FIFA announces Chinese sponsor Vivo for 2018, 2022 World Cups


Global football body FIFA announced another Chinese sponsor on Wednesday, saying that smartphone maker Vivo will be a backer for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

An interior view shows the Luzhniki Stadium, which will host 2018 FIFA World Cup matches, in Moscow, Russia May 6, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

ZURICH: Global football body FIFA announced another Chinese sponsor on Wednesday, saying that smartphone maker Vivo will be a backer for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

FIFA is trying to recover from the worst corruption scandal in its history and has been struggling to sign up sponsors since several dozen football officials, including several in senior FIFA positions, were indicted in the United States in 2015 on corruption-related charges.

Vivo follows consumer electronics maker Hisense Electric Co Ltd, which signed as a 2018 World Cup sponsor in April, and real estate and media conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group, which became a FIFA partner last year.

“The Vivo logo will appear during every match on pitch advertising boards, match tickets, media releases and other key promotional platforms,” FIFA said in a statement.

FIFA needs sponsorship to help reach its target of a US$100 million (£77.6 million) surplus for the four-yearly cycle ending at the 2018 World Cup.

It is also under pressure to increase its revenue after president Gianni Infantino, elected last year, promised to increase payouts to its 211 member federations to develop the sport.

FIFA made a loss of US$391 million in 2016, which it blamed partly on increased legal costs following a corruption scandal, and has forecast a US$489 million loss in 2017 but then expects to turn a US$1.07 billion profit in 2018 when the World Cup is held in Russia.

Wanda is a so-called tier one partner, meaning they received the highest sponsorship rights, including rights to all FIFA competitions and corporate activities up to and including the 2030 FIFA World Cup.

Vivo and Hisense are tier-two partners.

(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Hugh Lawson)



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Brave Mladenovic carries French hopes


Local hope Kristina Mladenovic, tagged as one of the French Open favourites, will try to put her back problem behind her when she takes on Italian Sara Errani in the second round on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Mar 21, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Sara Errani of Italy hits a forehand against Belinda Bencic of Switzerland (not pictured) on day one of the 2017 Miami Open at Crandon Park Tennis Center. Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

PARIS: Local hope Kristina Mladenovic, tagged as one of the French Open favourites, will try to put her back problem behind her when she takes on Italian Sara Errani in the second round on Wednesday.

The 13th seed, who played through the pain in the first round after pulling her back, is looking to become the first Frenchwoman to win the title here since Mary Pierce in 2000.

“It is really huge if a French player can go deep into the tournament, it is really big for the crowd, for the tournament everybody wants to see this,” seven-time grand slam champion Mats Wilander told Reuters.

“They want to see a player who will give everything…  give them a huge performance,  give blood… leave it on the court it will be great to see her play.”

In the absence of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, Mladenovic has been tipped as one of the top favourites for the tournament after reaching the final in Stuttgart and Madrid.

After the local favourite’s back trouble almost forced her to withdraw from her first-round match, Mladenovic promised the crowd she would “fight until the end”.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris)



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Designing buildings that are safe to maintain: Industry players welcome BCA plan for new framework


SINGAPORE: With a growing number of buildings with novel designs and complex structures, cleaning and maintaining them has become quite a challenge. 

Take the Esplanade for example, its cleaning crew is trained and certified to work at height but the uneven facade of the “durian” structure makes it difficult for workers to manoeuvre up and down the building.

According to the Ms Carmen Choo, key account director of facilities management company UEMS Solutions, which helps maintain the Esplanade on an ad-hoc basis, workers have to stand and balance on the edge of each panel to clean the surfaces.

The panels are also pointed downwards, which means that workers have to squat to clean the glass surfaces and the underside of the panel above them. 

Ms Choo said such buildings pose a safety concern for cleaners who have to work in tight spaces, and at height – which is why industry players have welcomed plans by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) to introduce a new design-for-maintainability framework. It will provide guidelines on designing buildings that are safe and easy to maintain. 

