Singapore researchers turn water into 'virtual lemonade'

SINGAPORE: It looks like lemonade, tastes like lemonade, but it is simply water.

Researchers in Singapore say they have invented a “virtual lemonade”, using electrodes to mimic the flavour of the beverage and LED lights to imitate its colour, that could one day allow people to digitally share drinks over the Internet.

“We are primarily motivated by the fact that our current digital interactions are not supportive for sharing beverages and food, which is something very common in our everyday lives,” said Nimesha Ranasinghe, who led the team that did the research.

The team conducting the research at the NUS-Keio CUTE Center, a collaboration between the National University of Singapore and Japan’s Keio University, decided to focus on the sour taste of lemonade to prove their idea.

A sensor dipped into a glass of real lemonade collects data on its acidity and colour, which is transmitted via Bluetooth to silver electrode strips on the rim of a tumbler.

The action of a drinker running their tongue over the strip in taking a sip causes the electrodes to simulate the sour taste, while a light-emitting diode (LED) flashes yellow.

The technology can also simulate bitter and salty sensations, Ranasinghe said, adding that it could help people on restricted diets who need to cut back on salt or calories.

“We can even help the people who want to cut down their calorie intake,” she added. “If he craves lemonade, and can have a virtual lemonade, he can get the same experience, but zero calories.”

Still, the design needs some improvement, said student Genevieve Low, a volunteer who participated in tests of the drink.

“I think it’s definitely the way the tongue touches the cup, because no one would, sub-consciously or consciously, put their tongue onto the electrode and then drink the water,” she said in a recent test round.

Another volunteer student, Wang Pan, was surprised by the taste.

“I was imagining the electronic taste, but it’s actually quite real to me because it’s really mild, like mild-sweet. It’s less sour than the real lemonade,” she said. 

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Caldecott Hill in the limelight at this year’s Singapore Heritage Festival

SINGAPORE: Did you know that years before Zoe Tay became the Queen of Caldecott Hill, there was already a royalty of sorts in the area?

During the 1800s, a merchant named Seah Eu Chin – who was known as the King of Pepper and Gambier – had set up plantation houses and grew crops in the area.

Mediacorp’s former home will be in the limelight at this year’s Singapore Heritage Festival (SHF), which is turning up the glitz and glamour by holding one of its main events at Caldecott Broadcast Centre.

This year’s edition, which comprises 110 programmes and activities, will run over three weekends from April 28 to May 14. 

The SHF’s Caldecott Hill events will take place over the first two weekends. Visitors will be treated to a festival village with a flea market and food stalls, as well as guided tours by television stars and crew. There will also be a performance by Cake Theatrical Productions titled Studio 6, which revisits some of Mediacorp’s famous shows such as The Little Nyonya, Under One Roof, and Growing Up.

The exhibition TV50 – which looks at Singapore’s broadcast history and culture from the 1960s and was previously shown at the National Museum of Singapore – will also be presented. At some point, stars from Mediacorp’s upcoming blockbuster Channel 8 drama The Lead are planning to drop by.

A set at Caldecott Broadcast Centre’s Studio 6, where many shows were filmed. (Photo: Yeo Kai Ting)

The historic Caldecott Hill is the first location for the festival’s new SHF Takes Over! programme.

“Through the years, we’ve seen how people have been very excited to be brought to new places or spaces they don’t normally get to go to, so we decided to try out this new initiative,” said Christie Chua, the festival’s creative director.

Caldecott was a perfect and timely choice as a first location. “Last year, we found out that most of Mediacorp was already moving (to the new Mediacorp Campus), so we thought this was a very good place to bring people.”

She also pointed out it was a place rich in history. Aside from being the site of pepper and gambier plantations, the area was also named after Andrew Caldecott, a British colonial administrator (hence, Andrew Road). In the 1930s, the first broadcasting station by the British Malayan Broadcasting Corporation was set up, which would morph into Radio Television Singapore, Singapore Broadcasting Corporation, Television Corporation of Singapore, and, eventually, Mediacorp.

After 80 years at Caldecott Hill, Mediacorp recently completed its move to its new Mediacorp Campus in one-north. (Photo: Calvin Oh)


Aside from Caldecott Hill, another unusual place the festival will head for is the Singapore Zoo, where there will be a trail, where people can learn more about some of its “heritage” occupants, such as Inuka the polar bear, Omar the white tiger, Komali the elephant and Astove the giant tortoise.

