Pilot suspended for failing alcohol test

India’s aviation regulator has barred a senior pilot from flying for three years after he failed an alcohol test.

Captain Arvind Kathpalia, who is also the Director of Operations at state-owned Air India, was to command the Delhi-London flight on Sunday.

A substitute pilot was brought in after he failed the test. Capt Kathpalia has denied the charges against him.

Aviation authorities say he was suspended for three months for a similar offence last year too.

“The privileges of his licence have been suspended for a period of three years from 11 November as per the provisions of applicable regulations,” aviation watchdog Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said in a statement.

The airline said he had been grounded.

On Sunday, Capt Kathpalia said he was a victim of internal fighting within Air Indian and that he would challenge the results of the tests.

Aviation rules prohibit pilots from drinking 12 hours before flying and pre-flight alcohol tests are mandatory for them.

In January, the DGCA barred for five years two pilots – a man and a woman – who fought inside the cockpit.

The pilots were then fired by the private Jet Airways after the incident on a London-Mumbai flight.

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Prominent figures pay their final respects to Chinese writer Jin Yong in Hong Kong

HONG KONG – The veritable Who’s Who of Hong Kong from the arts, business and political arenas have turned up to bid adieu to one of the most prolific Chinese writers of all time, Mr Louis Cha Leung Yung, better known by his pen name, Jin Yong.

Following a long illness, Mr Cha died at the age of 94 on Oct 30 at the Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital surrounded by family.

On Monday, family and friends streamed in to Hong Kong Funeral Parlour located in North Point on the last day of the private wake, before Tuesday’s (Nov 13) funeral.

Some 150 to 200 journalists and TV crew gathered by the road just outside the building.

Numerous white flower wreaths adorned the building interior and lined its exterior. Those displayed prominently in the parlour on one side were from members of the Chinese government, including President Xi Jinping, premier Li Keqiang and vice-premier Han Zheng, who’s also in-charge of Hong Kong and Macau affairs, and former premier Zhu Rongji. On the other side lay wreaths from members of the Hong Kong government, including Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah, Financial Secretary Paul Chan and Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung.

Inside the parlour filled with lilies, there was the Chinese phrase “Yi Lan Zhong Sheng” or “a bird’s eye view of everyone” above Mr Cha’s photo. It was written by food critic Chua Lam.

Flanking the sides of the photo was a couplet weaved from the first word of the title of the books penned by Mr Cha.

Among those from the literary and arts scene who turned up to pay their last respects to the late newsman and writer was novelist Ni Kuang, who was accompanied by good friend Mr Chua.

Representatives from the business, political and entertainment worlds who turned up included Hong Kong lawmaker Regina Ip, famed Chinese opera actress Bak Sheut-sin, popular Chinese actor Huang Xiaoming, and acclaimed film directors Johnnie To and Ann Hui.

Alibaba’s co-founder Jack Ma was also there.

Mr Cha was born in 1924 in the southern Chinese province of Zhejiang and moved to Hong Kong in 1948.

He held several jobs including as a screenwriter, film critic and journalist.

In 1959, he set up the Hong Kong paper, Ming Pao Daily News.

Together with Axe Brand Universal Oil founder Leung Yun Chee, he also set up Shin Min Daily News, which was first published in Singapore on March 18, 1967.

Mr Cha wrote his first novel in 1955 which was an instant hit with Chinese readers, who were drawn to his works because of his vivid portrayal of characters, pugilistic codes and filial piety.

The famed writer went on to pen 14 more swashbuckling gongfu fantasies (15 in total) before putting his pen down in 1972 with The Deer And The Cauldron. His most popular trilogy, arguably, was The Legend Of The Condor Heroes.

Views are divided when it comes to the literary value of these works, even though they are highly popular – more than 300 million copies have been sold globally.

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Kim Jong Un's Seoul visit unlikely this year: Experts

SEOUL (THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s visit to Seoul appears to be less likely to take place this year without more progress in stalled denuclearisation talks between Pyongyang and Washington, experts said Sunday (Nov 11).

