Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A first step to overcoming addiction



SOON after they held their customary wedding ceremony four years ago, the hongbao (red packet) money that they had been given went missing.

That's when she had her first suspicions about her husband's gambling addiction.

Since then, the 41-year-old crane operator has "relapsed" twice from counselling. Altogether, he has incurred a debt of at least $100,000.

So when the opportunity to bar him from entering the casinos at the integrated resorts came up, Mdm Tan (not her real name) took it.

"(His gambling addiction) is not easy to handle, it's a long process. That's why I decided to apply for the exclusion order," she said yesterday in a phone interview.

Mdm Tan, also 41, and her husband are one of the seven families granted a family exclusion order - one of three types of exclusion orders - by the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG). The order allows a family to seek help to curb a problem gambler's behaviour and bars the addict from entering the casinos.

The other two orders, self-exclusion and third-party exclusion, will be implemented later.

Mdm Tan knew her husband had been gambling since his teenage years, but thought he was "just a social gambler". Her husband knows all types of gambling "but it's soccer betting that got him into trouble", she said.

She only noticed things were amiss about three to four years ago, when they seemed to be in financial difficulties.

"We don't have children, and we're both working. So we shouldn't have ended up in this state," she said.

It was then that the office administrator found out about his $50,000 credit card debt and loans which he had taken from his insurance policy and from his company. Checks on her husband's mobile phone turned up text messages on betting tips.

Often "black-faced" and "depressed", he would also wake up in the middle of the night to access online betting sites.

They quarrelled when she confronted him, but he finally agreed to seek help.

He knew "his mistakes" and would have agreed to a divorce had she asked him for one. But Mdm Tan decided to give him another chance.

The couple went for marriage counselling but stopped after a few months. Almost a year later, her husband went back to gambling and racked up another $50,000 in debt in four months.

This time round, they turned to gambling addiction counselling. But after about "a year plus, he relapsed again", said Mdm Tan.

Spotting a Giro application form for betting with Singapore Pools that had been mailed to him, Mdm Tan "immediately talked to him and tried to understand (his struggles)". Counselling has taught her that her husband "needed time to cut off the habit".

While the couple had quarrelled frequently and "almost wanted to separate a few times", the silver lining this struggle is her husband's willingness to change, she said.

Their families and most of their friends are unaware of the couple's situation. Only her brother-in-law is aware of his brother's addiction, and attends counselling sessions with them.

Their counsellor has also advised Mdm Tan's husband to tell his gambling buddies of his problem.

For now, Mdm Tan continues to cut out soccer news from the newspapers and asks him to leave a party if she sees his friends gambling.

"So far, so good," she said.

The application process

Madam Tan was granted the family exclusion order at the end of August, after waiting for about two months.

Her counsellor at Tanjong Pagar Family Service Centre prepared the report and submitted it to the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) secretariat.

"They (NCPG) called me and sent me a letter to ask me to go down and sign documents," she recalled.

She was initially told she may have to attend a hearing - where a committee of assessors will decide whether to issue a family exclusion order - but because her husband agreed to the exclusion, the hearing was not needed.

"So he signed (the documents) and we sent it back (by mail) … After that, they sent us the exclusion order."

The order can only be revoked after a minimum of one year. The NCPG will review the case and decide if it should be revoked. ALICIA WONG

From TODAY, News – Wednesday, 23-Sep-2009

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Siren used as ring tone

Letter from Vasan S

I REFER to the letter "Time to silence phones, game consoles and headsets on trains" by Mr Sam Ang (Sept 2).

I would agree with Mr Ang on the disturbance from the headsets and, at the same time, would like to highlight the use of weird ring tones by some people.

While I was travelling on the North East Line the other day, I observed a student using an emergency tone similar to the ambulance and police siren as his ring tone.

Unfortunately, he received at least two calls during my trip. I could see that the people around him looked worried each time his phone rang.

One of the passengers later spoke to the student about his use of the siren as a ring tone but it was no use.

Should we allow the use of the emergency siren as a ring tone?

From TODAY, Voices – Wednesday, 02-Sep-2009

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Time to silence phones, game consoles and headsets on trains

A C651 train approaching Jurong East MRT Station.Image via Wikipedia

Letter from Sam Ang

THE SMRT has taken action against commuters eating and drinking on MRT trains. However a more annoying and pervasive daily problem is not about eating and drinking.

