Khamis, 2 Jun 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Chevron says four killed in UK refinery explosion

Posted: 02 Jun 2011 09:17 PM PDT

LONDON (Reuters) - Oil major Chevron said on Friday that four people were killed and one person was seriously injured in an explosion at its refinery in southwest Wales.

The blast occurred at the 220,000 barrel per day Pembroke refinery on Thursday. Chevron did not provide any details on the operational status of the refinery.

The Chevron corporate logo is displayed at a Washington D.C. gas station January 11, 2010. Oil major Chevron said on Friday that four people were killed and one person was seriously injured in an explosion at its refinery in southwest Wales. (REUTERS/Jason Reed/Files)

Police said a fire broke out after an explosion in a storage tank during maintenance. An adjacent storage tank was also damaged.

"We will take every step possible to determine the series of events that led to this tragic incident," Chevron said.

Chevron put the refinery up for sale last year to lower its exposure to the refining business.

U.S. refiner Valero Energy Corp agreed in March to buy the refinery and other assets in a $730 million deal expected to close in the third quarter.

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Japan ruling party resumes bickering over when PM will quit

Posted: 02 Jun 2011 07:45 PM PDT

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's fractious ruling party resumed its bickering on Friday after Prime Minister Naoto Kan hinted he wanted to keep his job into the new year, angering rivals who had voted down a no-confidence motion in return for a promise he'd quit.

Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan attends a news conference in Tokyo June 2, 2011. (REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

The squabbling will likely further hamper efforts by Kan, who took office a year ago as Japan's fifth premier in as many years, to tackle steps needed to rein in massive public debt while engineering growth in the fast-aging country.

Kan survived the no-confidence motion on Thursday after a last-minute offer to resign persuaded party critics not to defect and drive him from office even as the country struggles with the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years.

The manoeuvre appeared to buy Kan time to prepare an extra budget to pay for rebuilding from the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami that triggered the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima Daichi plant.

But bickering quickly resurfaced after Kan's comments at a late-night news conference suggested he wanted to stay on until damaged reactors at the crippled nuclear atomic plant achieved a stable "cold shutdown", a process expected to take at least until January and probably longer.

"If he cannot keep his promise, he is a fraud," Kyodo news agency quoted former prime minister Yukio Hatoyama, who brokered Thursday's last-minute pact with Kan, as telling reporters.

"If he doesn't keep his word, I will take decisive action."

Hatoyama told reporters on Thursday that Kan had agreed to quit after drafting the extra budget, a process he said could be finished this month.

The main opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has charged that Kan was incapable of dealing with the nuclear accident and of leading the effort to rebuild Japan's tsunami-devastated northeast, also weighed in.

"He has broken his promise. It is inappropriate for him to cling to power having expressed his intention to resign," Kyodo quoted LDP president Sadakazu Tanigaki as saying.

"We cannot cooperate with a lame-duck government."

Opposition parties, which control parliament's upper house and can block bills, have insisted that Kan step down before they will cooperate on implementing policies.

Kan's rivals in the DPJ, which swept to power in 2009 for the first time promising change, have been angered by his abrasive style and fear his low voter ratings would hurt them at the next general election, which must be held by 2013.

Many are also irked by Kan's shift toward fiscal reform and away from costly campaign promises to spend more on households.

(Editing by Nick Macfie)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Four killed in Chevron UK refinery fire - police

Posted: 02 Jun 2011 07:15 PM PDT

LONDON (Reuters) - Four people have been killed in an explosion and fire at Chevron's oil refinery in southwest Wales, police said Friday.

The fire broke out after an explosion in a 730 cubic metres storage tank during maintenance, and damage was also caused to an adjacent storage tank, police said.

Chevron said an "incident" had occurred at the 220,000 barrel per day Pembroke refinery at 6:20 p.m. (1720 GMT) on Thursday, and that the fire had been extinguished.

(Reporting by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Gary Hill)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Ryde all the way

Posted: 03 Jun 2011 03:21 AM PDT

CATCH the Red FM Red Ryders every Thursday to Sunday as they cruise around town in their sleek new ride and you might just walk away with some fantastic goodies. Tune in to find out the location as well as the timings of Red FM's Red Ryders stops on those days.

It's an entertaining time for all as the youthful and energetic street team takes to the ground with a host of games and giveaways. Join them and walk away with goodies such as movie tickets, CDs, samples of delicious beverages and snacks, beauty and skincare products, magazines and much more. Beyond the ground stops, where they conduct live crossovers back to the studio, the Red Ryders have taken to online activities to spread the fun. Snapped in a variety of poses with a Sony Cyber-shot digital camera, the shots of the crew are uploaded on Red FM's Facebook page and listeners are invited to provide captions for the picture of the day.

Different shots are featured from Thursday to Sunday and listeners can submit creative and funny captions to accompany the shots. The most creative caption and/or the one to attract the most "likes" will win a Sony Goodie Bag. The shots have so far attracted a range of captions, from quirky comments to downright hilarious anecdotes. The contest ends on June 19, 2011.

Besides going on a joyride with the Red Ryders, you are invited to hop on board next week for a ride of a different kind, but just as exciting with Arnold on his Red FM's Evening show (Monday to Friday, 7pm–10pm). Listen for the cue to call and be the first person to dial 03-4043 1049. Tell Arnold "I'm On Board" and you stand to win tickets to watch the car-race championship Japan Super GT Kuala Lumpur 2011.

