gain a stronger hold on the spread of the virus, countries around the world are starting to regain some sense of normalcy. So, what does the future look like or, at least, what can we expect in the conceivable days that lie ahead? 

Perhaps an answer to this question lies in the form of socially-distanced festivals, which might be the key in helping to get the badly-beaten entertainment and music industry back on its feet!

Sure, there have been various livestream gigs but nothing can compare to the experience of witnessing live music acts in the flesh. At the start of August, the United Kingdom’s first socially-distanced concert was held in Newcastle, where around 2,500 people were in attendance. They were segregated into groups of five, with each group having their own elevated platform. Each platform even came with its own table, chairs, and even a fridge! Cars had to be parked two metres apart, with food and drink ordered in advance via an app. 

These socially-distanced concerts also come in many forms such as a drive-in concert, where people can enjoy the live acts whilst being socially distanced in their cars. The vehicles are spaced around six metres apart, allowing people to tune into the music via their car radios. The duration of the event is also kept to the maximum of one hour, with security teams on constant patrol to prevent anyone from getting out of their cars.

Such concerts have been popping up in parts of Europe and the United States, with DJs and performers finding creative ways to interact with the passengers in their respective vehicles. For example, at DJ D-Nice’s drive-in concert in Miami, he asked people to press their car horns in unison — replicating, in a way, the energy of the audience’s cheers!

Tuk Tuk Fest/Facebook

And it seems as if event and concert organisers are not afraid to get creative — in Thailand, the Amazing Tuk Tuk Festival saw hundreds of tuk tuks at the Asiatique promenade, where passengers were treated to a slew of live acts. These tuk tuks stayed within their designated zones, which were clearly demarcated with tape. 

In the Philippines, a drive-in concert was held at the Laoag Sand Dunes, where each 4×4 vehicle had its own dedicated driver/tour guide. Each vehicle could only carry a maximum of four passengers, with sandboarding and an off-road tour thrown in as part of the experience. Measures such as wearing of face masks at all times and banning alcoholic beverage consumption were among some of the protocols implemented.

O.Torvald/Facebook

In Ukraine, the rock band O.Torvald even played their entire set on a building rooftop — where fans could watch the performance from the comfort of their own balconies! Booking of hotel rooms replaced the purchasing of tickets for this ‘vertical concert’, where they could sing and dance freely without being inhibited by a mask.

Tuk Tuk Fest/Facebook

No matter the event, stringent measures are implemented, such as only having outdoor live stages, temperature checks upon entry, the presence of multiple hand sanitising booths and water points, as well as social distancing enforced in areas like bars and campsites. The upcoming Stendhal Festival in Northern Ireland even goes as far as to implement a minimum age of 21, as they acknowledge the trickiness of mandating social distancing practices for younger individuals.

This is a far cry from events that seemed to have forgone safety measures altogether — the recent music festival at Wuhan Maya Beach Water Park shocked the world when photos and videos of its party-goers went viral. The crowds were seen in close proximity with no masks in sight, reminiscent of concerts pre-COVID.

The effectiveness and sustainability of socially-distanced events have been thrown into question. As stated by Melvin Benn, managing director of Festival Republic, such events are simply not financially viable. If he had his way, he would use compulsory coronavirus testing as an incentive for partygoers looking to attend acts that are performing at full capacity. However, with the high costs involved, it’s unlikely that this will materialise anytime soon.

There have been mixed reactions from performance attendees as well, with some declaring that such socially-distanced concerts simply don’t offer the same atmosphere as packed live acts. However, these events have generally been met with much acclaim, with some attendees even joking that there are now VIP seats available for anyone and everyone. In fact, these socially-distanced concerts are so popular that they draw attendees from all walks of life! 

For now, no matter the perspective, it looks like we’ve entered a reinvented new era where crowded mosh pits are a thing of the past, with socially segregated concerts indefinitely here to stay. Or at least, for the foreseeable future!

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International Sports Tennis

The US Open, Dogged with Withdrawals and Criticism, is Trotting Ahead

The annual tournament, one of the 4 major tennis Grand Slams, commences behind closed doors for the first time on 31 August 2020, albeit with vastly differing narratives from past years.

A Grand Slam without its glorious crowd

Like many other global spectacles in the sporting world, tennis sees its fair share of restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 virus. Tennis’ restart in mid-July was met with mixed reactions following its uncertain calendar, and complications now follow its major Slams.

For starters, the matches taking place in Flushing Meadows and its famed Arthur Ashe Stadium will be watched on by a spectator count of zero. The first time since its inception, the 140-year tournament will be fully televised in an effort to curb the pandemic’s reach.

Raj Tatavarthy/Pexels

Arthur Ashe Stadium will be donned with a scrim hiding empty audience seats, with several large LED screens strategically positioned to display scores and announcements.

This comes after 2 other Grand Slams, the French Open and the Wimbledon Championships, both traditionally held before its US counterpart, were postponed and cancelled, respectively.

Often touted as the largest spectacle of the 4 slams, organisers of the New York-based tournament were initially skeptical of progressing, with prominent voices within the tennis sphere voicing disapproval of a tournament held without fans, if at all.

They’d made their concerns public on 7 July; a week later, the body reversed their sentiment, and announced its commencement of the tournament as planned.

Naturally the decision amassed significant backlash — most understandably with the host country battling a spike in infections — prompting condemnation from tennis notables and withdrawals from prominent players.

Who’s in and who’s out

As high-profile match-ups go, the tournament will be lacking its usual flair and splendor with the mounting list of withdrawals.

Of the players to have pulled out, marquee names like defending champion Rafael Nadal and women’s World No.1 Ashleigh Barty have been resolute in their non-participation of the tournament early on in July.

The Women’s 2019 Roland Garros winner felt there are “still significant risks involved due to COVID-19“.

“I don’t feel comfortable putting my team and I in that position. I wish the USTA all the best for the tournaments and look forward to being back in the U.S. next year.”

Quickly following Barty’s announcement was 2004’s winner Svetlana Kuznetsova, who also cited the logistics and safety of getting her team together, as well as the safety of those around her as the main reasons for her withdrawal.

