Australia's 'Ganja Queen' set to leave Bali


Australian drug convict Schapelle Corby is set to be deported from the Indonesian island of Bali on Saturday night after completing a twelve-and-a-half-year sentence for smuggling marijuana, a case that strained ties between the neighbouring countries.

Australian drug convict Schapelle Corby (R) is escorted by police after reporting to a parole office before her expected deportation to Australia, in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia May 27, 2017 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Nyoman Budhiana/via REUTERS

DENPASAR, Indonesia: Australian drug convict Schapelle Corby is set to be deported from the Indonesian island of Bali on Saturday night after completing a twelve-and-a-half-year sentence for smuggling marijuana, a case that strained ties between the neighbouring countries.

Corby has always maintained her innocence, saying she was unaware she was carrying more than 4 kg (8.8 lb) of marijuana in a boogie board bag when she arrived on the resort island in late 2004.

The case received huge media attention, with many Australians feeling the former beauty therapist had been harshly treated under Indonesia’s strict drug laws, even though Corby could have faced the death penalty for trafficking.

Adding to the drama and public interest, the court hearings were broadcast live and included emotional outbursts from Corby and her family when she received a 20-year sentence.

“Australians became so besotted with the case,” said Janine Hosking, who made the documentary “Ganja Queen” about Corby’s case. “She doesn’t look like how we would imagine a drug trafficker to look; she looks like the girl next door.”

“People will speculate forever on this case,” Hosking told Reuters previously, adding that the media attention had worked against her even if it made her a star.

Corby’s sentence was later cut after a request for clemency to then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and she was released on parole in 2014.

Under her parole conditions, Corby had to keep in close contact with correctional officers while living at the Bali home of her sister Mercedes, trying to stay out of the public eye as the media tracked her every move.

According to the head of the parole office, Surung Pasaribu, Corby had been fearful of the constant media coverage, and he said the Australian government had asked his office to ensure her safety ahead of her departure to Brisbane on Saturday night.

“All that’s left is to sign some letters,” Pasaribu said, after which she will be handed over to immigration officials at Bali’s Ngurah Rai airport. “Today, Corby is free.”

In an Instagram post (@schapelle.corby) on Saturday, Corby told her more than 61 thousand followers, “Good bye to this parole paper work. Approching (sic) parole office for the last time.”

(Writing by Fergus Jensen; Editing by Ed Davies and Toby Chopra)



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Spieth finds touch at Colonial, avoids third straight missed cut


Jordan Spieth avoided missing three consecutive cuts for the first time in his career when he turned his game around to card a two-under-par 68 in the second round at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational in Fort Worth, Texas on Friday.

May 12, 2017; Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, USA; Jordan Spieth tees off on the 12th hole during the second round of The Players Championship golf tournament at TPC Sawgrass – Stadium Course. PHOTO: Reuters/ Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

REUTERS: Jordan Spieth avoided missing three consecutive cuts for the first time in his career when he turned his game around to card a two-under-par 68 in the second round at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational in Fort Worth, Texas on Friday.

The Texan bogeyed three of his first five holes at Colonial Country Club, but a 35-foot birdie putt at his sixth hole turned the defending champion’s fortunes around, setting the stage for four more birdies in a five-hole stretch on his inward half.

So instead of ending the day answering questions about what was wrong with his game, Spieth headed home with his sights set on clawing back the four strokes to halfway leaders Webb Simpson, Kevin Kisner, Danny Lee and Scott Piercy.

“Tremendous bounce back today,” a relieved Spieth told PGATour.com after posting a two-under 138 halfway total, well inside the cut, which fell at four-over.

“That was big for me after missing the last two cuts. If I’d missed this cut …,” added Spieth, who missed cuts at the Byron Nelson and The Players Championship.

The former world number one ended the round equal 11th and credited his putting touch with getting him back on track.

“I felt I really got back into a rhythm with the putter today. That was the best putting round I’ve had in a long time.

“Really nice fightback … Needed it big time. We worked from missing the cut to in contention, so I feel good.”

(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Peter Rutherford)



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Virtual Tour of London Heathrow Airport T2 | Singapore Airlines



Take a virtual tour of London Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 2, the Queen’s Terminal, home to the Star Alliance and Singapore Airlines.

Star Alliance member airlines operating from London Heathrow Airport will be moving to Terminal 2. Watch this video and find your way through the terminal, discovering the arrival, transfer and check-in processes.

First and Business Class passengers flying with Singapore Airlines can enjoy the comfort and amenities in our SilverKris Lounge before their flight.

Singapore Airlines, A Great Way To Fly.