When I take the train to work in the morning, it is very common to hear irritating noises and music coming from electronic gadgets like handphones and handheld game consoles.

There are those who listen to music so loud that all those around them are forced to listen to it. The bigger audio headsets often give off loud noises and these should be banned. The worst scenario is to be seated next to someone wearing them.

Ring tones, too, can be loud but at least telephones do not ring all the time. On the other hand, one can be sitting near or next to a someone listening to music that is blasting away non-stop for half-an-hour or more.

As in the case of eating or drinking on the trains, most of this noise comes from teenagers and young adults.

This problem is getting worse because the culprits have been getting away with it. It is time the SMRT takes strong action to stop this nuisance. The culprits should be fined because, as in case of eating and drinking, warning them is not good enough.

Everyone would like to sit in a quiet train in the morning and concentrate on the day's work ahead.

From TODAY, Voices – Wednesday, 02-Sep-2009

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Build character as well as a living

Letter from Benjamin Gan

I REFER to "All of us are guilty sometimes" (Sept 1).

Mr Wilson Lim's remark that "people here tend to mind their own business to avoid unnecessary trouble" is truly indicative of the mindset of the average Singaporean, a mindset that seems codified into our genes, reinforced and refined through generations in the name of survival.

And what is even more remarkable is that our society has progressed beyond the state of survival. We do not need to steal or kill for our food and we are comfortably sheltered from the wrath of nature.

I marvel at how this mindset could have flourished in the midst of our economic progress. My only sad conclusion is that our social development has been woefullly neglected in favour of economic development. I think it is time we get back to basics by revamping our education system to include ethics and social studies in the curriculum. Education is not just about grades and good jobs. It is about building character.

From TODAY, Voices – Wednesday, 02-Sep-2009

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The nub of the matter

View of Hong Kong, from KowloonImage by mikeleeorg via Flickr


Tabitha Wang

EVERY few months or so, I get an e-mail from yet another acquaintance from Singapore telling me how lucky I am to be working in Hong Kong "where the big bucks are" and asking if I can look out for a job for him or her.

"It must be amazing," one said wistfully.

"I imagine you partying in Lan Kwai Fong every night before going home to your expat pad in The Peak, while I am stuck here in my tiny HDB flat with my parents." If only…

Even before my husband lost his job, my life was nowhere was glamorous as my friends were imagining. There was no house in the Peak, no Aston Martin DB9 to whiz up to said Peak mansion ... heck, I couldn't even afford a live-in maid like so many middle-class families in Singapore.

But no matter how much I denied it, they still see me through the green-tinted glasses of the grass-is-always-greener sufferers.

It doesn't help that last week, global financial firm UBS released the results of a price-comparison survey showing how Singapore is now Asia's second-most expensive place to live in, after Tokyo and ahead of Hong Kong.

However, employees in Tokyo are paid twice as much as those in Singapore. To rub salt into the wounds, Hong Kong workers take home about 20 percent more than those in Singapore.

Singaporeans need to put in about three days' work, or 27.5 hours, to buy an iPod nano while Hongkongers just have to clock two days, or 19 hours.

Going by the figures, it looks like people working in Singapore are getting a raw deal, right?

They earn less but have to pay more for their daily expenses.

So it follows logically that someone like me, who's employed in Hong Kong, should be having a better life than the poor sloggers back home. Right?

Wait till you read the fine print. UBS said: "We endeavored to reflect the consumption patterns of an average Western European family as best as we could."

That's the nub of the matter.

A shopping basket packed to the brim with cheese, sausages and wine is going to cost less here than in Singapore.

However, soya sauce, Milo and rice cost less in Singapore than in Hong Kong - just that you're never going to see them in the basket of an "average Western European family", are you?

Pubs and western restaurants here may charge less than those in Singapore (because there are more of them competing for the same market).

But the food at the cha chan tengs (tea houses) here cost at least double that of kopitiams back home.

As for transportation, of course it's going to cost more if you insist on driving your expensive German car (thanks to COEs and ERP) or taking a taxi (thanks to surcharges) everywhere in Singapore.

But the MRT fare from, say Kranji to Pasir Ris is only $2 compared to HK$23.50 ($4.30) for an MRT journey of about the same duration from Tung Chung to Chai Wan.

As for rents, given how many bankers have been retrenched recently, maybe a flat in Mid-Levels is cheaper than one in Orchard Road.

