Ahad, 12 Jun 2011

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Indian diaspora traced

Posted: 13 Jun 2011 01:13 AM PDT

THE movement of the people of India across the globe has been recorded in various books and memoirs, as well as movies revolving around first and second- generation migrant communities, such as Mississippi Masala and Bend It Like Beckham.

In Malaysia, we take it for granted that the Indian migrant population has had a strong presence across the peninsula, as well as in Singapore, over a few generations.

But little do we learn of the Indian community's roots and history here.

This is the inspiration behind director N.S. Krishna's original idea more than 10 years ago to create a show that would highlight the origins of the Indian community in various countries.

Then still a young, independent director, he had to shelve his idea for a documentary series that would chronicle the migrant journeys and living experiences of the Indian diaspora in their adopted countries.

Last year, Krishna successfully represented his idea, and with the support of Radio Televisyen Malaysia, finally saw his 13-episode series, called Vanna Mayilgal, make its debut on April 4 this year on TV2. The programme is aired every Monday. The series takes a closer look at the Indian diaspora in four countries: Indonesia, Singapore, Australia and Malaysia.

Vanna Mayilgal, which translates to "colours of the peacock", according to Krishna, is to highlight that the Indian communities spread colour into these countries as they enhance the socio-economic and cultural landscape.

The episodes highlight the origins of the local Indian population and features selected personalities who have made a name for themselves in various fields, including business, education, medicine, government and the performance arts or entertainment.

"I really feel there are a lot of stories that can further inspire the younger generation, regardless of ethnicity and background, in showing how these descendants of India migrated to their current country of domicile for various reasons.

"The beauty of how these Indian migrants maintained the essence of their origins through their language, religion, culture and traditions, in the face of some initial adversity, is something we can all take example from," Krishna said, adding that it took his team six months of research and four months of filming and post-production to complete the series.

The 10th episode, which aired last week, took viewers to Melbourne, Australia. The two main personalities whom the programme featured were Prof Madya Dr Siva Muthaly, a lecturer at the famous RMIT University, and Dr Mohan Dass, a lecturer at the Swinburne University of Technology.

The final three episodes bring the series' producers, SG Entertainment Sdn Bhd, full circle back to their homeland of Malaysia. Episode 11 (tonight) features N.S. Maniam, a social activist and former National Unity Department officer in Malacca, and Arunasalam Pillai, who is the official spokesman for the Chetti community in the same state.

Episode 12 looks at the background of the Sri Murugan Centre founder and president Datuk Dr M. Thambirajah, and his effort in helping thousands of local Indian students strive for greater academic achievement.

This episode also features a sub-segment on the Little India of Brickfields in Kuala Lumpur.

The final episode will highlight Kumaresan Karthigesu, an exponent of traditional Indian music, who teaches at the Temple of Fine Arts in KL. Also featured is Selvarajoo Sundram, the current chairman of the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (Gopio) Malaysia chapter.

RTM has been impressed with the show's performance, stating that the ratings have been increasing every week. The station plans to re-run the documentary after its initial airing ends this month.

More good news has recently emerged for the producers, as two countries, in Europe and Asia, have already approached them with a request for syndication rights.

> Tamil documentary Vanna Mayilgal screens on TV2 today at 5pm.

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The Star Online: World Updates

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Liberal U.S. Catholics say Church not listening

Posted: 12 Jun 2011 12:06 PM PDT

DETROIT (Reuters) - Members of a liberal group of U.S. Catholics called on Sunday on Church leaders to open talks with their members on controversies ranging from the ordination of women to allowing priests to marry.

Members of the American Catholic Council, meeting in Detroit, said they had grown concerned that the Church hierarchy was not listening to its members on issues such as the role of women, married clergy and the treatment of homosexuals.

The meeting comes as the Roman Catholic Church in the United States is struggling with a sexual abuse crisis, loss of membership and a dwindling number of priests.

"When in God's name are the conversations going to begin?" asked Joan Chittister, a Benedictine nun who addressed the meeting of about 2,000 people -- part of a liberal wing that represents a minority in the 1.2 billion-member Church.

She likened the structure, with bishops and archbishops answering to the pope in Rome, to "a medieval system that has now been abandoned by humanity everywhere, except by us."

Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron had warned before the meeting that any members of the clergy who attended the group's mass would be at risk of being defrocked.

"All of the invited keynote speakers have manifested dissent from Catholic teachings or support for dissenters," the archdiocese said in a posting on its website.

Robert Wurm, a retired priest from Ferndale, Michigan, who officiated at the closing mass, said he was not worried the archbishop would take action against him.

"He was careful about that. He said they could be defrocked, not that they would," Wurm told reporters.

Under Church law, an archbishop has authority over all masses held in his area. A spokesman for the archdiocese declined further comment.


The group's "Catholic Bill of Rights and Responsibilities" reads like a list of grievances against the conservative leadership of Pope Benedict, who has frustrated liberals by ruling out the possibility of women priests or a married clergy and putting pressure on dissenting theologians.

"Few people realize how powerful the pope is," Swiss theologian Hans Kueng told the meeting through a video presentation. "We have to change an absolutist system."

Some of the people attending the meeting said they were frustrated by local bishops' unwillingness to discuss their views on issues including the treatment of women.

"They refuse to talk about married priests and the ordination of women," said Edward Ruetz, an 85-year-old retired priest who travelled to the meeting from Fort Wayne, Indiana.

The question of who may be ordained has become a practical concern for many U.S. Catholics as the local Church has faced dwindling numbers of priests even as the Catholic population has expanded, thanks partly to Hispanic immigration.

The country's number of priests stood a bit below 40,000 last year, down by one-third from the end of the reforming Second Vatican Council in 1965, while the Catholic population has risen 43 percent to 66 million over the same period.

These liberals are a minority in the world Church now, but similar groups exist in some other countries, especially in Benedict's native Germany and neighboring Austria.

"They have to listen to us, we want to have an open dialogue," said Henk Baas, 58, who traveled to the meeting from the Netherlands, part of a European delegation that included visitors from Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom.

The Catholic Church in the United States and Europe has been rocked by revelations that large numbers of priests sexually abused minors and in some cases were protected by the Church hierarchy.

A report commissioned by the Church and released in May found nearly 6,000 U.S. priests -- about 5 percent of the total -- were accused of sexual abuse in the past 50 years.

The U.S. Catholic Church has paid out about $3 billion to settle sexual abuse lawsuits, resulting in the bankruptcies of some diocese, including San Diego; Wilmington, Delaware; and, early this year the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

(Reporting by Scott Malone, additional reporting by Tom Heneghan in Paris; Editing by Eric Beech)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Turkey's Erdogan gets 4 more years and counting

Posted: 12 Jun 2011 12:06 PM PDT

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Having handed Tayyip Erdogan his third term as prime minister, the question for many Turks is whether his next stop will be the presidency.