“The designs of today definitely look great, but (they) present a great challenge for the cleaning and maintenance team,” Ms Choo added. “And what happens is ultimately, (the maintenance) team will be the ones taking over and maintaining the infrastructure.”

Those that Channel NewsAsia spoke to said that the framework would also help the maintenance and cleaning sector cope amid the tight labour market. 

TAKING INTO ACCOUNT FLOOR MATERIAL

Another maintenance solutions firm that specialises in cleaning building interiors said it hopes the framework can also tackle the issue of flooring materials. 

Ms Adelyn Ong, co-founder of A1 Cleaning Services, said that certain materials such as marble are more difficult to maintain as it requires special liquid surface cleaners to remove stains. Wet spots are also hard to detect on marble, which means people are more likely to slip and fall if they walk on a marble surface, she added. 

She suggested that the use of tiles should be encouraged: “It’s easier to remove stains on tiles. They require only an ordinary floor cleaner to remove the smudges.”

If one wanted the floor to have a “marble look”, they could install marble-like tiles instead, she added. 

GUIDANCE FOR LESS EXPERIENCED ARCHITECTS

ADDP Architect’s associate architect Tang Kok Thye told Channel NewsAsia that maintenance is already an issue that building designers are aware of and plan for, even for the ones with more complex structures. 

Giving the example of a project he designed, the Tree House condominium at Chestnut Avenue in Bukit Panjang, Mr Tang said he planned ways to help gardeners easily prune and water the plants at the development. 

The private development is home to a 24-storey vertical garden and has access platforms installed at every two storeys behind the green facade to help gardeners.

Tree House condominium at 60 Chestnut Avenue in Singapore. (Photo: ADDP Architects) 

“You know that the gardeners are not people used to the gondolas and high-level areas, so we design platforms for (easy access to the green wall), and (so that they can) maintain the plants at a very cost-effective manner,” Mr Tang explained.

He added that, nonetheless, the framework will offer a common set of ground rules to the industry, and provide more guidance for less experienced architects to design with the maintenance of the building in mind.



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Minions



The story of Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment’s Minions begins at the dawn of time. Starting as single-celled yellow organisms, Minions evolve through the ages, perpetually serving the most despicable of masters. Continuously unsuccessful at keeping these masters—from T. rex to Napoleon—the Minions find themselves without someone to serve and fall into a deep depression. But one Minion named Kevin has a plan, and he—alongside teenage rebel Stuart and lovable little Bob—ventures out into the world to find a new evil boss for his brethren to follow. The trio embarks upon a thrilling journey that ultimately leads them to their next potential master, Scarlet Overkill (Academy Award® winner Sandra Bullock), the world’s first-ever female super-villain. They travel from frigid Antarctica to 1960s New York City, ending in mod London, where they must face their biggest challenge to date: saving all of Minionkind…from annihilation. Featuring a soundtrack of hit music from the ’60s that still permeates our culture today, Minions is produced by Illumination’s Chris Meledandri and Janet Healy, and is directed by Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda. Brian Lynch has written the screenplay for the 3D-CG comedy adventure, and Chris Renaud serves as executive producer of the film. www.minionnation.net (Original Title – Minions) – 2015 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

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In-form Wawrinka takes on outsider Kovalik


Third seed Stan Wawrinka, the 2015 French Open champion, will be hoping his good claycourt form will spill over into the French Open first round when he takes on rank outsider Jozef Kovalik of Slovakia on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Tennis – ATP – Rome Open – Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland v Benoit Paire of France – Rome, Italy- 17/5/17- Wawrinka returns the ball. REUTERS/Max Rossi

PARIS: Third seed Stan Wawrinka, the 2015 French Open champion, will be hoping his good claycourt form will spill over into the French Open first round when he takes on rank outsider Jozef Kovalik of Slovakia on Tuesday.