But there is no way rent for a three-room HDB flat in Ghim Moh is going to be higher than that for a pokey studio in Kowloon.

So honestly, the middle-class Singaporean is actually better off than a Hongkonger trying to maintain the same standard of living. He eats better, lives in better surroundings and can afford to splurge on expensive cheese now and then.

For instance, I am earning 20 per cent more than I was doing a similar job in Singapore. It sounds impressive until you calculate than my rent is almost 80 percent of my salary and my grocery bill is almost twice what it used to be in Singapore.

I have no savings and have to take on freelance jobs to make ends meet, like some Hongkongers.

So why am I still here? It's not the money. It's the thrill of being in another country, doing the weirdest things like hiking in the hills in winter.

The other day, a Hong Kong friend who'd just returned from a trip to Singapore asked me: "Everything's half price compared to here. Should I try to get a job there?"

Tabitha Wang knows the grass is never greener on the other side - she's checked it on her hikes.


From TODAY, Voices – Friday, 28-Aug-2009

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Singapore to launch new standard for hotel security

'Traumatic, stressful' terrorism trial - lawyerImage by publik16 via Flickr

Guarding against possible terrorist attacks? Perhaps.

All that I can say is that 'it is better to be safe than sorry.'

Read the story here.

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Beauty queen's outfit falls short of Japanese tastes

TOKYO - MAY 15:  Miss Universe Japan Emiri Miy...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

I agree with the detractors, those who fall under the conservative group.

Either you wear a totally revealing outfit (if you can call a two-piece underwear an outfit), or you dress up and down, all the way.

To me, this mid-way costume showing the hot pink underwear is more than simply an outfit: it seems that a crass and sleazy character is being projected by none other than Japan's Miss Universe contestant, and she represents the people, the female populace of Japan with that kind of dress.

If you are a Japanese girl, would you like to be looked at in that way?

Read that story here.

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Saturday, August 1, 2009

A con woman cheats on men on their money

Le Tricheur (The Cheater). Oil on canvas, ca. ...Image via Wikipedia

It used to be done by men, then by a few women now and then, then it became more frequent. Would it be a crime dominated by women?

Maybe this woman knows exactly where men’s weak points are, when it comes to women? And she capitalized on it…

Serial con woman arrested for cheating men of their money.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Trapped in toilet for a week

MELBOURNE - An Australian woman was stuck in her toilet for a week before neighbours heard her cries for help, officials said yesterday.

The 67-year-old Queensland woman was found on Sunday, seven days after she became trapped, said the state community safety department.

A department spokesman said firefighters had trouble reaching the woman because she was so tightly wedged by the lavatory, with a foot stuck on either side.

"The lady was manoeuvred to one side to free her. The door swings inwards and she had her feet wedged on either side of the toilet," the spokesman said. "She was very dehydrated but she was conscious."

Mr Michael Hibberd, the neighbour who heard the woman's cries for help, said it was a reminder for people to check up on the elderly. "Not necessarily keep an eye on them 24/7 but just make a note of their movements and what not," he said. AFP

From TODAY, World – Thursday, 30-Jul-2009

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A few new articles that may be of interest

A photograph of a cell block in the Wisconsin ...Image via Wikipedia

1. Looking for a job? New US weekly jobless claims jump

2. Secured by a facility protected by guards? Think again. Inmates found guilty of assaulting cell-mate

3. Is the principal the ‘top’ on students’ role model list?

Principal fired for jumping on students

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Top criminal lawyer to act for owner of Brookes Business School

I was following this news lightly, Brookes Business School shut down due to 'fake' degrees offered.

Anyway, when I saw this news, I thought that the owner was trying to pull up some act to defend himself, and be declared righteous. I was wrong. You can read the rest of the story here.

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Monday, July 6, 2009

New map finds HIV rates in US are highest in the South

Phylogenetic Tree of the SIV and HIV viruses. ...Image via Wikipedia

Perhaps why this matters is that the demographic condition in that area will spell out the corresponding cure, would it? Hopefully, it don't get stuck in the mind of people, and start discriminating...

GMANews.TV - New map finds HIV rates in US are highest in the South - World - Official Website of GMA News and Public Affairs - Latest Philippine News

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Sit down and talk it out

I say, this is hitting the 'self-righteous' on the head with a nail… ooopppsss! I mean hitting the nail right on the head of the 'self-righteous'! Errhh… Whatever, this is hitting the point right home. Kudos!