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan casts his vote at a polling station in Istanbul June 12, 2011. Having handed Erdogan his third term as prime minister, the question for many Turks is whether his next stop will be the presidency. (REUTERS/Murad Sezer)

For the past decade Erdogan has dominated the political landscape in Turkey, a largely Muslim nation of 74 million that he has led to the gates of the European Union by opening negotiations for membership in 2005.

His priority is to write a new constitution to replace one written almost 30 years ago during a period of military rule.

It is an open secret that he would favour a switch to a more presidential form of government, but given the likely reduced majority in parliament it may be harder for him to achieve than he had hoped.

Many people suspect his aim is to become president himself, after already holding the posts of prime minister and mayor of Istanbul, putting him in charge perhaps even to 2023, the centenary of the republic soldier-statesman Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded after the Ottoman empire fell.

In contrast to the raki-drinking Ataturk, non-drinking Erdogan's pedigree lies in political Islam and he is mistrusted by old secularist elites within the military and judiciary.

They see the wearing of headscarves by the wives of Erdogan and his ally President Abdullah Gul as an affront to Ataturk's vision for a secular state.

Abroad Erdogan's star shines brightest in the Middle East. He became regarded as a statesman in the Arab world in 2009 for his withering criticism of erstwhile ally Israel in the wake of its offensive of the Palestinian Gaza enclave.

NATO partners see him as a complicated rather than compliant ally, however, and the West has looked askance at some of Erdogan's friendships, notably with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

A recent survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Centre found that Egyptians, Jordanians, Lebanese and Palestinians all have confidence in Erdogan.

But worryingly for Turkey's hope of EU entry, the majority of people in France, Germany and Spain feel the opposite.


Back in Turkey, Erdogan's tension with the secularist old guard climaxed in 2008, when the Constitutional Court fined his AK Party for being a focal point of Islamist activity but stopped short of banning it.

Since then, Erdogan has consolidated his power, with police detaining military officers suspected of planning a coup and the government passing constitutional amendments to take away old cliques' control over the selection of judges.

Yet, Erdogan has demonstrated plenty of pragmatism and conformed with the official secularism of the state while staying true to his image as a pious Muslim and man of the people.

The way the military forced his mentor, former prime minister Necmettin Erbakan, to give up power in 1997, and the subsequent banning of their party, served as an epiphany for Erdogan, who was briefly jailed on charges of sedition.

Erdogan packed away old ideological baggage to form a new party that he cast along conservative, democratic lines.

The birth of the Justice and Development Party, known as the AK, came as Turkey slid into a financial crisis in 2000/01.

In the 2002 election angry Turks rejected the traditional parties, and the AK swept to power. Erdogan became prime minister in 2003, after Gul had kept the seat warm for him.

Erdogan repaid the people's faith by leading them into a period unprecedented prosperity and giving them pride by re-establishing Turkey as a regional power.

Plain-speaking and a powerful orator, the tall, moustachioed Erdogan is the kind of personality who appeals to many Turks.

Gruff and intolerant of criticism, he can revert to rough colloquialisms that strike a chord with ordinary people. Those same traits are disliked among more privileged classes, who can regard him as rude and arrogant.

The son of a poor sea captain, Erdogan was raised in a gritty Istanbul neighborhood by the Golden Horn inlet.

He went to a religious school where, biographers say, he was imbued with both a sense of piety and business pragmatism.

Before his political life took off, he worked for the city's bus company and played semi-professional soccer.

While Erdogan's image has been framed by championing the underdog, his support for Fenerbahce, the Manchester United of Turkish soccer, demonstrates a desire to be on the winning side.

(Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Iran forces attack protesters - opposition website

Posted: 12 Jun 2011 12:06 PM PDT

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's opposition website Sahamnews said security forces attacked pro-reform demonstrators gathering in Tehran on Sunday to mark the anniversary of the 2009 disputed presidential election.

Witnesses said thousands of security personnel were deployed in Tehran to prevent a revival of the mass anti-government rallies that erupted after the 2009 vote.

"Security forces attacked the crowd with electric batons ... in the Vali-e Asr street to disperse the demonstrators," Sahamnews said.

Another opposition website, Kaleme, said "hundreds of demonstrators" were arrested by the security forces.

Opposition websites had called for a "silent rally" to mark the vote, which reformists say was rigged to secure the hardline president's win. Authorities say the election was the "healthiest" since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution.

The Sahamnews website also said supporters of the opposition gathered in other parts of the city.

"Shopkeepers were ordered to close down their shops ... hundreds of people have gathered in other areas of Tehran," the website said.

Opposition leaders Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi, who spearheaded protests against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re- election in 2009, had been placed under house arrest after calling for a rally on Feb. 14.

Two people were shot dead at the Feb. 14 rally, during which thousands of the opposition supporters took to the streets in defiance of a heavy security presence to back uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, that toppled their leaders.

Iran, which crushed its own anti-government protests in 2009, says uprisings in the Arab world were inspired by the country's 1979 Islamic Revolution but are worried about revival of anti-government unrest.

Iranian leaders have portrayed the Arab Spring as an "Islamic awakening", while avoiding to support the popular uprising in Syria, its most important ally in the region.

Tehran has strongly condemned military deployment by Saudi Arabia to quell unrest in Bahrain. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are both allied to the West.

(Editing by Matthew Jones)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Business

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MSW AGM/EGM Weekly Watch June 13-17

Posted: 12 Jun 2011 05:45 PM PDT

Monday June 13, 2011

MSW AGM/EGM Weekly Watch June 13-17

For latest Bursa Malaysia indices, charts and other information click here

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RHB ‘war’ may not happen as Maybank and CIMB would not want to overpay

Posted: 12 Jun 2011 05:38 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: A bidding war for RHB Capital Bhd may not materialise as both Malayan Banking Bhd (Maybank) and CIMB Group would be mindful of overpaying, said a research house.

In a report on Friday, OSK Research said assuming a majority share swap funding scenario, all things being equal and on current share price levels (Maybank at RM8.75, CIMB at RM8.35), it estimated that the merger would still be marginally earnings per share accretive if Maybank and CIMB were to offer up to RM10.80 and RM11.30 per RHB Capital share respectively.

"CIMB's higher price to book value of 2.3 times versus Maybank's 2.1 times gives CIMB more share swap pricing power," the research house told clients.

In its report, the research house said that however, given the downside risk on return on equity post merger and limited synergistic upside, it believed that both banks were likely to display pricing discipline, which in its view could cap the offer pricing for RHB Cap below the 2.25 times price to book value multiple.

This would translate into a potential offer pricing cap of RM10.80, or about a 9% premium to RHB Capital's current share price of RM9.90.

RHB Capital's relatively high double leverage of 150% may also be something which potential suitors would want to price into their valuation and consider the impact on the enlarged group's capital ratios post implementation of Basel 3, OSK noted.

In its report, OSK also touched on the ongoing consolidation in the local banking sector.