“I feel very sad, because I have been (waiting) for these tournaments so much, but the pandemic changes all plans.”

Defending women’s champion Bianca Andreescu, reigning Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, Kiki Bertens, and Belinda Bencic have also pulled out. That means as it stands, half of the women’s world top 10 will not be seen in New York.

Instead, it is likely that these players will participate in European tournaments like the French Open, which commences just a week after the US Open closes curtains.

US representative Serena Williams has said that this is an ‘asterisk year’ for tennis, citing that a sport’s tournaments and competitions will forever be tainted by special circumstances, such as wars or pandemics.

“I think this whole year deserves an asterisk, because it’s such a special year, a history we have never been through in this world.”

Rafael Nadal has meanwhile expressed on social media that the remaining fixtures for the rest of the season are ‘barbaric’, following his withdrawal announcement.

Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, who has been vocally critical about tennis’ irresponsibility since the pandemic, has withdrawn from the 2020 season altogether.

The Australian has, rightly so, publicly condemned influential players like Novak Djokovic and Borna Coric after they organised an exhibition tournament where several top players eventually tested positive, putting players and communities’ safety at risk.

“Dear Tennis, let us take a breath here and remember what is important, which is health and safety as a community,” Kyrgios said.

“Even with the [Black Lives Matter] movement and the whole protests and that type of stuff going on over there, I just don’t think at the moment it’s the correct time to go ahead with sport, in my opinion.”

Both Djokovic and Coric will be participating in New York. Roger Federer has announced his withdrawal citing injury, while Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev are confirmed, which means at the moment nearly half of the World’s Men’s top 10 will not be participating.

Kei Nishikori, who pulled out of the Western and Southern Open tournaments because of positive COVID tests, has also withdrawn his participation in the Grand Slam. This comes after he announced that he was finally clear of the virus on 27 August.

The Japanese has also been battling an elbow injury for the better half of a year.

“I am happy to announce that I tested negative for COVID,” he shared on his app.

“Having said that, I (together with my team) have decided to skip the US Open this year. After such a long break I feel that returning in a best of 5 long-match setting is not smart until I am fully ready to do so.”

The US Open runs from 31 August 2020 to 13 September 2020.

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Local News

S$90 Million COVID-19 Scheme — Has The Grant Been Helpful in Aiding Singaporeans?

As the pandemic continues to affect Singapore, the government has stepped in once again to relief the burden of its people who are struggling in these unprecedented times.

On 17 August, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced that the COVID-19 grant will be extended to the end of the year. In his ministerial statement, Mr Heng said the COVID-19 scheme have been given to 60,000 Singaporeans so far with a total pay out of more than $90 million.

The grant aims to help those who are unemployed or have suffered significant income loss due to the pandemic.

However, to qualify for the grant, those who are unemployed must prove job that they have searched for employment or training efforts. Further details of the grant will be announced early next month.

According to Mr Heng, it is likely that Singapore’s job market will continue to remain weak beyond this year. Observers have said that more businesses will be closing and retrenchment will be apparent in the coming months due to the impact of the circuit breaker.

Mr Heng said that they are researching on how to continue to support employees and self-employed who are currently the most vulnerable group.

He also pointed out that they government will pay attention to low-wage workers as many of them are essential workers who have kept Singapore going through these tough times.

Those on the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) scheme for work done in 2019 are also eligible for the payout. In addition, those who were not on the WIS list last year but who have already received or will be receiving WIS for work done this year can also be qualified for the grant.

In times like these, it is extremely important for Singaporeans to have support from every avenue to cushion the fall that they are currently facing. But has the grant been helpful to aid Singaporeans through this though times?

Irfan, 26, fresh graduate from The University of Sheffield

The pandemic has certainly impacted the lives of fresh graduates around the world who now have to face the uncertainty of their future.

Their dreams of jumping straight into employment and kick starting the new part of their life seem rather bleak at the moment. As the job market continues to weaken, so are the hopes and dreams of the fresh graduates who are now struggling to make end meets.

Sheffield University graduate, Irfan who returned home from the UK in March, has certainly felt the pinch of the pandemic. He is currently seeking graduate opportunities and traineeships but has admitted that he is struggling in getting a job despite the government’s attempt to help fresh graduates through the implementation of the traineeships.

He said, “I feel like there is a lot of uncertainty at the moment surrounding today’s job climate with COVID-19, particularly among fresh graduates. I am slightly concerned about my career prospects and its implications in the long run due to the pandemic”

Over the past few months, Irfan has applied for hundreds of jobs only to find himself in a cycle of not hearing back from the employers.

Despite his positive outlook on the whole situation, it is not a surprise that this fresh graduate have great worries about his future which includes the salary gap between his first and next job, the high cost of living in Singapore, job stability especially in this current climate and last but definitely not least, providing for his family.

But the sociology graduate continues to remain hopeful in these tough times, and has said that he will brave through the upcoming challenges. Though the whole situation frustrating, he is determined that the right job will come for him soon.

The 26 year-old have also shared that the pandemic have opened up his eyes to a lot of things — something that he might not have taken great notice if the pandemic hasn’t happened.

He said, “The virus has definitely allowed me to broaden my perspective and outlook in life, especially in terms of adaptability. I believe that right now, it is important to develop industry and career-oriented skills that would improve my chances of securing my dream job in the future, despite whatever the role or job might be.”

However, Irfan has admitted that the government has certainly eased a lot of his burdens more so with the new announcement of the extension of the COVID-19 support grant. He believes that the Singapore government have been working hard to cushion the fall of Singaporeans.

“In comparison to other countries, I do believe that our government has implemented practical policies and strategies to assist fresh graduates in these trying times. For example, setting up traineeship opportunities and providing allowance during that period,” he said.

Irfan also shared that the grant will significantly help him a lot as he tries to navigate his way to secure a full time job.

He said, “I think $800 seems like a fair amount, particularly when it was handed to more than 60,000 residents. It would be great if the amount it higher, but we should be grateful and try out best to sustain the help given, or even make some adjustments to our lifestyle and balance it out.”