You can't force people to care; neither should those in need be rude about it

Letter from Esther Lim

THERE has been much debate over the issue of giving up of seats on the MRT to those who are in need.

In trying to encourage social graciousness and compassion, let's not forget that nobody owes anybody anything. It's not wrong to be hopeful, but I'm not sure you should expect someone to give up his seat for you when needed.

It is simply impossible to command someone to be compassionate. It has to come from the heart.

Why can't someone who's entitled to a seat sit comfortably? Why is he expected to be on a constant lookout for anyone who needs a seat more than him? If that's the case, I would rather stand at a cozy corner and do whatever I choose instead of being seated, lest I be judged for not offering my seat because I was too engrossed in my book or taking forty winks.

Social graciousness is also about being tolerant, understanding and less judgmental of those who do not appear to have lived up to expected norms. I do not think it right for someone full of righteous indignation to fulfil his personal need to do good, regardless of whether the situation warrants it, such as by demanding that someone give up his seat for someone else.

Perhaps the three groups - the needy, the passive commuters and the self-righteous - should strive to come to a common understanding.

The needy can be hopeful but should treat kindness as a privilege, not an obligation. Commuters should be encouraged, and not pressured or made to feel obligated or be judged.

The self-righteous should exercise discretion when deciding whether the situation truly warrants their interference, bearing in mind that their interference does not make them any more compassionate than those whom they victimised. Someone who is silently enduring a bad case of migraine might well need a seat more than a pregnant woman in her second trimester carrying a few shopping bags and chatting merrily on her mobile phone.

From TODAY, Voices – Monday, 06-Jul-2009; see the source article here.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Pope: Basilica bones belong to apostle St. Paul

Pope Benedict XVI's roundelImage by Lawrence OP via Flickr

June 29, 2009 -- Updated 1821 GMT (0221 HKT)

Story Highlights

  • Scientific tests prove bones are those of the apostle St. Paul, pope says
  • Vatican tomb also holds "traces of a precious linen cloth"
  • Tests were carried out by inserting probe into small opening in sarcophagus

Pope Benedict XVI looks at the tomb of St. Paul at the Basilica of St. Paul in Rome in 2007.

ROME, Italy (CNN) -- Scientific tests prove bones housed in the Basilica of St. Paul in Rome are those of the apostle St. Paul himself, according to Pope Benedict XVI.

"Tiny fragments of bone" in the sarcophagus were subjected to carbon dating, showing they "belong to someone who lived in the first or second century," the pope said in a homily carried on Italian television.

"This seems to confirm the unanimous and undisputed tradition that these are the mortal remains of the Apostle St. Paul," Benedict said in Sunday's announcement.

The tomb also holds "traces of a precious linen cloth, purple in color and laminated with pure gold, and a blue colored textile with linen filaments," the pope said.

The tests were carried out by inserting a probe into a small opening in the sarcophagus, "which had not been opened for many centuries," the pontiff said. The probe "also revealed the presence of grains of red incense and traces of protein and limestone."
Separately, archaeologists have uncovered an image of St. Paul which "could be considered the oldest icon of the apostle known to date," the Vatican's official newspaper reported Sunday.

The painting, in the St. Tecla Catacomb, is "among the oldest and best-defined figures from ancient Christianity," according to the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology, L'Osservatore Romano reported.

St. Paul is one of the most significant figures in Christianity. Originally a persecutor of early Christians, he became a follower of Jesus after seeing a vision on the road to Damascus, according to Christian tradition.

"Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" the vision of Jesus asks Paul, using the apostle's birth name, in the Acts of the Apostles.

Saul then took the name Paul and became a missionary. His letters, or epistles, to early Christian communities around the Mediterranean form a significant portion of the New Testament.

Paul was beheaded by Roman authorities sometime between 65 and 67 A.D., according to the Catholic Church.

He was buried a few miles away, and when the Roman Empire stopped persecuting Christians some 250 years later, the Emperor Constantine had a basilica built over his grave.

It currently lies under a marble tombstone bearing the Latin inscription PAULO APOSTOLO MART (Apostle Paul, martyr), according to the Web site of the basilica. A papal altar stands over the tombstone, which is visible through a window-like opening, the Web site says.