South Korea’s Moon Jae-in administration is pushing to hold the fourth inter-Korean summit between Mr Moon and Mr Kim in Seoul within the year, in the hope of facilitating a breakthrough in the deadlocked US-North Korea talks.

One of the unexpected achievements from the third summit, which was held in September in Pyongyang, was the North Korean leader’s promise to visit Seoul within the year.

Mr Moon said at his speech at the National Assembly earlier this month that Kim’s visit to Seoul will take place in the near future.

Unification Minister Cho Myong-gyon said Friday at a parliamentary session that Kim’s visit to Seoul within the year is “possible,” and the ministry continues consultations with North Korean officials.

In a display of closer inter-Korean ties, the presidential office sent a gift of 200 tonnes of tangerines to North Korea on Sunday. The gift was in return for the mushrooms North Korea gave South Korea following the third summit between Moon and Kim.

But Kim’s visit to Seoul is closely linked to the result of the US-North Korea high-level meeting, as holding another inter-Korean summit without progress in denuclearisation talks with the US could be a burden for the North, experts say.

The meeting between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Mr Kim Yong Chol, vice-chairman of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party Central Committee, did not take place as planned Thursday.

The North postponed it, citing “hectic schedules,” according to South Korean and US diplomats.

While the delay might have resulted from “scheduling problems,” there is speculation that the cancellation indicated stark differences between Washington and Pyongyang over who should make a concession first before moving on in their denuclearisation talks.

North Korea is calling on the US to ease sanctions before it takes further denuclearisation steps, while the US is making clear that it will continue to impose economic sanctions on the North until it completely denuclearises despite ongoing engagement with the reclusive country.

US Vice-President Mike Pence said the US will “continue to exert unprecedented diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea” until it achieves the complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula in an op-ed published Friday in the Washington Post.

Outgoing US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Friday that the US “have given a lot of carrots up until now. We’re not going to get rid of the stick because they have not done anything to warrant getting rid of the sanctions yet.”

The US was also seen trying to get China, North Korea’s Cold War ally that is locked in a trade war with the US, on its side for implementation of the sanctions during their bilateral meeting on Friday.

Mr Pompeo said that China’s cooperation “will help achieve meaningful breakthroughs on this important denuclearisation issue,” after he met with his Chinese counterpart during the meeting, called the US-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue.

US President Donald Trump said last week that Washington is “in no rush” as the sanctions are still “on” during a press conference following the US midterm elections.

In response, North Korea is using its state-run news media and propaganda websites to express discomfort about the US’ calling for tighter enforcement of the sanctions against the North, and the slow pace of inter-Korean projects.

“If the US does not implement the (June 12) joint statement but prefers to stick to the status quo by making a case for adjusting speed with such an expression as ‘in no hurry,’ there is no reason to bother to have talks,” Japan’s pro-North Korean newspaper Choson Sinbo said in an article, apparently targeting Trump’s recent remarks.

North Korea’s newspaper Rodong Sinmun on Friday urged its people to overcome outside pressure and sanctions with unity and self-reliance in a front-page editorial, titled “Let’s go our own way and build a powerful socialist state.”

With the prolonged stalemate in denuclearisation negotiations between the US and North Korea, it appears to be difficult for Kim to visit Seoul and inter-Korean projects to further move ahead this year.

“South Korea will continue to try to make room for the US and North Korea to continue negotiations and ease tensions between the countries through Kim Jong-un’s visit to Seoul,” said Mr Park Won-gon, a professor at Handong Global University.

“But for Kim, visiting Seoul without any progress in the US-North Korea relations could be a burden because it would likely draw more opposition from South Korea’s conservatives and more skepticism from the US,” he said. “I think Kim will decide on his visit to Seoul after the high-level meeting between Pompeo and Kim.”

Mr Shin Beom-cheol, research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, also said that there is a lower possibility of Kim visiting Seoul this year.

