Rabu, 1 Jun 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Strong earthquake jolts northwest Japan - NHK

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 08:43 PM PDT

TOKYO (Reuters) - A strong and shallow earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 4.7 hit northwest Japan on Thursday but there was no tsunami warning, public broadcaster NHK reported.

There were no immediate reports of damage and Tokyo Electric Power Co said its Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear plant in the region was operating normally.

(Reporting by Linda Sieg; Editing by Joseph Radford)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Tornadoes, storms hit Massachusetts, killing four

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 08:43 PM PDT

CONWAY, Mass. (Reuters) - At least four people were killed when tornadoes and severe storms tore through heavily populated western and central Massachusetts on Wednesday, causing widespread damage in 19 communities.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency and authorized 1,000 National Guard troops to be called up to provide support after at least two tornadoes touched down.

"It is early going yet, so those are not final numbers, although we are hoping and praying and working as hard as possible to keep the fatalities limited to those four," Patrick told a news conference.

Tornadoes are rare but not unheard of in the northeastern United States.

Southeastern states, especially Alabama, were hit hard in April and Joplin, Missouri, was devastated by a massive tornado in May that killed 134 people.

In Massachusetts, the first tornado touched down at about 4:30 p.m. local time in Springfield, the third largest city in the state, said Chris Vaccaro, a spokesman for the National Weather Service.

Heavy winds churned the Connecticut River and the area was pounded by hail and driving rain.

A second tornado hit Springfield, 90 miles (145 km) west of Boston, at about 6:20 p.m., authorities said. State police said at least 33 people were injured in Springfield.

Damage included "trees and numerous power lines down, roofs ripped off of homes, things like cars and SUVs that have been toppled over," said Scott MacLeod, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

The severe weather was the result of colder air clashing with a warm, humid system that has produced some record temperatures for early June through much of the mid-Atlantic states, meteorologists said.

(Additional reporting by Lauren Keiper and Ros Krasny in Boston; Editing by John O'Callaghan)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Japan PM Kan risks losing no-confidence vote as MPs rebel

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 08:43 PM PDT

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan's survival hung in the balance ahead of a no-confidence vote on Thursday, threatening political chaos as the government grapples with a nuclear crisis and huge public debt.

Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan attends a meeting with junior and mid-level lawmakers at the parliament in Tokyo June 1, 2011. (REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao)

Even if Kan -- Japan's fifth premier in as many years -- survives, a growing split within the ruling party will further handicap efforts to push policies through parliament, including politically sensitive tax reforms.

Adding to the pressure on Kan, the head of the tiny ruling coalition partner, the People's New Party, urged the unpopular premier to resign once he has extended the current parliament session and taken care of issues related to Japan's earthquake-triggered crises, Kyodo news reported.

But some rebels in the ruling party want Kan out sooner.

Kan, who took office almost exactly a year ago, is battling to control a radiation crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima nuclear plant, figure out how to pay for rebuilding the northeast region devastated by the tsunami, and craft tax reforms to pay for rising social security costs.

The opposition needs the backing of around 80 of the 305 lower house members from Kan's Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) to pass the motion in the 480-seat chamber. Passage of the motion would force Kan to resign or call a snap election.

The DPJ rebels, who dislike his abrasive style and fear he is becoming an electoral liability, want Kan to resign even before the vote to pave the way for a coalition with the opposition to break a parliamentary logjam.

"There has been talk that the prime minister may talk about resigning (at a meeting of DPJ lawmakers ahead of the vote), although I am not sure if he will do so right away," rebel DPJ lawmaker Kenko Matsuki told a TV show.

"In any case, it would be too late."

A lower house session to vote on the motion was to open at 1 p.m. (0400 GMT), with the vote expected around 3 p.m. (0600 GMT) after speeches for and against the motion.

The uncertain outlook was keeping financial markets on edge.

"The no confidence vote could swing either way and the market appears unsure of the outcome," said Yuji Kameoka, chief currency strategist at Daiwa Securities Capital Markets.

"The yen could be sold momentarily if the vote is approved. Even if the vote is defeated, a large numbers of ruling party defectors could still weigh on the yen against the dollar as it the market could take a more cautious view on the Japanese economy."


Kan has declined to rule out a snap election, although holding a poll would be tough given the devastation caused by the triple calamities in March.

Kan, already unpopular before the disasters struck, has come under fire for his handling of the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years.

But there is no obvious successor in his own party.

Leading the rebellion in the DPJ is party powerbroker Ichiro Ozawa, a political strategist and sometime reformer who is under indictment for suspected misreporting of political donations.

Media speculated that Ozawa and his backers would form a new party if the no-confidence motion is defeated.

Kan's predecessor, Yukio Hatoyama, also said he would back the motion although it was not clear how many in his intraparty group would follow suit.

Kan, seeking to prevent defections, said on Wednesday that a session of parliament set to end on June 22 could be extended, allowing time for a second extra budget to fund the next phase of rebuilding from the tsunami in what is set to be Japan's biggest reconstruction project since post-World War Two.

The government also needs to get parliament to enact a bill enabling the issuance of more bonds to finance 44 percent of the $1 trillion budget for the fiscal year already begun in April.

It is also trying to finalise this month proposals for social security and tax reforms -- including a likely doubling of the 5 percent sales tax in stages by 2015.

Moody's Investors Service said on Tuesday that Japan might not be able to avoid a downgrade of its sovereign debt rating even if it presented a strong reform plan, in part because of concerns over political feuding.

(Editing by Edmund Klamann and Jonathan Thatcher)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Goh sees partnership with Lim blossoming

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 07:18 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: They have played in only five badminton tournaments together. But Goh Wei Shem is confident that his men's doubles partnership with Lim Khim Wah will soon blossom, starting with the Thailand Open GP Gold, which will be held in Bangkok from June 7-12.

Wei Shem-Khim Wah made their debut at the Proton Malaysia International Challenge in Sabah last year when national doubles back-up coach Tan Kim Her chose to field an experimental pair.

However, a serious knee injury to Teo Kok Siang, who was then Wei Shem's regular partner, ruled the former out for at least six months and left Wei Shem without a partner in the back-up squad.

Wei Shem renewed his partnership with Khim Wah after the latter was split from Chan Peng Soon and the duo enjoyed a good run in April, reaching the quarter-finals of the Asian Championships (ABC) before losing to China's Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng.

They also did well in the earlier New Zealand International Challenge and the Kuala Lumpur Open, reaching the semi-finals and final. They also played in the Malaysian Open GP Gold last month and were eliminated in the first round.