For further details, visit and join the Red FM Facebook page ( You can also follow us on Twitter (@iloveredfm). Red FM is owned and operated by The Star.

Red FM frequencies: Taiping, Kedah, Perlis and Pulau Langkawi: 98.1FM; Georgetown & Seberang Perai: 107.6FM; Ipoh, Perak: 106.4FM; Klang Valley, Negeri Sembilan and Tapah: 104.9FM; Kuantan, Pahang: 91.6FM; Batu Pahat and Melaka: 98.9FM; Johor Bahru and Singapore: 92.8FM.

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It's been great, but Tom Welling's got to fly

Posted: 02 Jun 2011 03:03 AM PDT

LOS ANGELES (Los Angeles Times/MCT): Tom Welling has a new office on the Warner Bros. lot and there's an empty parking spot right out front -- it's marked "C. SHEEN" -- which reminds him how quickly things can change in television and how lucky he's been to be one of television's steadiest of stars with a decade logged on the now-ending Smallville.

"It can all go away and can go fast," said the 34-year-old, whose new digs still had unpacked boxes and bare walls when he sat down to talk about the final flight of Smallville, which aired its two-part series finale in the U.S. three weeks ago. "I feel so grateful. But I also know it's time to move on."

Welling leaves the show with mixed feelings and that's entirely appropriate for a man who spent 10 seasons as a Clark Kent who was perpetually denied the chance to be Superman -- the show, for the uninitiated, follows the odyssey of Superman's alter ego in his formative years and the title is the name of the little rural town where the future superhero grew up with his human adoptive family.

The New York native didn't want the role -- his headshot was plucked out of a stack by producer Alfred Gough, who asked why the handsome, towering actor wasn't among the hundreds of hopefuls that sought an audition in "a massive manhunt" to find the star in 2000.

The simple reason was that red-and-blue costume, the same one that brought success to actors such as Christopher Reeve and George Reeves in previous decades but came with a smothering career cost -- after they flew across the sky in the public imagination they were locked into the image. When Welling found out the new show had the motto of "no tights, no flights," he was far more intrigued.

"He brought an openness and warmth to the role," Gough said. "He's also incredibly good-looking and somehow is more good-looking in person, if that's possible."

During the fourth season of the show, Welling had learned so much on the set that he got a new ambition -- directing. He did just that in the fifth season and another one of his efforts was the Booster episode that aired with great fanfare.

Even before Welling was directing, he was "a leader" on the set, Gough said, and certainly he was qualified -- no other cast member appears in every episode and only two crew members have stayed on for the entire run.

Welling isn't certain about his next move. There was a fan movement to get him the lead role in the Superman film franchise that will begin next year with Henry Cavill in the tights (and a similar campaign for the 2006 movie Superman Returns that took flight with Brandon Routh) but Smallville has created such a wide, deep thicket of its own mythology that it seemed unlikely that a reboot of the hero would take him on if it were seeking a true fresh start.

Welling seems OK with that. The conventional view that a film franchise is better than TV in every way misses the emotional factor of persistence, he said; he came into the homes of fans again and again for a decade and that's a potent relationship. "Besides," he said, "I'm busy."

Last year, Welling pushed out into a new direction as the executive producer of Hellcats, a comedy-drama adaptation of the book Cheer: Inside the Secret World of College Cheerleaders. The show is slick and frothy at the same time and Welling is pleased with the show and the ensemble cast -- he says after being the man holding up a show, it's engaging to be part of "a team with a great spirit."

Smallville had plenty of bumps in its flight since its first episode in October 2001. The show went from the WB to CW in 2006 and the tone of the show changed through the years, with some of the visiting superheroes bringing a campy aura at times.

The show enjoyed a surge in credibility and ratings in recent years but it was running out of room -- how long could Kent go into manhood without donning the suit?

"Each time we got picked up we had to push that finish line further away and I think we had some low moments when we got too far-fetched," he said. "If you look at the series, the first five years were one show and the next five were a different show. We could have called it 'Metropolis' in a way ... there were a few times when heroes come in where we allowed ourselves to get lighter. But that's breaking things up. I don't think anyone goes out and tries to make mistakes."

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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Financial stocks gain in early trade

Posted: 02 Jun 2011 06:44 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Shares of CIMB and the Hong Leong group were up in early Friday trade as investors continue to bet on financial stocks in the midst of merger and acquisition activities.

The local bourse's benchmark index added a quarter-percent to 1,561.94 at 9.30am while Asian markets regained ground lost in recent days.

At Bursa Malaysia, advancers outpaced decliners 138 to 86 while 169 other counters were traded unchanged. There were 72.34 million shares traded with a total turnover of RM100.18 million.

CIMB gained 6 sen to RM8.38, Hong Leong Financial Group added 12 sen to RM12.18 and Hong Leong Bank was 6 sen higher at RM12.56.

Tradewinds, a counter related to media-shy billionaire Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Albukhary, rose 30 sen to RM9.10 while Malayan Flour, which recently announced a special dividend and rights issue, gained 15 sen to RM8.

Bursa was up 15 sen to RM7.77 and Esso was 11 sen higher at RM5.21.

Spot gold lost US$1.22 to US$1,532.43 per ounce while silver was unchanged at US$36.19.