As Singapore tries to navigate its way through this pandemic, it might have overlooked, certain part of the society, who is equally struggling like the rest of Singapore.

Shawn, 48, business owner of a construction company

Construction business owner, Shawn*, was forced to stop all his site work due to the surge of cases in dormitory. Due to that, he found himself in a difficult position where his monthly income had been severely affected.

Being in one of the most affected industry, he believes that the government might have overlooked on the fact that they, too, are struggling.

He said, “I have lost a significant amount of my income since the circuit breaker and was still denied any grant because of the annual income of my house. I don’t think this is necessarily fair, because what does my property annual value have got to do with the eligibility of the grant? It’s hard. Just like every other Singaporean, I, too lost a significant amount of income.”

Though the odds are against him at the moment, Shawn believes that there is a light at the of the tunnel. Since the dormitory have cleared not too long ago, things are slowly getting better for the businessman.

“To be honest, I am still frustrated that I was denied the grant. I had no help all because of my annual house value. But, is it really fair? Being in the most affected business, my income wasn’t stable at all.

“If I was lucky, I would take $500 home, but some months, I didn’t even had anything to take home. But since they cleared the dorm, things are picking up slowly and I am so excited to start work again.”

The 48 year-old have said that he is thankful that the government is helping low wage workers but he wished for the help to be extended to every Singaporean despite the annual house value.

He said, “I don’t mean to sound ungrateful and I know that there are people out there who are struggling more than me, but all I’m trying to say is that, I wished help was there for me when I needed it.”

Applications for the support grant are now open till December. To apply, please visit https://msf-csg.gov.sg/preinstruction/csg from 9am to 6pm daily.

Processing time will take about two weeks upon submission of supporting documents.

*not real name

Categories
Lifestyle Travel Insights

Yes, Travel is Finally Possible! Here’s What You Need to Know About Singapore’s Travel Bubble

What a tumultuous year 2020 has been. With most of us having been confined to our homes during the COVID-19 lockdown, it’s little wonder that we’re all yearning for a getaway. 

Thankfully, as the spread of the virus starts to slow, various countries have gradually started to relax their border restrictions. And yes, with that, travel – in the form of travel bubbles – has indeed become possible once again! 

What exactly is a travel bubble?

Travel bubbles comprise exclusive partnerships between countries that have managed to control the spread of COVID-19 within their borders. This agreement permits travel between the respective countries without the need for mandated quarantine upon arrival. 

Examples of existing travel bubbles include those between selected cities in China and South Korea, as well as between India and Canada, among others. 

What countries are in Singapore’s travel bubble?

1. Singapore – New Zealand

kewl/Pixabay

Singapore has allowed travel to and from New Zealand, effective from 1st September 2020. This also applies to students studying at institutions in New Zealand that do not permit long-distance learning.

Visitors to Singapore from New Zealand will not have to undergo quarantine upon arrival, under the condition that they have not travelled out of New Zealand in the last consecutive 14 days. However, they would have to undergo a COVID-19 test at the airport and will only be allowed to resume their trip after a negative result.

2. Singapore – Brunei

AdamHillTravel/Pixabay

Similar to New Zealand, Singapore has allowed travel to and from Brunei from 1st September 2020 — with all the same rules applied.

For visitors from both New Zealand and Brunei, they would have to apply for an Air Travel Pass between seven and 30 days before their intended date of arrival. They would also have to bear all costs of medical treatment should they be diagnosed with COVID-19 whilst in Singapore.

Do note that Singaporeans looking to travel to New Zealand or Brunei should also check the countries’ respective entry requirements before planning their trip.

Countries permitted for essential travel

1. Singapore – Malaysia

Thilipen Rave Kumar/Pexels

Limited cross-border travel between Singapore and Malaysia has been approved and ongoing since 17th August 2020 under two schemes:

  • Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL), which allows short-term travel for essential business or official purposes for up to fourteen days
  • Periodic Commuting Arrangement (PCA), which allows Singapore and Malaysia residents holding long-term immigration passes for work or business to enter either country for work

This undoubtedly came as a relief for many Malaysian residents, with up to 100, 000 crossing the causeway daily pre-COVID-19! However, Malaysia has also imposed a daily quota of 400 and 2000 travellers under the RGL and PCA schemes respectively. Also, those that enter either country under the PCA option must stay in that respective country for ninety days before they’re allowed to return home. 

Singaporeans and Permanent Residents, on the other hand, do not require the PCA to return to Singapore. However, from 1st September 2020, they will still need to serve a seven-day stay-home notice – which has been reduced from the previous fourteen-day mandate.

Before making the trip, travellers will have to make an application through the Johor Immigration Department or the Safe Travel Portal, depending on which country they’re coming from. 

2. Singapore – China

steven_yu/Pixabay

From 8 June 2020, visitors from China are permitted to enter Singapore for essential travel via a ‘Fast Lane’. This is exclusive to visitors from six Chinese cities, such as Guangdong, Shanghai, Tianjin, Zhejiang, Chongqing, and Jiangsu. If all goes well, the fast lane arrangement will be extended to other parts of China.

Travellers from China have to be sponsored by a company of Singapore Government agencies, who will have to submit an application for a Safe Travel Pass on their behalf. When this is approved, travellers will have to undergo COVID-19 tests at the airport at their own costs. This also applies to travellers from Singapore to China.

3. Singapore – Japan

Bagus Pangestu/Pexels

In September, travel between Singapore and Japan will be permitted for short-term business travellers, expatriates, and other long-term residents. Expatriates and long-term residents will still have to undergo a fourteen-day mandated self-quarantine period upon arrival in either country. However, business travellers will not be subject to this quarantine, on the condition that they provide a full trip itinerary, refrain from using public transport, shun crowds, and only travel between their accommodation and place of work.

All travellers to Japan will also have to install the Cocoa app, a COVID-19 contact tracing app, as well as agree to store their phone’s GPS data and report their health conditions via the Line messaging app for two weeks after arrival.

What else is being done?