"I am aware that criticism will soon come because Khim Wah and I have not really been producing the best of results," said the 22-year-old Wei Shem.

"We have only played in one other tournament after the ABC appearance and lost in the first round. But as a pair, we are gradually improving with better communication and understanding on court.

"I am confident that we will soon start to produce good results.

"We have set ourselves a semi-final target in the Thailand Open next week."

However, it is easier said than done as the world No. 83 pair will face sixth seeds and world No. 11 Cho Gun-woo-Kwon Yi-goo of South Korea in the first round.

If they clear the hurdle, they will play against either Patipat Chalardchalaem-Maneepong Jongjit of Thailand or another Korean pair, Kim Ki-jung-Shin Baek-cheol. Another Korean pair, world No. 4 Ko Sung-hyun-Yoo Yeon-seong are in the same half of the draw.

"It is not an easy draw at all and it could be another first-round exit for us. We will do our best and hope that we can pull through," said Wei Shem.

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Badminton: Four pairs urged to nail tough first-round ties

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 07:17 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: National back-up squad men's doubles coach Tan Kim Her has one instruction to his charges competing in the Thailand Open GP Gold in Bangkok next week – win their first match.

He has four pairs in the fray – Ow Yao Han-Chooi Kah Ming, Goh Wei Shem-Lim Khim Wah, Chan Peng Soon-Tan Wee Kiong and Mak Hee Chun-Yew Hong Kheng. And none of them face an easy ride in the first round.

Yao Han-Kah Ming will face seventh seeds Ingo Kindervater-Johannes Schoettler of Germany while Wei Shem-Khim Wah are up against sixth seeds Cho Gun-woo-Kwon Yi-goo of South Korea.

Hee Chun-Hong Kheng will even have to play two rounds in the qualifying tournament to earn their place in the main draw.

Nevertheless, Kim Her is positive that his boys will be able to do well in the tournament.

"My instruction to them is simple. Get past the first round match and reaching the quarter-finals or semi-finals shouldn't be a problem," he said.

"And my best bets to go far in the tournament are Yao Han-Kah Ming, who are one of the most improved pairs.

"They are up against a German pair and they just need to step up their game on the day itself to win the match."

Meanwhile, there was a surprise when Hee Chun, who has recovered from a shoulder injury, was paired up with Hong Kheng for the tournament.

Hee Chun previously partnered Wee Kiong but that partnership has taken a turn for the worse due to a lack of understanding and it was understood that the Thailand Open GP Gold would serve as the last chance for them to save the partnership.

For now, Kim Her has chosen instead to split the duo but will give them a chance in the Singapore Open Super Series from June 14-19.

"I just want to let them play instead of keeping them by the sidelines," said Kim Her.

"Hee Chun-Wee Kiong were quite good and they still have a world ranking (No. 51) and I want them to make full use of a bigger tournament to revive their partnership."

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Sweet Jupha sets her sights on making history for Perlis

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 07:16 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Jupha Somnet has a sweet face and a disarming smile but she prefers to be known for her cycling skills on the track.

And Jupha, who is of Thai-Malay parentage, has her eyes set on making history for Perlis in Sukma (Malaysia Games) track cycling at the Cheras Velodrome here this weekend.

Jupha, who turned 18 last month, has more reasons to be inspired on track as it could well be the last time she competes as a sprinter.

Jupha will be switching her focus to track endurance and she hopes to end her gold medal drought in Sukma.

"Specific fitness tests were done on me and the findings pointed to a better career for me if I focus on the endurance races," she said.

"I'm willing to give my best shot to make it happen as I want to be a top-class cyclist like Anna Meares of Australia.

"She is also someone I admire for what she has done for women's cycling (Meares is an Olympic, world and Commonwealth champion).

"Malaysia do not have a good track endurance cyclist at the moment and that is something for me to work on."

Jupha goes into the Sukma competitions as a firm favourite based on her achievements in the Asian junior championships in Korat early this year.

She underlined her versatility with five medals, four silvers and a bronze, from the sprint and endurance disciplines.

"I am expected to race in all the individual events. I believe I have good chances to take gold in the sprint, scratch, points and 3km individual pursuit," said Jupha, who is making her third appearance for Perlis in Sukma.

"But competition will be stiff as the other national back-up cyclists, among them Ummi Hamimah (Terengganu) and Lauretta Eva Adrian (Sabah), are also strong contenders.

"In fact, Lauretta was my team-mate when we won Malaysia's first-ever silver medal in team pursuit at the Asian Juniors this year."

Perlis will certainly welcome any golden performance as it does not come often to them.

They won six gold medals at the Games in Malacca last year.

The cycling events contested for men and women from June 4-7 are individual pursuit, team pursuit, scratch, points race, time trial, sprint, team sprint and keirin.

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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Benalec inks two value added land agreements

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 06:40 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Integrated marine construction and vessel chartering services provider, Benalec Holdings Bhd's subsidiaries Sentosacove Development Sdn Bhd and Orientalcove Realty Sdn Bhd has entered into a sale and purchase agreement and joint venture agreement with Vista Selesa Development Sdn Bhd respectively. In a statement, Benalec said Sentosacove Development had entered into a sale and purchase agreement with Vista Selesa to dispose of six parcels of leasehold land for RM45.6mil, of which RM40.6mil would be satisfied in cash. The total combined land area to be disposed is about 151,191 square metres or 1.6 million square feet. Benalec group managing director Vincent Leaw said: "We are delighted to have entered into this transaction as this indicates that the land around this area is in great demand. This is a milestone achievement for us as it shows that we have come full circle from land reclamation." Meanwhile, Orientalcove Realty as the landowner, had entered into a joint venture agreement with Vista Selesa for the proposed development of a mixed development project. Under this agreement, Benalec is estimated to be entitled to about RM37.8mil or 25% of the gross development value, whichever is higher. Orientalcove Realty's entitlement under the joint venture agreement will be satisfied in cash, within two years from the date of the agreement. The total combined land area is about 125,450 square metres or 1.35 million square feet. Leaw said the group was interested in building value for the land that it had reclaimed, adding that this project would be an avenue for the group to create this value, as the development of these few parcels of land would create spin-off and generate more interest in the adjoining plots of land. Under the above two agreements, the proceeds will be used to finance the ongoing projects and to meet the capital requirements of the group. Apart from that, Benalec is expected to realise a net gain of RM34.93mil, upon completion of the agreements. The group is also proposing to seek its shareholders' approval for a share buyback and a private placement exercise. The agreements, share buyback and private placement are collectively known as the corporate exercises and will be subject to shareholders' approval at the forthcoming EGM.