Nymex crude oil in electronic trade gained 27 cents to US$100.67 per barrel.

The ringgit was quoted at 3.015 to the US dollar and 4.366 to the euro.

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Ford plans smallest engine ever

Posted: 02 Jun 2011 05:54 PM PDT

DEARBORN, Michigan: Ford Motor Co. plans to introduce its smallest engine ever by 2013, part of the race to improve fuel economy across the industry.

Ford said Thursday it's working on a one-liter, three-cylinder engine that will be available in small cars globally. Ford didn't say which cars will get the engine, but it plans to release more details this fall.

Currently Ford's smallest engine available in the U.S. is the 1.6-liter, four-cylinder used in the Ford Fiesta subcompact. That engine has 120 horsepower and gets up to 38 miles per gallon (16 kilometers per liter) on the highway.

Ford says the new three-cylinder engine would match that power but be more efficient. The engine has Ford's EcoBoost technology, which uses turbocharging, direct injection and variable camshaft timing to boost performance. It's also about 20 pounds (9 kilograms) lighter than the four-cylinder, which helps fuel economy.

"No one's ever built a three-cylinder engine quite like this," said Joe Bakaj, Ford's vice president of global powertrain engineering.

Three-cylinder engines are common in Europe and Asia, but the only one currently available in the U.S. is in the Smart Fortwo. The Fortwo has a 70-horsepower engine - the same as some snowmobiles - and gets 41 miles per gallon (17.5 kpl) on the highway.

EcoBoost technology is currently available on four Ford products - the F-150 pickup, the Ford Flex and Lincoln MKT crossovers and the Taurus SHO sedan. Ford is adding it to the lineup for the Edge crossover and the Explorer SUV this summer. The starting price of the Flex SEL with EcoBoost is $40,080, or nearly $8,000 more than a Flex SEL with the base engine. It costs $4,400 to add EcoBoost to an F-150 XL.

Still, the option has been popular with some customers looking for fuel economy. Forty-one percent of individual F-150 buyers chose the EcoBoost option in May, the company said. Ford said there are currently 180,000 vehicles in North America with EcoBoost, which was introduced in 2009. Ford aims to have 1.5 million on the road globally by 2013.

Ford product development chief Derrick Kuzak said the company is exploring whether it could use EcoBoost technology in hybrid vehicles for even more fuel savings.

Ford also said Thursday it's developing its first eight-speed transmission, which will get up to 6 percent better fuel economy than its six-speed. General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC have also said they are developing eight-speed transmissions, which are already available on luxury brands like Lexus and BMW. - AP

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Moody's warns US gov't on possible debt downgrade

Posted: 02 Jun 2011 05:52 PM PDT

WASHINGTON: A credit rating agency is warning the U.S. government that it could lose its sterling debt rating if Congress and the Obama administration don't reach an agreement to raise the nation's borrowing limit.

Moody's Investors Service said Thursday that if the parties fail to make progress soon, it would put the U.S. rating under review for a possible downgrade. That's because there's a "very small but rising risk" that the government will default on its debts.

Standard & Poor's, another major credit rating agency, issued a similar warning in April.

The U.S. government hit its $14.3 trillion borrowing limit on May 16. The debt limit is the amount the government can borrow to help finance its operations.

A lower credit rating could ripple through the U.S. economy and ultimately hurt consumers. That's because many loans, including mortgages, tend to follow yields on U.S. Treasury bonds. So interest rates could rise.

Moody's also warned the government could face a downgrade if it fails to come up with a long-term plan to reduce the country's deficit. The federal budget deficit is on pace to exceed $1 trillion for the third straight year.

Moody's said it had expected strong political debate over the topic. But the entrenchment of both sides is greater than it anticipated.

President Barack Obama and Republicans both have said the country needs to reduce its annual deficits. But they are at odds over how to do it. Republicans insist cutting spending without tax increases. Democrats say any plan should include both.

Obama met privately with both parties this week to discuss the issue but no progress has been made.

Time is growing short. The Treasury Department has said the U.S. government is at risk of a default if it does not raise the borrowing limit by Aug. 2.

"The heightened polarization over the debt limit has increased the odds of a short-lived default" by the government, the rating agency said. "If this situation remains unchanged in coming weeks, Moody's will place the rating under review."

In April, Standard & Poor's for the first time lowered its long-term outlook for the government's fiscal health from "stable" to "negative." And it warned that it could strip the government of its top credit rating over the next two years if lawmakers failed to reach a deal to control the massive federal deficit. - AP

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The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Negri Sembilan Masters will be the most lucrative event on Asian Tour

Posted: 02 Jun 2011 06:13 PM PDT

SEREMBAN: The Negri Sembilan Masters Invitational, a marquee tournament on the Malaysian golf calendar, has made an exciting transition to the Asean PGA Tour while retaining its total purse of RM500,000 (US$165,000).

This year's tournament will be played at the Seremban International Golf Club (SIGC) from July 7-10 and will be the most lucrative tournament on the Tour.

The tournament will be the fourth leg of the circuit that has nine events this season, offering record overall prize money of US$685,000.

Tournament director and captain of SIGC Datuk Mohd Yaacob Kassim said that they were very proud that the Negri Masters had firmly established itself in the region as an event that all the top professionals want to play in.

"To further cement its position, we feel it appropriate that it became part of a strong recognized regional circuit that is professionally run to the highest standards," he said.