Addie, Pexels

Restrictions for other countries have also been relaxed. For example, visitors from Australia (except the Victoria state), mainland China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Macau will only have to serve a seven-day stay-home notice period, which is halved from the initial fourteen-day period.

In a bid to revive its travel sector, Singapore is also looking to replace the two-week self-quarantine period with a meticulous testing regime. 

As time goes by, we’ll hopefully see more countries having success in curbing the spread of the virus — allowing more travel restrictions to be eased. Till then, stay safe and stay tuned for more updates!

Categories
Local Singapore

Massive Retrenchments in Singapore Due to COVID-19

What lies ahead of those affected by the recent string of layoffs?

As Singapore’s gross domestic product (GDP) shrinks by a historic 13.2% year on year, retrenchments have abounded. On 18 August, Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) announced that it would be laying off 140 employees from its media sales and magazines operations due to the negative “impact COVID-19 has had on advertising revenues”. This figure is, as of yet, the highest when compared to those of past exercises held by the company in October 2017 and October 2019.

According to the World Economic Forum, a decline in advertising revenues can be largely attributed to “changing consumer behaviour”. In a troubling time when social distancing and stay-at-home measures are the norm, digital consumption (i.e., use of social platforms and streaming services and gaming) has risen dramatically, thus allowing digital advertising to take precedence over its print counterpart.

Furthermore, in a debilitating recession, advertisers have been looking to speed up the sales process by focusing on purchase immediacy through “direct response campaigns”.

But advertising has not been the only sector to be severely hit by the pandemic. The hospitality industry has also faced its fair share of large-scale layoffs, with Millennium Hotels and Resorts making the headlines. A day after SPH’s announcement, the said hospitality management group retrenched 15.2% of its Singapore-based workforce. As an offset, the company also reduced its foreign employee dependency by 45 per cent, resulting in a net increase in its “Singapore core” from 61 per cent in January to 69 per cent on 19 August.

drastic drop in the number of tourists is to blame for this phenomenon. In April, visitor arrivals in Singapore dropped to 748 for the first time in history. Compared to a year ago that saw 1.6 million tourists hit our shores, this counts for nearly a 100 per cent dropMoreover, the number of tourists from January to April decreased by 58% compared with the same period last year.

Consequently, the average occupancy rate of gazetted hotels plunged by 27.2 percentage points to 58.6 percent, contributing to a 30.9% fall in overall revenue in the first quarter of the year compared to the same period last year.

Uncertainty creates opportunities

Corporate loyalty can often turn into disillusionment when retrenchment suddenly strikes. Take it from Madam Josephine Low, a 75-year-old lady who was laid off after a near 10-year career at a hotel.

Maybe, the trick to fighting structural unemployment is not upskilling but reskilling.

After all, Mr Andy Yap, once a digital design director of an events company, has now turned to food delivery via mountain bike after he had been axed during a retrenchment exercise.

He claimed, “‘Food delivery is pandemic-and recession-resistant.’”

Governmental schemes

Currently, the most prominent reskilling programme rolled out by the government is SGUnited Skills.

Under this scheme, trainees can learn skills relevant to their preferred industries which will help improve their employability. These certifiable courses are delivered by Continuing Education and Training (CET) centres, including Institutes of Higher Learning. As bonuses, they will also receive a training allowance of $1,200 per month for the duration of the programme, to cover basic subsistence expenses and its highly subsidised course fees will be deductible from their SkillsFuture Credit.

For those who have been recently retrenched, it would be wise to pair this scheme with the Enhanced Hiring Incentive to maximise their chances of getting employed upon completing their reskilling training.

SkillsFuture Singapore

The latter scheme, which is an upgraded version of its predecessor (Hiring Incentive), boasts a salary support of 40% for six months, capped at $12,000 in total for employers who hire a local worker aged 40 and above, and a salary support of 20% for six months, capped at $6,000 in total for employers who hire a local worker aged below 40. These are assuming that the said hired workers have undergone eligible reskilling or training programmes.

But, given the 6- to 12-month length of the SGUnited Skills programme, such would not make for a feasible short-term solution for those who have borne the brunt of massive retrenchment exercises.

Gig economy

With employment agencies unable to cope with the piling application forms following the widespread displacement of workers from their jobs, the once go-to alternative for finding a job has quickly now become a bottleneck to steer clear of. Instead, freelancing has replaced these agencies as a quick fix for those who have lost their jobs.

The two main advantages that freelancing has over the traditional corporate setting are greater efficiency and lower costs. Besides, jobs like food delivery courier and freelance stylist/designer entail the freedom to schedule one’s working week and an extremely short time lag between the application for gigs and the hiring (no traditional intermediaries like job interviews and contracts).

The only downside is that freelancers are not entitled to health benefits. Fortunately, on 4 November 2019, the government enacted the contribute-as-you-earn (CAYE) scheme to divert a portion of their earnings to their MediSave accounts, which would aid in the payment of their medical bills where applicable.

This scheme, however, applies only to those working in the public sector.

COVID-19 has challenged the paradigm that longstanding employment is permanent and has forced us to value subsistence over complacency. And while the future may look bleak from where we are standing, all is not lost: reskilling and job opportunities are out there for us to fully utilise provided we do not give up on searching for them.

Categories
Exclusive Local News

Is The Internet Still The Wild Wild West?

Governments have been actively seeking to regulate the internet which has yet to mature into a safe and fair place. Laws have been introduced around the world to tackle the Wild West elements on the internet from cyber bullying to online child exploitation to legal and illegal harms. In Singapore, our own Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) came into effect on 2 October 2019 to fight the scourge of fake news. The law targets the spread of malicious falsehoods and the use of fake accounts and automated bots that spread fake news rapidly through various social media platforms.

The law ignited fierce debate over its necessity, and since its launch, POFMA has been issued a total of 55 times. The use of POFMA during the recent General Election sparked concerns of regulatory overreach and its effect on freedom of expression and speech.