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Google hoping other sites like recommendation tool

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 04:54 PM PDT

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Google is hoping other websites will like its recently introduced system for recommending online content and ads.

The Internet search leader has been using "+1" recommendation button on its own site for two months. It became available to other publishers Wednesday.

The +1 feature is similar to the Facebook "Like" button that has become a staple at thousands of websites.

Pressing the +1 or Like button enables people to recommend an article, photo, video, song or some other kind of material to their online connections.

The personal endorsement also says something about an individual's interests and preferences. That's something both Google Inc. and Facebook want to know more about so they can do a better job placing the online ads that generate most of their revenue.

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European food outbreak soars; mystery deepens

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 04:53 PM PDT

BERLIN (AP) - The number of people hit by a massive European outbreak of foodborne bacterial infections is one third higher than previously known and a stunningly high number of patients suffer from a potentially deadly complication than can shut down their kidneys, officials said Wednesday.

The death toll rose to 17, with German authorities reporting that an 84-year-old woman with the complication had died on Sunday.

Medical authorities appeared no closer to discovering either the source of the infection or the mystery at the heart of the outbreak: why the unusual strain of the E. coli bacteria appears to be causing so many cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome, which attacks the kidneys and can cause seizures, strokes and comas.

"This particular strain we're dealing with now seems to be unique," said Dr. Hilde Kruse, program manager for food safety at WHO Europe:

Germany's national health agency said 1,534 people in the country had been infected by EHEC, a particularly deadly strain of the common bacteria found in the digestive systems of cows, humans and other mammals. The Robert Koch Institute had reported 1,169 a day earlier.

The outbreak has hit at least nine European countries but virtually all of the sick people either live in Germany or recently traveled there.

The Robert Koch Institute said 470 people in Germany were suffering from hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, a number that independent experts called unprecedented in modern medical history. HUS normally occurs in 10 percent of EHEC infections, meaning the number seen in Germany could be expected in an outbreak three times the size being currently reported.

That discrepancy could indicate that a vast number of cases haven't been reported because their symptoms are relatively mild, medical experts said.

But they also offered another, more disturbing theory - the strain of EHEC causing the outbreak in Europe could be more dangerous than any previously seen.

"There may well be a great number of asymptomatic cases out there that we're missing. This could be a much bigger outbreak than we realize right now," said Paul Hunter, a professor of health protection at the University of East Anglia in England. "There might also be something genetically different about this particular strain of E. coli that makes it more virulent."

There are hundreds of different E. coli strains in the environment - every person naturally carries the bacteria - but only a very small percentage are dangerous.

German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner said scientists were working nonstop to find the source of the germ that is believed to have been spread in Europe on tainted vegetables - and where in the long journey from farm to grocery store the contamination occurred.

"Hundreds of tests have been done and the responsible agencies ... have determined that most of the patients who have been sickened ate cucumbers, tomatoes and leaf lettuce and primarily in northern Germany," Aigner said on ARD television. "The states that have conducted the tests must now follow back the delivery path to see how the cucumbers, or tomatoes or lettuce got here."

German authorities initially pointed to cucumbers from Spain after people in Hamburg fell ill after eating fresh produce. After tests of some 250 samples of vegetables from around the city, only the three cucumbers from Spain and one other of unknown origin tested positive for E. coli.

But further tests showed that those vegetables, while contaminated, did not cause the outbreak. Officials are still warning all Germans to avoid eating raw cucumbers, tomatoes or lettuce.

Some experts said it might be impossible to ever identify what caused the outbreak, as much of the tainted fresh produce may already have disappeared from markets.

"As in many foodborne disease outbreaks, the culprit may never be identified and the epidemic just fades away," said Brendan Wren, professor of pathogen molecular biology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

To identify which E. coli strain is responsible, scientists must grow the suspect bacteria in a laboratory, which can take up to two days. Once that's done, tests to characterize the strain may take another day or two and those tests can only be done in specialized labs.

"These are complicated molecular tests and it's not something you can do in one day," Hunter said.

In the Czech city of Brno, lab workers wearing white coats and latex gloves meticulously snipped hundreds of pieces off of cucumbers, peppers and other vegetables from Spain, Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark as well as eastern and central Europe to be tested before allowing them into the Czech market for sale.

"None of the samples has tested for the bacteria so far," said lab chief Pavel Alexa.

"It all takes up to four days to do the basic research to determine if a sample is suspicious," Alexa said. If the sample is suspicious, it takes days more to isolate the strain of E.coli responsible, he said.

Spanish officials said, meantime, that they were considering legal action after Europeans swore off Spanish produce in droves after the initial report. And in Germany, farmers' association president Gerd Sonnleitner said the call for people to avoid raw vegetables had cost local farmers an estimated 30 million ($43 million) so far.

Germany typically sees a maximum of 50 to 60 annual cases of HUS, which has up to a 5 percent fatality rate according to the World Health Organization.

More than 60 percent of the EHEC cases in Germany have been women - 88 percent over the age of 20 - and nearly 90 percent of the HUS cases have been women over the age of 20.

Experts suspect the outbreak may be mainly striking women because they are the ones most likely to be eating fresh produce.

It remains unclear why most of those affected are adults and not children or the elderly, who are normally more susceptible to this illness, said Kruse, the food safety expert at the WHO.

"We should be open to whatever the investigation shows, but adult women are more likely to be exposed to vegetables than other populations," she said.

Last week, Reinhard Burger, head of the Robert Koch Institute, said it was also possible more women were affected because they were predominantly the ones handling food in the kitchen.

The World Health Organization said cases of the E. coli illness have been reported in nine European countries: Austria, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.K. All but two cases are either people in Germany, or people who had recently traveled to northern Germany, the organization said.

U.S. health officials say two people who had recently traveled to Hamburg and are now back in the United States have the bug. The agency did not say where in the U.S. the two travelers are, but said it is working with state health departments to learn more about the cases and identify others.

An American tourist who traveled to the Czech Republic from Germany was hospitalized in Prague, officials said.

In addition, Sweden has reported 15 cases of HUS, followed by Denmark with seven, the Netherlands with three, the U.K. with two and Spain with one, according to the European Center forc Disease Prevention and Control.

The Dutch Institute for Public Health and the Environment said that the five people in the Netherlands all recently visited Germany and four have serious kidney problems as well as stomach complaints.

It's "extraordinary" to see so many cases of the kidney complication from a foodborne illness, said Dr. Robert Tauxe, a foodborne disease expert at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "There has not been such an outbreak before that we know of in the history of public health."

He added that the strain of E. coli in the European outbreak has not been seen in the United States, where there have been several high-profile foodborne outbreaks in recent years, but none with such a high death toll.