Inaugurated in 2005, the Negri Masters boasts an impressive list of past champions. The most recent being S. Sivachandran, who triumphed last year to become the first Malaysian winner of the event.

Other past champions are Japan's T. Wasa (2005), Singaporeans M. Murugiah (2006) and Lam Chih Bing (2009), Filipinos Juvic Pagunsan (2007) and Benjie Magada (2008).

The executive chairman of Asean PGA, A.C. Wong, said the region's top players were certain to turn out in force.

"As part of the Asean PGA Tour, the championship will be guaranteed of the strongest line-up as the top 60 players on the Tour's Order of Merit will be teeing up next month," he said.

Among them, he said, would be Juvic, who won the Asean PGA Order of Merit last season, Thailand's Thaworn Wiratchant and Filipino Artemio Murakami.

The Malaysians expected to compete include Danny Chia, Nicholas Fung, who finished second on the Order of Merit, and defending champion Sivachandran.

The Asean PGA Tour began earlier this month with Prom Meesawat of Thailand emerging as the winner in the Singha Pattaya Open.

The next stop is the ICTSI Mt. Malarayat championship in the Philippines from June 8-11.

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Bad boy comes good

Posted: 02 Jun 2011 06:12 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: It's hard to believe that Azizul Hasni Awang was once expelled from the Bukit Jalil Sports School in the very early days of his track cycling career because of disciplinary problems.

But, thankfully, the 23-year-old Dungun born-cyclist is now back on track.

It's not so much that early marriage has made him a better person. It's the fact that he was starting to beat guys bigger and more experienced than him on the track that has made him determined not to go back to his old wayward ways.

And Azizul, who was feted as a hero by many after making his way to the finish line with a nine-inch splinter sticking through his calf at the final leg of the World Cup in Manchester in March, will be taking on a new role later this year.

* Full report in The Star today

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Donald defends his top spot for first time at Memorial

Posted: 02 Jun 2011 06:12 PM PDT

DUBLIN (Ohio): World number one Luke Donald (pic) of England plays for the first time since taking over the top spot in the rankings in this week's Memorial, a US$6.2mil US PGA event hosted by Jack Nicklaus.

Donald, compatriot Lee Westwood and Ger­many's Martin Kaymer have all been atop the rankings in the past three weeks, setting the stage for a shootout in the final major tune-up event for the US Open in two weeks outside Washington.

With former world number one Tiger Woods now fallen to 13th in the rankings and in the 19th month of a win drought since the scandal of his sex life was exposed, the top spot has again become an achievement within reach for many.

"As a kid you dream about winning majors and winning tournaments, but for me, I always kept an eye out on the world rankings and had an interest in it," Donald said on Wednesday.

"I suppose for the bulk of my career Tiger was so far ahead that it never really crept into my mind. But in the last year or so, there has been more of an upheaval in the rankings. There has been a lot more movement, so I knew the opportunity was there."

Donald said he feels like he is the top player in the world as he makes final preparations for the US Open and what he hopes would be his first major title.

"The way the world rankings are, consistency is very highly weighted," said Donald. "If you can keep playing well week in and week out, keep earning those points, then you're going to climb in the world rankings and I don't think there's anybody been more consistent in the last nine months than me."

Donald sees the top ranking and a major title as somewhat different feats.

"Being ranked number one is self-satisfactory in terms of you feel good about what you've done," he said.

"Winning a major makes you seem more accepted as a great player from your peers."

Donald, who played alongside Nicklaus in the 18-time major champion's last major round in 2005 at St Andrews, earned the praise of this week's host as well.

"Luke's game has come a long way," Nicklaus said. "There isn't anybody who spends more time working on his golf game than I've seen in Luke Donald. He spends his time chipping and putting, chipping and putting. He wears out the practice greens.

"And I think that the effort he has put into it has been rewarded."

Donald took top spot by winning a playoff over Westwood last Sunday at the European Tour's PGA Championship at Wentworth, making him only the 15th player to become world number one in a quarter-century of rankings.

He will play the first two rounds at Muirfield Village in quest of the US$1.1mil top prize alongside the past two US Masters winners, US star Phil Mickelson and reigning champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa.

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy and Players Championship winner K.J. Choi of South Korea are among those in a world-class field that lacks Woods, who is recovering from left knee and Achilles tendon injuries. — AFP

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

Many degrees of Kevin Bacon

Posted: 02 Jun 2011 02:23 AM PDT

LOS ANGELES (Los Angeles Times/MCT): A couple of years ago, Kevin Bacon needed a few degrees of separation from his fame. He daydreamed of a crowded place where people didn't tug at his sleeve to gush about Footloose or quote Diner. Finally, he went to a Hollywood makeup specialist and invested in a custom-made disguise that was weirdly simple but completely effective.

He paid the US$500 and then, with an anxious glee, he took his new rubber face to the Grove shopping center in Los Angeles to experience an afternoon without autographs. "You wouldn't have recognized me if I was standing next to you," Bacon said with a faraway expression.

"It was really bizarre and I didn't really like it. I didn't like it at all. People cut in front of you and when you're at a check-out counter it's just ... different. People weren't all that nice to me. I'm just not used to it."

Sitting in a quiet corner of a Brentwood restaurant on the west side of L.A., the actor shook his head, perhaps surprised at his own candor and then laughed at himself. "I can't imagine life without it," he added, referring to fame.