” I think North Korea would want to come to Seoul on the back of some progress in its relations with the US so that it could gain economic rewards – economic assistance, for example – from South Korea,” he said.

“Without progress in the US-North Korea denuclearisation talks, South Korea cannot offer tangible economic benefits, meaning there is not much Kim can gain from his visit to Seoul.”

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Tech, tobacco push European stocks into red, ending fragile rebound

LONDON (Reuters) – European shares were lower on Monday led by a sell-off in technology stocks after earnings and M&A news from German heavyweights Infineon and SAP, and tobacco was hit by new signs of U.S. regulators tightening the screws on menthol cigarettes.

The pan-European STOXX 600 was down 0.25 percent at 0936 GMT, reversing earlier gains. London’s FTSE 100 .FTE was the only major bourse in positive territory, lifted by a weaker sterling.

The swift slide into the red, ending a tentative recovery from Friday’s losses, highlights the fragility of market sentiment amid lingering worries about Italy’s budget crisis, a Brexit deal and expectations for a U.S. interest rate hike.

News that embattled Banca Carige (CRGI.MI) has around 400 million euros to plug a hole in its capital base also underscored concerns about the health of the banking sector in the 3rd largest euro zone economy.

Trading in the lender’s shares were suspended pending an announcement later in the day. The EU has given Rome until Tuesday to present a revised version of the budget.

Technology stocks .SX8P, among the worst hit by sell-offs in past weeks, notched up the biggest drop of the morning, down 2.1 percent and set for their biggest one day drop since Oct. 23.

Chipmaker Infineon (IFXGn.DE) and SAP (SAPG.DE) sank to the bottom of the DAX, down 4.3 percent and 4.2 percent respectively.

The sell-off in Infineon came even after delivering better-than-expected full-year results amid renewed worries about slowing demand following disappointing sales forecasts from Qualcomm and Apple.

European companies are delivering their most disappointing earnings in nearly three years as a sluggish economy and rising costs take their toll on bottom lines, data shows, dealing another blow to investor confidence.

M&A was the driver behind SAP after the software company announced its acquisition of consumer sentiment tracker Qualtrics International for $8 billion, a price considered expensive by traders and analysts.

Financial software provider Simcorp (SIM.CO) was one of the top STOXX fallers, down 9 percent after its results after the close on Friday showed a decline in profits.

Flughafen Zuerich (FHZN.S) shares fell 10.5 percent after the company said aviation revenues could be affected if proposals from the Federal Office of Civil Aviation to cut transfer payments were enacted.

Tobacco shares were rocked by a Wall Street Journal report that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration plans to pursue a ban on menthol cigarettes.

British American Tobacco (BATS.L), which traders said has the greatest exposure to menthol cigarettes, fell as much as 11 percent to its lowest since February 2014 in early deals, while Imperial Brands (IMB.L) shares fell 3 percent.

Menthol, which accounts for 36 percent of the U.S. market, accounts for about a quarter of BAT’s total EBIT and 11 percent of Imperial’s tobacco EBIT, according to Barclays’ analysts.

Among the risers, oil stocks .SXEP jumped 1.1 percent after a more than 1.5 percent jump in crude prices following top exporter Saudi Arabia’s announcement of a supply cut in December with other producers also considering reductions into 2019.

Basic resources stocks .SXPP also climbed 1.2 percent in a broad upswing in cyclicals.

Telecom Italia (TLIT.MI) topped the STOXX 600, rising 5 percent as investors welcomed reports that the company’s network business will be merged with smaller rival Open Fiber.

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Launch of enhanced security checks at MRT stations goes smoothly: LTA

SINGAPORE – The first morning of a six-month trial of increased security checks at selected MRT stations here went off without a hitch on Monday (Nov 12), the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said.

About 20 people were screened between 10am and 10.30am at the entrance of the Little India station on the North-East Line, where four Aetos security officers were stationed together with equipment such as metal detectors and X-ray scanners.