Monday marks the end of a year of celebration in honor of the 2,000th anniversary of St. Paul's birth. It also happens to be the feast day of Saints Peter and Paul.

From; see the source article here.

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CDCs see 40% increase in households seeking help

By Hoe Yeen Nie, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 29 June 2009 2001 hrs

TeoSerLuck Teo Ser Luck (file pic)

SINGAPORE: Singapore's Community Development Councils (CDCs) have seen a 40 per cent increase in the number of people seeking help as a result of the current economic downturn.

As Singapore's five mayors begin a new term, their focus will be on helping the needy.

In these tough times, mayors said "business" has gone up.

In the first quarter of this year, the number of families seeking help went up by 40 percent, while those looking for work doubled.

Between January and March 2009, the five CDCs received 5,540 applications for social assistance, compared to 3,934 a year ago.

The number of people seeking help in finding jobs went up from 5,844 in the first quarter of 2008 to 11,790 in the first quarter of this year.

Community Development Councils (CDCs) were first created in 1997 to bring back a sense of community spirit among residents. Since then they've taken on additional functions, including the delivery of a wide range of social services, such as financial assistance schemes and help in finding a job.

Speaking at the swearing-in ceremony for the five mayors on Monday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, said: “The CDCs play a crucial role because they're close to the ground and therefore more attuned to ground needs and the constraints and circumstances in your areas.

“You can deliver assistance to where it's most needed, where it's most deserved, and you can help Singaporeans get back on their feet and be more self-reliant."

New mayor Teo Ser Luck, who takes over from Zainul Abidin Rasheed, said his first task is to examine how resources are managed.

Mr Teo is also the Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Community Development, Youth and Sports, and Transport ministries.

He said: "We have plenty of programmes and I'm not sure if every single one is effective. And the other thing is I'm not sure if it's well-served for the residents. We need to look through all the programmes and see which ones meet the targets and which don't so that funds are better allocated."

Mr Zainul steps down as mayor after 10 years.

But the rest of the mayoral line-up remains unchanged - Dr Amy Khor at South West district; Dr Teo Ho Pin at North West district; Mr Zainudin Nordin at Central district and Mr Matthias Yao at South East district.

The mayors also plan to better coordinate efforts between grassroots organisations so that help can be better delivered. - CNA/vm

From; see the source article here.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Number of Filipino drug mules increasing


06/26/2009 | 07:39 PM

DONKEY WORK. Despite the name, a drug mule is actually a person who smuggles something with him or her across a national border in exchange for money.
AP photo

MANILA, Philippines - Just as the world celebrated the United Nation's International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, Vice President Noli De Castro on Friday revealed that the number of Filipino drug "mules" is increasing.

Citing a report from Philippine Ambassador to Beijing Sonia Brady, De Castro said that a total of 158 Filipinos – most of whom were women – have been arrested for drug trafficking in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau as of June 7.

Drug trafficking of 50 grams or more of highly dangerous drugs like heroin is punishable by death in China and its territories.

But the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) earlier reported that in 2008 alone, 111 Filipinos were arrested for drug-related offenses in the same Chinese territories.

This, the DFA said, was a 594-percent increase from the 16 arrested in 2007.

Of those arrested in 2007 and 2008, 22 are facing death sentence, 12 have gotten life, while 11 have been made to serve 15-16 years prison terms.

De Castro said that all the arrests had stemmed from narcotic drugs being found in the suspects' luggage supposedly given to them by people they met in a transit country – usually Thailand, Malaysia, Nepal, Laos, and Vietnam.

He said that members of foreign drug rings give Filipino mules tickets and pocket money to travel to Hong Kong or to mainland China and promise to pay the carriers upon delivery of the drugs to their destination.

The vice president therefore appealed to the public to warn their relatives and friends not to accept any parcel or bag from people they do not know in exchange for money.

"Think twice before you allow yourself to be used as drug couriers as you become an instrument to destroying lives of others. At the same time, you expose yourself to certain criminal prosecution," said De Castro.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency has said that it is working on a memorandum of agreement with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration to help prevent Filipinos from being used as drug couriers. - GMANews.TV

From; see the source article here.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mas Selamat not extradited to Singapore due to security reasons

Posted: 25 June 2009 1922 hrs

Photo taken of Mas Selamat Kastari after his arrest on April 1.

SINGAPORE - Singapore's Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) militant leader Mas Selamat Kastari is still being detained in Malaysia due to security reasons.

