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DON MORRISON Editor, TIME AsiaDo not be alarmed. The bubble being blown by our cover model, Singapore-based MTV Asia veejay Donita Rose, was produced from bubble gum brought into the city-state for personal use only. There was no intent to abuse, misuse or traffic in a substance long banned in that famously strict jurisdiction. The news about Singapore, as we report this week, is that the city-state is trying to loosen up. When I first came here in 1987, says East Asia Correspondent Terry McCarthy, who wrote the main story, it was like a boarding school dance. You knew how far to go and that you had to be home by 10. Nowadays, the place is quite funky.

Rather than develop this interesting thought, I'll just invite you to read McCarthy's lively account. He's quite a writer. I know this not only because I have the pleasure of editing--or rather, not having to edit--his prose, but because last week he received the Best Feature Writing prize in the first annual Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) Awards for Editorial Excellence. McCarthy was cited for his June 29, 1998 article Currents of Destiny, about life on China's Yangtze River. The citation was one of three SOPA awards presented to TIME, the most won by any publication. Our others:
Best News Photography, for contributing photographer James Nachtwey's chilling pictures of ethnic violence in Indonesia that ran in our Dec. 7, 1998 issue. Nachtwey's photos had also won the World Press Photo's second place award for Spot News Stories in February.

The prize for Excellence in New Media, for our website, . In case you haven't visited it, the site contains the text of TIME articles, longer versions of our interviews with important newsmakers (including this week's chat with Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong), breaking news and interactive opinion polls. A recent survey on Kashmir drew 280,000 online ballots. You can vote now for the most influential Asian of the 20th century.

Naturally, we're gratified to be recognized by SOPA, especially since our journalists work so hard to bring you the world. Take photographer Russel Wong, who shot this week's cover photo. Persuading Donita Rose to blow a bubble was the easy part; first he had to find the bubble gum--a difficult chore even in the new, funkier Singapore. I was about to drive to Malaysia for it, he recalls. But then I got a lead--an expat family who smuggled some in for the kids. They had a whole bowl of it, even Bazooka, the best brand for blowing bubbles. Tastes good, too. Hard work has its rewards.