The research house said that the consolidation would certainly widen the scale disparity of the top four domestic full fledged commercial banks with that of the smaller domestic banks.

Currently, the top four banks are Maybank, CIMB, Public Bank Bhd and the newly merged entity of Hong Leong Bank Bhd and EON Bank Bhd.

"As such, it would make commercial sense for the smaller banks to merge with one another to develop scale," OSK said.

Having said that, the research house said it believed that smaller banks would still be able to survive if they were able to be innovative and continue to develop a strong consumer-centric culture and niche markets.

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Malaysian construction companies have bountiful opportunities in China

Posted: 12 Jun 2011 05:18 PM PDT

JOHOR BARU: Bountiful opportunities await Malaysian-based construction companies in China following a boom in the country's construction sector and the rapid development going on there.

Malaysia External Trade Development Corp (Matrade) construction services and building materials division director Ong Yew Chee said many infrastructure projects would be built in China in the years to come.

He said the projects included construction of bridges, roads, highways, property development projects as well as public projects such as hospitals, schools and universities.

Ong said opportunities were also good for environmental services providers involved in waste water treatment, garbage disposal, landfills and providing clean drinking waters for households and factories.

"China is not a straight-forward market and companies planning to go there must do their research and homework to better understand the way to do business there,'' he told a press conference that was held recently in conjunction with a promotional conference for companies in the southern region for the upcoming Eight China-Asean Expo 2011 to be held in Nanning, Guangxi, from Oct 21 to 26.

Ong said it was not that easy for foreign companies to enter into the Chinese market as it was in the process of building up mutual trust, adding that this would require time.

However, he said this should not stop local companies from venturing to China as the country was not to be ignored.

If Malaysian companies did not make inroads into China, others would, he added.

He said those planning to venture into China should not only focus on the major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, but also the second and the third-tier cities which offered equal business opportunities.

Among the second-tier and the third-tier Chinese cities that Malaysian companies should look into include Chongqing, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Tianjin, Wenzhou and Zhengzhou.

"China is not only for the big corporations which have deep pockets but also for the small and medium enterprises (SMEs),'' he said.

He said one of the ways for local SMEs to venture into China was to team up with their Chinese counterparts to access the market there as these Chinese companies had better knowledge of the country.

Ong said Matrade would also encourage more Malaysian companies, especially the government-linked companies (GLCs), to set up joint-venture companies with China's GLCs to bid for infrastructure projects in other countries.

As for other emerging markets, Ong said Malaysian construction players would be looking at Qatar for construction-related projects as the kingdom would be hosting the World Cup in 2022.

He said many new stadiums would need to be built.

as the game's venues, besides infrastructure projects such as roads and highways, while existing stadiums needed to be upgraded. "The Middle East is an important region for our construction companies as it accounts for about 41% of the global construction activities,'' said Ong.

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The Star Online: Sports

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Button makes last-lap pass to win Canadian GP

Posted: 12 Jun 2011 05:42 PM PDT

MONTREAL (AP) - Jenson Button took advantage of a last-lap slide by Sebastian Vettel and passed the runaway points leader on the final trip down the backstretch to win the rain-soaked Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday.

Jenson had fallen to 21st in the field after being penalized for a speed limit violation, but he worked his way through the field and sat less than 1 second behind Vettel entering the final lap. The rear of Vettel's Red Bull slipped out from under him on the second half of a chicane, and Button sped past him to take the checkered flag for McLaren.

It was the first victory this season and the 10th of his career for Button, who finished second in Montreal last year.

Vettel had won five of the first six Formula One races this season, and he led almost all of the 70 laps at the Gilles Villeneuve Circuit. Mark Webber was third in the other Red Bull car, and six-time world champion Michael Schumacher was fourth. Schumacher narrowly missed out on his first podium finish since coming out of retirement last year, sitting second behind Vettel near the end before he was overtaken by both Button and then Webber.

The race started under a slight drizzle, but the rain grew heavier and by the 25th lap it was a full-fledged downpour that drenched the track and made driving treacherous. Although the wet track caused some problems, the visibility was what drivers complained about and what brought out the red flag.

After a delay of 2 hours, 4 minutes, the cars were back on the track with mandatory wet weather tires.

It was the first time this year that Formula One drivers have had to drive in the rain, and the first time they have done so since the circuit switched from Bridgestone to Pirelli tires. Many teams went with the full "wet" tires early, but others gambled on an intermediate set that seemed to pay off before the race was red-flagged.

Vettel started from pole and early on was challenged only by the weather, which kept the safety car on the track at the start and again several times in the race as the drivers tried to contend with the wet track and poor visibility.

Button, who started in the fourth row, dropped to the back of the pack because of two minor collisions and a penalty for a speed limit violation.

But, with the intermediate tires, he quickly moved up to 10th before racing was suspended.

Lewis Hamilton, who had won two of the last three races here - there was no event in 2009 - was knocked out after trying to pass Button near the start-finish line in the early part of the race. With the poor visibility, Button did not see him and he squeezed Hamilton into the wall.

Hamilton, who entered the day in second place in the championship standings, trailing Vettel 143-85, received zero points and fell further behind in the points race.

Fernando Alonso followed him to the garage in the 38th lap, tapping tires with Button and spinning backward toward the wall. His car was hung up on the curb and a brief effort was made to push it back onto the track before a track worker waved his arms; Alonso, who is fifth in the championship standings and second on the starting grid, was out of the race.

Canadian Grand Prix Results

1. Jenson Button, England, McLaren, 70 laps, 2:04:39.537, 46.518 mph.

2. Sebastian Vettel, Germany, Red Bull, 70, 2:04:42.246.

3. Mark Webber, Australia, Red Bull, 70, 2:04:53.365.

4. Michael Schumacher, Germany, Mercedes, 70, 2:04:53.756.

5. Vitaly Petrov, Russia, Renault, 70, 2:04:59.932.

6. Felipe Massa, Brazil, Ferrari, 70, 2:05:12.762.

7. Kamui Kobayashi, Japan, Sauber, 70, 2:05:12.807.

8. Jaime Alguersuari, Spain, Toro Rosso, 70, 2:05:15.501.

9. Rubens Barrichello, Brazil, Williams, 70, 2:05:24.654.

10. Sebastien Buemi, Switzerland, Toro Rosso, 70, 2:05:26.593.

11. Nico Rosberg, Germany, Mercedes, 70, 2:05:29.991.

12. Pedro de la Rosa, Spain, Sauber, 70, 2:05:43.144.

13. Vitantonio Liuzzi, Italy, HRT, 69, +1 lap.

14. Jerome d'Ambrosio, Belgium, Virgin, 69, +1 lap.

15. Timo Glock, Germany, Virgin, 69, +1 lap.

16. Jarno Trulli, Italy, Team Lotus, 69, +1 lap.

17. Narain Karthikeyan, India, HRT, 69, +1 lap.

18. Paul di Resta, Scotland, Force India, 67, +3 laps, Retired.

Not Classfied

19. Pastor Maldonado, Venezuela, Williams, 61, Retired.

20. Nick Heidfeld, Germany, Renault, 55, Accident.

21. Adrian Sutil, Germany, Force India, 49, Retired.

22. Fernando Alonso, Spain, Ferrari, 36, Accident.

23. Heikki Kovalainen, Finland, Team Lotus, 28, Retired.

24. Lewis Hamilton, England, McLaren, 7, Accident.

Drivers Standings

(After 7-of-20 Races)