The terrorist, who once plotted to hijack a plane and crash it into Changi Airport, was captured in Malaysia's Johor in April this year after escaping from Singapore's Whitley Road Detention Centre in February last year.

Malaysian Home Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said Mas Selamat was arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) as he is deemed a threat to the country.

Speaking in the Malaysian parliament on Thursday, the minister said Mas Selamat's ISA detention would ensure that his activities and contacts with other militant groups in Asia could be contained.

"The ministry has sufficient information to arrest him under the ISA," said Mr Hishammuddin. "We know his background, the details of his plan, network and contact with militant groups.

"He is arrested under the ISA as the government finds that he not only poses a threat to the country but also to the neighbouring countries like Singapore and Indonesia."

"Believe me, from the information that we have gathered, it was a serious plan," said Mr Hishammuddin. "We did not extradite Mas Selamat as we are concerned it will undermine the country's peace and put the people's safety at risk."

The minister also told reporters that Malaysia needed the cooperation from Indonesia to carry out its investigations.

- CNA/ir

From; see the source article here.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

‘Best girl on the planet’ freed

An SVG map of China with Hubei province highli...Image via Wikipedia

There is still a ray of hope on justice prevailing, even in China…


Waitress who stabbed Chinese official released

05:55 AM Jun 17, 2009

BEIJING - A Chinese karaoke bar waitress who became a folk hero after fatally stabbing a communist official who demanded sex was freed yesterday by a court that ruled she had acted in self-defence, state media said.

The Badong County People's Court exempted Miss Deng Yujiao, 21, from punishment for the crime of intentional injury because she was acting in self-defence, the official People's Daily newspaper said in a brief report on its website.

The report said the court ruled that Miss Deng had limited criminal responsibility and also took into account the fact that she had turned herself in to the police after using a fruit knife to stab 43-year-old Deng Guida, who later died. No further details were given.

Coverage of her case in the entirely state-controlled media has been unusually sympathetic. Popular posts in online forums called Miss Deng "the best girl on the planet", composed lines of verse in classical Chinese that described her as "beautiful and fierce" and dedicated the lyrics of a popular love song Like a Mouse Loves Rice to her.

Her popularity reflects widespread anger in China over abuse of power by Communist cadres, officials and the security forces.

Reflecting the huge interest in the case, at least 500 supporters of Miss Deng gathered at the courthouse, according to Luo Jiajiu, one of the organisers of the rally. But the group was banned from attending the trial.

A similar public outpouring of sympathy followed the case of a man who confessed to killing six Shanghai police officers last year in revenge for torture he allegedly suffered while being interrogated about an allegedly stolen bicycle.

Chinese media reported that the official, Deng Guida, found the waitress in the laundry room of a hotel spa a few floors below the bar where she worked and demanded sex.

When she refused, he allegedly forced her onto a couch and blocked her from leaving. She attacked him with a fruit knife she had in her bag, the report said.

Police said she also attacked his colleague, Huang Dezhi, at the hotel in Badong in the central province of Hubei.

Deng Guida, who ran a local government office for business promotion, is not related to the waitress.

Xinhua news agency reported last month that Huang and another government official who was also at he spa on the night of the stabbing were fired amid investigations, while police shut the spa and were questioning its owners. Huang has also been detained. AGENCIES

From TODAY, World – Wednesday, 17-Jun-2009; see the source article here.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Storm strands passengers in central Philippines

I used to wade on the waters… a fishpond, a river, the sea, and the streets… back then the water is clear and unpolluted…


Posted: 24 June 2009 0508 hrs

Pedestrians walk through flood water on a street in the financial district of Manila, Philippines.

MANILA: Vessels were on Tuesday told not to leave the central Philippine islands as tropical storm Nangka hit the region packing maximum sustained winds of 75 kilometres an hour, officials said.

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage as the strengthening storm struck Samar island in mid-afternoon.

The coastguard issued an advisory banning all maritime traffic around 14 central islands and the southeastern tip of the main island of Luzon - the expected immediate path of the storm.

Ferries and cargo ships weighing 1,000 tonnes or less were also restricted to port in Manila and along the nearby coast of Luzon or ordered to seek shelter if they were already at sea.

The local weather service said the storm was moving northwest and due to pass just south of Manila on its way to the South China Sea on Wednesday afternoon.

