COE prices close mixed

Premium content not available

More than 600 property agents warned in crackdown

HDB flats

The number of warnings and fines issued to real estate agents rose sharply as the Council for Estate Agencies clamped down on unethical and unprofessional behaviour.

According to the industry watchdog's annual report released yesterday, 644 letters of advice or warnings were issued to estate agents and salespersons between April 1 last year and March 31 this year.

This was more than double the 287 issued the year before.

There were also 32 composition fines meted out, up from just six a year ago, reported The Straits Times online.

More errant agents or salespersons were also taken to task.

There were 19 cases of court prosecution, up from seven previously, and 17 cases of disciplinary action, compared to seven a year before.

All this despite fewer complaints being received last year.

There were 751 complaints, down from 880 a year before. The most common types involved advertisements and flyers.

Against the backdrop of a sluggish property market, fewer people chose to become estate agents.

Of the 1,449 licensed estate agents last year, only 81 were new. The year before, there were 1,495 agents, including 235 new entrants.

The number of registered salespersons, however, rose to 33,498 from 32,982 a year earlier.

This was despite a fall in the number of new salespersons, with only 3,061 joining up, compared to 4,289 the year before.


Don't spare the rod, but do spare a thought

Premium content not available

WTA Finals: Williams back to her best, Sharapova suffers second straight defeat

At the WTA Finals in Singapore on Thursday, Serena Williams (left) bounced back from her humiliating Wednesday defeat, while Maria Sharapova suffered her second straight loss.

One day after suffering her heaviest defeat since she was a teenager, Serena Williams was back to her brilliant best as she swatted aside Eugenie Bouchard 6-1 6-1 in her final round robin match at the WTA Finals on Thursday.

The world number one was humiliated 6-0 6-2 by Romania’s Simona Halep on Singapore’s purple hard court on Wednesday but put herself on the brink of a semi-finals berth with the crushing victory over her hapless Canadian opponent.

Williams appeared lethargic and lacking motivation in her defeat against the feisty counter-puncher Halep but made sure there would be no repeat of her “embarrassing” loss against the youngest player in the elite eight-woman field.

The 33-year-old forced three break points immediately and while Bouchard battled back to win a game that ensured Halep advanced to the semi-finals, Williams exuded focus and aggression as she set about dismantling her opponent.

“Yesterday was tough for me but I had to put that behind me and my coach really helped me out to recover from that,” Williams said in a courtside interview.

“He told me I needed to focus on today and that I was still in the tournament. I actually felt like I was out of the tournament so it was good advice.”

Eugenie Bouchard reacts after losing a point to Williams.

Williams gave the 20-year-old a tennis lesson she would not forget over the course of the 59-minute thumping, breaking the Canadian’s serve at will to race through the next 11 games to move 6-1 5-0 ahead in what seemed like the blink of an eye.

Kvitova ends three-year losing streak against Sharapova

With the win, Williams also remains on course to hold on to her number one ranking with her only rival, Maria Sharapova, facing an early exit from the tournament after the Russian lost her second straight contest earlier on Thursday.

It was a comprehensive defeat for the Russian, who had won her last five matches against the left-handed Kvitova, dating back over three years.

"I didn’t feel as sharp as I did in the previous matches against her," Sharapova said. "She countered my shots extremely well and I was just never ready for the next ball. That made it quite difficult for me."

Kvitova acknowledges audience after defeating Sharapova. PHOTOS: Reuters

The 27-year-old Sharapova looked weary at times against Kvitova but rejected the notion she was tired after her three and a quarter hour loss to Caroline Wozniacki in her previous match. 

"It’s easy to sit here and say, yeah, I’m tired. I lost two matches," said Sharapova. "But that’s not the way I feel or the way that I choose to speak. I still have a match ahead of me, and I will do my best to finish it on a good note. "That’s the only thing I can ask of myself."

For Kvitova, it was a win that revived her hopes of winning her second WTA Finals title.

The 24-year-old lost her opening match to Agnieszka Radwanska but can still make the semi-finals if she wins her final group match against Wozniacki on Friday.

“I was really disappointed when I lost against Aga. It was a match probably I really didn’t know what I was doing. I was so tired and sick of the tennis for the moment,” she said. “So I didn’t practice today at all and I just really relaxed and cleaned my mind a little bit."

- Reuters

Thaw reveals Antarctic explorer’s century-old notebook

In this undated handout photo from Antarctic Heritage Trust (NZ) and released on Thursday, shows a notebook from Mr Robert Scott's ill-fated Antarctic expedition which was found after a century.
In this undated handout photo from Antarctic Heritage Trust (NZ) and released on Thursday, shows a notebook from Mr Robert Scott's ill-fated Antarctic expedition which was found after a century.