Swiss Wawrinka enjoyed the best possible preparation for the French Open by claiming the title on Geneva’s clay courts last week, and is the clear favourite against the 152nd-ranked player in the world.

Local hero Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who also warmed up for the French Open in perfect style by securing his maiden claycourt title in Lyon, takes on world number 91 Renzo Olivo from Argentina.

Moody Australian Nick Kyrgios, who is struggling with hip and shoulder injuries, has been receiving daily treatment ahead of his first-round match against experienced German Philipp Kohlschreiber.

The 22-year-old firebrand, seeded 18th at Roland Garros, pulled out of the Rome tournament and was eliminated in the first round in Lyon last week.

His Australian friend Thanasi Kokkinakis has a tougher task ahead when he faces eighth seed Kei Nishikori.

Britain’s Johanna Konta, the seventh seed, meets Taiwan’s Su-Wei Hsieh, knowing full well that the women’s draw lacks several big names including Maria Sharapova, Viktoria Azarena and world number two Venus Williams.

Men’s top seed Andy Murray, Konta’s compatriot, starts his tournament straight after her match, against Russia’s Andrey Kuznetsov.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)



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RBS investor group accepts offer to end lawsuit over 2008 cash call


A group representing Royal Bank of Scotland investors has accepted an out-of-court deal to settle a lawsuit that was set to call disgraced former CEO Fred Goodwin to account over a 12 billion pound (US$15 billion) cash call in 2008.

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: People walk past a Royal Bank of Scotland office in London, Britain, February 6, 2013. REUTERS/Neil Hall/File Photo – RTS133EC/File Photo

LONDON: A group representing Royal Bank of Scotland investors has accepted an out-of-court deal to settle a lawsuit that was set to call disgraced former CEO Fred Goodwin to account over a 12 billion pound (US$15 billion) cash call in 2008.

Organisers of the RBoS Shareholder Action Group, that had vowed to see the bank and its former bosses in court, have told their members they will accept last week’s revised, out-of-court offer after days of intense talks delayed a long-awaited trial.

“Having carefully considered the merits of the current offer … we have decided to accept the offer of 82 pence per share on behalf of our membership,” the action group said in a letter dated May 27 that was published on Monday.

“This is a decision which is fully supported by our legal advisers,” it added, acknowledging that some of its claimants, who had been holding out for more, might be surprised.

The settlement is worth around 200 million pounds (US$257 million) in total.

A formal announcement on behalf of the group, which includes around 9,000 retail and 20 institutional investors and has been beset by internal wrangles, changing legal teams and questions over its funding and management structure, is expected later on Monday or Tuesday.

RBS declined to comment.

(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill and Lawrence White; Editing by Mark Potter)



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My Dog The Champion



Dora Madison Burge of TV’s FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS stars as Madison, a spoiled big city 16-year-old with a full teenage social life. When her mom is deployed overseas for three months, Maddy is sent to live with her hard-nosed grandfather (Lance Henriksen of ALIENS) at his rural cattle ranch. In this strange place with no Wi-Fi, Maddy will meet cute 17-year-old dog trainer Eli (Cody Linley of TV’s HANNAH MONTANA and CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN), grow to love and respect her stubborn grandpa, and bond with an old cattle dog who just may have the potential to be a blue ribbon champion. Bonding through their mutual sense of displacement, the two outcasts form a special bond in this heartwarming story about the meaning of family, the courage of outcasts, and the promise of new beginnings.

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Muguruza hoping to avoid embarrassing exit in Paris


After world number one Angelique Kerber succumbed in the first round of the French Open, another upset could be on the cards on day two of the claycourt major when Garbine Muguruza takes on Francesca Schiavone on Monday.

Tennis – ATP – Rome Open – Garbine Muguruza of Spain v Venus Williams of the United States – Rome, Italy – 19/5/17 – Muguruza of Spain returns the ball. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

PARIS: After world number one Angelique Kerber succumbed in the first round of the French Open, another upset could be on the cards on day two of the claycourt major when Garbine Muguruza takes on Francesca Schiavone on Monday.