The 52-year-old will be upping his recognition quotient with younger moviegoers Friday with the release of X-Men: First Class, the fifth installment in a Fox franchise that already has racked up US$1.5 billion in worldwide box office with its tales of mutant melodrama from Marvel Comics.

The film, set in the 1960s, is the story of three men, really, each with a genetic gift that invests them with so much power that they can change the course of history. One of them is Sebastian Shaw, played by Bacon, who is a world-class tycoon and a mutant able to absorb and then use any sort of unleashed energy (an exploding grenade or even a nuclear meltdown).

The other two men are familiar to fans of the franchise: there's the metal-controlling Magneto, played by Michael Fassbender, and the master telepath Professor X, portrayed by James McAvoy, who find themselves in a conflicted bromance as they team to stop Shaw's megalomaniacal plans.

McAvoy said the presence of Bacon on the set added a crackle to the production. "I don't use this term but it just seems right -- Kevin Bacon is just a cool cat. For me, as a moviegoer, if you tell me Kevin Bacon is playing a villain in a summer superhero movie, I'm there man. I'd be excited, too, to see a film that is bold enough to go with that unexpected choice."

For an actor with credits such as Mystic River, Apollo 13, The Woodsman, Frost/Nixon and A Few Good Men, stepping into a superhero film wasn't going to happen unless there was a compelling reason. He cited the presence of producer Bryan Singer and director Matthew Vaughn and the chance to play a dark character who wants the world to burn but rarely raises his voice as his reasons for joining the mutant franchise.

"I haven't been this guy before," said Bacon, who studied years of comic books after taking on the role. "He's a little bit Ted Turner, a little bit Hugh Hefner, a little bit Donald Trump. That's how I see him. I wasn't interested in him as scary evil. It was more about control. His power is a metaphor for who he is; he can be different things to different people and he also takes whatever energy you have and throws it back at you."

Shaw's background, as Bacon knows it, is a cruel soul who grew up in dead-end Pittsburgh but viewed the world as a chessboard and was able to amass his first billion by age 40. "I don't play him with a Pennsylvania accent, though," said the Philadelphia native who lives in New York. He's been renting recently in Santa Monica while his wife of 23 years, Kyra Sedgwick, has been here working on her TNT television series, The Closer.

Bacon is developing an HBO series now (he's reticent about the details) after years of ignoring television prospects because of the intense workload, the odds of failure and the locked-in issues that come with success. Frustrated by the lack of challenging adult drama projects in features -- and pleased, no doubt, by the Golden Globe trophy he picked up as the star of the 2009 HBO film Taking Chance -- he agreed to consider the small screen.

"The first two weeks I got three of the best scripts I had read in a long time -- amazing writing, amazing ideas, edgier work, more developed characters, worlds I hadn't seen," Bacon said. "I had a mind-blowing experience because I resisted and resisted it for so long. But TV is something different than film. When Kyra first had me read a script for The Closer, we still had kids in junior high and high school and we were living in New York. I said, 'Go out to L.A., you'll shoot the pilot and even if it gets picked up, how many of these shows actually work?' Seven years later ..."

Bacon rattled the ice in a near-empty glass of lemonade and explained how he was trying to find ways to change the rhythms of his career. He appeared in James Gunn's scrappy, subversive little movie called Super earlier this year ("A defiantly independent film," Bacon called it) and coming up, he'll be seen in July in Crazy, Stupid, Love, a comedy with Steve Carell and Julianne Moore.

He recently drove cross-country with his two dogs too, which was good for distancing himself from celebrity -- until he got a speeding ticket from an Oklahoma trooper who felt compelled to share a personal story about Footloose even as some passersby recorded the roadside scene on their cell phones. Still, Bacon said his world view is increasingly punctuated with a healthy question mark and he doesn't expect to need disguise that any time soon.

"I think when I started I thought I knew everything there was to know," he said. "You progressively learn that you know less and less. To me the greatest challenge is to get little more truthful, to get closer to the truth in a way. That's not to say I want to put me up there. I never play the character that is Kevin. I'm not interested in that and I don't think anyone else would be, either. I've got home movies for that. My thing is, use yourself but also lose yourself."

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Enjoying Fame

Posted: 02 Jun 2011 01:42 AM PDT

FLORIDA (The Orlando Sentinel/MCT): Michael Fassbender's name seems to pop up most any time a new film project is announced Prometheus, Ridley Scott's prequel to Alien? Jim Jarmusch's new vampire movie? Danny Boyle's Trance?

A film industry hungry for a hunky, young leading man with action-hero potential is taking a hard look at Fassbender. He was Rochester in the recent Jane Eyre, a Roman soldier on the run in ancient Britain in last year's Centurion. And this month, he is Erik Lehnsherr, the tormented Holocaust survivor who will become Magneto in X-Men: First Class.

At 34, born in Germany, raised in Ireland (thus the accent he shows off, out of character), the Drama Centre London-trained Fassbender has barely time to catch his breath between film jobs, meetings about film jobs and premieres.

"I haven't had time to sit back and sort of take stock," he says. "It is a dream come true for me. The way I got here, it took some time. Sometimes it takes a lot longer, sure. But I felt like I really took a journey to get to this point."