1. Sebastian Vettel, Germany, Red Bull, 161 points.

2. Jenson Button, England, McLaren, 101.

3. Mark Webber, Australia, Red Bull, 94.

4. Lewis Hamilton, England, McLaren, 85.

5. Fernando Alonso, Spain, Ferrari, 69.

6. Felipe Massa, Brazil, Ferrari, 32.

7. Vitaly Petrov, Russia, Renault, 31.

8. Nick Heidfeld, Germany, Renault, 29.

9. Michael Schumacher, Germany, Mercedes, 26.

10. Nico Rosberg, Germany, Mercedes, 26.

11. Kamui Kobayashi, Japan, Sauber, 25.

12. Adrian Sutil, Germany, Force India, 8.

13. Sebastien Buemi, Switzerland, Toro Rosso, 8.

14. Jaime Alguersuari, Spain, Toro Rosso, 4.

15. Rubens Barrichello, Brazil, Williams, 4.

16. Sergio Perez, Mexico, Sauber, 2.

17. Paul di Resta, Scotland, Force India, 2.

Constructors Standings

1. Red Bull, 255 points.

2. McLaren, 186.

3. Ferrari, 101.

4. Renault, 60.

5. Mercedes, 52.

6. Sauber, 27.

7. Toro Rosso, 12.

8. Force India, 10.

9. Williams, 4.

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Rohit spurs India to clinch Test series

Posted: 12 Jun 2011 05:39 PM PDT

NORTH SOUND (Antigua): Rohit Sharma's (pic) resolute 86 not out topped Andre Russell's brutal, unbeaten 92 to lead India to a series-clinching, three-wicket victory over West Indies in the third one-day international on Saturday.

Sharma struck five fours and two sixes from 91 balls, and put on a crucial 88 for the seventh wicket with Harbhajan Singh to put India on course to successfully chase 226 for victory, with 22 balls remaining.

The 24-year-old Sharma smoked a no-ball from Kemar Roach to the long-on boundary to usher the visitors over the line at the Vivian Richards Cricket Ground, after the Indians had run into trouble on 92-6 in the 23rd over.

The result gave the world champions an unbeatable 3-0 lead in the five-match series.

"Our shot selection was wrong but credit must go to Rohit and Harbhajan because they had a good partnership that set things up," said India captain Suresh Raina.

"Rohit has been consistent over the last two years. He is batting really well at the moment, and I hope he does well for us in the next two games as well."

Russell smashed eight fours and five sixes from 64 balls in a dazzling display, finishing with the highest innings by a West Indies batsman at the VRCG, and helping the home team reach a respectable 225-8 from their allocation of 50 overs.

His efforts with the bat, which helped earn him the man-of-the-match award, came after leg-spinner Amit Mishra followed-up on his career-best bowling in the second one-dayer with 3-28 from his 10 overs, and Munaf Patel supported with 3-60 from his 10 overs.

India, choosing to field, met token resistance from the West Indies top-order before all-rounder Russell, one of three changes to his side's line-up, transformed the complexion of the innings.

India seized firm control of the game, following a second-wicket stand of 65 between Lendl Simmons - with 45 off 68 balls - and Ramnaresh Sarwan - 28 off 38 balls.

"This is another one that got away from us," said West Indies captain Darren Sammy.

"The way Russell showed character out there, it gave us the momentum in the game and put a fighting total on the board.

"During the interval, we were quite confident and we got the early wickets, but we did not find the killer instinct to wrap it up."

West Indies have now lost all five ODIs they have played at the VRCG, following its inauguration four years ago ahead of the 2007 World Cup.

The series continues today. – AFP

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Jamaican edges Gay in a photo-finish to win 100m gold

Posted: 12 Jun 2011 05:39 PM PDT

NEW YORK: Jamaica's Steve Mullings edged American Tyson Gay in a photo-finish in the men's 100m at the New York Diamond League meeting on Saturday.

Both were timed 10.26s, but the review gave the victory to Mullings over the experienced American.

"Sure, I thought he might have caught me – another step and he would have," Mullings said. "I know he's got that strong finish."

The duel between Mullings and Gay, who train together, came a week after Gay posted the fastest 100m of the season with a 9.79 at a low-key meeting in Florida.

That was the same day that Mullings clocked 9.80 to win the 100m at the Diamond League meeting on the opposite US coast at Eugene, Oregon.

Chilly, rainy, breezy weather meant those times were unlikely to be challenged at the sixth meeting in the elite Diamond League series.

But the meeting produced plenty of nail-biting finishes, and the men's 100m, run in a headwind of -3.4m/sec, was a prime example.

Tensions rose from the start of the men's 100m as three runners were disqualified by false starts – first Richard Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago, followed by Americans Travis Paddgett and Rae Edwards.

"They are part of the game. You deal with it," Gay said of the starts. "Keep your own focus. You can't play those games any more."

Mullings, the rising Jamaican sprint star who hopes to challenge compatriot Usain Bolt this World Championships season, burst out of the blocks.

Gay admitted his own start was "a little sluggish" but he reeled in Mullings in the closing 50m.

"I knew it was going to be close," Gay said. "I thought I might have got him, but never sure, either."

Mullings certainly wasn't sure when he crossed the line.

"When they gave me the flowers (presented to each winner), I guess that made it official," he said.

American Danielle Carruthers won a narrow victory in the women's 100m hurdles, holding on for the victory in 13.04 with fellow American Kellie Wells second in 13.06. Britain's Tiffany Ofili-Porter was third in 13.11.

Three-time world champion Allyson Felix of the United States won the women's 200m in 22.92, with Bianca Knight second in 22.96 and Shalonda Solomon third (23.03).

Jamaica's Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the reigning Olympic and world champion at 100m, was seventh and last in 23.52.

South African Oscar Pistorius, running the 400m on metal prosthetics after having his lower legs amputated when he was 11 months old, finished fifth in 45.69.

Although he was still off the 45.25 World Championships standard he expects he must meet to reach next year's London Olympics, he was pleased to improve on his disappointing last-place finish at the Prefontaine Classic Diamond League meeting a week earlier.