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Brad Pitt: 'Our failures are what teach us'


TOKYO: As everyone knows, the first rule of Fight Club is – you do not talk about Fight Club. As this journalist recently found out, the first rule of a Brad Pitt post-Angelina Jolie interview is – well, you do not talk about Brad Pitt post-Angelina Jolie – at least that’s what the instructions were from the A-list actor’s reps ahead of our highly vetted one-on-one interview In Tokyo.

After his headline-grabbing split from Jolie who filed for a divorce out-of-nowhere last year, it is understandable that his people would be protective.

So, if we can’t talk about love or the lack of, the let’s talk about war.

Specifically, director David Michod’s War Machine, the satirical war comedy film starring Pitt and produced by his film company Plan B, which is also behind Best Picture Oscar winners 12 Years a Slave and Moonlight.

Based on The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan by late journalist Michael Hastings —the non-fiction bestseller about controversial former US army general Stanley McChrystal, the film sees Pitt play an over-the-top, larger-than-life fictionalised take on the real-life commanding general.

The US$60 million film debuted Friday (May 26) on streaming platform Netflix and pokes fun at the absurdity of war.

Pitt told Channel NewsAsia that he believes that “to some degree”, it is important to make a movie like War Machine in a time and world as crazy as the one we live in.

“I wonder what we have to say when we look back on this particular time,” the 53-year-old father of six replied thoughtfully. “It seems quite violent, quite unhinged, a lot of us on different sides against each other.”

Isn’t that a scary thought?

“Yes, but these times too, I just have such faith in humanity,” he said. “Greatness seems to rise out to pull us together and I think we’re all in desperate need of that push!”

From Hollywood heartthrob turned Oscar-nominated actor-philanthropist to Academy Award-winning movie mogul-producer, the Pitt today seems more like a soul-searching man with readjusted priorities rather than the former half of Hollywood’s most high-profile and celebrated couple.

One could even glean quite a bit from Pitt’s innocuous answers if one wanted to look deeper; like when he told us he doesn’t quite watch any of his old films, saying he doesn’t “tend to go back”.

“Maybe when I’m old and done, I’ll look at them,” he said. “But right now … I like to focus on what’s next.”

He did confess what he might do if he so happen to chance upon an old film on TV late at night.

“If it’s late at night, I might just check in on a scene, you know?” he said with a grin. “What’s nice for me is that it documents a particular place and time for me personally. And the choices I’ve made then are not the choices that I’ll make today.

“But it’s all it’s all interesting to me.”

Brad Pitt speaking to Channel NewsAsia’s Genevieve Loh.

Looking back, what advice would he give that guy who scene-stole and broke though in Thelma and Louise?  Or that guy who upon quitting the University of Missouri just shy of a few credits from a journalism degree to drive his father’s Datsun to California?

“Not much! I see a very young kid full of possibility and excited for where it’s going to go,” he said. “I wouldn’t change anything because you know our successes are one thing, but our failures are every bit as important. Our failures are what teach us and lead us to the next thing. And there’s no forward momentum or evolution without either.”

What is most clear-cut though, is the actor-producer’s belief the way Netflix is changing the cinematic landscape worldwide.

“It’s inevitable,” he said.  First of all, films end up in an entity like Netflix. That’s where our films go for the next viewing. And when I think about it-some of the great films like The Godfather, The Deer Hunter and  Apocalypse Now, I’ve never seen them at the cinema, because they’ve all came afterwards.

“And home-viewing something is getting so good now,” he continued. “ But it doesn’t take away from the communal, cinematic big spectacle screening.  And we want to support that just as much. But I say, there’s just more stuff getting made now and it’s really exciting time for filmmakers and a really exciting time for the viewer.”

With Plan B being such a champion for small but meaningful films that might quite possibly never get made, will Pitt ever do an Asian film if someone, like from Singapore, sends him a really good script?

“Sure, sure!” he said. “We’re open and the lovely thing is that the more connected we get, the more we start cross-pollinating great artists and great ideas!”



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Manchester bombing on drivers' minds at Indy 500


Even in the United States heartland the Manchester bomb attack that killed 22 people and left dozens injured was on the minds of drivers on Thursday who will race in the Indianapolis 500.

May 22, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Verizon IndyCar Series driver Alexander Rossi (98) leads a pack of cars out of the pits during practice for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. PHOTO: Reuters/ Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS: Even in the United States heartland the Manchester bomb attack that killed 22 people and left dozens injured was on the minds of drivers on Thursday who will race in the Indianapolis 500.