The journey began in earnest with a role in HBO's World War II series Band Of Brothers (2001) and continued with lots of British TV work. Eventually, he would be plucked to join the ensemble of Inglourious Basterds (2009). But the role that made him was 2008's Hunger, a little-seen but acclaimed drama about Irish Republican Army hunger strikers during the 1980s.

The film was "a remarkable cinematic experience, driven powerfully by Michael Fassbender's impressive performance as Bobby Sands," the most famous of those men who starved themselves to death in British prisons, raved the London Daily Mirror.

"It's been an incredible trip from Hunger," Fassbender says of the film, for which he lost much of his body weight in order to be convincingly starved and emaciated. "Hunger definitely changed my life, in terms of being recognized by filmmakers, since that was very much a filmmakers' film."

So everything afterward would have to be a breeze, right? Playing a comic-book villain, for instance? But Magneto has "a whole lot of complexity to him," Fassbender says. "Emotionally, he's coming from a very damaged place. I like the ambivalence of it. I want the audience leaving the theater wondering, asking the questions themselves rather than being spoon-fed (what to think) like a lot of these super-villain characters."

"Holocaust survivor" is, Fassbender notes, just "the first part of his makeup. ... He tries to live an honest life even after the concentration camps, in the comic books. But the human race lets him down. "So he's left alone. Every personal relationship he has gets damaged or torn away from him."

Fassbender might have tried to back-engineer the character, as he was played in the earlier X-Men films by the great Sir Ian McKellen. But director Matthew Vaughn (Stardust, Kick-Ass) wouldn't hear of it.

"He said, 'You know, there's something about this character that reminds me of an early Bond, a Sean Connery Bond from the '60s,'" Fassbender says. "Connery had this unusual accent and voice and Matthew heard similarities with my voice and we sort of went with that."

Fassbender is not new to comic-book adaptations, having played a heavy in the disastrous Jonah Hex adaptation of last summer. He doesn't concern himself with a film's success, resolving only to take each part seriously: "Just because it's a comic-book story or a fantasy, that doesn't mean I approach it with any less seriousness." And with X-Men, he had plenty to chew on.

"The great thing about X-Men is that within the philosophy and story of the saga, there are very real and relevant human issues -- alienation, being ostracized from society for whatever reasons -- ethnicity, religious beliefs or sexual orientation."

And the setting for much of this prequel is the early 1960s, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. "It's a great manipulation, isn't it? Dealing with a period in history that has a lot of mystery still surrounding it, a lot of frenzy around the world, the paranoia. ... There is room in there to play with that piece of history, which our scriptwriters have very cleverly done."

The Ridley Scott movie is on his plate, that Jarmusch vampire film is coming up. David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method has Fassbender playing Carl Jung to Viggo Mortensen's Sigmund Freud. But at some point, Fassbender will have to take a break, catch his breath, maybe spend some of his earnings on a castle in Ireland or something.

"You know, it's amazing. I don't even have a car, would you believe it? I had a motorbike and it got stolen. So I've got to buy another one of those, I suppose. I can treat myself to that."

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The Star Online: Nation

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M'sian students in Indonesia put on toxic gas alert

Posted: 02 Jun 2011 05:55 AM PDT

JAKARTA: The Malaysian Students Department (MSD) here has put students in Central Java and Yogyakarta on alert after Dieng volcano spewed toxic gas.

Indonesia MSD director Datuk Dr Junaidy Abu Bakar said the closest Malaysian students to the area are in Magelang district.

"It is still safe. The volcano is 68km from Magelang, 79km from Secang, 108km from Yogyakarta and 136km from Solo.

"I have told 65 students to be on alert as MSD will provide transport to evacuate them from Pesantren Sirajul Mukhlasin, Secang, Magelang to Solo after danger warning is given," he said here Friday.

MSD had evacuated Malaysian students twice, to Solo and Jakarta, during the Mount Merapi eruption last year.

Indonesian authorities had since three days ago ordered evacuation of residents living 1km radius from Timbang crater after toxic gas was detected. - Bernama

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PAS ulama to table motion on sex video at party assembly on Friday

Posted: 02 Jun 2011 05:26 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The PAS ulama assembly unanimously passed a motion Thursday to bring the sex video issue involving a man resembling an opposition leader for debate at the party's 57th muktamar (general assembly) on Friday.

The motion will be tabled by a member of Kelantan PAS ulama council, Nik Razi Nik Mat, and seconded by a delegate from Kubang Pasu, Kedah.

Nik Razi is Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat's youngest brother.

He said the move would allow the delegates to identify the reasons behind the distribution of the sex video recording. - Bernama

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Muhyiddin: Don’t politicise efforts by companies to help Bumiputeras

Posted: 02 Jun 2011 04:29 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: All development projects drawn up by government-linked companies (GLCs) aimed at assisting the Bumiputeras should not be politicised, said Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

The Deputy Prime Minister said Thursday that only those who did not understand the meaning of business and the benefits derived from growth would take such a stand whereas successful businessmen adopted an opposite stand.

He said that if the planning and expansion of a particular company was made according to procedure and obtained approval from the relevant authorities, such efforts should be supported in the interest of the company and those depending on it.

"For me, I believe we should not politicise it because such a major exercise will benefit the rakyat and the shareholders and, according to the composition as stated by MSM Malaysia Holdings Berhad, a major section (of the equity) is owned by Bumiputera.