Introducing events that look at the world of broadcast and entertainment, as well as animals, is a way of expanding one’s idea of what heritage is all about, said Chua.

“That’s what we want to share with people; that after all these years, these are part of our heritage and the whole mind map of Singapore.”

One of the Singapore Zoo’s most senior occupants, the polar bear Inuka, is in the heritage spotlight this year. (Photo: Reuters)

SHF events will also take place at areas such as Little India, Bukit Pasoh, the National Museum of Singapore (NMS) and along the Singapore River.

At Little India, there will be events such as a Ramayana performance, food trails with celebrity chefs, among others. Meanwhile, the clans and associations at Bukit Pasoh will also be participating in various events, and there will be a special focus on Ann Siang Hill. Among the shows are a Taiwanese puppet group.

The Satay Club. (Photo: National Archives Singapore)

The Asian Civilisations Museum will be the focal point of events along the Singapore River on the final weekend, where hawker culture – including a nod to the Empress Place Food Centre and the Satay Club in the vicinity – will be revived through installations and exhibitions. Across the river, the Fullerton Hotel will be holding a performance tour through its area.

Meanwhile, the NMS will also look at other unique places in its festival-related events. Among these is a multimedia exhibition of works by mural artist Yip Yew Chong. Known for his murals found in Kampong Glam and Tiong Bahru, these will be given an animated touch at the museum’s Gallery 10 space.

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Veterans Zoe Tay and Chen Hanwei take home Star Awards' biggest prize

SINGAPORE: Back in 1988, three aspiring actors named Zoe Tay, Chen Hanwei and Aileen Tan joined a talent show organised by the then SBC (Singapore Broadcasting Corporation) 8. Tay and Tan were named winner and runner-up of that inaugural Star Search, with Chen finishing as a finalist.  All three signed on to become artistes.

Twenty-nine years later, the veteran actors have emerged as the biggest winners of the Mediacorp Star Awards, taking home the coveted Best Actress for Tay, Best Actor for Chen and Best Supporting Actress for Tan.

The Star Awards, which was held on Sunday (Apr 16) at the MES Theatre, is the annual Singapore award show that recognises and celebrates the best and brightest of local Mandarin television. 

“This is the very first time since that very first Star Search that all three of us have won awards together!” said Tay in Mandarin backstage after her win. “So today is very special and emotional. Not just because of my own win, but also because both Hanwei and Aileen won as well. Especially Aileen.”

Tay, dubbed the Queen of Mediacorp, won only her second Best Actress trophy of her three decade-long career.  She last won the award 21 years ago in 1996 for her role in The Golden Pillow.

This time round, she bested her fellow nominees- the younger generation of Mediacorp Channel 8 actress including Rui En and Jeanette Aw with a role that saw her playing  a cancer-stricken nurse manager in the 2016 medical drama You Can Be An Angel 2.

Chen, who picked up his fifth Best Actor honour for his role as a confinement nanny in the family drama The Gentlemen, reiterated his admiration for fellow nominee Andie Chen, who he paid kudos to during his acceptance speech.

“For me, I was rooting for Andie Chen. I think he gave a very good performance,” said Chen in Mandarin. “I think he just hasn’t been very lucky during these awards. I really believe that one day he will stand on this stage and win the Best Actor award.  I really want to encourage him.”

Andie Chen was nominated for both Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor this year, but lost out in both categories. 

This fifth Best Actor win for Chen equals former actor Xie Shaoguang’s record.

Xie was one of Channel 8’s biggest stars before he retired in 2005 and moved to Malaysia.  He became an ordained Buddhist monk in 2013 but has since reportedly returned to secular life as a chef in a vegetarian eatery.

“If there really is one day that Shaoguang would come back to the entertainment industry to collaborate with both Zoe and I, that would really be great!” said Chen.

Tay agreed: “We can only hope! Shaoguang, please come back.”

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Yusof Ishak Mosque opens in Woodlands

SINGAPORE: A mosque named after Singapore’s first President Yusof Ishak was officially opened on Friday (Apr 14) by his widow Noor Aishah.

The ceremony was witnessed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister-in-Charge for Muslim Affairs Dr Yaacob Ibrahim.

The Yusof Ishak Mosque in Woodlands will serve not only the needs of the Muslim community, but will also reach out to non-Muslims in a bid to foster multiculturalism – a value the former head of state stood firm on while he was in office.