Spain’s Muguruza, who has been in mediocre form on clay this season, could face the embarrassment of becoming only the second defending champion since Anastasia Myskina in 2005 to lose in the women’s first round.

The 36-year-old Schiavone, champion at Roland Garros in 2010, won the Bogota tournament and reached the final in Rabat, both on clay, this season. Muguruza in contrast has won only three matches on red dirt in 2017.

“It’s very strange to find a first round with two past champions,” said fourth seed Muguruza. “I think she’s playing good on clay. It’s a good match to start.”

The match, however, is unlikely to draw thousands onto Court Philippe Chatrier, where proceedings usually open in front of a sparse crowd.

The two players have met twice on clay, taking one victory each.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot, editing by Pritha Sarkar)



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Unannounced, new Russian passenger plane completes maiden flight


Russia completed the maiden flight of its new MS-21 medium-range passenger plane on Sunday, its first foray into mainline commercial aircraft since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

A view shows an An MS-21 medium-range passenger plane, produced by Irkut Corporation, during a flight in Irkutsk, Russia, May 28, 2017. Courtesy of PR Department of Irkut Corporation/Handout via REUTERS

MOSCOW: Russia completed the maiden flight of its new MS-21 medium-range passenger plane on Sunday, its first foray into mainline commercial aircraft since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Russia, squeezed by Western sanctions over its role in the Ukraine crisis, is trying to rejuvenate domestic industrial production to make the country less dependant on foreign firms.

It has previously said the MS-21 is superior to its Western-made counterparts in many respects and will be snapped up by both Russian and foreign carriers.

In a surprise statement, manufacturer Irkut Corporation and its state-controlled parent company United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) said an MS-21-300 model had successfully completed a 30-minute flight at a height of 1,000 meters and traveling at 300 km an hour.

“The flight mission has been completed. The flight was fine, there were no observations which will prevent further testing,” test pilot Oleg Kononenko was quoted as saying.

Russia has fought hard to shake its Soviet reputation for old and creaking aircraft flown by inexperienced crews. Flag carrier Aeroflot last year earned its fourth star from independent ratings website Skytrax, ranking it alongside major European and Middle Eastern competitors and ahead of big U.S. carriers such as Delta and United.

President Vladimir Putin called Irkut General Director Oleg Demchenko to congratulate him and his employees with what the Kremlin called “a significant event”.

The twin-engine plane will be built in two variants: the Ms-21-300 which will have 160-211 seats, and the MS-21-200 which will have 130-165 seats. Production is expected to start in the next two years and state media have said numerous contracts with domestic and foreign carriers have already been agreed.

Irkut said it so far had “firm orders” for 175 planes, all of which had been prepaid. State defense conglomerate Rostec, which is headed by close Putin ally Sergei Chemezov, said it had agreed to purchase 85 aircraft and 50 of them would be leased to Aeroflot.

UAC President Yury Slyusar said he estimated global demand for the new MS-21 models at around 15,000 aircraft over the next 20 years. “I’m sure the airlines will appreciate our new aircraft,” he said.

(Editing by Alison Williams and David Evans)



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The Dog Who Saved the Holidays



The Bannister family is back! This time they are travelling to Southern California for the holidays to stay with Aunt Barbara (Shelley Long of TV’s CHEERS), who surprises them with a new puppy named Eve (Peyton List of DIARY OF A WIMPY KID). Everyone is smitten with Eve — except for the Bannister’s dog, Zeus (Joey Lawrence of TV’s BLOSSOM), who sees what a mischievous animal she is when no one else is around. After deciding to run away, Zeus sees Ted and Stewey, two thieves, trying to break into the family home while the Bannisters are at church. It’s up to Zeus and his newest sister Eve to join together to save the holidays for their family!

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