"To me, this is a very good corporate exercise where certainly the benefits (from the plan) will be felt by a large number of shareholders," he said at a media conference after launching the prospectus of MSM Malaysia Holdings Berhad, a subsidiary of Felda Global Group in conjunction with the listing of the largest sugar producing and supplying company on the main board of the Bursa Malaysia Sekuriti Berhad on June 28.

Also present were Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Ahmad Maslan, Felda Global Group chief executive officer Datuk Sabri Ahmad and Felda Director-General Datuk Dzulkifli Abdul Wahab.

He said this when asked whether MSM and the government were prepared to face criticisms from the opposition regarding Felda and GLCs.

Muhyiddin said such things should not be politicised because Felda had expanded worldwide and the move to list the company linked to it on the Stock Exchange was appropriate and would further strengthen its role internationally.

According to MSM, the benefits from the listing would be enjoyed by about 220,000 members of Koperasi Permodalan Felda Berhad at the end of each year.

Meanwhile in his speech earlier, the Deputy Prime Minister said the MSM listing also marked another milestone in efforts by the government to refocus on the facilitator role of the State as part of the government desire to let the private sector take the lead.

Muhyiddin said this would not only create the platform for the investing public to share in the successes of these companies but also imposed market discipline on the newly listed entities.

He said the strategic divestment by the state owned enterprise formed an important element of the government's new economic model agenda that would reinvigorate private investment.

"Access to capital markets will allow MSM to compete internationally and help Malaysia's global footprint in the sugar business space," he said.

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

Enjoy luxury of experience

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 06:53 PM PDT

ASPIRATIONAL. I love that word; it sums up almost everything I write about.

My articles tend to cover the world of luxury, that cloistered, cossetted, opulent and extravagant world.

I have spoken at length on luxury, and I never tire of it. Occasionally, I am sent to write about things that don't make a life less ordinary, to put it nicely, and I lose touch with this world, and reality intrudes.

Then I start talking about things that money cann ot buy, such as happiness, family, friends and love. These are the little things that make you feel alive, give you a smile, laughter, shared joy and yes, sorrow too.

For how can we know we are really alive, if we can't fe el every possible feeling? Life isn't always about beaut iful things or wonderful memories, but that is what makes it all an experience.

Fashion, or anything to do with beautiful or expensive things isn't about being shallow. I have even been accused of this, of promoting materialism.

I do not hold the heel of a Louboutin to a teenager's head and whisper in her ear, "Go forth and conquer. The things you buy today will make you worthy of worship among your peers." Come on.

Shallow is judging someone by what they wear, own or put on display. Shallow is not understanding the beauty, history or reason behind the expensive object you acquire.

Shallow is to have a herd mentality, and wanting to buy something before the rest of your sheep-like friends do. Shallow is to call another person shallow because they love beautiful things or like things you don't think are important. As you are free to wallow in whatever you like, leave us to exalt in the beauty and perfection of something extraordinary.

True luxury sets a standard that's unparalleled. It is about craftsmanship, heritage and the painstaking work put into a single obj ect.

Last week, I spent an enjoyable hour at Van Cleef & Arpels surrounded by gorgeous jewellery and f antastical pieces with Jonathan King, the brand's South- East Asia general manager.

I was encouraged to try on the high jewellery pieces to get a feel of what it's like. These were the kind of jewellery that will be bought and worn by people who live in different worlds from you and I.

When I asked how long a particular piece took to make, I was given this answer.

"How do you measure a year in the life of someone?" You see, one person made that beautiful necklace. He or she would have spent s everal ho urs, weeks or months to complete it. It is not s omething to be rushed; there is no deadline, no one leans over your shoulder and tell you it must be finished ... yesterday.

Perhaps a year of someone's life went into the m aking of the necklace, perhaps more.

When it comes to the great Maisons and the Manufactures (please don't think I mean just any manufacture), that are steeped in history and legend, every piece tells a story. Every object has a reason. And it always stems from a passion.

When you hold or wear it, each person will have a different experience. How did I feel wearing a Van Cleef & Arpels high jewellery necklace? For a moment, like I had stepped into a different world.

The necklace I tried on was an updated version of an original commissioned by the Duchess of Windsor (at the end of the1930s). It is a necklace made in the form of a zip and compl etely made of diamonds.

It has to be seen to be believed. This is when I love my job, because I get to see the most amazing things.

Luxury is a form of escapism, where fantasy meets reality, where a moment can be defined by an object.

It also has many facets, and if you're not careful, while it may take you into new worlds, it can also pull you into darker ones.

That's why while you can aspire or be inspired to do something different or more, make it a positive one, that leaves you with a wonderful feeling.

Of course you can't take things to your grave. And the only people who will want to be close to you because of the aura of luxury is not worth your time. And it can't take the place of the real things that matter, which money cannot buy.

But ... this is a column that sometimes pauses a moment at the opening of the door to a life less ordinary. With the passion to be alive.

It's never about what you wear, what you have, who you know. It's always about the experience. And no one needs to spend anything to enjoy the luxury of an experience.

Dzireena Mahadzir would like more experiences involving jewellery. Her column Sense Of Style now appears on Thursdays fortnightly.

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Supermodel Tao has a heart of gold

Posted: 01 Jun 2011 06:52 PM PDT

Off the runway, a top Japanese model shows that she is as kind as she is fashionable.

HOW does one react in the face of adversity? In the case of Japanese supermodel Tao Okamoto, she was inspired to take action after the horrific earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan in March.

