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The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

Rodman 'sorry' after controversial North Korea trip

Posted: 12 Jan 2014 11:57 PM PST

BEIJING: An emotional Dennis Rodman appeared to break down Monday as he apologised on his return from a controversial trip to North Korea, where he sang "Happy Birthday" to regime leader Kim Jong-Un.

The former NBA star was widely criticised for refusing to bring up human rights abuses or the plight of a US missionary detained in North Korea during his week-long visit.

The former Chicago Bulls player was also accused of pandering to North Korean authorities during the trip, which featured an exhibition basketball match involving other NBA stars to mark Kim's birthday.

"I love my country, America, I love it and I will never trade it for nothing in the world," the pierced and heavily tattooed Rodman told reporters at Beijing airport.

Former world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson has described Rodman's actions as "treason".

Rodman said he wanted to "show people that no matter what is going on in the world, for one day... not politics, not all this stuff..." before launching into an apology.

"I am sorry. I am not the president. I am not an ambassador. I am Dennis Rodman. Just an individual, just showing the world the fact that we can actually get along and be happy for one day," Rodman said, before his voice broke and he put his hands to his face.

He was ushered through a heavy media presence by security and his entourage, which includes Joseph Terwilliger, a bearded tuba-playing neuroscience professor from Columbia University in New York.

Rodman has developed an unlikely relationship with the young North Korean leader since making his first trip there in February, when he declared Kim a "friend for life".

The former power forward, who was wearing dark glasses, a blue tracksuit top and orange scarf, was asked whether he raised the issue of Kenneth Bae, who was detained by North Korean authorities.

In an interview with CNN last week, Rodman delivered an angry tirade in which he appeared to suggest that the missionary merited his 15-year prison sentence.

"I'm sorry I couldn't do anything," Rodman said, in comments echoing those of his publicist last week.

"I'm sorry, it's not my fault. I'm sorry... I just want to do some good stuff, that's all I want to do, basketball, that's all," he added.

Rodman was returning from his fourth visit to the reclusive state in 12 months.

"It is amazing that I had the opportunity just to go to North Korea, and for the Marshal (Kim) just to give me an opportunity just to be in his presence and in his city," he said, adding that he would visit the North again next month for "another game".

Kim, who was educated in Switzerland, is reported to be a huge fan of basketball and especially of the Chicago Bulls, with whom Rodman won three NBA titles alongside Michael Jordan in the 1990s.

Bae was arrested in November 2012 as he entered Rason, a port in the northeast of the hardline Communist state.

North Korea, which bans religious proselytising, says that Bae was a Christian evangelist who brought in "inflammatory" material. -AFP

Sweet potato and ikan bilis ice cream, anyone?

Posted: 12 Jan 2014 08:00 AM PST

Who would have thought sweet potato and ikan bilis would taste good together as ice cream?

Three students from NUS High School of Mathematics and Science did and apparently so did the judges of a contest to create an ice cream with the best contrasting flavours.

NUS High's Belle Sow and her friends beat nine other school teams on Saturday to win this year's Ice Cream Innovation Competition organised by Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) and Swensen's.

Other entries included Assumption Pathway School's "Warm Harmony", a sweet and spicy mix of ginger and sesame, Bedok South Secondary's wasabi with caramel ice cream and New Town Secondary's "Cheesy ala Thai", a salty-sour-spicy combination of cream cheese, mandarin orange and candied ginger. — The Straits Times/ Asia News Network

Mental health test for maids mooted

Posted: 12 Jan 2014 08:00 AM PST

The Indonesian Embassy in Singapore is calling for psychological testing of maids before they arrive in the city-state, in a bid to raise the quality of workers.

Embassy counsellor Sukmo Yuwono told The Sunday Times that discussions on this issue with Indonesia's government body overseeing the deployment of foreign workers began late last year and are ongoing.

The push for such testing comes after recent high-profile murder cases involving maids in Singapore and elsewhere, he added.

Indonesian maids Nurhayati and Tuti Aeliyah were charged with the homicides of their employers' daughters in 2010 and late last year, respectively.

"We learnt from some of the maids' murder cases especially, not just here but also in the Middle East and Malaysia, and we think that implementing psychological tests could go towards preventing such acts," said Sukmo.

Indonesians make up about half of Singapore's foreign domestic worker (FDW) population, which numbers more than 211,000. There have been at least 16 reported homicide cases involving maids since 2002, and 12 of them are Indonesian.

Sukmo, a lawyer by training, believes "the primary reason for these acts is mental, mostly depression", followed by underage issues and problems with employers. But weeding out potential criminals would only be a by-product of psychological testing.

Sukmo said such testing would also help Indonesian agencies determine whether candidates are suited for the demanding nature of maids' work carried out in foreign land.

Improved selection procedures would, in turn, raise the quality of Indonesian maids and put the embassy in a better position to seek an increase in maids' minimum wage later this year, he said.

The plan is to begin psychological testing first for maids coming to Singapore, then extend it to those heading to other places such as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Malaysia.

The embassy's push has won the support of several other industry stakeholders here.

Singapore's Manpower Ministry (MOM) requires maids to pass a medical examination before issuing them with work permits, but the exam mainly screens for infectious diseases. Psychological testing is not a key component.

"Given the different reasons employers have for engaging an FDW, it is impractical to prescribe a comprehensive standard for medical fitness," a MOM spokesman told The Sunday Times.

William Chew, executive director of the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training, supports having one more layer of screening.

"You want to make sure the FDW coming here has the right mindset and mental health to do a job like this," he said. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network


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