Through the use of POFMA, the government has been able to stop the possible spread of falsehoods that would have impacted on Singapore’s public interest and peace, such as inciting hatred between different groups of persons and undermining the confidence of the Government and its entities. Correction orders have been issued to owners of websites, Facebook, and YouTube accounts for content that has been deemed false by the relevant authorities.

POFMA provides the government and its entities a means to tackle and take down falsehoods, but what about ordinary individuals? What recourse or platforms do they have against, predators, cyberbullies, and criminals? Individuals are increasingly turning to the internet to voice their opinions and causes that they believe in. Although signifying the maturing of the Singaporean population that is not afraid to share openly their beliefs, there is also the ugly side where opinions are forced onto others — digital lynch mobs and vigilantes that flagrantly seek to amplify mistakes and stir discourse on issues they know would cause hurt and rile specific communities.

There is, however, space and a need in the digital sphere for proper dialogue and conversations. Former Paraplympian Theresa Goh aptly summed this up when asked about the areas that she thinks the country can improve on, “I think when wanting to do right by a group of people, we could do better at listening to what that group of people need rather than assuming we know what they need.” She added that, “I think we need to learn to be better at having conversations, and that means being open to different views and not just being open to discussions that we are accepting of because that’s not how we grow.” Being open and humble is important in any conversation.

With increasing digital penetration among the young, the incidence of cyber bulling has also increased with 3 in 4 youths reporting incidents of being bullied online. Defined as electronic communication with the intent to intimidate and hurt a person or a group, intentionally or otherwise, sending hurtful messages, spreading rumours online, and circulating humiliating or degrading photos or videos of someone — these would be considered acts of cyber bullying. The rising online vigilantism approach of revealing the identity and personal information of a victim (doxxing) with the intention to harass is now illegal in Singapore. The act criminalises the publication of personally-identifiable information with the intention of harassing, threatening, or facilitating violence against a person. Predators can face fine up to S$5,000 and a jail term if found guilty.

Has the introduction of POFMA and amendment of the Protection from Harassment Act tamed the internet? Is there a need for more regulations or should extreme opinions be countered and checked by more moderate and fair-minded individuals? To answer the first question – yes, I believe regulations has brought to mind the need to be factual and accurate in the expression of statements and views as false statements and harassment can cause irreparable damage to personal reputation and loss of life during an emergency. As to the need for more regulation, I feel the laws are presently sufficient with legal recourse available for doxxing, online defamation, digital impersonation, and cyberbullying. But more can be done to educate individuals on the incidence of cyberbullying and how to better cope or respond to it. In addition, more can be done to champion the need for proper dialogue and respecting differences between individuals and groups.

We are also increasingly witnessing social or online justice being dispensed in the court of public opinion. Coordinated community movements such as #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo movement have been able to bring causes and injustice to light and provide spaces for individuals to come together. These movements have helped to build equity for minorities and underrepresented individuals and groups in society. There are however dangers of mob justice where sometimes the lives of the innocent are affected and even ruined. Take the recent case of a women in Singapore who claimed to be “Sovereign” and did not need to follow the law on wearing masks when outdoors. Doxxers had wrongly targeted an innocent individual by identifying her as a chief executive officer of a tech company. There are many more examples where mistaken identity, false accusations, or the act of forwarding a controversial image have caused individuals to lose their jobs and affected their family life.

Here in Singapore, there has been a lot of discussions on cancel culture and about woke mobs demanding accountability for a controversial tweet, video clip or post. Very often, when an individual’s misdeeds or action fail to conform to progressive views and beliefs, they are often attacked and ‘cancelled’ on social media. Cancel culture basically refers to a concerted effort to withdraw support for an individual or business that has said or done something objectionable until they either apologise or disappear from view. Academics have supported the view that activism on social media can be constructive and legitimate but have also warned that if the aim of the movement was to harm others then it is less positive. The ease at which an individual can be attacked, or have a petition circulated to have them fired or ostracised can be easily used to limit discussions and the free exchange of ideas and information.

The cancel culture has often been criticised for being mob like and seeking to punish their target until they are totally destroyed, leaving no room for offenders to learn from their mistakes and change for the better. In the past few months, influencer Xiaxue had challenged the mob approach following calls for her sponsors to drop her after some of her old racist tweets resurfaced. Mediacorp Channel 8 drama My Guardian Angels had been called out for their stereotypical negative characterisation of gays. Mediacorp and the artists Chase Tan, Kym Ng, and Brandon Wong who were involved in the series were slammed online for their involvement. Mediacorp issued a statement that there was “no intention to disrespect or discriminate against any persons or community in the drama”. Chase Tan apologised for his role in causing distress to the LGBTQ community and promised to do better.

Australian fitness guru Chloe Ting, whose YouTube channel has 13.6 million followers recently stood up in a 17-min video titled “time to talk” to address a Singaporean man’s criticism of her as he sought to defame her and make a profit through a series of 62 Instagram stories about Chloe that were entitled, “The Scoop on Chloe Ting”. These stories was a blatant attempt to profit at the expense of Chloe and were quickly taken down following her video.

Influencer Joanna Theng also experienced backlash for her scripted comments on the LGBT community in a Christian group’s video post. Despite apologising for the comments made in the video, a vocal minority continues to inflame the situation. She continues to be attacked online and the attacks have also extended towards her family members. The online vigilantism also attempted to impersonate her online with the aim of perpetuating the incident and using it to create further discourse among the various communities. Why? What purpose does such action serve but a misguided attempt to milk more followers? Whilst Joanna champions and supports open mature discussions, a line needs to be drawn when comments become defamatory, especially to family members.

Joanna Theng will learn from the incident and will emerge more mature and aware that as a public figure, her words matter. She, as well as other public figures, will certainly thoroughly vet scripts given to them and will not participate in any reading unless they truly agree with the content being said. We hope aspiring influencers and online personalities would take away the positives from these incidents and emerge as positive change individuals for the community. Joanna has clarified that she is not homophobic, and many friends, I believe, have and will step forward to attest to this. The numerous sharing and comments on the incident displays an underlying desire for greater dialogue and understanding of various communities here in Singapore. A 2015 forum article in the Straits Times titled “Agreeing to disagree on LGBT issues” called for Singapore to cultivate a culture in which we are able to both articulate our views as well as respect the views of the opposing camp. The writer rightfully stated that contentious issues should not be hidden from students but instead, encouraged to be debated, with emphasis on respect for the opinions of both sides. She added that such a culture of understanding cannot be cultivated overnight and is certainly not simple to bring about. Yet, she felt that being able to succeed in nurturing such a culture would put Singapore in stable hands for the future.