A photographic notebook from Robert Scott’s ill-fated Antarctic expedition has been found after a century.

It was trapped in the ice of the frozen continent, New Zealand’s Antarctic Heritage Trust said.

It belonged to scientist George Murray Levick and was discovered outside Scott’s 1911 Terra Nova base during last year’s summer ice melt.

Writing in the notebook remains legible, with Mr Levick’s name in the opening pages.

But the binding has been dissolved by years of ice and water damage, the trust’s executive director Nigel Watson said.

He said: “It’s an exciting find. The notebook is a missing part of the official expedition record.

“After spending seven years conserving Scott’s last expedition building and collection, we are delighted to still be finding new artefacts.”

This undated handout photo shows a self-portrait of George Murray Levick smoking a pipe and reading in his bunk in the hut at Cape Adare, Antarctica.

This undated handout photo shows a self-portrait of George Murray Levick smoking a pipe and reading in his bunk in the hut at Cape Adare, Antarctica.

Mr Watson said the pages of the notebook were taken to New Zealand and individually restored.

It was then given new binding and returned to Antarctica, where the trust is working to preserve five sites used by explorers Scott, Ernest Shackleton and Edmund Hillary.

Mr Scott’s expedition split into two groups after reaching the Antarctic.

His contingent reaching the South Pole on Jan 17, 1912, only to find Norwegian Roald Amundsen had beaten them there a month earlier.

Mr Scott and his companions later died of exposure and starvation.

Mr Levick was in the other group, which travelled along the coast to make scientific observations.


But they became stranded from the base camp when pack ice prevented their ship from picking them up.

The six men all survived the Antarctic winter by digging a cave in the ice and eating local wildlife, including penguins and seals.

Source: AFP


Phuket’s Tiger Kingdom closes enclosure after Australian tourist is mauled

File photo of a tiger. Phuket's Tiger Kingdom closed its Big Cat enclosure on Thursday in the wake of a mauling incident involving an Australian tourist.

Phuket's Tiger Kingdom closed its Big Cat enclosure on Thursday after a mauling incident.

A 15-month-old tiger attacked Australian tourist Paul Goudie, 49, on Tuesday, biting his both legs and stomach.

The man was dragged to safety by a park attendant and taken to hospital.

Bangkok Post reported that Mr Goudie has undergone surgery and has more operations scheduled.


The incident happened while Mr Goudie was walking around in an area where visitors are allowed to touch and take photos with the big cats.

Phuket Wan reported that the tiger was tasered as the tourist was being rescued. 

Tiger Kingdom, which opened on the island in August last year, gets hundreds of tourist every day, reported Bangkok Post.

The adult tigers are reportedly chained and drugged so that visitors can cuddle up to them and take photographs.

Not meant to be caged, cuddled

A local resident told UK daily The Telegraph “the news of the mauling is shocking but not surprising. These are wild animals, they’re not meant to be caged and cuddled."

"I feel sympathy for the man in question, but I don’t understand why tourists think it’s safe to pose for Facebook photos with wild animals in the first place."

Tiger Kingdom has closed Big Cat enclosure temporarily, though visitors can still visit cages containing smaller tigers, reported Phuket Wan.

Sources: Bangkok Post, Phuket Wan, The Telegraph, The Phuket News

Christian Bale to play Steve Jobs in Sorkin biopic

"Dark Knight" star Christian Bale to play Steve Jobs in Aaron Sorkin's biopic

Renowned for his protagonist role in "The Dark Knight", actor Christian Bale will star as the late Apple CEO Steve Job's in Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin's latest biopic.

Bale did not even had to audition for the role.

Speaking to Bloomberg Television's Emily Chang, Sorkin said:  "We needed the best actor on the board in a certain age range and that’s Chris Bale.

"He didn’t have to audition. Well, there was a meeting."

According to The Verge, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Bradley Cooper, and Leonardo DiCaprio were among the actors in contention for the still-unnamed film. 

The film is an adaptation of Walter Isaacson's 2011 biography, "Steve Jobs", and will begin shooting in two months.

"He has more words to say in this movie than most people have in three movies combined," said Sorkin.

"There isn’t a scene or a frame that he’s not in. So it’s an extremely difficult part and he is gonna crush it."

Sorkin was also the screenwriter for the hit movie "The Social Network" which won an Academy Award.  

You can watch the full video of the interview above. 