The commuters were required to use a walk-through metal detector and pass their belongings through X-ray scanners, before entering the fare gates. Most checks were completed in under half a minute.

The LTA said that like the bag checks currently conducted at MRT stations here, not all commuters will require enhanced security screenings.

“As these checks are random, it will not cause delay to the majority of commuters,” said the authority’s public transport security deputy director Joseph Goh. He said the security officers are trained to identify potential threats, such as bulky bags.

Data collected from the trial – such as how long it takes to screen commuters – will be used to improve the screening process.

The trial is part of the LTA’s efforts to review and enhance security on the Republic’s rail network, said Mr Goh.

Public transport systems are particularly vulnerable to terror attacks due to the large numbers of people passing through every day, he said, noting that attacks have taken place on other subway networks.

In one of the more recent incidents, a suicide bomber in 2017 exploded a device on the Saint Petersburg metro in Russia that left 15 people dead and 45 injured.

During the trial in Singapore, checks were conducted at the Little India station at its North-East and Downtown Line entrances, as well as at the Bedok station on the East-West Line.

At Bedok, The Straits Times observed only one commuter having to go through the additional security screenings between 11.30am and noon.

While security equipment was placed at three other stations – Ang Mo Kio and Yishun on the North-South Line, as well as Bukit Panjang on the Downtown Line – these were not in use on Monday. Their visible presence is to get commuters used to the idea of enhanced security.

The equipment from the five stations will be rotated between different stations over the course of the trial. By the end of this year, public transport operators will also progressively introduce the use of handheld metal detectors in their security checks at bus interchanges and MRT stations.

The Straits Times approached two commuters at Little India station who had gone through the enhanced security checks on Monday.

Ms Ang Sui Tjie, who was at the station at 10.30am, worries that the checks could be disruptive during peak hours. The 46-year-old, who is currently unemployed, said: “If I have to go through this every time I take the MRT, it would be very inconvenient, especially when I’m rushing.”

During peak hour, trains arrive at the station every two minutes.

Mr Subramaniam Balasubramaniam felt it was not inconvenient and said he understood the need for such checks.

“Having to go through such random checks, I feel safer,” said the 45-year-old manager.

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North Dakota oil prices set to weaken further amid pipe, rail constraints

NEW YORK/HOUSTON (Reuters) – Bakken crude prices are set to weaken from already low levels in coming months, with the frigid winter in North Dakota likely to disrupt rail loadings and worsen bottlenecks as production soars, traders and executives said.

U.S. oil producers ramped up production in the nation’s third-largest oilpatch, boosting crude output to a record 1.3 million barrels per day (bpd) in October, overwhelming pipelines and rail cars.

The region’s pipeline capacity is just 1.25 million bpd, per market intelligence firm Genscape, forcing producers in North Dakota to rely on less efficient rail, which could face difficulties operating in the winter. In addition, nearby Canadian producers also grappling with bottlenecks are pushing more oil into the United States, worsening the constraints.

Bakken crude traded at a record $20-per-barrel discount to U.S. crude futures WTC-BAK last week, and last traded at a $13.50-per-barrel discount on Friday.

Refinery maintenance exacerbated the discounts but as work wraps up, prices could find some support, company executives said.

Discounts on Bakken oil are nothing new, due to capacity constraints that forced refiners to rely on rail. The startup of Energy Transfer’s Dakota Access pipeline in 2017 changed that, but record production is straining capacity again.

“That basin is flush with barrels and there’s no way out,” Rick Hessling, senior vice president at U.S. refiner Marathon Petroleum Corp, said in an earnings call last week, adding that winter will make rail loadings more difficult. “We kind of see that as a perfect storm.”

Dakota Access pipeline was full in October, according to Genscape’s latest data, while one of the other major lines had an 85 percent utilization rate.

North Dakota’s crude production typically is not affected enough to lift prices the winter, but rail operations face severe challenges in the frigid weather, said John Zanner, crude analyst at RBN Energy.