Four British drivers, Jack Harvey, a team mate of Fernando Alonso on Andretti Autosport, Max Chilton, Jay Howard and Pippa Mann, the only woman in Sunday’s 33-car field, said they were shocked by the horrific scenes in the English city on Monday.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials have no plans to honour the Manchester victims but some drivers are looking at ways to pay tribute themselves.

“Obviously horrendous what happened in my native country,” Chilton told Reuters. “I think it’s affected the world not just my country.

“It’s something we have to step up against. It was horrible to see.

“If I can get a sticker I would like to put it on the car. I would like to show my respects. Our thoughts are with our (Manchester) friends and family.”

Across the Atlantic, Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton and other drivers will race in Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix with tributes to those who were killed or injured.

The F1 organisers are also planning a minute’s silence before the showcase race with the 10 teams putting the #Manchester hashtag on their cars.

“I think everyone is so in shock. I’ve got family in Manchester – the first thing I did was to make sure everyone was okay,” Harvey told Reuters.

North American sports team have honoured the victims of the suicide bombing with moments of silence and playing “God Save the Queen”.

Prior to an NBA playoff game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics fans paid their respects as the Union Jack appeared on the big screen, while the Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins observed a moment of silence before their playoff clash.

“For me, personally, even though I’m British, … it’s a tragedy wherever this happens,” said Mann.

The bombing has triggered heightened security around American arenas and ballparks for this Memorial Day holiday weekend.

North America’s major sports leagues have strict safety procedures but have urged fans attending games to be vigilant following Monday’s bombing at an Ariana Grande pop concert in the Manchester Arena.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be on high alert with as many as 300,000 fans pouring into the sprawling 2.5 mile oval.

Security will be particularly tight on Sunday with United States Vice-President Mike Pence confirming on Sunday that he will attend the race.

(Editing by Ken Ferris)



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New children’s manga on Mr Lee Kuan Yew launched


SINGAPORE: Primary school students can now read about the life and times of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister thanks to a new children’s manga about the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

Titled The Story of LKY, the two-volume biographical series was launched on Thursday (May 25) at the National Library by Shogakukan Asia, which publishes titles such as Detective Conan, Pokemon and Doraemon.

Written by Japanese author Yoshio Nabeta and illustrated by manga artist Toshiki Takii, the comic is the second manga title on Mr Lee from the publisher.

The two-part The Story Of LKY looks at the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s growing up years as well as his post-war life. (Image: Shogakukan Asia)

Last year, it released The LKY Story – Lee Kuan Yew: The Man Who Shaped A Nation, a single-volume graphic novel targeted at young adults, which was also written by Mr Nabeta.

The comic book had garnered relative success, earning a nomination for Book of the Year at the recent Singapore Book Awards.

To date, it has sold over 5,000 copies. There is also a digital version for the Japanese market and publishers also announced a licensing deal for the Vietnamese market.

With the strong public interest in The LKY Story, it was only logical that a children’s version was made, said Mr Bunsho Kajiya, managing director of Shogakukan Asia.

“Singaporeans know about Mr Lee, but there were still comments about how interesting the book was,” he said.

In crafting the children’s version, its creators simplified the story and made the illustration style more similar to other children’s manga.

A sample from the first volume of The Story of LKY. (Image: Shogakukan Asia)

Divided into two parts, the first volume, Growing Up, looks at Mr Lee’s early years, college life and experiences during World War II. The second, Road To Independence, chronicles his life upon returning home, and features key events such as the formation of the People’s Action Party and Singapore’s merger and separation from Malaya.

Mr Nabeta had worked on both the young adult and children’s version simultaneously, reading up books on Mr Lee and Singapore history in both Japanese and English, while also scouring the Internet. He also watched The LKY Musical in 2015 and even visited Mr Lee’s Oxley Road bungalow.

“The young adult version is more straightforward, but for the children’s version, there had to be some exciting scenes,” he said.

The second volume of The Story of LKY sees a young Mr and Mrs Lee Kuan Yew returning to Singapore from England. (Image: Shogakukan Asia)

For instance, while older readers would be familiar with the history of the Japanese invasion during the war, children would have a hard time understand the historical background, he said.

“My editor advised us to put the map of Malaya to show how the Japanese army invaded Singapore, what route they took, so it’s easier for children to understand,” said Mr Nabeta, who together with Mr Takii, was in town for the launch as well as to give talks at Boon Lay Garden Primary School and Fuhua Primary School earlier that day.

For the series’ illustrator, the mission was to make Mr Lee look like a manga character.

“I made his eyes as attractive as possible – he is the main character (and these) reflect his passion as a hero,” said Mr Takii, who also referred to a photography book on Singapore history as reference material.