Source: Bloomberg, The Verge, Youtube

Watch: Mark Zuckerberg speaks Mandarin for 30mins at Q&A session!

We all know Mark Zuckerberg is a talented man. After all, one doesn't build a billion-dollar company without having some smarts and skill.

But did you know the co-founder of Facebook speaks Mandarin?

Granted it is heavily-accented Mandarin and the pronunciation is a tad mangled, but Zuckerberg knows enough to hold an extended conversation. Now that's impressive.

You would think a guy that rich would just hire a translator. 

Zuckerberg showed off his impressive linguistic skills at Tsinghua University in Beijing on Wednesday during a public question and answer session.

The 30-year-old posted a video of the session on his Facebook page on Thursday.





The half-hour session with Chinese and international students kicked off with Zuckerberg greeting the audience in Mandarin.

His effort shocked the crowd, which cheered and applauded loudly.

The cheering intensified when Zuckerberg said his wife Priscilla, who is a Chinese American, was one of the reasons he picked up the language.

The Q&A session, which was peppered with jokes and laughs, saw Zuckerberg discuss a variety of topics including his philosophy on founding a company and his view of Chinese innovation.

'We’re already in China'

Zuckerberg's charm offensive in China may come as a surprise to some as the social network has been banned in China since 2009.

But the company has reportedly rented office space in Beijing in a bid to boost its business selling online ads to Chinese companies and local governments seeking to promote themselves abroad.

Earlier this week, he was named to the advisory board of Tsinghua’s School of Economics and Management, a further step towards strengthening the company’s China ties.

Asked about Facebook’s plans in the country, he maintained: "We’re already in China."

"We help Chinese companies increase their overseas customers; they use Facebook advertising to find more customers," he said. "So, we want to help different places in the world connect with China."

Sources: Facebook/Mark Zuckerberg, AFP

Sexy Fifty Shades-type fan story based on 1D's Harry Styles to be turned into movie

The Fifty Shades of Grey film hasn't even hit theatres yet and there's already news of a similar story getting a big screen adaptation. 

This new fan fiction sensation is called After, and it is based on UK boy band One Direction, in particular Harry Styles. 

It's been read one billion times online. Yes, billion. 

And that's why Paramount Pictures have just bought the screen rights to the book, reports E! Online. 

The Fifty Shades trilogy started off as fan fiction - fan-penned stories about their idols - for the Twilight stories, and will be released in cinemas on Valentine's Day next year. 


Like Fifty Shades, After revolves around a young couple.

"The male lead in the story just looks like Harry Styles, but he is in college not in a band," said author Anna Todd, 25.

In fact, "all of the 1D boys are in the story", said Todd, who also revealed she started writing the story out of boredom. 

Sex scenes

Does After, like Fifty Shades, have lots of uh, sexy scenes? 

Oh, yes. 

"There are definitely sex scenes. I mean, I was writing it for myself ... There are adult scenes in the story," said Todd, who is married.

There is, however, no S&M, which figures heavily in Fifty Shades. 

"They are regular sex scenes, but very detailed," added Todd. "It's the vanilla version of Fifty Shades of Grey!"

Source: E! Online

Hong Kong climbers hang protest banner off landmark cliff

A large pro-democracy banner being displayed on the Lion Rock Hill in Hong Kong on Thursday.
A large pro-democracy banner being displayed on the Lion Rock Hill in Hong Kong on Thursday.

A group of climbers unfurled a giant protest banner from a famous Hong Kong cliff on Thursday.

Climbers unveiled the 28m banner off Lion Rock, an imposing hill with a steep cliffside that rises above the densely-packed working class Kowloon area.

The yellow banner featured the slogan “I want genuine universal suffrage” and an umbrella, the symbol adopted by democracy protesters campaigning for full democracy.

In their video a climber dressed in a Spiderman outfit said: “The small circle electoral committee (who voted for Leung in 2012) and the Chief Executive only care about the rich on Tai Ping Shan and not the poor under Lion Rock.” 

Tai Ping Shan is the local name for Victoria Peak, the famous hill that dominates Hong Kong Island and boasts some of the world’s most expensive properties. 

In contrast, Lion Rock overlooks poorer neighbourhoods across the harbour that were historically the first port of call for impoverished immigrants from mainland China hoping to better themselves. 

The phrase “Lion Rock Spirit” has since become adopted by Cantonese speakers to encapsulate Hong Kong’s renown as a place where hard work and perseverance meant a brighter future.

Police on Thursday confirmed that 10 climbers were involved in unfurling the banner, adding that that officers were at the scene.

Source: AFP