According to Okamoto, 24, she was in Tokyo with her family when the quake struck. The disaster still fresh in her mind, Okamoto spoke to press members just hours before taking to the runway for Missoni Winter 2011 at the Audi Fashion Festival (AFF) in Singapore last month. She mentioned how terrible it was to watch the happenings on television, and she felt compelled to do something.

Okamoto, who is 176.5cm tall, works for various modelling agencies in different cities. In her home base of New York, she is attached to the famous Ford Models agency.

Doing her part

On March 11, Okamoto composed a letter on the modelling agency's blog: "We are used to having earthquakes but I never felt I could die from that. We couldn't believe what was happening in (a) city not so far from us. 6,900 people died and (sic) still missing a million people.

"And then the nuclear power problem; we are still in fear."

She continued: "I come back (sic) to New York for work obligation(s) but I was so sorry for leaving there (sic). But I am now safe in my New York home. And what I realised was, here so many people from all over the world are worrying about us (and) feeling sorry for us. And that made me encouraged (sic). I am searching for ideas (of) what I can do from here in New York. I want to tell Japan that a lot of people in the world are encouraging us and helping us. We are not alone."

As she rightly reminded us: "It will be a long recovery after the TV cameras and world reporters leave and I want to continue the help (sic)."

The first thing that Okamoto did to help was team up with London-based photographer John-Paul Pietrus. They signed prints of their previous work together with Numero China magazine which were sold at £88 (RM432) per print; proceeds go to the Japanese Red Cross relief fund.

Before heading to the Lion City, Okamoto was involved in a photo shoot under the auspices of renowned designer Donna Karan to commission art-photography images exclusively for AFF Singapore.

The series of original first-edition photographs called Calm In The Chaos were shown during the AFF and were offered for silent auction during the festival. All proceeds were channelled towards Japanese relief efforts via Singapore NGO Mercy Relief.

The photoshoot was done by renowned photographer Russell James, of Victoria's Secret and America's Next Top Model fame.

"The recent images and the direct accounts from Japan have been heartbreaking. It is an honour to be able to partner with such a great country at this particular time," said James in a press release.

He added that Okamoto was amazing to work with even though she had to pose nude in some shots. Initially, the shoot was scheduled to be held in Haiti where Karan was doing charitable work but to accommodate Okamoto's busy schedule, James had to fly to New York to shoot the photographs.

"As an Asian, it is normally against Asian sensibilities to show off so much flesh," said Okamoto in halting English. "But it was tastefully done and everything was discreetly covered. I have worked in similar conditions before for a previous shoot and I'm a professional."

After AFF, Okamoto flew to Cannes, France. On May 15, she appeared at a photocall for Fashion For Relief Japan Appeal 2011 during the 64th Cannes Film Festival with editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia Franca Sozzani and models Naomi Campbell and Philip Huang. The event was organised by Campbell during the film festival to raise funds for victims of Japan's earthquake and tsunami.

Continuing her fund-raising mission, Okamoto posted again on the Ford Models blog on a new effort. In collaboration with Save Japan!, Okamoto hosted a benefit bazaar with a handful of Japanese professionals late last month.

It was no ordinary bazaar as items sold were previously owned by fashion industry insiders, including models.

How she started

At the press conference during AFF, Okamoto – who has a decade of modelling experience behind her – candidly described herself as a senior in the industry. Asked how she began her career as a clotheshorse, Okamoto recalled: "I was 14 and walking on the streets of Tokyo when someone spotted me and asked if I wanted to work on a TV show. I spoke to my parents about it and they said OK but preferred that I work as a model and not as an actress."

Soon she was getting a steady stream of bookings in Japan and then elsewhere, too. Signed to Elite in 2006, she made her catwalk debut outside of Japan in October the same year; she walked the runway for Ungaro and Martin Grant at Paris Fashion Week. Then came New York Fashion Week the following year when she modelled for Marc Jacobs and posed for Glamour magazine.

Before you can say "Strike a pose", she went on to model for other major magazines. Okamoto has been featured in almost all of the various editions of Vogue; the Japanese edition even dedicated an entire issue to her. Okamoto was also the face of major advertising campaigns, including Zac Posen, Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs, Vera Wang and Philip Lim. In 2009, she was the face of Ralph Lauren.

Inspired by Okamoto's signature bowl haircut, Lim made her his muse. He even got the other models to wear similar wigs for his show.

Throughout her career, Okamoto has been photographed by big names such as Russell James, Mario Testino, Steven Meisel, Peter Lindbergh and Terry Richardson.

With her glowing skin, lanky legs and elegant walk, it's no wonder that Okamoto is in such demand (she is ranked amongst the Top 50 models).

So what are her beauty secrets?

"Nothing really," quipped Okamoto. "I just drink lots of water, eat seaweed and have small healthy meals. And you need to get a good night's sleep."

Despite being a model, she does not follow seasonal fashion trends. "I just pick what looks comfortable and nice on me. I want something that will last me for years."

When she first ventured to New York, Okamoto admitted that she was worried about the acceptance of Asian models, though the likes of fellow Japanese Ai Tominaga and a slew of Chinese models had paved the way.

"Someone in New York told me, don't see yourself as Asian or Japanese; just see yourself as a model. When you don't define yourself by your nationality, they won't define you. So I focused on that and it seemed to have worked."

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