"I'm unbelievably happy," Pistorius said. "It's raining down. It's not the best conditions to run today. It's my second quickest time this year (and) in the wet. – AFP

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The Star Online: Nation

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Project to protect Bornean banteng

Posted: 12 Jun 2011 06:46 AM PDT

SANDAKAN: The Bornean banteng, an endangered wild cattle species, will be the focus of a project that is expected to assist the Sabah Wildlife Department develop an action plan in an effort to further protect the mammal.

The department's director Dr Laurentius Ambu said the Bornean Banteng Programme conducted with the Danau Girang Field Centre and non-governmental organisation Hutan, would advance understanding and conservation of the still relatively unknown mammal species.

"The result of this programme will assist our the department develop an action plan for all banteng across Sabah, and will hopefully increase awareness and appreciation of the wonderful wildlife that Sabah is blessed with and one that we should protect against poaching, habitat degradation and habitat loss," Laurentius said in a statement Sunday.

The programme is funded by the Houston Zoo, the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, the Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and Woodland Park Zoo.

More in The Star Monday

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Ismail Sabri: Govt will not bow to strike threat by trawler operators

Posted: 12 Jun 2011 06:45 AM PDT

TANJONG KARANG: The government will not entertain the demand of about 1,000 C2 trawlers in Pahang, Johor and Perlis who are on strike for the reconsideration of the super diesel subsidy.

Domestic Trade, Cooperative and Consumerism Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said they should not be doing so as the subsidy was only reduced and not completely withdrawn which made their price still very much lower than industrial standards.

The current price is RM1.80 per litre compared to RM1.25 previously.

He was speaking Sunday after the Umno Tanjong Karang delegates meeting attended by Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Noh Omar, who is also the division head.

Ismail Sabri said the C2 trawlers were deep sea vessels which earned big profits compared to fishermen in A, B and C zones.

The three-day strike started yesterday with the operators threatening to prolong it if the government did not accede immediately.

Sabri said, the matter could be discussed but the ministry would not bow to threats.

Meanwhile, Noh said his ministry would request the Fisheries Department to import more fish from neighbouring countries and increase import licences to do so should the strike continue.

Noh also warned fishermen from A, B and C zones not to get involved in the strike as their subsidies were intact or their licences would be revoked.

More in The Star Monday

Related Stories:
Fishermen can't afford to go to sea with steep hike in diesel price

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Hishammuddin: Umno must discard sabotage culture

Posted: 12 Jun 2011 06:44 AM PDT

SANDAKAN: Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein has reminded Umno members against practising a culture of sabotage culture, saying that they should instead focus attention on preparing to face the next general election.

"This is the time for us to show leadership, this is the time for us to show loyalty not only to the party but also to those holding position including the Chief Minister and the state Umno chief.

"In other words, leadership is placed on certain positions by the party leadership and should not be disturbed by our own people," he told reporters after opening the Libaran Umno delegates meeting here Sunday.

Also present was Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman, who is also Libaran Umno division head.

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

Local bestsellers

Posted: 12 Jun 2011 02:18 AM PDT


1. Rojak: Bite-Sized Stories by Amir Muhammad

2. Madness Aboard! by Yvonne Lee

3. The Rice Mother by Rani Manicka

4. Kebaya Tales by Lee Su Kim

5. Orang Asli Animal Tales by Lim Boo Liat

6. The Embrace Of Harlots by David T.K. Wong

7. A Bit Of Earth by Lim Suchen

8. Inspector Singh Investigates: A Bali Conspiracy Most Foul by Shamini Flint

9. Sweet Offerings by Chan Ling Yap

10. Under The Sun by O Thiam Chin


1. Lim Lian Geok: Soul Of The Malaysian Chinese by Dr Kua Kia Soong

2. Moving Forward: Malays For The 21st Century by Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad

3. The Man From Borneo: An Autobiography by Brother Michael Jacques

4. From Poor Migrant To Millionaire by Chan King Nui

5. Islam In Malaysia: Perceptions And Facts by Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin

6. Katz Tales: Living Under The Velvet Paw by Ellen Whyte

7. Behind That Shiny Resume by Jasmine Yow

8. Syed Hussein Alatas: The Life In The Writing by Masturah Alatas

9. The Quran And I by Anas Zubedy

10. Footprints In The Paddy Fields by Tina Kisil

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More new authors now

Posted: 12 Jun 2011 02:16 AM PDT

Every year, these awards see new authors being nominated. It's nice to know our publishing scene is growing!

OVER the past four years, the Popular-The Star Readers' Choice Awards have revealed some rather interesting facts about Malaysian reading habits. Since the awards' nominees are last year's top-selling authors in Popular and Harris bookstores nationwide, the titles that end up on the top 10 lists, for fiction and non-fiction, say a lot about what type of Malaysian-flavoured books we like.

There are the perennial favourites, and they can come from completely different literary corners. For instance, two authors who have been nominees every year since the awards' inception in 2008 are Amir Muhammad and Yvonne Lee. The former is an indie filmmaker/writer who makes trenchant observations in print and on film about life in this country and the latter is a former flight attendant who has struck a chord with her tales of hilarious real life and fictional adventures in the skies. We have varied literary tastes, indeed....

We're also quite adventurous, it seems, since every year we buy enough works by new writers to get them onto the lists. This year, there is a slew of interesting memoirs from first-time authors on the non-fiction list.

This is exactly what Popular and Star Publications (M) Bhd had in mind when we began these awards: to encourage Malaysians to write and publish. We also want to encourage Malaysians to read more, which is why the awards have always had a "read, vote, win" component: Submit your selection of the top three fiction and top three non-fiction titles based on the titles in the entry form on the right. If you are one of 100 readers whose ranking matches the overall vote, you will receive a RM50 gift voucher and a one-year-free-membership Popular card. And your favourite authors will be rewarded, too, with cash, trophies and certificates of recognition.

If you haven't read these books and would like to do so before casting your vote, you can get each of the 20 titles at a 20% discount at Popular and Harris stores nationwide from now until Oct 2, 2011.

As for your vote, you have until July 17, 2011, to cast it by filling in the form and dropping it off at any Popular or Harris store around the country. Or, post it to:

Popular-The Star Readers' Choice Awards 2011

c/o Popular Book Co (M) Sdn Bhd

Marketing Department

No. 8, Jalan 7/118B

Desa Tun Razak

56000 Kuala Lumpur

You may send as many forms as you wish. The forms are also available in all Popular and Harris bookstores nationwide and can also be downloaded from popular.com.my and bookfestmalaysia.com.

You can also text your vote via SMS; just read the instructions at the top of the lists in the form on the right; don't forget the slogan, or you will be disqualified!

Next week, we'll be introducing this year's nominated titles and their authors, so keep an eye on these pages. — Malini Dias

The Popular-The Star Readers' Choice Awards 2011 are a precursor to BookFest@Malaysia 2011, which will be held at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre from Aug 27-Sept 4.