“Winter weather makes crude-by-rail operations much more difficult. You have stuff freeze up, especially in North Dakota,” Zanner said.

Energy Transfer LP (ET.N) plans to expand the Dakota Access pipeline system to as much as 570,000 bpd from about 525,000 bpd currently.

New pipeline and refining projects have been announced, but takeaway capacity will remain tight in the near-term as they get completed, analysts said. That is more apparent after a judge halted construction on the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada, potentially adding to a supply glut.

Several Canadian producers have already announced production cuts due to bottlenecks, but that is not enough. “We’re going to need curtailment and higher rail capacity,” one trader at a merchant said.

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Bus passenger jailed for assaulting driver who missed his stop

SINGAPORE -An angry bus passenger confronted its driver after he passed his stop and repeatedly shoved him while he was at the wheel.

Passengers had to intervene after Lu DeJiang grabbed the neck of Mr Deng Da Qun, whose head almost hit the steering wheel during the confrontation.

Lu was sentenced to five weeks’ jail on Monday (Nov 12) after pleading guilty to one count each of assault and committing a rash act that endangered the safety of others.

The 40-year-old Chinese national said he had drunk two bottles of beer before boarding SMRT service 912 in Admiralty at around 11pm on Nov 12, 2016.

Lu, who worked as a driver, had wanted to go home and intended to alight near Block 888, Woodlands Drive 50,but Mr Deng did not stop the bus when it reached Lu’s stop.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Lai said: “The accused then approached Deng at the bus cockpit angrily, and questioned why Deng did not stop at the previous bus stop to allow him to alight.

“Deng replied that he did not stop the bus because he did not hear the bus bell ring. The accused insisted that he had pressed the bell and demanded that Deng open the bus door to allow him to alight.”

Mr Deng did not do so, frustrating Lu who pushed his shoulder, head and neck.

Mr Deng stopped the bus – which had 11 passengers on board – at a stop near Block 515, Woodlands Drive 14 and Lu grabbed his neck.

Several other passengers separated the pair and later Lu tried to grab Mr Deng’s wrist as he called the police.

Officers arrived to arrest Lu and 43-year-old Mr Deng sought treatment for minor injuries. He was given a day’s medical leave.

Lu was offered bail of $5,000 and will surrender himself at the State Courts on Dec 3 to begin his sentence.

For committing the rash act, he could have been jailed for up to six months and fined up to $2,500. For assault, he could have been jailed for up to two years and fined up to $5,000.

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Environment group accuses Tokyo Olympics organisers of using illegally sourced wood

TOKYO – An environmental group has accused organisers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics of wilfully committing unsustainable environmental practices by using wood purportedly obtained through illegal logging.

The US-based Rainforest Action Network (RAN) said on Monday (Nov 12) that the use of wood from Malaysia and Indonesia to build new Games venues “flies in the face” of Tokyo’s commitment to realise the United Nations’ sustainable development goals.

“Unfortunately, Tokyo 2020’s substantial procurement of unsustainable tropical timber has already undermined this pledge,” the group said in a scathing 12-page report titled Broken Promises. This is due to the “illegal logging, human rights abuses, and high deforestation rates that have been widely documented in both the Malaysian and Indonesian forestry sectors and given what is known of Tokyo 2020’s plywood suppliers”.

The Straits Times has asked the Games’ organisers for a response to the report, which accuses them of going against their own pledge to use timber that is “harvested through logging activity that is considerate toward the conservation of the ecosystem”.

The Games is already plagued by controversy over delays and mounting cost overruns.

Last month’s relocation of the 83-year-old Tsukiji fish market to Toyosu to make way for a road to improve access from central Tokyo to the Tokyo Bay area, where some Games facilities are located, came two years later than schedule over pollution concerns at the new site.

Further, the Board of Audit estimated last month (Oct) that total spending for the event will reach at least US$25 billion (S34.5billion) – more than four times the original budget.

Japan is the world’s largest global consumer of tropical plywood, mainly from Malaysia and Indonesia, and this is the second time RAN has questioned the Tokyo Olympics over its wood sourcing practices.