There's little precedent in Europe, either. In 1996, an E. coli outbreak in the United Kingdom caused 216 cases and 11 deaths.

The World Health Organization said 86 percent of those sickened in the current outbreak were adults, and two-thirds were women. It said it was unusual that more children weren't affected.

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

Reese Witherspoon to receive MTV Generation Award

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 05:48 AM PDT

LOS ANGELES (AP) - MTV says Reese Witherspoon will receive its Generation Award at Sunday's MTV Movie Awards.

The 35-year-old Oscar winner is being recognized for her versatility as an actress and for delighting the MTV audience throughout her career.

"Saturday Night Live" star Jason Sudeikis will host Sunday's ceremony, where Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Steve Carell, Shia LaBeouf, Patrick Dempsey, Cameron Diaz, Selena Gomez and Nicki Minaj are among those set to present the prizes.

Fans voted online for the winners in categories such as best kiss, best villain and best line from a movie. MTV chose Witherspoon, who joins previous Generation Award winners Sandra Bullock, Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, Mike Myers, Tom Cruise and Jim Carrey.

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Tigress returns

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 02:42 AM PDT

American actress Angelina Jolie relished the chance to once again play Tigress in Kung Fu Panda 2, insisting that the world is in need of more than just one hero.

OSCAR-winning actress Angelina Jolie was more than happy to return to the role of Tigress, the accomplished, though sometimes stoic, kung fu master, in Kung Fu Panda 2. She was even more thrilled to learn that her character would be given the opportunity to peel back more layers and show a little more depth in this movie.

"My character, as we see from the first one, was raised in an orphanage and then she was adopted by Shifu. And in this one, Po – who's her friend, kind of, she's got a bit of an attitude with him – discovers that he's adopted and it's about a search for self," Jolie stated at a press conference held at the DreamWorks Animation studio in Glendale, California last month.

"I think that is such a big theme in who we are and who we decide to be in life, you know, and not be defined by our parents, our past, the way we look, where we're from, anything about that and we just make the choice. So, I love the themes of it and I love that in it, she was able to reluctantly become a little softer. And hug the panda," she said.

Her own emotional scene, however, was not her pick for favourite scene for the sequel.

"My favourite scene is between them (indicating with her hands Jack Black and Gary Oldman, who were present at the same press conference). Also I love that scene when Po comes back and he's ready and he's so aggressive and he's ready to fight and he's yelling and yelling and yelling but he's miles away ... It's hysterical. It's a great film moment," the actress, who was dressed in an all-white ensemble, revealed.

Jolie, 36, was quick to dispel any fears that this animation somehow glorified violence.

"We all back the message of the movie," she clarified, insisting that while kung fu and tai chi contained its own dangers, the peaceful aspect and kindness within those disciplines shouldn't be overlooked.

"We all support that anything that is against that, is not a good thing, clearly."

Interestingly, Jolie didn't find it too hard to come up with the voice for Tigress because she understood where the character was coming from.

"She's certainly a character that shows a lot of emotional restraint and she's not kind of relaxed, she's the opposite of Po," explained Jolie.

"She is somebody that is very good physically but uncomfortable emotionally and so, part of her voice and part of her personality is closed in that way and, you can imagine, she doesn't let herself cry, she doesn't let herself be hurt, she doesn't talk about how she feels. She is quite hardcore. So, it was an interesting voice to play with."

Her kids are very fond of their mother's character as well as Po, the bumbling, lovable Panda (voiced by Jack Black). But she rapidly discovered that Lord Shen, the peacock (voiced by Gary Oldman), is a little cooler than Tigress in their eyes at the moment. She's not worried though because she's confident that she will be the cooler animal once again soon.

Indeed, Jolie's kids played test audience to the movie when it was completed and their verdict was overwhelmingly positive.

"My children have seen it and they loved it and they laughed out loud," she said.

What's more, her children have been exposed to a wide variety of animation, not just the kind that comes out of Hollywood.

She told the press, "We watch animation from all around the world. They're very into the Miyazaki movies, they're very into the French animation and they love all the DreamWorks movies."

She believes that animation can be more than just purely entertainment. It can be educational and some could even be considered art.

"At its best, it can be entertaining and it can be fun ... and it can be beautiful, too," she said. "Some are better than others; some are just a good laugh. But when it's great, it's really great film making and I think some of the better films made today are actually done in animation."

During the same press conference, she admitted that she hasn't quite found inner peace yet, but she does find moments of peace when she's around her six children.

"When you have children, you wake up every morning and if they're happy and they're healthy, then you have peace, because you know that that's all you should be worried about," she confided. "From there, you work on all these other things that bother you and you try to fix injustices and the bigger issues in the world. But you kind of start from one simple thing to be grateful for."

When posed with the question of the type of hero the world needed today, she replied that she doesn't think one hero will suffice.

"I think we need to find a collective, we need to all come together more and we have to find these central themes between our countries, between our religions and try to individually, one person at a time, just start working together better," the American actress recommended.

As for who her favourite movie hero is other than Po, she was stumped. But when Lawrence of Arabia was suggested, she considered it thoughtfully.

"I did have a thing for Lawrence of Arabia, but I don't know if that was because he was a hero or if that was something else – the female thing," she said with a slightly shy smile. "It was a bit of Peter O'Toole."

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Lights. Camera. Action.

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 02:38 AM PDT

The much anticipated Movie Carnival 2011 began today and will run until the 19th of June. This year round, the sixth annual carnival is held at IPC Shopping Center in Bandar Utama.

Organized by Cinema Online and MyPartners Communications, the carnival promises a line-up of the biggest blockbuster movies, exciting games and activities for not only movie lovers but it is also held in conjunction with the June school holidays.

There to help launch the event were the cast of the up-coming movie, The Hunter, South East Asia's first 3D movie boasting a cast from Taiwan, China and Malaysia. The Cantonese-language movie, scheduled for a 2012 release, tells of a film crew from China visiting the island of Borneo to shoot the flora and fauna, only to be caught up in a more terrifying plot.

Directed by Bjarne Wong, The Hunter, stars Cindy Chen, Lou Qi, Tavani Hu, Carmen Soo, Wincci Soo, Cindy Chen, Koe Yeet, Smyth Wong, Isaac Wong and Sharifah Amani and is set in China, Hong Kong and Sarawak.

Make your way to IPC and you might just bump into the stars of The Hunter, KL Gangster, Tolong! Awek Aku Pontianak, Start Good End Good and Karipap Karipap Cinta. Visitors will also get a chance to test their acting skills and experience life in front of the camera, or even get signed up for an upcoming movie as directors Ahmad Idham, James Lee and Bjarne Wong look for future stars at the Production Casting Studio booth.