Local television in Samar said hundreds of people who rely on small ferries to commute between central islands were stranded at major ports in the area. - AFP/de

From; see the source article here.

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Four loanshark suspects arrested for harassment

By Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 23 June 2009 2024 hrs

090615-2042hrs SINGAPORE: Police have arrested four people who were suspected to be involved in a series of loanshark harassment cases islandwide.

They are aged between 16 and 24 years old.

They were nabbed on Monday after the police received a tip-off of a case of loanshark harassment at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1.

Police first arrested a 17-year-old girl, who had a marker pen, an ATM card and lighter on her – items used in loanshark activities.

Following that, police caught her accomplices on the same day at Marsiling Lane, Whampoa Drive and Jurong West.

A 16-year old boy and two other women aged 20 and 24 were arrested.

Preliminary investigations revealed that the group was believed to be responsible for multiple cases of loanshark harassment islandwide, including setting fire to items outside units in Hougang, Woodlands and West Coast.

All four suspects will be charged in court on Wednesday under the Moneylenders' Act.

First time offenders found guilty of loanshark harassment may be fined at least S$4000 and up to S$40,000, or jailed for up to three years, or both.

Offenders may also be caned.

- CNA/yb

From; see the source article here.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Typo cuts drug offender's prison term

June 22, 2009 -- Updated 1421 GMT (2221 HKT)

By Jim Kavanagh, CNN


  • Error on verdict form casts doubt on jurors' intent, Ohio appeals court rules
  • Decision means Calvin Wells must serve just one year, not 10
  • Legal issue elsewhere may have him transferred to New Jersey

Calvin Eugene Wells discovered a discrepancy on the verdict form for his conviction.

(CNN) -- A three-letter typo has slashed years off a prison sentence for a repeat drug offender in Ohio.

Calvin Eugene Wells of Akron was sentenced in October 2005 to 10 years in prison after being convicted of possessing more than 100 grams of cocaine, a first-degree felony.

Or so it seemed.

While serving his time, Wells discovered a stray word on the verdict form signed by the jurors who convicted him in Summit County Common Pleas Court. The form, typed up by a court or prosecutor's office employee, read:

"We, the Jury, find the Defendant Guilty of the offense of POSSESSION OF CRACK COCAINE.

"We, the jury, further find that the amount of crack cocaine WAS in the amount exceeding ten one hundred (100) grams as charged in the indictment."

The word "ten" in the second sentence is extraneous.

Wells brought the error to a succession of attorneys' attention, but no one managed to turn it to his advantage until Jason Desiderio was appointed to represent him.

"I have never seen anything like this in my life, where just attorney after attorney did nothing," Desiderio said.

"I think he had four appellate attorneys, and one appeal ... It's a very, very bizarre case."

Under Ohio law, for a person to be found guilty of a higher-level felony, the jury form must state either the degree of the offense or the circumstances that would make it a higher offense. The form's second sentence apparently was an attempt to state those circumstances, but the stray word muddled the meaning, Desiderio said.

A three-judge panel of the Ohio Court of Appeals unanimously agreed.

"The form is unclear, and we cannot determine what the jury understood 'ten one hundred (100) grams' to mean," Judge Eve Belfance wrote in the court's decision. "It certainly could have meant an amount exceeding one hundred grams, but it is possible the jury believed the form actually meant an amount exceeding less than one gram."

The uncertainty meant Wells could be convicted of nothing more than a fifth-degree felony, the judges ruled. The maximum sentence for a fifth-degree felony is one year, and Wells already had served four. Game over.

But not quite.

It seems Wells is wanted in Morris County, New Jersey, on a November 2000 sheriff's warrant for violating his probation for drug and weapons convictions. The sheriff is seeking extradition, spokeswoman Staci Santucci said. It's unlikely he'll be able to avoid it, said Desiderio, who will not be able to represent Wells because he's not licensed in New Jersey.

The original judge in the Ohio case, James R. Williams, is retired. The Summit County prosecutor's office did not return calls seeking comment on Wells' case.

"At the end of the day, he was convicted, and I understand that some people are going to feel upset that he's essentially out six years earlier than anyone anticipated," Desiderio said.

"But in our system, we give the benefit of the doubt to the defendant, and we do that for good reason. And in here there's a statutory mandate to ensure that we know what we're convicting people of and we know why we're doing it. And that mandate wasn't met."

From; see the source article here.

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