In April last year, the group was one of seven environmental organisations that urged Tokyo to stop using cheap timber at the new National Stadium, a wooden latticed centrepiece designed by renowned architect Kengo Kuma.

They said that some of the timber had come from Malaysian logging giant Shin Yang, which has been accused of deforestation and human rights violations. The Games’ organisers had, at the time, confirmed the use of Shin Yang timber but stressed that the wood met certification standards according to its sustainable sourcing rules.

RAN said on Monday that the practice has continued despite the initial report, noting that at least 134,400 sheets of tropical plywood from Malaysia and Indonesia were used as the concrete framework for a series of new Olympic venues as of May this year.

For instance, wood from Shin Yang, which has denied the allegations, was found at the Olympic Village construction site in December last year, RAN said.

Meanwhile, it added that tropical plywood from Korindo – an Indonesian company accused of illegal logging and human rights abuses, as well as using fire to clear land that contributed significantly to the haze that affected Singapore in 2015 – has been used to build the new Ariake Arena, the planned volleyball venue in the Tokyo Bay area.

Citing photographic evidence and company supply chain data, RAN said there was a “high risk that wood supplied to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics was tainted and illegal”.

Japanese timber and building materials trading company Sumitomo Forestry, however, has asserted to RAN that it has “only supplied legally sourced timber”.

The group added: “Olympic organisers have defended their use of Korindo wood on grounds that its supplier, Sumitomo Forestry, assured them of compliance.”

According to RAN, tropical deforestation has picked up pace over the last 10 years despite increasing global attention – and commitment – to climate change.

Last year, tropical forests covering an area of 158,000 sq km – or 40 per cent the size of Japan – were lost. This was marginally lower than the record area set in 2016.

“The timber procurement practices of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic organisers and Japanese companies have already compromised the sustainability credentials of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics,” RAN said. “They further risk undermining Japan’s commitment to the sustainable development goals, which aim to halt deforestation and restore degraded forests by 2020.”

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RSAF celebrates 25th anniversary of Pearce Detachment in Australia, where all pilots are trained

PERTH (Western Australia) – Four turboprop PC-21 training aircraft flew in a diamond formation across Base Pearce in Australia, as the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) marked the silver jubilee of its training there on Monday (Nov 12).

Since 1993, the RSAF’s Pearce Detachment has trained more than 1,600 pilots, weapon systems officers and flying instructors.

The airspace for training in Pearce is 14 times larger than Singapore’s. It is where the nine-month Basic Wings Course for pilots and weapon system officer trainees is conducted, as well as flying instructor courses.

The 25th anniversary celebrations was attended by Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How and hosted by the commander of the RSAF’s Air Force Training Command Colonel Kevin Goh.

In March 1993, the RSAF signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) to establish the flying training detachment.

Last year (2017), Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and then-Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne signed the Pearce treaty as an upgrade to the MOU.

The treaty extends the RSAF’s training access at Pearce for another 25 years until 2043.

At the ceremony attended by RSAF personnel, their families, and senior Australian defence officials, Mr Heng said: “Fifty years of commitment to this detachment by both our countries sends a very clear and powerful message – which is one of enduring friendship and trust that is truly exceptional.”

He noted that the two defence forces have a long history of military cooperation, and thanked the local community in Pearce for the hospitality they have shown to the RSAF over the past 25 years.

He added that Singapore requires much more space than what it has in order to conduct the realistic training needed to sharpen the RSAF’s operational skills.

On Monday, Mr Heng witnessed the combined flypast by four RSAF and RAAF instructors on the Pilatus PC-21 trainer aircraft, a tandem-seat turboprop aircraft trainer to help trainees build up the fundamentals of flying.

The aircraft has clocked more than 70,000 hours in 10 years of flying operations in Pearce since 2008.

To mark the occasion, Mr Heng unveiled a commemorative plaque, a tail flash on a PC-21, and did a symbolic tree-planting.