Kids too will be entertained by special appearances of The Smurfs, Po from Kung Fu Panda and Alvin & The Chipmunks among others. Be at the shopping center on 7th June as 500 Smurfs are set loose in celebration of the Global Smurf Day on 25 June.

Great movie prizes, including LCD TVs, 10,000 movie passes and movie merchandise, will also be up for grabs during the event's many activities such as the Movie Freak Q&A, the Popcorn Eating Challenges and the Kung Fu Panda Chopstick Challenge.

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

Selling today’s youth

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 02:43 AM PDT

EVER notice the sheer number of TV shows focused on young people these days? You're not the only one. It's hard not to be drawn into the fictional world of the young and the restless when it's just so darn entertaining.

But there's more to the current crop of shows than the pretty faces, journey of self-discovery and tales of love and angst.

For instance, Gossip Girl has characters that are always so gorgeously dressed, so much so that checking out what they are wearing is as much fun as tuning in for the latest drama. Glee, on the other hand, features a lovable cast of underdogs who express how they feel through music from a catalogue of songs, ranging from show tunes to Top 40 hits.

With that in mind, Galaxie magazine takes a look at the top teen-centric shows on TV now in the June 1-15 issue, and that list includes The Vampire Diaries, 90210, Pretty Little Liars and iCarly. The cover story also has interviews with Big Time Rush, Lea Michele and Victoria Justice, all talking about their shows Big Time Rush, Glee and Victorious, respectively.

The latest issue of Galaxie also sees Maroon 5 revelling in having their songs featured on Glee, Switchfoot finding it strange to fall under the rock gospel category of music and Johnny Depp revealing that Penelope Cruz taught him the raunchiest Spanish words.

And as usual, Galaxie rounds up the juiciest goss from the East and the West and gives you the low-down on the latest movie and music releases.

Galaxie, which is owned by Star Publications (M) Bhd, also has a presence online at galaxieblog.com.my, which is packed with celebrity news and views. For even more updates on the magazine, its blog and the entertainment world, follow Galaxie on Twitter (twitter.com/galaxiemag) and visit its Facebook page (www.facebook.com/GalaxieMagazine). Evelyn Teo

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Want a nine-volume encyclopaedia?

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 02:39 AM PDT

If you're looking for an encyclopaedia for your child, then why not check out Grolier's My Disney Encyclopedia? It comes in nine volumes and covers a range of topics – The Earth, Dinosaurs, Plants, Mammals Of The South, Mammals Of The North, Animals And People, Birds, In The Sea and The Human Body.

Suitable for children from seven years old onwards, this set of encyclopaedia volumes begins with the question-and-answer format before moving on to Do You Get it?, pop quizzes and a glossary.

Want to win one for free?

Grolier and ParenThots are teaming up to give you a chance to win all nine volumes of My Disney Encyclopedia worth RM550.

All you have to do is tell us your child's first curious question and how you felt about it – were you surprised, proud, amazed that your child came up with such a question?

Tell us about it by e-mailing parenthots@thestar.com.my.

The most unique and interesting personal account wins this all-new nine-volume set.

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Book reviews

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 02:39 AM PDT

Wednesday June 1, 2011

Book reviews

Parenting Apart is a helpful resource for parents going through a divorce. It highlights how to look out for your children's best interests with practical and handy tips for all stages of the breakup.

Geek Dad is a great book to get ideas for geeky projects and activities for dads, mums and kids.

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Sodomy II: Anwar again seeks to disqualify judge

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 05:51 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim will be filing an application Thursday for High Court judge Justice Mohd Zabidin Mohd Diah to recuse himself from hearing the Opposition leader's ongoing sodomy trial, after claiming that the judge had "pre-judged his case".

When contacted Wednesday, Anwar's lawyer Sankara Nair said Anwar would be filing the application at the court complex here at 10am.

"The judge had pre-judged the case at the prosecution's case.

"He was biased and went beyond prima facie stage, which is not in accordance with the law," Sankara said.

He added there was a delay in filing the motion as the defence team had only received the certified true copy of the judge's written judgment on Tuesday.

This is the third time Anwar is applying to disqualify the judge in his trial.

Sankara also said that until Wednesday, the defence team had only been supplied five witnesses for interview by the police and prosecution, when they had requested for 25 names since May 16.

"Important witnesses like Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib (Tun Razak), (his wife) Datin Seri Rosmah (Mansor) and (former Inspector-General of Police) Tan Sri Musa Hassan have not yet been supplied to us to be interviewed.

"The police say they have not managed to arrange it yet," he said.

On Aug 7, 2008, Anwar claimed trial to performing carnal intercourse against the order of nature on Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan at a condominium unit in Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur, between 3.01pm and 4.30pm on June 26, 2008.

He is charged under Section 377B of the Penal Code and faces up to 20 years jail and whipping.

On May 16, Anwar was ordered by the High Court to enter his defence, which has been scheduled to begin from June 6.

Related Stories:
PKR chief claims judge had pre-judged case
Sodomy II: Anwar ordered to enter defence from June 6-30

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Nazri: A-G to sue non-returning PSD scholars who fail to pay up

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 05:18 AM PDT

Published: Wednesday June 1, 2011 MYT 2:37:00 PM
Updated: Wednesday June 1, 2011 MYT 8:18:00 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: The Attorney-General will take action and sue non-returning Public Service Department (PSD) scholars who fail to repay the cost of their scholarships, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said.

"Many of these are medical students, particularly those trained in Ireland and the United Kingdom, where the cost per student is around RM1mil.

"While the Attorney-General has been directed to sue for repayment, what we really want them to do is come back and serve the country," he said.

Nazri was speaking reporters at Parliament here Wednesday, after announcing that 86 students who had failed to obtain PSD overseas scholarships would instead be given scholarships to pursue the degrees of their choice at local private higher education institutions.

Nazri added that he was not sure how many non-returning PSD scholars had failed to pay up, and said he wuld provide more details next week.

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PM: Bakun the pillar of SCORE

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 04:52 AM PDT

PUTRAJAYA: The Bakun hydroelectric project will serve as the pillar of the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE), said Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

The Prime Minister said SCORE needed a sustainable and guaranteed supply of electricity that would cost lower than other power sources.

"I am happy to note that the tariff rate of 6.25 sen per kilowatt hour, with an annual increase of 1.5%, is reasonable and competitive enough to attract investors into Malaysia, especially, to SCORE," Najib said.