Back in 2014 – the same year when plans for the mosque were first unveiled by Mr Lee in his National Day Rally speech – Dr Yaacob urged the mosque to hold as many programmes as possible to bring non-Muslims closer, instead of just serving the socio-religious needs of the Muslim community.

For instance, non-Muslims will be able to use some of the mosque’s new facilities, such as the multi-purpose hall and the conference room. There are also features that are signs of inclusiveness, including lifts and ramps for older worshippers, a dedicated praying area for women and more spaces for families to pray.

Members of Parliament Ong Ye Kung, Khaw Boon Wan and Masagos Zulkifli, along with several members from the Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles (IRCCs), representatives from nearby schools, and Mr Yusof’s family members and friends from Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei were also at the opening ceremony.

Naming the mosque after the former head of state pays tribute to his contributions and is in line with the nation’s efforts to honour its pioneers, said the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS).

The prayer space of the mosque was consecrated by Singapore’s Mufti Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram. It will be able to accommodate 4,500 people and will help ease the crowd situation at An-Nur Mosque, which was previously the only mosque serving the Woodlands and Admiralty areas. The new mosque will also help meet the increasing demand for prayer spaces. 

What’s unique about this mosque is its look – it breaks away from the grand domes and instead, has the feel of a Malay house. The design of the mosque drew inspiration from Mr Yusof’s official and private residences, and blends traditional mosque characteristics with the heritage of the “Malay world”, the Nusantara.

The colours used on the stained glass windows in the mosque represent Islamic and Malay art heritage. (Photo: MUIS)

The Yusof Ishak Mosque, which cost S$ 18 million to build, is one of 71 mosques in Singapore and the 26th to be funded by the Mosque Building and Mendaki Fund, which all working Muslims in the country contribute to.  

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Josephine Teo, Governor of Heilongjiang affirm warm Singapore-China ties

SINGAPORE: Senior Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Josephine Teo is leading a Singapore business delegation on a three-day working visit to Harbin, China, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) announced on Tuesday (Apr 11). 

Mrs Teo, who is also Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and for Transport, called on Mr Lu Hao, the Governor of Heilongjiang Provincial People’s Government, on Tuesday. They affirmed the warm bilateral relations between both countries and discussed developments in Singapore as well as Heilongjiang. 

Mr Lu also welcomed the signing of four commercial agreements between Singapore companies and their Chinese partners in the areas of logistics, hospitality, education and human resource training, MFA said.

Mrs Teo and Secretary of the Communist Party of China, Harbin Municipal Committee Chen Haibo, as well as Singapore’s Ambassador to China Stanley Loh and Vice Mayor of the Harbin Municipal Government Shi Jiaxing co-witnessed the signing of these commercial agreements. 

Mrs Teo and Mr Lu agreed to continue exploring opportunities to deepen cooperation and exchanges, MFA said. 

On Tuesday afternoon, the Executive Vice Governor of Heilongjiang Provincial People’s Government Li Haitao hosted the delegation to lunch. 

Mrs Teo also met with and was hosted to dinner by Secretary Chen, MFA added. 

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Eurasians small group, but made many contributions: PM Lee

SINGAPORE: Eurasians may be the smallest group in Singapore, but they have made many contributions, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at a festival to celebrate Eurasian culture and tradition on Sunday (Apr 9).

Among the many Eurasians who have distinguished themselves and made significant contributions to the society were first Law Minister E W Barker, former heads of Civil Service Stanley Stewart and George Bogaars, and Singapore’s second President Dr Benjamin Sheares, said PM Lee.

He also cited others like former Ambassador to Indonesia Barry Desker, the first woman Supreme Court Justice Judith Prakash, jazz pianist Jeremy Monteiro and Olympic champion Joseph Schooling.

In recognising their achievements, PM Lee said he felt “lucky” to have known all of them personally.

“I am very happy to see Eurasians doing well in many professions, all over society, establishing and making a name for themselves,” he said, adding that he had “no doubt” that Eurasians will make many contributions to Singapore.

Children decorating Easter eggs at the Eurasian festival on Sunday (Apr 9).

The Eurasian Festival organised by the Eurasian Association (EA) together with the People’s Association was held at Our Tampines Hub. The event featured highlights like Easter egg decoration, live band performances and story telling. 