Lieutenant-Colonel (Retired) Robert Chua, the first commanding officer of 130 Squadron when it moved to Pearce in 1993 was among those who attended the event, said Mr Heng.

LTC (Ret) Chua held that position for four years before re-joining the detachment as a flying instructor in 2003. He is now a flight simulation instructor with arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin based in Pearce.

Two of his sons were trainees with the detachment while he was in Pearce as an instructor. They are now both pilots with one flying the KC-135 aerial tanker and the other, the Super Puma helicopter.

“Mr Chua’s career over the past 25 years closely traces the history of 130 Squadron and reflects the legacy of this detachment,” Mr Heng said.

The Pearce Detachment consists of two units, the 130 Squadron and Standards Squadron – both based at the RAAF’s Base Pearce in the suburb of Bullsbrook north of Perth.

The 130 Squadron trains aspiring pilots, and the Standards Squadron trains aspiring flying instructors.

Mr Heng said that some things have remained constant in Pearce – “the detachment’s commitment to high professional standards, operational discipline and a strong safety culture”.

“The professionalism, safety culture and core values that you instil in the detachment personnel here have a direct impact on the success of the RSAF’s mission to defend our sovereign skies and our nation,” he added.

The RSAF also conducts flying training at the Air Grading Centre in Tamworth, New South Wales, and has a helicopter detachment at Oakey Training Centre in Queensland, which marked its 20th anniversary last Saturday (Nov 10).

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COI on SingHealth cyber attack: American expert calls for collective defence against cyber threats

SINGAPORE – Cyber criminals can find vulnerabilities and breach any organisation’s IT system given enough time, and current protection measures are insufficient.

To counter this, the Government and industry players need to work together on collective systems that share information to continually learn and prepare defences, said former director of America’s National Security Agency (NSA) Keith Alexander on Monday (Nov 12).

He was testifying before the Committee of Inquiry (COI) looking into the SingHealth cyber attack, in which hackers stole the personal data of 1.5 million patients and the outpatient prescription information of 160,000 people, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

“The threats we face exceed the defences that we have… we need to up the game on the defence and the defences have to grow quickly,” said Mr Alexander, who is now chief executive officer of IronNet Cybersecurity.

In a submission to the COI, he said that cyber security has thus far been approached through an individualistic lens. The sharing of information is done only after malware has been detected, due to liability and public image concerns.

But collective cooperation is needed for the cyber security of all sectors, including healthcare, he added.

“It is ironic that the network and associated devices have become the biggest technological advances of our time, yet we don’t use a network to defend a network,” Mr Alexander said in his report, referring to the links between different stakeholders that could be used to bolster cyber defence.

Mr Alexander called for cyber threat exercises involving different sectors and between the Government and industry players.

He stressed the need for a system that can analyse behaviour and raise alerts on suspicious activity to identify online threats, which will make collective defence a possibility.

For instance, if an unauthorised user makes repeated requests for a particular patient’s data or for data from a large number of patients, a system should be in place to detect this.

“An effective and tested behavioural analytic capability produces a wealth of events that can be shared in a collective defence strategy at network speed,” he said.

During the hearing, Solicitor-General Kwek Mean Luck, who is leading the inquiry into Singapore’s worst cyber attack, asked if such behavioural analytical tools were already commercially available.

These tools are already out there, said Mr Alexander, but many companies do not always accurately state the limitations of their products. The solution to run these tools through comprehensive and effective testing and emulation programs.

Mr Alexander was also asked about the use of two-factor authentication and its potential to be used in the healthcare sector – a suggestion that the COI has heard from other experts in previous sessions.

“It can and should be used, especially in sensitive data transactions, and should be considered for the healthcare sector here,” he said.

Mr Alexander was speaking during the COI’s third tranche of hearings, which is expected to end on Thursday.

The next expert scheduled to go before the committee is Associate Professor James Yip, the group chief medical informatics officer of the National University Health System (NUHS).

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