Explainers

10 interesting things we learnt from the news in 2014

Every day, we learn something new - especially if you’ve been following the news. We begin 2015 with a recap of 10 most interesting things we learnt on the Straits Times website last year.

1. Laws in Singapore you can unwittingly run afoul of

Put that soap down and step away from the reservoir.

Did you know you can be fined up to $1,000 for bathing on a public road, in a public tank, reservoir, or any water body? You can also be jailed or fined for leaving your vehicle engine idle, flying a kite on the road, drinking alcohol in a hospital... and the list goes on.

Read this, and ignorance will no longer be an excuse when you commit any of these offences:

10 things you might not know you could be punished for in Singapore

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2. How (not) to grow grass

Singapore’s new stadium received some flak after its patchy and sandy pitch was criticised by visiting sports teams. It turns out, there’s a lot more to growing grass than we thought.

On Dec 21, the Sports Hub decided to abandon its $800,000 Desso GrassMaster field, which has been used successfully at world-class stadia like Wembley and Old Trafford.

To cajole the stadium’s grass to grow, the Sports Hub even deployed $1.5 million worth of special lighting equipment, but the pampering didn’t work. The Sports Hub will replace its current pitch with an all-grass "lay-and-play" pitch, and the grass will be grown in a nursery under local conditions.

You can read more about the problems faced, deliberations and solution in the stories below:

Grow grass grow: Spotlight on National Stadium's pitch ahead of Brazil-Japan clash

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A customer smokes a shisha or "hookah" pipe at a cafe on Bussorah Street on Nov 4, 2014. Singapore appears to be alone in its ban on shisha, the sweet-smelling tobacco product that is smoked socially in several parts of the world. -- PHOTO: ST FILE - See more at: http://sph.straitstimes.com/news/singapore/more-singapore-stories/story/...
A customer smokes a shisha or "hookah" pipe at a cafe on Bussorah Street on Nov 4, 2014. Singapore appears to be alone in its ban on shisha, the sweet-smelling tobacco product that is smoked socially in several parts of the world. -- PHOTO: ST FILE - See more at: http://sph.straitstimes.com/news/singapore/more-singapore-stories/story/...

Decision time for National Stadium pitch: Nurse turf to health or go for artificial base?

New natural pitch for National Stadium before June's SEA Games


3. Why countries say no to ketchup, time travel movies and more

Shisha-smoking was banned in Singapore in November, but there are way more unusual bans in place in other countries.

Guess which are the countries that ban ketchup, time travel movies and blue jeans.

Singapore one of few countries to ban shisha: 10 things banned in other countries that may surprise you

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A customer smokes a shisha or "hookah" pipe at a cafe on Bussorah Street on Nov 4, 2014. Singapore appears to be alone in its ban on shisha, the sweet-smelling tobacco product that is smoked socially in several parts of the world. -- PHOTO: ST FILE - See more at: http://sph.straitstimes.com/news/singapore/more-singapore-stories/story/...
A customer smokes a shisha or "hookah" pipe at a cafe on Bussorah Street on Nov 4, 2014. Singapore appears to be alone in its ban on shisha, the sweet-smelling tobacco product that is smoked socially in several parts of the world. -- PHOTO: ST FILE - See more at: http://sph.straitstimes.com/news/singapore/more-singapore-stories/story/...

4. There’s more to rats than you ever wanted to know

The rats scurrying near Bukit Batok MRT station are being exterminated, but in general, the pesky rodents are incredibly hard to get rid of. Did you know that they have followed humans to every corner of the globe?

A study in February last year by researchers from the University of Leicester found that rats out-competed many native species in the places they spread to.

The resilient creatures are a Darwinian dream: They can survive atomic bombs and even started eating rat poison as food.

Find out more alarming facts here.

10 little-known facts about sewer rats

Ratsbbk0201155. The tricks of shady retailers

After numerous Sim Lim Square horror stories, and the alleged scam at Volks Auto made the news this month, Singapore residents, and tourists are far more aware of their rights (or lack thereof) as consumers – we hope.

Here are the different ways dodgy Sim Lim retailers use to pull the wool over customers’ eyes, and five reasons why they are infamous.

Sim Lim Square: 5 reasons it is infamous

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Sim Lim Square saga: How rogue retailers scam customers

If you’re buying a car, here are some tips on avoiding dishonest car traders.

Car buyers demand refund from dealer: Tips on how to avoid rogue car dealers

6. Shisha and fruit juice (yes, fruit juice) are bad for us

One comes in fruity flavours and the other is made from fruits. A shisha ban in November drove home the dangers of shisha smoking. One session of shisha smoking is like smoking 100 or more cigarettes.

Shisha smoking less harmful than cigarette smoking? Here are five facts to clear the air

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The Health Promotion Board also warned Singaporeans to drink fruit juice in moderation as it can have as much sugar as a sweetened drink.

Fruit juice often laden with sugar, warns HPB

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Here’s a chart on the sugar levels of common drinks here.

Fruit juice high in sugar? What about other beverages?

7. How one woman sent prices of macadamia nuts soaring

We all know the butterfly effect, in which a small change, like the flutter of a butterfly’s wings, can result in a large effect, in an interconnected system.

The case of Heather Cho Hyun Ah, heiress and former vice-president of Korean Air, could be the first case of the macadamia-nut effect.

Her outburst on a Korean air flight over a packet of macadamia nuts which were served to her in a packet instead of a bowl, has negated years of her hard work to build up the image of Korean Air, and even sparked a spike in the sale of macademia nuts.

Korean Air 'nut rage' scandal: 5 things to know about Heather Cho Hyun Ah

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8. The many faces of terrorism

Whether called ISIS, ISIL, IS, Daiish or Daesh, they refer to the same terrorist group which has taken over large swathes of Iraq.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was established as far back as 2004, but became the new byword for terrorism when its fighters seized major Iraqi city Mosul and other Iraqi towns in June.

Shortly after, it announced its ambition to form a caliphate (Islamic state), and has proved adept at spreading its message of violence, inspiring extremists around the world to join its cause.

Here’s more about the extremist group.

ISIS: All you need to know about the extremist group

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ISIS, ISIL, IS, Daiish, Daesh: Are they different or the same?

9. Countries can change their national  flag

It’s not easy to let go, but a few countries have opted to change their flags before.

This year, New Zealand will be  holding a vote for new designs to replace its Union Jack and four stars. Then a referendum will decide if Kiwis want the new design or the existing one.

Find out which countries had a change of flag:

New Zealand to vote on flag change: All you need to know about the changing of national flags

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10. Basket star?! What is that?

Singaporean Ramlan Saim made international news with his bizarre catch off the Singapore coast.

A video that he posted on Facebook in October of the “sea monster” he caught had about 8 million views. With its mass of creeping tendrils, it looked like an alien, but the basket star is very much an inhabitant of Earth, albeit a rather strange one.

Singapore angler catches basket star: 5 things to know about the sea creature

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The Straits Times helps you to go beyond the news with our list of explainers on people, places and issues that made the news.

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