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Posted: 12 Jun 2011 02:13 AM PDT

FOR the week ending June 5, 2011:


1. A Doctor In The House: The Memoirs Of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad

2. Confidence Boosters: 10 Steps To Beating Self-Doubt by Martin Perry

3. Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going by Han Fook Kwang; et al

4. 100 Greatest Wonders Of The World: The Most Incredible Places On Earth by Igloo Books Ltd

5. The Power by Rhonda Byrne

6. Stand And Deliver: How To Become A Masterful Communicator And Public Speaker by Dale Carnegie Training

7. Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice In The Dock (revised and updated) by Alan Shadrake

8. Run, Mummy, Run by Cathy Glass

9. Hospital Babylon: The True Confessions Of A Doctor by Imogen Edwards-Jones

10. Max On Life by Max Lucado


1. That Perfect Someone by Johanna Lindsey

2. Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin

3. Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

4. The Tennis Party by Madeleine Wickham

5. Scarlet Nights by Jude Deveraux

6. Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

7. So Much For That by Lionel Shriver

8. Room by Emma Donoghue

9. The Confession by John Grisham

10. One Day (movie tie-in) by David Nicholls

n Weekly list compiled by MPH Mid Valley Megamall, Kuala Lumpur; www.mphonline.com.

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

Rage of generations

Posted: 12 Jun 2011 02:58 AM PDT

Just had another one of those moments when one small thing leads to another and the next thing you know I find myself discovering a band's entire catalogue. This time it kicked off with my reading Tintin In America to my second son Ekath. At some point that familiar question on the difference between my sort of Indian and Native Americans cropped up and I decided it was time for my three children were to sit through my extended DVD copy of Dances With Wolves, which is still among my favourite movies of all time. Needless to say there was a little "fast-forwarding" required.

Flush with inspiration I began another round of investigating the likes of the Comanche, Sioux, Apache, Navajo, etc and their vast nation that was destroyed by the avarice of settlers from Europe. Thus figures like Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Geronimo, Tecumseh and Pocahontas have become footnotes in the history of modern United States.

At some point I then recalled the curious case of the Native American band Redbone. Named after a pejorative Cajun term for half-breed, the group flourished in the early to mid 1970s with an astute blend of creativity and commercial appeal.

I have to admit I was amused that the main duo brothers Lolly (vocals/guitar) and Pat Vasquez (vocals/bass) initially focused on the Mexican side of their ancestry. As Pat and Lolly Vegas, they were known in the mid 1960s for their exuberant covers of tunes like La Bamba. However they were versatile enough to play as sidemen to the jazz pianist Oscar Peterson, jam with the Rolling Stones and be regulars on the popular TV show Shindig.

Encouraged (it is claimed) by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Bobby Womack, they formed a group that emphasised their Yaqui Indian heritage. The brothers were joined by guitarist Tony Bellamy and the Cheyenne drummer Peter DePoe (also known as Last Walking Bear).

Redbone kicked off in fine fashion. Their self-titled debut was a double album full of soulful funk jams that weren't a million miles away from what Santana was doing at the time. Highlights included Suite Mode and Prehistoric Rhythm. In 1970 they performed to massive crowds at the Earth Day concert in Philadelphia. Arguably the most popular tune was Red And Blue, a Lolly Vasquez anthem lamenting the destruction of the natural environment.

This established the formula for a Redbone record. Their next effort Potlach contained radio-friendly material such as Maggie (about a dead prostitute) and the gentle ballad Who Can Say, as well as the biting Judgement Day and Chant 13th Hour which was a winning combo of funk with a traditional tribal chants. Stylistically each of the musicians began to get recognition for their innovations, with DePoe's drumming and Bellamy's guitar sounds being vital elements in the mix.

And so it continued. The third album Message From A Drum had another hit called Witch Queen Of New Orleans which narrowly missed the Billboard Top 20, while Redbone's politically charged single We Were All Wounded At Wounded Knee (about an 1890 massacre of Lakota Sioux by the US Army) was a chart-topper in parts of Europe but was banned by radio stations in the US.

Surprisingly in 1974, Redbone followed this disappointment with a monster hit. The playful tune Come And Get Your Love was in some ways a precursor to the disco sound that would soon become massive. Pat and Lolly's call and response vocals and slinky bass were simply impossible to resist. I'm ashamed to say I first heard this great song through an obnoxious 1990s dance version by The Real McCoy but the original Redbone version is awesome (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vUOg3Y7ve4). It was not uncommon for the band to segue effortlessly from a traditional dance performed by Bellamy to a smooth Top 40 number. By this time DePoe had departed to be replaced by Butch Rillera.

Unfortunately the next two albums Beaded Dreams Through Turquoise Eyes (1974) and Cycles (1977) failed to build on Redbone's new audience and the failure to find that elusive follow-up hit led to the Redbone's disbanding.

Still the band continued on and off touring heavily in both the late 1980s and the early part of the 2000s. Their single Custer Had It Coming (featured on the last Redbone album, 2005's One World) proved that Redbone has lost little of its fire.

Sadly in the last couple of years both Lolly Vasquez and Tony Bellamy have passed away, almost certainly bringing the story of Redbone to an end.

Martin Vengadesan, a music lover and history buff, combines his two passions in his fortnightly column. If you have any interesting stories you want him to research, do drop him a line.

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Lady Gaga sings 'Born This Way' at Rome gay rally

Posted: 11 Jun 2011 08:36 PM PDT

ROME (AP): Lady Gaga sang a few bars of her smash hit "Born This Way" and demanded the end of discrimination against gays as she proclaimed herself a "child of diversity" at a gay pride rally Saturday night in the ancient Circus Maximus.

The star, whose "Born This Way" album recently topped 1 million sales in a week, delighted tens of thousands of people at a brief concert in the vast field where the ancient Roman masses would gather for spectacles.

Wearing a green wig, she played the piano and sang a few numbers. But she devoted much of her appearance after an annual European gay pride parade to denounce intolerance and discrimination against gays and transgender people. Among the places she cited was the Middle East, Poland, Russia and Lithuania.

Lady Gaga told the crowd she is often asked "How gay are you, Lady Gaga?" "My answer is: 'I am a child of diversity."' She also proudly cited her Italian roots - saying she was really named Stefania Giovanna Angelina Germanotta.

And she told fans her costume - a sleek black top with one bare shoulder and billowing plaid skirt - were from the last collection of Gianni Versace.

Decrying intolerance of homosexuality, Lady Gaga lamented that young people who are gay are susceptible to "suicide, self-loathing, isolation."

Many in the crowd had participated in an hours-long parade of colorful floats and brightly costumed marchers through Rome's historic center before the rally. The events were part of the annual Europride day to encourage gay rights on the continent.

Lady Gaga praised her audience for its "great courage" which she says inspires her. Europride organisers hope the event will draw attention to discrimination gays face in many parts of the world. The U.S. ambassador was among those who invited Lady Gaga to Rome.

"I am so honored to be here," Lady Gaga said, recalling how, earlier in the day, she lay naked in silk sheets in her hotel room and enjoyed the din of adoring fans and packs of photographers in the street below.