He was speaking at the signing ceremony of the power purchasing agreement between Sarawak Hidro Sdn Bhd and Sesco Bhd here Wednesday.

Also present was Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud.

Najib said with an installed capacity of up to 2,400MW, the Bakun project was the biggest contributor in charting the success of SCORE.

"This project is also the catalyst for rural development. It exploits power resources from central Sarawak that will prompt industrial development in the state.

He added that the project was 98% completed as of April and would generate its first 300MW of electricity in August.

"I am sure all quarters involved in the successful completion of the Bakun project and SCORE, especially the Sarawak government, will seize the opportunity to not only draw foreign investments into Malaysia but also support the objective of the New Economic Model to turn the country into a high-income economy by 2020," he said.

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Metro Watch

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 04:56 AM PDT


SYARIKAT Prasarana Negara Bhd is seeking feedback from the public over the revised proposed alignment of the Ampang Line LRT extension project. The public display is now being held at the Land Public Transport Commission, 13th Floor, Menara Dayabumi, Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin, Kuala Lumpur and at the Subang Jaya Municipal Council building in Persiaran Perpaduan USJ5, Subang Jaya. The display hours are from 9am to 5pm (Monday to Friday). It will be closed on weekends and public holidays. For all feedback and enquiries, call the Project Call Centre at 03- 2267 9898, 8.30am to 5.30pm (Mondays-Fridays) or e-mail feedback@lrtextension.com.


THE SHAH Alam City Council is inviting those living in Shah Alam to its monthly Meet the Customers session on Friday at the MBSA Gallery at Wisma MBSA from 9am to 11.30am. They will be able to meet heads of departments as well as Shah Alam mayor Datuk Mohd Jaafar Mohd Atan. Call 03-5522 2734/2743/2741.


The Ti-Ratana Penchala Community Centre is hosting a dhamma talk by Ajahn Jumnien Silsetso who is the abbot and founder of Wat Tum Sua in Krabi, Thailand, on Saturday and Sunday. The talk will be presented in both Thai and English language at its shrine hall at 8pm. Call Honey Khoo/Irene at 03-7784 9002


The Buddhist Gem Fellowship is organising an origami class on June 11 from 1pm to 2.30pm at its centre at 60A, Jalan 19/3, 46300 Petaling Jaya. Call Dolly 019-356 8879


Hospice Klang is organising a charity treasure hunt on June 12. The hunt will take place around the Klang district starting at 8am. Visit www.hospiceklang.org/FundRaise01.html or call Hong at 03-3324 4740.


Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman is offering classes in English, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, French, Spanish, German, Malay and Thai at its Centre for Extension Education PJ campus. Registration for June intake is now open. Call Eileen/Fui Mee at 03-7957 2818 / 016-223 3563 or e-mail cee@utar.edu.my


There will be a blood donation drive at the Pusat Perubatan Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia today from 9.30am to 4pm and at the KL International Airport's MAS Cargo Zone B area from 10am to 4pm. Visit www.pdn.gov.my or call 03-2695 5557/8 for details.


The Youthnity Festival 2011 kicks off today from 10am with a drawing contest and performances by indie bands at the Taman Tasik Titiwangsa in Kuala Lumpur. Local celebrities such as Bunkface and Karen Tan will take the stage after the official launch at 8pm by Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing Minister Datuk Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin.

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Selangor juniors Eugene, Mhaithelly win Under-13 titles at CIMB bash

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 04:56 AM PDT

SELANGOR juniors Eugene Heng and S. Mhaithelly put up a determined display to win the boys and girls Under-13 titles in the third leg of the CIMB Junior squash circuit at the PJ Astaka recently.

Eugene, a member of the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) junior development programme, easily defeated Kedah's P. Mivesh Kumar 11-5, 6-11,11-3,11-6 in the boys' final.

In contrast, Mhaithelly did not have it easy and had to battle long hours before over-powering Jean Wong 8-11, 17-15,12-10,11-4 to clinch the girls' title.

The Squash Rackets Association of Selangor (SRAS) secretary Mary Ong, who is also the co-ordinator of the MBPJ junior squash development programme, said they were pleased with their trainees' results in the circuit.

"Besides Eugene and Mhaithelly, we also had five players on podium and it is certainly inspiring. We hope to see them progress in the next leg which will be the grand finals,'' said Mary.

The five players were K. Saachin Kumar, Justin Ho, N. Shasmita, A. Vanmathi and Michelle Preeti.

Saachin made it to the final in the boys' Under-9 but lost to Sarawak's Prasad Ruhern in the final. Prasad won 11-9, 9-11, 13-11,11-9. Justin finished fourth after losing to Sarawak's Tommy Lau in the play-off.

Shasmita, Vanmathi and Michelle were fourth in their respective age groups.

Squash Rackets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) vice president Steven Kwan said the circuit would culminate with the grand finals.

"Points have been awarded to the players, according to their positions in each leg, and top 32 in each age group will qualify for the grand finals,'' said Steven.

The CIMB Foundation will sponsor the winners and runners-up in each age group for the Hong Kong Junior Open championships.



Final: Prasad Ruhern (Swk) bt K. Saachin Kumar (Sel) 11-9, 9-11, 13-11,11-9.

Third: Tommy Lau (Swk) bt Justin Ho (Sel) 11-8, 11-2, 11-4.


Final: Adam Agan Aziz (Mal) bt Siew Yee Xian (Mal) 11-8, 11-13, 11-4, 7-11, 11-7.

Third: Ahamd Sufyan Ramlee (FT) bt Mohd Harris Ramlee (FT) 11-8, 11-5, 11-8


Final: Eugene Heng (Sel) bt P. Mivesh Kumar (Ked) 11-5, 6-11, 11-3, 11-6.

Third:Jesse Foo Kok Sheang (Kel) bt P. Sudesh Kannah (Pah) 11-4, 9-11,11-7,11-9.



Final: Jessica Keng Jia Hui (Sab) bt Lim Ching You (Ked) 11-7, 11-1, 13-15, 12-10.

Third: C. Sukrithi (Per) bt N. Shasmita (Sel) 10-12, 11-4, 11-4, 11-1.


Final: Aifa Azman (Ked) bt Chan Yiwen (Ked) 11-6, 11-6, 13-11

Third: Noor Ainaa Amani (FT) bt A. Vanmathi (Sel) 11-7, 11-8, 11-9.


Final: S. Mhaithelly (Sel) bt Jean Wong (Sar) 8-11, 17-15,12-10,11-4.

Third: Nur Aliah (Pen) bt Michelle Preeti (Sel) 11-4, 11-3, 8-11, 11-5.