As we understand the views and feelings of various communities better, we echo Pink Dot’s statement and solidarity with the many individuals who have stepped up to share their struggles and experiences with the intention to educate and correct misinformation on their community. Misunderstandings will definitely surface from time to time and it is the collective responsibility to engage in constructive dialogue and activities that will help navigate the differences and make space for everyone to peacefully and respectfully co-exist.

Through better understanding of issues at hand, being better listeners, and humbleness to deferring views, I believe these will help make the wild wild west a little less wild and more welcoming.

Categories
Gaming Review

Fall Guys: Rises Above The Rest

Release date: 5 August 2020

Platform: PC, PS4

Developer: Mediatonic

Publisher: Mediatonic

The good:

  • Oddly addictive
  • Colourful and absurd
  • Gets you hooked every level
  • Pushing friends off platforms

The bad:

  • Slow character progression
  • Technical bugs in the game

 

30 seconds. That’s all you need to fall in love with Fall Guys. No plot twist required. No need to unlock any game-changing ability either. Unlike certain games that take an hour or two of gameplay before it grows on you, Fall Guys subverts the battle royale genre and turns it into a wild party. Imagine if Call of Duty: Warzone, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and Mario Party had an illegitimate child. Intense? Definitely. Cute? Yes. Well, if a battle royale with 60 jelly beans dressed as owls, dinosaurs, pineapples, and more isn’t, we don’t know what is. But trust us, trying to survive until the end and walk away with the coveted crown will give you anxiety with the barrage of gunfire. While it feels like your typical battle royale, it actually is a battle royale unlike any other. The best part? No guns. Just fun. And you’ll still feel like a winner even though you have lost.

A full match takes about 3-5 rounds, each of which are randomly selected from a field of 24 different levels. And what’s amazing is each level brings a different type of fun. Think bouncy players racing across giant seesaws to advance, and sprinting up a hill, shoving other players while trying to avoid massive fruits. Every level doesn’t fail to surprise, and there’s definitely something for everyone.

While there are no private games at the moment, you can still invite friends to games. Unfortunately, there are no squad-based modes either, but it’s still fun to keep track of your friends and witness their victories and defeats, which will crack you up all the same. The game can get infuriating on some levels too, especially when players do not follow the rules in soccer mode rounds like ‘Fall Ball’ and the ever so messy ‘Egg Scramble’. That said, whether you’re playing alone or together with friends, you’ll definitely enjoy every level regardless.

Run. Jump. Dive. Grab. That’s all there is to the game. And that’s what makes it beautiful. Even a first-timer would seem like a seasoned gamer. It’s simple, especially how certain gamers would shy away from the battle genre given how intense it can get. Fall Guys is filled with many silly mini-games that will provide just as many silly moments. It’s easy to play and there’s a lot of mass appeal for sure. It’s wickedly fun too. Just wait till you use ‘grab’ to hold someone in place until they fall off a sinking platform, or drag someone down to elimination with you. Well, just because you can’t win doesn’t mean you can’t succeed in making others lose!

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🚨🎙¿Quieres ver Fall Guys en Switch o Xbox One? Dile a sus creadores🎙🚨 . Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout es el juego del momento y es que su fresca fórmula Battle Royale está divirtiendo a muchos. Su gran problema es que sólo está disponible en PlayStation 4 y PC, por lo que muchos no pueden probarlo; sin embargo, existe la posibilidad de que llegue a más plataformas, sólo tienes que pedirlo. . En su página de soporte, Mediatonic, estudio de Fall Guys, señaló que existe la posibilidad de que su juego llegue a más consolas.  . Ahora bien, antes de que Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout llegue a otras plataformas es necesario que la comunidad muestre interés en ello. Así pues, si quieres que llegue a Xbox One o Nintendo Switch, te recomendamos que se lo digas a Mediatonic en Twitter o Discord. . Y a ti, ¿te gustaría ver Fall Guys en Xbox One o Nintendo Switch? Cuéntanos en los comentarios. ————————————————— #ElCuervoGeek @Maty_poblete_zamora ————————————————— #Ps4 #Pc #Xbox #Switch #Videojuegos #FallGuys #2020 #2021 #somosgeeks #GeeksChilenos #GeeksEnVallenar #Sueñenengrande #AmamosLosJuegos #Gamers #Logamerjamasduermen

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All in the name of fun

Yes, it’s a battle royale game. And it’s anything but intense. Frankly speaking, it really is pretty easy to get into the groove of things. Each round lasts about 2 minutes, and even though elimination comes early for most, defeat still tastes rather sweet. 

The colour palette is bright. The soundtrack is energetic. More than just a party game, Fall Guys is in itself the party! Not a gamer? That’s alright too. It’s just as entertaining watching the game.

Because you’ll still feel like you’re part of it even though you’re just spectating. As much as it is a thoroughly exhilarating game to both watch and play, if you’re into highly competitive games, the randomness of Fall Guys may not be something that you’d appreciate. What we didn’t really appreciate was the physics of the game. It’s unpredictable and you’ll get “crowdsurfing” jelly bean avatars piling on top of each other. And as funny as that may sound, it actually gets frustrating. What’s more, each level begins with players randomly placed at the starting line, and if you are highly competitive, you’d realise that a front or side placement would give you a slight advantage over the others. To the more lighthearted competitors, it’d just be an irresistible mix of skill and luck. Truth be told, it’s a game that favours good fortune, and no one would be able to rely on their skills forever. While that’s something not every player would enjoy, Fall Guys is all about having fun unlike most other battle royale games. You actually feel good when you lose. And besides, you’ll only be a few seconds away from beginning anew with 59 other goofballs. Also with Fall Guys, there’s no such thing as ‘just one game’.