Organisers said Rome was a significant choice of venue, since it is home to the Vatican, which staunchly opposes legislation that would recognize same-sex marriage or adoption by gay couples.

Others hoped the turnout would send a message to Premier Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian leader dogged by a sex scandal involving an alleged 17-year-old Moroccan prostitute.

The billionaire media mogul triggered outrage from gay rights groups last fall when he contended during a public appearance that it was "better to be passionate about a beautiful girl than a gay."

Berlusconi's equal opportunity minister, a woman, defended the premier, saying he had just been joking and had no intention of offending gays. A government undersecretary further provoked protests when she said she was sure "all Italian parents hope to have heterosexual children."

The premier, who is on trial in Milan for allegedly paying the teenager for sex and then using his office to try to cover it up, has denied any wrongdoing.

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

My sister’s cancer

Posted: 11 Jun 2011 05:40 PM PDT

The writer recounts how his sister struggled with breast cancer before succumbing to the disease.

THIS is not just another sad cancer story, but the story of the struggles my own sister, Ilani Isahak, went through, fighting her breast cancer for three years until she succumbed to the disease in February this year. I had written a tribute to her (see http://www.thestar.com.my/lifestyle/story.asp?file=/2011/3/13/lifefocus/8183426&sec=lifefocus), in which I extolled her service to the community and nation, especially her dedication in promoting interfaith harmony. She died soon after successfully establishing the national interfaith committee, a task entrusted to her by the Cabinet.

Today, I shall focus on the health/medical aspect of her story. I hope that by sharing her experience, many other women can be helped, not only to fight the cancer, but more importantly, to take steps to detect breast cancer early if it occurs. There are also lessons that all others can learn.

It would be good if we can also advise women on how to avoid getting breast cancer, but unfortunately, apart from prophylactic mastectomy (ie removal of normal breasts) in high risk women with known mutations of the breast cancer genes, there are no other proven methods of preventing breast cancer.

There are known factors that can modify the risk of getting breast cancer. Studies have shown that obesity (especially post-menopausal weight gain), lack of exercise, late menopause, and HRT (exceeding five years) increase breast cancer risk.

A diet rich in of soy isoflavones (eg genistein, which is known to have anti-breast cancer effects), reduces breast cancer risk. A nutrient-dense diet made of fruits, veggies, legumes, grains and nuts reduces the risk of all cancers.

Get every breast lump checked

My sister had Stage 3B (ie advanced) breast cancer at the time of diagnosis. Some years back, she had a breast lump that caused much anxiety, but turned out to be benign.

So this time, when she noticed another lump on her right breast, she made the mistake of not worrying about it. She was also wrongly assured by a Traditional Chinese Medicine sinseh, whom she had she trusted over the years, that it was not cancerous, and he had given some treatment to shrink the lump.

It was only when the lump got bigger and became painful that she confided in me. An examination revealed an obvious lump adherent to the surrounding tissues, which was not a good sign. I immediately sent her for mammogram, and to the breast surgeon.

Lesson #1 – Every breast lump is cancerous until proven otherwise. While most lumps are benign, you should seek expert assessment before deciding so.

Although I am supportive of the complementary practitioners' role in healthcare, there are situations where you should always seek medical confirmation for diagnosis, as in this case. The doctors will examine and do ultrasound or x-ray mammogram (which detect the physical or morphological changes).

Other available methods include thermography, electrical impedance tomography and laser mammogram (which detect the functional changes caused by cancerous cells). If necessary, a biopsy will be done.

Nutrition support is important

Her mammogram was consistent with breast cancer, and biopsy confirmed infiltrating ductal carcinoma. After much discussion with the family, she decided to follow her doctors' advice, as well as embark on a nutritional programme. She had a modified mastectomy, followed by radiotherapy, and six courses of chemotherapy.

She was very disciplined with her nutrition – she reduced meat intake and consumed lots of freshly-made fruit juices. She also tried several natural remedies that were claimed to be anti-cancer (eg lemon grass), and consumed various nutritional supplements.

So despite the cancer, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy, until the last one month, she actually looked much healthier than she had been in the previous 20 years. She slimmed down to her ideal weight, had better complexion, and was energetic (until the last six months when the cancer went to her lungs). She was so well externally that many were surprised how she coped so well with the cancer and chemo.

Lesson #2 – if you have cancer, take care of your nutritional needs. The body needs nutrients to fight the cancer, and to fight the side-effects of the cancer treatments. Many cancer patients die of cachexia (extreme malnutrition).

Recurrent cancers are recalcitrant

But what many probably didn't know was that she still lost her hair, and her fingernails were blackened after the repeated chemo sessions. Soon after the initial six courses of chemo and one year of the "smart" drug ended, the cancer came back.

The extremely expensive "smart" drug she was given was trastuzumab, which is a monoclonal antibody that targets the HER2 receptors on the breast cancer cells.

So her oncologist put her again on chemo, plus the "smart" cancer drugs. But this time, these didn't work. A re-examination of her cancer cells then showed that she was not a good candidate for trastuzumab. The first report had been inaccurate.

Other drugs were then tried, and there was some response, but internally the cancer was encroaching into her rib cage, and onto the lining of the lungs (pleura).

The other drugs she was given included bevacizumab, which is also a monoclonal antibody that prevents new blood vessel formation (anti-angiogenesis), thus preventing new cancer growth.

Back in July 2010, the US FDA had evidence that bevacizumab was not suitable for breast cancer. In December 2010, the US FDA officially revoked its approval for the use of bevacizumab for breast cancer, saying that it is neither safe nor effective in breast cancer patients. The available data shows that bevacizumab neither prolonged overall survival nor slowed disease progression sufficiently to outweigh the risk it presents to breast cancer patients.

Lesson #3 – If the cancer patient is not cured after the first course of chemo, she is unlikely to be cured at all. Cancer cells which are resistant to the first chemo are most likely resistant to further chemo. Although each subsequent chemo may drastically reduce the number of cancer cells, the tough resistant ones will multiply and manifest their presence soon enough.

Lesson #4 – Before agreeing to expensive drugs, be sure that the lab reports are accurate, and be sure that the drugs are safe and effective as claimed.

Rapid deterioration of end-stage cancer

Until the last six months of her life, my sister was relatively well, which means she had about two years of reasonably "good quality" life. Then she started to have chronic coughs.

At first, she still managed to do her normal chores, but she gradually deteriorated, and became breathless easily. A pleural effusion (fluid in the space covering the lungs) was diagnosed, but the first attempt to drain the fluid failed to relieve her symptoms.

At this time, the family considered bringing her to China to try the latest treatments being done there, as the doctors here could not do anything more to treat her cancer. Doctors in China are allowed to give treatments which are considered experimental elsewhere, and therefore not available to the public.

