Key fish supplier Thailand again faces questions over industry abuses – dpa international

According to Justice for Fishers, a campaign run by the International Transport Workers’ Federation, there remains a lack of “robust evidence” that Thailand’s seafood is free of “forced labour” and other forms of exploitation. The southeast Asian nation is one of the world’s main sources of frozen shrimp and canned tuna. But the massive Thai fishing industry, worth around $5-6 billion in exports each year, has for decades been blighted by accusations that workers, particularly foreign sailors, suffer abuses, even being held as slaves or captives, and of murder at sea.

Singapore airport offering free bike rentals to transit passengers – dpa international

The Gardens By The Bay are one of Singapore's main tourist attractions (Simon Roughneen)

Travellers no longer just have to just lounge around the plush terminals while waiting for connecting flights: the airport has started offering 2 hours’ worth of free bicycle rentals for transit passengers, enabling them, after a hopefully quick dart through immigration, to get out and about. According to an airport statement, “passengers will be spoilt for choice when it comes to Instagram-worthy photo opportunities, authentic hawker food and chill-out spots.” announces AI travel app addition – dpa international has become the latest industry player to hop on the artificial intelligence bandwagon with TripGenie, a travel planning upgrade for its mobile app. The Singapore-based travel company said TripGenie, “an advanced AI assistant,” would be incorporated into its app as a replacement for TripGen, an AI travel planning tool which had been consulted by app users in around 200 countries since February. “Leveraging large language model technologies, TripGenie covers all aspects of travel, from detailed itinerary crafting to immediate bookings,” Trip said.

United to offer direct flights to Manila in US airline first – dpa international

The Philippines and the continental US are to get a first American-operated direct air route in late 2023 when United Airlines starts connecting San Francisco and Manila. The maiden flight will take off on October 29 from the US city for the capital of the Philippines, a former US colony and current military ally. Around 2 million Philippine nationals work in the US, where another 4 million people claim Philippine ancestry. Around 25% of international arrivals in the Southeast Asian country in 2022 were from the US, according to Philippine government tourism statistics. While Philippine Airlines flies direct from Manila to Los Angeles, most flights between the 7,000-island archipelago and the continental US involve transits in Hawaii, Hong Kong or other locations.

Singapore airport gets ‘refresh pods’ for cooling off in blazing heat – dpa international

It might be the world’s best airport, going by a survey of passengers published by Skytrax, but workers at Changi in Singapore still need a bit of extra help cooling off inside the sprawling five-terminal hub. Changi’s management is providing “refresh pods” for the 30,000 workers at the airport, some of whom have to operate outdoors in the scorching south-east Asian heat, where temperatures are usually in the 30s and where the weather veers from scorching sun to muggy grey to epic thunderstorm. “Cool air is blown and circulated within the pod, at the easy touch of a button”, the airport announced, adding that patrons “may use it to cool down or dry themselves when caught in wet weather conditions.”

Singapore scientists float ‘airborne surveillance’ kit for coronavirus – dpa international

Singapore-based scientists have come up with a device that detects coronavirus in the air of indoor spaces, raising the prospect of “airborne surveillance” of the virus to supplement testing of individuals. The air-sampling method means “early warning of infection risks” could be possible in hospital wards and nursing homes, and could boost virus-monitoring capabilities in public places where people gather indoors, such as restaurants and cinemas.

Conservationists warn almost a third of tree species could die out – dpa international

Trees are plentiful in Dublin's Pheonix Park (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Some of the world’s most recognisable trees, including oak, magnolia and maple, are among the 30 per cent of species at risk of extinction, according to Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI). Published on Wednesday, the BGCI’s State of the World’s Trees report warned that over 17,000 of the world’s 60,000 kinds of tree could soon be no more due to logging, forest clearances, farming and extreme weather. The most vulnerable are 440 species which “have fewer than 50 individuals remaining,” according to the report, which the BGCI said was based on five years of work involving 60 institutions and 500 researchers. Around one in five tree species are used by humans “for food, fuel, timber, medicines, horticulture,” the BGCI said, with only around 40 per cent of species confirmed as not at risk.

Humans were sheltered from ancient Toba eruption, according to scientists – dpa international

DUBLIN — It was the world’s biggest volcanic blast for at least the last 2 million years, but when Mount Toba in Indonesia exploded around 74,000 years ago, humans were not as badly affected as previously thought, according to research published by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in the US. While the blast “likely caused severe global climate disruption,” early humans “were sheltered from the worst effects,” according to the NAS study. Overall, the scientists said, “the impacts [of the eruption] on climate and human evolution remain unclear.” Other scientists have in the past blamed Toba for causing a decade-long volcanic winter, leading to a millennium of global cooling and then an ice age.

Singapore aiming to live with flu-like ‘endemic’ Covid-19 – dpa international

DUBLIN — Singapore’s government on Thursday said it should be possible “to live normally” with Covid-19, which it expects to become “endemic” like influenza.  The three ministers responsible for the government’s coronavirus response announced “a broad plan” to “turn the pandemic into something much less threatening.” Pointing to the example of influenza, Trade Minister Gan Kim Yong, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong and Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said that “we can work towards a similar outcome for Covid-19.” 

Singapore cedes top spot to Switzerland in competitiveness index – dpa international

Singapore harbour seen from Marina Bay, a popular vantage point for visitors (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Wealthy city-state Singapore is no longer the world’s most competitive economy, according to the Institute for Management Development (IMD), which on Thursday put Switzerland top of its 2021 World Competitiveness Ranking. Singapore topped the list for the previous two years and was the sole Asian representative in the top five, which was rounded out by Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands. Though most European countries were hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, measured by lives lost and case numbers, the Lausanne-based IMD said the continent’s economies “weather[ed] the health crisis better than most other regions,” with Switzerland ranked highest after it “kept a disciplined financial strategy.” Singapore’s fall from first to fifth came despite being it being relatively lightly hit by the pandemic – and was down to “problems with job losses, lack of productivity and the economic impact of the pandemic,” the IMD said.