You can also show off your jellybean-like avatars by dressing them up in costumes, emotes and colourful patterns. And if you’d like to unlock items, be sure to come out on top with more wins, and by levelling up. Alternatively, you could just purchase them. Don’t worry, they are all reasonably priced. Kudos (pretty cute, huh?), the game’s currency, can be obtained through regular play or even purchased with money. And costumes, emotes as well as colour patterns go for about 800 Kudos a pop. But if you’re not willing to part with your money that’s ok, you just got to spend more time on the game. And just as you thought things can’t get any better, this is only ‘Season 1’ according to Mediatonic, which only means that it’s highly likely for the game to have new levels, or even cosmetics! 

If there was anything wrong with the game, it’d definitely have to be its congested servers. But hey, this only means that it’s popular! With Fall Guys, Mediatonic didn’t just break the rules, they basically rewrote it. And to put it simply, Fall Guys is like battle royale. But on crack. 

4/5 stars

Categories
Exclusive Football International Sports

Premiere League’s Alleged Corruption — Just What Is Going On With Newcastle’s Takeovers?

Over an entire decade, Newcastle United Football Club’s (NUFC) owner Mike Ashley has made his intentions of selling the Tyneside club clear.

Since his acquisition in 2007 for £135 million, the British billionaire has, on multiple occasions, reiterated his desire to let go of the reigns amidst incompetence in the Premiere League, most vocally by mounting pressure from fans.

Ashley, who owns multiple businesses like discount chain Sports Direct, boxing goods manufacturer Everlast, and a slew of other sporting good brands, has been cited as a lackluster investor and ‘void of ambition’ in trying to resurrect NUFC to a semblance of its glory days, prioritising cost-effectiveness over sporting success.

Yet it isn’t for a lack of suitors that the club has failed to acquire a new owner.

Since his ownership, a slew of potential buyers have partaken in long, drawn out sagas of discussions till the fallout of an eventual sale — a circus most recently fronted by Singaporean firm Bellagraph Nova Group (BNG). Just why exactly have these fallen through?

Reuters investigates Bellagraph Nova Group

BNG were the latest to throw their hat into the takeover ring on August 15 2020; in a press release, the newly registered Singapore company announced a turnover of $12 billion in 2019 from its headquarters in Paris, whilst stating that “negotiations are at an advanced stage” following a letter of intent (LOI) and proof of funds (POF) sent to Mike Ashley.

A statement made by the group also claimed that they were closely working with former England captain Alan Shearer and former NUFC player Michael Chopra for the takeover. BNG’S bid was $280 million.

The group, which was registered only in July 2020, then posted marketing collaterals of their co-founding members Terence Loh, Nelson Loh, and Evangeline Shen engaged in a photo-op with Barack Obama on multiple occasions.

However, when pressed on the legitimacy of their intentions and operations by Reuters, BNG’s existence is riddled with discrepancies.

According to government records, no company under the name of Bellagraph Nova Group is officially registered in France; the address of which they are said to have been operating out of — 10 Place Vendome — does not contain the company’s records either.

Alan Shearer’s management subsequently said he was not involved in the takeover efforts.

Then, when questioned on their publicity efforts, BNG’s head of investor relations released a separate statement stating that the company had knowingly edited photos of the ex-United States president as if he had attended one of their company’s meeting. They have since taken down said photos from their social channels.

BNG has also listed affiliations and claimed ownership of multiple companies and entities (Hydra X, NETX, BN Airlines), most of which have outrightly rubbished the purported relationship or do not exist altogether.

While it remains to be seen what transpires, Reuters reports that all three of the co-founders did not respond to their requests for comments. Mike Ashley has not yet responded publicly to the bid, as well as the controversy.

Saudi Arabia’s ‘almost’ takeover, and the League’s deafening silence

Before BNG, it was Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, chairman of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), who proposed a $300 million purchase of NUFC in a consortium. The PIF, which invests in international projects, is Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.

Out of all the bids in the past, the Prince’s takeover was the only one that had reached the closing stages of checks by the Premiere League’s owners’ and directors’ test, which assesses the suitability of an entity to parent a football club.

The takeover was stalled by the League for several months during these tests, of which many political and corruption issues saw the light of day.

In one of the many hindrances, human rights organisations condemned Saudi Arabia’s owners and practices concerning welfare. Amnesty International also advised that a regime that’s consistently embroiled in human rights abuses should be distanced from the Premiere League.

In 2018, the CIA concluded that Bin Salman ordered the 2018 assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.

Premiere League CEO Richard Masters had been singled out for this, with Amnesty UK director Kate Allen having requested a ban of the takeover.

“I believe there are serious questions to address in determining whether the owners and directors of the company seeking to acquire NUFC are meeting standards that can protect the reputation and image of the game,” Allen said in a letter to Masters.

Further, prominent NUFC fanbase site, nufc.blog.co.uk, have taken it upon themselves to shed light on the ostensibly nefarious reasons as to why the Saudi takeover was stalled by the League, who has substantial ties with officials in Qatar and broadcasting rights with Qatar owned BeIN Sports.

As the Telegraph reports, “The league is desperate to hang on to keeping their process secret because they have Ashley’s lawyers circling in one corner and BeIN Sports in the other.”

At present, Newcastle United are several weeks into the transfer window without purchasing any players. Mike Ashley is still the owner, and are two weeks away from the start of the new season.

Categories
Entertainment Review

Little Women (2019): A Beautiful Sisterhood 

A period drama film, Little Women is the latest adaptation of the 1868 novel by Louisa May Alcott. Directed by Greta Gerwig, the coming-of-age film follows the lives of the four March sisters played by a stellar cast: loving Meg (Emma Watson), hot-tempered Jo (Saoirse Ronan), sweet Beth (Eliza Scanlen) and sheltered Amy (Florence Pugh). Chronicling their lives, Little Women illustrates the sisters’ joy and struggles in two intertwining timelines. 