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

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Portrait of self destruction

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 02:13 AM PDT

The immune system protects the body from the ravages of infections and diseases. What happens when it attacks the body instead?

ACCORDING to the divine architect's blueprint, our body is a perfect home, constructed in miraculous detail. The building blocks, like bricks of varying sizes and shapes, are intricately cemented. The plumbing system works efficiently, and power is delivered to the heart of the house.

For protection, there is a system of surveillance, with barking sentries which bite, and trained and armed security and back-up units to neutralise any intruding threat.

However, in reality, there is no guarantee of perfection. We all know that our roof leaks at times, but that may be repaired. What is extremely worrisome is when the very policing force that is supposed to protect this house turns on the owner and wreaks untold misery, leading to self destruction! This is the bizarre state of autoimmunity, or the immune system attacking one's very own body.

We are endowed with a brilliant immune system that confers protection from external threats such as invading viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi, toxins, chemicals, etc.

Without turning this discussion into an immunological thesis, perhaps we should have a cursory introduction to the actors on the stage.

Macrophages are the first line of defence, like the four-legged canine. These white cells gobble up invaders and debris of collateral damage. When things get out of control, the handlers (known as T-helper cells) come to the rescue, cleaning up the mess and assessing the situation.

If heavy artillery is required, they pass the buck to the B-lymphocytes (located in the lymphatic system), which conjure specific ammunition and fire salvoes of antibodies targeted at the offending agent.

In this ongoing war, friendly fire does incur casualties (due to resultant inflammation). The body suffers with aches and pains, and boils with fever. When the threat is over, order is restored by the riot police (T-suppressor cells), which quell the fires of battle (inflammation), and life goes on peacefully again, until the next threat.

Another in-house surveillance unit is the NK (natural killer) cells that patrol the internal building for abnormal and potentially malignant cells, neutralising them before they rear their ugly heads. This is, in essence, a form of auto-immunity that keeps us safe from the scourge of cancer.

It is often taken for granted that with all these elements in place, we are in safe haven. Unfortunately, errors and mishaps do occur.

Multiple sclerosis

PL is a 32-year-old dedicated father of two beautiful children, with great dreams for his young family. After completing his tertiary education, he entered the corporate world as a highly creative graphic designer.

At age 24, the light that illuminated his world began to dim as he developed vision distortion. In the beginning, he had trouble focusing on images, followed by double vision, before finally receding into the dark shadows of intermittent blindness, caused by inflammation of the nerve for sight (optic neuritis).

Gradually, he began to experience numbness of limbs, weakness, and fatigue. He was finally diagnosed as having multiple sclerosis four years after the onset of the first symptoms.

Nerves are like a wire conducting current from one point of the body to another. The outer casing is known as a myelin sheath, and promotes transmission of nerve signals. For some peculiar reason, the body's own immune system attacks the myelin, causing inflammation and interruption of smooth conduction, leading to bizarre neurological symptoms (as experienced by PL).

His thoughts became a little cloudy and the upheaval of emotions drained him, physically and mentally, until he finally succumbed into bouts of severe depression.

Today, he still has intermittent relapses, but this is controlled by medication, and by adopting a positive, healthy lifestyle. Instead of giving in to the challenges, PL has spearheaded the Multiple Sclerosis Support Group For The Northern Region, to counsel and assist similar sufferers with this predicament. (For further information, contact Peter Lim +6014-845 522.)

In some other less fortunate patients wth multiple sclerosis, there may be paralysis, imbalance, sexual difficulties, and bladder and bowel incontinence.

Sytemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)

Somewhere out there is a precious seven-year-old girl who is battling a peculiar form of auto-immune disease called SLE, or lupus for short. Her bright sunny days turned gloomy suddenly, when nebulous clouds of self destruction loomed over her. It all started a week before, with a sore throat. Within a short time, the kidneys and the heart were involved, causing her to pass out blood in the urine, and the heart swelled up.

Doctors scrambled to save her. Tubes and needles were repeatedly inserted into her frail body to deliver the intravenous drugs she needed. She summoned all her strength to face the repeated blood extraction daily. With intensive medical care, family support, faith, and the will of a gutsy little girl, she is now recuperating.

I take this opportunity to wish her and her loving family well.

SLE can affect any age and can be missed in childhood as it is considered to be "not common" in this age group. According to textbook descriptions, the typical appearance of lupus is usually in the female gender within child-bearing age. Characteristic features like facial (butterfly) rash, joint swelling, recurrent mouth ulcers, loss of hair, fever, and fatigue are some common signs and symptoms.

SLE can also extensively affect major organs with inflammation and destruction. The heart, brain, and kidneys are often targeted, with resultant heart failure, mental disturbances, and progressive renal impairment.

The cause of SLE is not known in full, but we do suspect a combination of genetics and environmental triggers – infections, toxins, drugs and even (postulated) cosmetics. Data is inconclusive, but there are rumblings on prolonged lipstick use and hair dyes.

Gullain-Barre Syndrome

There are a few occasions in which I felt like hanging up the stethoscope for good, and this one particular experience almost made me throw in the towel.

On Day One, a young executive complained of mild sniffles, followed by a slight cough. It was just a common cold. He was given run-of-the-mill prescriptions for symptomatic relief. On Day Five, he complained of a sore throat, and apart from the new discomfort, was not much worse than the previous days.

Disaster struck on Day Six. In the morning, he felt numb in the face, and by evening, was in a semi-comatose state, with generalised paralysis to the extent that he need artificial ventilation in intensive care.

This is a situation of mistaken identity. After a mild illness, the immune system is triggered to ward off the infective agent, but instead of doing that, it turns on the host, attacking the nervous system in this particular instance. It took a couple of weeks before he gradually regained consciousness. Although he is slowly recovering, the trauma he suffered will scar him for life.

Auto-immunity is not such a rarity, and many diseases considered as separate entities in the past are in actual fact some form of "body attacking itself". There are about 80 diseases linked to underlying auto-immunity.

Auto-immune diseases are not contagious, but may have a tendency to run in families. It may affect specific target organs (like multiple sclerosis), or can attack multiple organs (like SLE). As in most chronic diseases, genetic factors set up the stage, and environmental triggers pull down the curtain.

Type 1 diabetes, thyroid diseases (Grave's and Hashimoto) are examples where hormone-producing organs are attacked.

Psoriasis, a troublesome eruption of red, scaly, and unsightly lesions on the skin, can cause embarrassing disfigurement. Vitiligo is patchy depigmentation of the skin. Many intestinal ailments such as Crohn's, ulcerative colitis, coeliac disease, etc, do have an auto immune component.