The Story of LKY’s illustrator, Toshiki Takii, signing off on his sketch of Mr Lee Kuan Yew at the book launch. (Photo: Mayo Martin)

He added that he would like to work on another story on Mr Lee if given the chance.

“ I would like to make another one that’s something more towards the manga style and more fictional. I would draw him as a Doraemon kind of hero, someone who has the powers to make the impossible possible!”

As for Mr Nabeta, when asked what description would best fit Mr Lee, he said: “Since I’m Japanese, I would describe Mr Lee Kuan Yew as a samurai. His spirit is very similar to one.”



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Asian shares firm, dollar and US bond yields slip after Fed


Asian shares eked out modest gains on Thursday while the dollar and U.S. bond yields slipped after the U.S. Federal Reserve signalled a cautious approach to future rate hikes and the reduction of its US$4.5 trillion of bond holdings.

A woman walks past an electronic board showing stock prices outside a brokerage at a business district in Tokyo, Japan, January 23, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

TOKYO: Asian shares eked out modest gains on Thursday while the dollar and U.S. bond yields slipped after the U.S. Federal Reserve signalled a cautious approach to future rate hikes and the reduction of its US$4.5 trillion of bond holdings.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan advanced 0.3 percent, with South Korea leading with a 0.4 percent rise. .

Japan’s Nikkei dipped 0.1 percent though MSCI Japan rose 0.4 percent in dollar terms .

Minutes from the Fed’s last policy meeting showed policymakers agreed they should hold off on raising interest rates until it was clear a recent U.S. economic slowdown was temporary, though most said a hike was coming soon.

“Their views seem to have changed considerably. In the past, they had said the slowdown was transitory,” said Daisuke Uno, chief strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Bank.

The minutes also showed that policymakers favored a gradual reduction in its massive balance sheet.

Fed staff proposed that the central bank set a cap on the amount of bonds that would be allowed to run off each month, initially setting it at a low level and raising it every three months.

Following the minutes, the 10-year U.S. Treasuries yield fell to 2.252 percent from Wednesday’s high of 2.297 percent.

Fed funds rate futures are pricing in about a 75 percent chance that the Fed will raise rates next month, moving down from more than 80 percent earlier this week .

The specter of a slower pace of policy tightening underpinned share prices, with the S&P 500 closing at a record high.

In the currency market, the euro traded up 0.1 percent in Asia at US$1.1225, having bounced back from Wednesday’s low of US$1.1168 and coming within sight of US$1.1268, its 6 1/2-month high set on Tuesday.

The dollar stood at 111.59 yen , slipping from one-week highs of 112.13 touched on Wednesday.

Those moves have pulled the dollar’s index against a basket of six major currencies down to 97.015, near Monday’s 6-1/2-month low of 96.797.

The Canadian dollar strengthened to a five-week high of CUS$1.3405 per U.S. dollar after the Bank of Canada was more upbeat about the economy than some investors had expected.

Oil prices stayed near five-week highs as investors expect oil producing countries to extend output cuts at their meeting in Vienna later in the day.

Benchmark Brent crude oil rose 20 cents a barrel, or 0.4 percent, to US$54.16. U.S. light crude was up 20 cents, or 0.4 percent, at US$51.56.

Both benchmarks have gained more than 10 percent from their May lows below US$50 a barrel, rebounding on a consensus that OPEC and other producers will maintain strict limits on production in an attempt to drain persistent global oversupply.

Elsewhere, digital currency bitcoin hit a fresh record high, having surged 170 percent in about two months from its March low.

Demand for crypto-assets soared with the creation of new tokens to raise funding for start-ups using blockchain technology.

(Reporting by Hideyuki Sano; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)



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Anthem weighing Obamacare individual market in each state


Anthem Inc is looking at each state to determine what its participation in the Obamacare individual market will be next year given the political and regulatory uncertainty, Chief Executive Officer Joseph Swedish said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: The office building of health insurer Anthem is seen in Los Angeles, California February 5, 2015. REUTERS/Gus Ruelas

NEW YORK: Anthem Inc is looking at each state to determine what its participation in the Obamacare individual market will be next year given the political and regulatory uncertainty, Chief Executive Officer Joseph Swedish said on Wednesday.

Swedish, speaking at the UBS Global Healthcare Conference, said that the No. 2 health insurer is talking to regulators in the 14 states where it sells BlueCross BlueShield plans about its participation: staying in the market either in total or in part, or “surgically extracting” itself.

“We would prefer not to extract ourselves if we can get the math to work,” Swedish said.

(Reporting by Caroline Humer)



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