- Flights cancelled as heavy snow hits Tokyo
- 26 vie to be first Singaporean to fly into space
- Indonesia grants Corby parole
Posted: 07 Feb 2014 08:11 PM PST
TOKYO, Feb 08, 2014 (AFP) - Heavy snow struck Tokyo and other areas across Japan on Saturday, grounding nearly 300 flights and suspending some train services as the weather agency issued a severe storm warning for the capital.
Local media reported that at least 43 people were injured due to snow-related accidents.
As much as four centimetres (1.6 inches) of snow was recorded Saturday morning in Tokyo, with a rapidly developing low pressure front heading toward eastern Japan, the meteorological agency said.
Employees were hurriedly removing snow from the pavement in front of their shops and restaurants in Tokyo's bustling Ginza district.
Television footage showed hundreds of passengers queuing for reimbursement or a change of flights at Tokyo's Haneda airport with departure boards indicating the cancellation of many flights.
Further snowfall is expected Saturday afternoon in Tokyo, with up to 20 centimetres of snow expected, the weather agency said.
The agency issued a heavy snow warning for Tokyo, the first such warning for the capital in 13 years, calling on residents not to go out unless necessary.
Japan Airlines cancelled 265 domestic flights on Saturday due to heavy snow, public broadcaster NHK said.
All Nippon Airways separately cancelled 33 flights, a company spokesman said, adding that more cancellations were expected Saturday afternoon.
Airports in the western cities of Hiroshima and Kagawa were closed as operators were removing snow from the runways.
Railway operators temporarily suspended services of Shinkansen bullet trains in western Japan, NHK said.
Some sections of expressways in central Japan were also closed due to the snow, Kyodo News said.
In Tokyo, several universities delayed the starting times of their entrance examinations for the new academic year that begins in April, Kyodo added.
Posted: 07 Feb 2014 08:00 AM PST
A 15-YEAR-OLD girl, a former soldier who has climbed Mount Everest and Singapore Airlines (SIA) pilots are among 26 Singaporeans vying to become the first citizen to pilot a craft into near space – more than 20km above sea level.
Seven of them were picked to face the nation for the first time yesterday at the Global Space & Technology Convention held at Sheraton Towers.
Whittled down from an initial list of 126 are 22 men, 20 of whom are currently pilots for SIA. The women include two Nanyang Technological University (NTU) undergraduates and a graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in the United States.
One of the 26 will be chosen by April next year to be launched into the atmosphere on National Day, Aug 9, 2015 – Singapore's 50th birthday – according to plans by the Science Centre Board, the Singapore Space and Technology Association, and IN.Genius, a local firm focusing on high-tech energy solutions.
The project is privately funded and has not received backing from the Government, though organisers still hope to secure this. They have so far declined to reveal funding details. The vessel will be a helium stratospheric balloon similar to one flown by Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner in his 2012 record free fall from 39km.
Space and rocket enthusiast and Tanjong Katong Girls' School student Cherie Lim, 15, said she would strive to be fearless if chosen, despite her youth.
"Not everyone gets to do this. I'm looking at it as an adventure." The daughter of an aeronautical engineer, who said her parents are supportive, plans to get her pilot licence after her year-end examinations.
SIA pilot Kevin Lee, 35, said there was some "competitiveness" between the remaining hopefuls. He felt that his experience in the air and as a naval diver might give him an edge, especially with the gruelling rounds of selection tests still to come.
The 26 will be put through advanced confidence courses, deep diving, para-jumping and a helium balloon pilot course over the next year – with weaker candidates weeded out along the way.
But physical prowess is not the only requirement for a ticket to space. "I want to look for someone with heart, who wants to do this to make Singapore proud," said IN.Genius director Lim Seng, one of seven in the selection panel that also includes former chief defence scientist Lui Pao Chuen and former US Nasa engineer Timothy Kauffman.
Professor Lui said the choice would be a role model for Singaporeans.
"He or she must demonstrate that they can dream about great things, and go through hardship to realise their dreams." — The Straits Times / Asia News Network
Posted: 07 Feb 2014 08:00 AM PST
KEROBOKAN: Australian drug trafficker Schapelle Corby (pic) was granted parole by Indonesian authorities as mobs of journalists camped outside her Bali prison and a bidding war heated up for her first post-jail interview.
Justice Minister Amir Syamsuddin announced that Corby, whose case has attracted huge public sympathy and media attention in Australia, was among a batch of prisoners whose parole applications had been finalised.
The justice ministry added in a statement that "Corby has been approved to receive parole" as she had fulfilled the requirements as set out in the law.
Syamsuddin refused to comment when asked when Corby, who was arrested at the airport on the resort island of Bali with marijuana stashed in her surfing gear in 2004, might walk out of prison.
However, it is expected to be in the coming days once she has completed some final administrative steps.
As anticipation built in recent days that her release was imminent, hordes of Australian media flocked to Bali. A crowd of some 60 reporters, camera crew and photographers were outside the prison yesterday.
Channel Seven has reportedly sent the biggest crew to Bali, with 17 staff dispatched from Australia and another seven Indonesians on board.
Her sister Mercedes, with whom Corby will live on Bali once she is out on parole, arrived in the morning on a motorbike and had to fight her way through the scrum.
A media bidding war is reportedly in full swing in Australia that could see Corby earn millions of dollars for her tell-all story if she is released.
There have been claims that the bidders would pay as much as A$3mil (RM8.9mil), although The Australian broadsheet said informed sources had told it that a more realistic price would be A$1mil (RM3.3mil).
Corby has rarely spoken to media during her time in Kerobokan, reportedly holding out for a lucrative interview on her release.
The 36-year-old will not be able to return to Australia until 2017, however. Her sentence ends in 2016 and then she must stay for another year to comply with the conditions of her parole.
During this period, she will live on the resort island with her sister.
Corby, who has always insisted that the 4.1kg of marijuana found in her body board bag were planted, will emerge a changed woman after years in Bali's Kerobokan prison.
Prisoners often live side by side in overcrowded cells, and drug abuse, fighting between prisoners and beatings by jail wardens are reportedly common.
She has suffered from mental health problems in prison and needed hospital treatment for depression.
Corby was convicted and jailed for 20 years in 2005.
The end of her sentence was brought forward to 2016 after she received several remissions for good behaviour, and a five-year cut following an appeal for clemency to the Indonesian president.
Her parole bid was a complex, months-long process which repeatedly ran into bureaucratic hurdles. The process sped up in the past week when a justice ministry parole board in Jakarta finally heard her case. — AFP
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