Set in 1868, the protagonist, free-spirited Jo is working in New York City as a tutor. An avid writer and aspiring novelist, Jo visits the unreceptive Mr Dashwood (Tracy Letts) who owns a publishing house. Selling her work under an alias, Jo struggles with Mr Dashwood’s criticism on how “Morals don’t sell nowadays”. However, Jo manages to publish her work albeit largely truncated according to the public’s appetite. Her desire to make a living from her literary works puts her at odds from the stories she truly wishes to write.

The film pans between the past and the present, and a flashback shows the fateful encounter between Jo and neighbour Laurie (Timothée Chalamet). Dressed in an elegant gown and a handsome suit respectively, Jo and Laurie became fast friends, the two goofing around inappropriately in a high society setting while Meg revelled in the festivities. Their friendship deepened, with Laurie being absolutely charmed by Jo and her family. Despite their seemingly compatible personalities, Laurie’s marriage proposal was turned down by Jo. 

In New York, Jo’s work is lambasted by acquaintance Professor Bhaer (Louis Garrel) who is sincere in his words, believing that Jo should not write to accommodate the scandalous tastes of the public. Their blooming friendship is immediately nipped in the bud by Jo’s temper getting the better of her. Returning home to Concord, Massachusetts for her ailing sister, viewers are now introduced to Beth who suffers from scarlet fever. Quiet Beth, she frequently seeks solace in the piano, revealing a reserved character that deeply cares for the people around her. 

“Why does she (Amy) get away from everything?”

Jo is furious when Amy, the youngest, is still travelling in Europe with their Aunt (Meryl Streep) in blissful ignorance while the two older sisters tend to Beth. Carrying herself like a proper lady, Amy is seen to be vain and self-centered at times. In contrast, Meg is shown to be living rather frugally, having married a penniless tutor out of love. Their Aunt March has pointed out many times, the only way to be unmarried is to be rich and to marry poor is a failure in life. Little Women has made such bold statements, reflecting the status quo of the high expectations society has imposed on women. 

Returning to the halcyon days when the four sisters still lived together, their days were filled with joy. Enacting plays from Jo’s stories, they would don elaborate costumes and perform for the neighbouring children. Laurie, who was easily accepted into the group, was their unanimous sibling back in a simpler time. It was the age when the sisters had each other, and Laurie. 

In the past, Beth had recovered once from the disease. Jo’s memories are melancholic, remembering how they had celebrated Beth’s recovery in conjunction with their father’s return from war. The crowded house of March was filled with laughter and joy then. In stark contrast, the present is silent and painful as Beth’s health deteriorates and she eventually passes away. Gerwig’s use of the flitting past and present narratives is excellent in accentuating the inevitable changes of life. From an overjoyed Jo celebrating Beth’s recovery with the others to a miserable Jo weeping silently for the loss by herself. 

In the present, Amy is shown to be arguing with Laurie about how marriage is an economic proposition. As Jo has stated, “Marriage is not romance but mercenary”,  the repeated theme highlights the distinct gender inequality and women’s lack of rights. Amy further informs Laurie, feeling dispirited about how her money, her children, and everything that she owns will eventually be her husband’s property. Reminiscing of Aunt March’s constant reminder of “Save your family by marrying well”, it is emphasized by Amy’s frustration at the shackles a woman wears. The coddled sister is forced to grow up following the reality of society.  

Later, a sincere Professor Bhaer appears at the Marches’ doorstep to see Jo for the last time before his leave for California. In a twist that defies gender expectations, Jo stops Professor Bhaer, urging him to stay for her. 

The film then ends on a happy note, Meg and her husband promising to work hard for the family, Laurie and Amy finding love in each other, and Jo opens a school with her perfect match, Professor Bhaer. The sisters’ bonds are shown to be stronger than before, fulfilling a wish of their late sister, Beth. The final scene closes with Jo’s successful negotiation with Mr Dashwood, retaining her copyrights and publishing her book based on their lives, Little Women. 

Little Women speaks volumes of the expectations placed on women while serving as an inspiration for all looking to transcend those weights. The scene whereby Jo and Amy argue about publishing Jo’s Little Women has struck a chord in me. “Writing confers importance,” Jo seems apprehensive about publishing a work based on their ordinary lives while the encouraging Amy retorts, “Writing about something makes it more important.” After all, the most beautiful thing in life is usually found in the mundane. 

“Women, they have minds and they have souls, as well as just hearts. And they have ambitions and talent as well as just beauty. I am sick of people saying that love is all a woman is fit for.” In particular, I have loved this line as spoken truly by Jo. 

Little Women is a beautiful film, succinctly sharing the emotional yet inspiring narratives of four very different women struggling to make their voices heard. 

IMDB; Gerwig, G. (Director). (2019). Little Women [Film]. Columbia Pictures, Regency Enterprises, Pascal Pictures.
Categories
Exclusive Local News

Positive Creditor Response Sees Pison Extend Offer Deadline

This week Pison Investments Pte Ltd extended their offer for senior creditors to accept their buyout offer of Hyflux Ltd that was launched through their invitation memorandum on 9th July 2020. The offer for unsecured debts, contingent debts, and/or trade, and other debts of Hyflux Ltd, Hydrochem (s) Pte Ltd, Hyflux Membrane Manufacturing (s) Pte Ltd, and/or Hyflux Engineering Pte Ltd was set to expire on 17 August 2020. However, positive submissions and responses from creditors seeking additional time to submit their application saw the deadline extended to 4 September 2020. Pison Investments will have till 25 September 2020 to accept or reject the offers.

The invitation memorandum outlined that each eligible creditor may only submit one bid for an amount of all or some of the eligible debt. The discount set out in the tender application form highlighted that the offer must not be less than 91% on the Offered Debt.

As part of the company’s reorganization process under a Scheme Of Arrangement, Hyflux updated SGX on Pison Investments’ offer extension and will make appropriate announcements as and when there are any further material developments on this matter. Should sufficient creditors step forward and accept Pison Investments offer, Hyflux may just get that lifeline needed to reorganise and start rebuilding the company.