The bad news is that there is no cure, as hitherto, no drugs or alternative methods can instruct the body to cease to self-destruct. The goals of treatment are to reduce symptoms, and suppress the immune response. In recent years, the trend has been moving in the direction of immune modulation.

Our immune system is put in place for an immensely important function – to protect us. Something came in between and threw a switch that unsynchronised the defence system. It only makes common sense to safeguard our immunity, which like any system, can go haywire and cause massive problems.

Regular exercise, a healthy lifestyle, balanced diet, and optimal cellular nutrition are the foundation that our immune system is built on. The demands on our immune system is ever increasing, and if we do not support it with the right balance, the chances of rebellion increases.

Dr C.S. Foo is a medical practitioner. For further information, e-mail starhealth@thestar.com.my. The views expressed are those of the writer and readers are advised to always consult expert advice before undertaking any changes to their lifestyles. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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Value your life

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 02:13 AM PDT

On World No Tobacco Day yesterday, the clarion call to reject the use of tobacco rings loud and clear.

ACCORDING to World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics, smoking kills more than five million people a year worldwide. This accounts for one in 10 adult deaths.

This annual death toll could rise to more than eight million by 2030 unless urgent efforts are made to control the situation.

Heart Foundation of Malaysia director Datuk Dr Khoo Kah Lin has urged all Malaysians to take a stand on the issue, describing tobacco use as "a scourge on humanity".

"There are currently three million Malaysian smokers consuming an average of 14 cigarettes a day. Approximately 93% of this number are adults, while the rest are children below 18 years old.

"The number of smokers keep on increasing, even though smokers know full well that smoking causes various diseases, and can swiftly take their lives away."

Statistics continue to prove that smoking can be equated to activating a time-bomb, with a smoker's health ticking away.

"A single cigarette contains more than 4,000 poisons and about 70 carcinogenic substances, which would have a variety of toxic effects," Dr Khoo said. "These poisonous chemicals can be an irritant to the respiratory tract and lead to various diseases."

Below is an excerpt of an interview with Dr Khoo on the topic.

Why has the number of smokers increased despite the negative effects garnered from research?

There may be a number of reasons for this. One major factor is the stress and pressures of modern living, as cigarettes are perceived as a stress reliever. Many people find smoking relaxing and enjoyable.

Another reason can be attributed to social and psychological factors. Many smokers start smoking during their adolescent or early adulthood years due to peer pressure.

Some may smoke because they want to "rebel". With the many warning signs of the dangers of smoking advertised everywhere, some smokers have "rebelled" by ignoring the warnings and increasing their cigarette intake.

Some smokers have even convinced themselves that "if it makes you happy, then it can't be that bad; after all, we are all going to die one day."

What are the main diseases caused by smoking?

The most common diseases from smoking are respiratory diseases, because when you smoke, it goes through your whole respiratory system. The more common ones are bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, lung cancer and emphysema (a type of lung disease which makes it hard for a person to breathe).

It may also lead to cancer of the throat, bladder, kidneys, cervix, pancreas and stomach.

Statistically, lung cancer remains the main cause of death from smoking. A smoker may also develop cardiovascular diseases such as ischaemic heart disease, where there is a reduced supply of blood to the heart muscle, or suffer from a stroke. Heart disease is the second leading cause of death from smoking.

Quitting smoking is the most powerful intervention possible, and can reduce mortality by as much as 36%.

Smoking in women seems to be a trend in Malaysia. What caused this trend?

Social pressure and stress are the main motivations for smoking. I do not deny that women nowadays face more challenges. Playing the different roles of a wife, mother, daughter, housekeeper and a leader at the workplace can place some amount of stress on women.

However, some women take up this habit because of a misconception about female empowerment. For others, they view it as a fast route to losing weight.

Some may even smoke as a way of dealing with relationship problems, or emotions like loneliness or boredom.

Are women at a higher risk compared to men in terms of smoking health risks?

That is a clear yes. Women are at higher risk than men because of their genetic make-up and intolerance to drugs in general.

A woman's body cannot handle the same quantity of cigarettes smoked by a man. Women who smoke are also 12 times more likely to develop lung cancer than non-smokers, not to mention all the other smoking-related diseases that come with the habit.

In fact, women who smoke 40 or more cigarettes daily have a 74% greater chance of dying from breast cancer. The sad fact is that smoking takes a greater toll on women than it does men.

How serious are the consequences of exposure to second-hand smoking?

It has been scientifically proven that adults who inhale second-hand smoke face the same risks of developing lung and heart diseases and cancers, as smokers themselves.

The effects of second-hand smoke on children include various infections, low birth weight, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Side effects like chronic coughing, wheezing, and eye and nose irritation can occur in adults and children alike.

Not only that, third-hand smoke can be equally as harmful as second-hand smoke.

Is there such a thing as third-hand smoke?

Yes, there is. Third-hand smoke is essentially an invisible toxic brew of gases and particles that cling to a smoker's hair and clothing, not to mention furniture, walls and carpeting, which lingers on long after second-hand smoke has cleared the room.

This residual smoke includes heavy metals, carcinogens, etc, that young children can get on their hands and ingest, especially if they're crawling or playing on the floor.

Similar to second-hand smoke, the risks associated with third-hand smoke occur when particles from the residual smoke penetrate into the deepest parts of the lungs and contribute to asthma or other respiratory diseases, and more seriously, cancer.

If a person is a smoker, would quitting have any effect on his or her health?

There are definitely tremendous benefits if you quit smoking. You will first be adding more days to every year of your life.

Within 20 minutes of smoking your last cigarette, your body will start its internal healing process. You will also be greatly reducing your chances of developing or dying from diseases and cancers associated with smoking.

Seriously, think about quitting, as the benefits are many and there are a multitude of resources out there to help you in your effort to shed this habit.

What types of treatments are available for a smoker who wants to quit?

Currently, there are two types of treatment approaches: pharmacologic therapy and non-pharmacologic treatments.

Pharmacologic therapy, in simple terms, is the use of drugs to treat a certain condition. This treatment method is used to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms from smoking cessation and helps a smoker abstain from smoking.

Non-pharmacologic treatments include counselling, health education, hypnosis and acupuncture. Hypnosis can, in certain cases, be very successful in convincing a smoker to develop and strengthen the desire not to smoke. Acupuncture is useful to alleviate smoking jitters, irritability, cravings and restlessness.

If you stop smoking now, and remain so after 10 years, the risk of developing any smoking-associated diseases drops to one-third to one-half of the risk for smokers.

n Article courtesy of Heart Foundation of Malaysia.

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