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Stocks, dollar edge higher ahead of Trump-Xi meeting

NEW YORK: Global equity markets and the dollar edged higher on Thursday, helped by fresh data showing a tighter U.S. labor market, as investors stayed cautious before the first meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

Key stock indexes in Europe and on Wall Street climbed but a gauge of global equities was little changed, with gains offset by a decline in emerging markets .

The dollar index extended gains after data showed new applications last week for U.S. unemployment benefits recorded their biggest drop in nearly two years.

Last week’s jobless claims data, however, has little bearing on the March employment report due out on Friday. Claims rose during the survey week for nonfarm payrolls last month, suggesting some moderation in the pace of job growth.

“The market will be very remiss to do anything too sharp at this point, given that we have payrolls coming up,” said Gennadiy Goldberg, an interest rate strategist at TD Securities in New York.

The dollar index rose 0.15 percent, with the euro down 0.18 percent to US$ 1.0643. The Japanese yen weakened 0.21 percent versus the greenback at 110.93 per dollar.

Trump faces pressure to deliver trade concessions with China for some of his most fervent supporters and to prevent a crisis with North Korea from spiraling out of control. However, White House officials have set expectations low for the meeting.

The market’s main concern is that Trump and Xi may not see eye-to-eye on most things and that traders will infer this from their body language, said Thierry Albert Wizman, global interest rates and currencies strategist, at Macquarie Group in New York.

“Rather than a lack of agreement, however, the greater risk is a lack of deep engagement,” he said.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 51.75 points, or 0.25 percent, to 20,699.9. The S&P 500 gained 5.89 points, or 0.25 percent, to 2,358.84 and the Nasdaq Composite added 12.22 points, or 0.21 percent, to 5,876.69.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index closed up 0.16 percent to 1,499.94, while MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe fell 0.06 percent.

Oil prices rose nearly 1 percent, on track for a fourth straight day of gains, but analysts warned record high U.S. inventories could derail the rally.

U.S. crude rose 55 cents to settle at US$ 51.70 a barrel and Brent settled up 53 cents at US$ 54.89.

U.S. Energy Department data show crude inventories at record levels, leading some analysts to say speculative buying is starting to reach dangerous levels from a technical perspective.

“It’s hard to justify the move on the on back of fundamentals,” said Robert Yawger, director in energy futures at Mizuho.

U.S. Treasury yields fell slightly ahead of the U.S. jobs report on Friday.

Benchmark 10-year Treasury notes were last up 2/32 in price to yield 2.3480 percent.

U.S. gold futures gained 0.39 percent to US$ 1,253.40 an ounce. Copper lost 0.29 percent to US$ 5,878.00 a tonne.

(Editing by Bernadette Baum and Nick Zieminski)

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Woman arrested after fracas at Tiong Bahru Plaza

SINGAPORE: A 45-year-old woman was arrested after she made a scene at a shop in Tiong Bahru Plaza on Monday (Apr 3).

Police said they were alerted to the incident just before 10pm and said investigations are ongoing.

A 5-minute-and-40-second video of the incident has gone viral on Facebook, with more than 1 million views and counting as of Tuesday evening. The woman, visibly agitated, is seen yelling at shop staff at the Owndays spectacles shop and hitting two of them, asking them to retrieve her bracelet. Passersby and a security guard try to intervene, but the woman continues to swear at the shop staff.

Channel NewsAsia reached out to Owndays, but staff at the shop declined to comment.

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War on diabetes gets women's backing

SINGAPORE: The nationwide war on diabetes has got a new ally – women!

From April, women can learn how to prepare healthy dishes that are 500 calories or less for their families. The cooking classes will be held at community clubs islandwide until December this year.

These dishes are featured in Healthy Kitchen, Healthy Women – a postcard size pack of 50 recipes of different cuisines.

They were contributed by members of the Women’s Executive Committees and grassroots advisers like Culture, Community and Youth Minister Grace Fu’s mixed vegetable dish, Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor’s potato patties and Marine Parade GRC MP Fatimah Lateef’s healthier version of the Indian dessert kaseri.

Women can mail these postcards to their friends to share the recipes.

Speaking on Sunday (Apr 2) at the first ever health carnival targeting women in the fight against diabetes, adviser to People’s Association’s Women’s Integration Network Council Dr Khor said she hopes these initiatives will bring about “positive change, since most women have a significant influence over the dietary and lifestyle habits of their family members”.

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