Unfortunately, while the planning was being done, her condition got really bad. Exactly one month before her death, she had to be admitted to the hospital, and had permanent drainage tubes inserted into both sides of the rib cage, and she required the oxygen mask continuously.

The doctors also decided that she could have palliative care only, with no further active treatment. After one whole month of suffering, she died.

My sister died because the cancer spread to a vital organ – her lungs. There was copious pleural effusion that repeated and even continuous drainage could not solve. The effusion meant that her lungs gradually collapsed.

With the reduced oxygen supply, the heart had to work harder, and soon it also succumbed. Although there were discussions to attempt surgery to seal the pleural cavity (thus preventing the formation of the effusion), by that time, her poor general condition made any major surgery unsafe.

Lesson #5 – If you plan to have treatment overseas, do so when you are still reasonably well, because there will be the added problems of being fit for long-distance travel, and having adequate assistance in a foreign land.

What about complementary therapy?

Some people asked me why I allowed my own sister to undergo chemo, when I am so critical of it? The answer is that I never interfere with a patient's decision. I only remind them of the facts I know, and that while some cancer patients have recovered through various types of nutritional and complementary therapies, the latter lack sufficient scientific evidence, while chemotherapy is backed by many scientific studies.

What is important is that whatever their decision, they need adequate nutritional support to survive the cancer, and to withstand the chemo.

What about nutritional therapy – since I had written about certain nutritional therapies that had helped some cases? Well, cancer nutritional therapies are also expensive, and are usually taken by patients who refuse chemo, or only after they have completed chemo (some oncologists also dissuade them from having concurrent therapy as the nutritional therapy may interfere with the chemo).

I have also been asked why didn't I help her with qigong? Actually she did learn qigong, but she was too busy to practise it enough to hope for recovery through it. Those who recovered through qigong did so after intensive and consistent practice (my advice is to start with four hours a day if possible). Even though recovery is not guaranteed, it is possible.

My only regret is that I didn't have the opportunity to get her to try herbal medicine, as she was already trying so many things suggested by many people, and adding another therapy would certainly be overdoing it.

In conclusion, both conventional medicine and complementary therapies still do not have satisfactory answers for cancer. For the sake of the cancer patients (and many more who will get cancer in future), both sides should work together. A holistic, integrated approach is more likely to enable us to find the elusive solution.

With that in mind, I invite readers to attend the 1st Malaysian International Conference on Holistic Healing for Cancer, to be held in Petaling Jaya on June 8. It is organised by Cansurvive, a non-profit organisation that provides guidance and support to cancer patients, their families and friends. Admission is free, but you must pre-register. Please go to www.cansurvive.org.my for details.

Dr Amir Farid Isahak is a medical specialist who practises holistic, aesthetic and anti-ageing medicine. He is a qigong master and founder of SuperQigong. 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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The health contract

Posted: 11 Jun 2011 05:40 PM PDT

Though healthcare is increasingly driven by the prospect of profits, the patient-doctor social contract must prevail.

THE social contract between patients and doctors must prevail in Malaysia as it is a time-proven model for quality, affordability, and compassionate care for patients, said Dr Steven Chow, president of the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners' Association, Malaysia (FPMPAM).

The traditional social contract governing the patient-doctor encounter guided by the simple dictum of Sir William Osler, ie, to cure sometimes, to comfort always, but never to harm, is increasingly eroded by the dictates of commercialised medicine, driven by bottomline turnover, profit, and return on investment.

Private practitioners in a dilemma

"Today, medical care is being touted as a lucrative business commodity to be bought and sold, with corporate visions of exponential growth and billion-dollar turnover," observed Dr Chow.

In the current healthcare scenario, the basic needs of patients and the aspirations of compassionate doctors are no longer a contractual priority. Instead, the turnover generated by doctors and their corporate patients has become the implicit driver of business-driven contracts.

This is the cross-road that now faces both the public and doctors, he explained.

Paradoxically, the reason for the need for this change being marketed to the public is the so-called rising cost in healthcare, and the dire need for cost-containment to ensure sustainability.

On the contrary, the evidence paints a different picture – healthcare cost is on a rising trend that will seriously overtake our ability to provide basic quality, affordable healthcare for the less fortunate, Dr Chow emphasised.

Over the years, we have seen the progressive commercialisation of all aspects of healthcare, starting with medical education, all the way to the delivery of tertiary and primary healthcare. In tandem with this is the alarming rise in the cost of providing medical care, which affects both private and public sectors, he said.

"There is, thus, some important fundamental issue regarding the way our healthcare system is being regulated. It is important that this issue is addressed urgently. FPMPAM finds this trend extremely alarming."

The public is of the perception that a high hospital bill is due to hefty doctors' fees. Hence, they call for more regulations to oversee the practitioner, rather than the business of medicine.

However, in reality, the professional fees for doctors have already been capped by law. It should also be noted that the average doctor's professional fees account for about 10% to 15% of the overall private hospital bill.

In contrast, there are no provisions in the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act (PHFSA) 1998 and Regulations 2006 to regulate hospital bills, Dr Chow said.

"Doctors trained in the traditional mould of medical care will have problems coping with this change. The new laws and regulations regulating the so-called business of medicine, with its countless threats of massive fines and imprisonment for non-compliance, do not augur well for the traditional genuine, compassionate social contract-based patient-doctor relationship."

Thus, he called on the Ministry of Health (MOH) to uphold the spirit of the PHFSA 1998 and Regulations 2006, which states that medical care should be in the hands of doctors, eg, Part XIV states that the Board of Management of any private hospital is the ultimate authority governing all aspects of medical care in that hospital.

Two members of this board must be doctors appointed from the Medical/Dental Advisory Committee (MDAC), which is supposed to represent all doctors practising in hospitals and whose function is to ensure that the medical management of patients vests in registered medical practitioners.

"Hospitals have many ways and means to dilute the implications of this requirement," said Dr Chow.

Moving on to Part XV of the PHFSA, Dr Chow said contracts between healthcare facilities and managed care organisations (MCOs) must not alter the power of the doctor in providing medical care. Most doctors in the private sector are bound by contracts with hospitals or MCOs, or directly with employers and companies.

The dilemma now is that when doctors start work at private hospitals, the hospitals themselves may have already entered into contracts with MCOs, in which some of the contractual provisions are in contravention of the PHFSA. The doctors themselves have no access to these contracts, but nevertheless, are involuntarily bonded to them by virtue of their contract with the hospital.

"We advise doctors that it is their right to refuse any contract that interferes with their independent medical care of patients. Should they be coerced, FPMPAM will fully support their action to refer such contracts to the MOH," Dr Chow emphasised.

"The onus is on the MOH to act its part as the regulator. However, the major hospitals are now mainly owned by government-linked companies (GLCs), ie the government, being the regulator, is also an operator in the industry via its GLCs. In a situation like this, there is clearly a blurring of the line between the regulator and the operator," Dr Chow commented.

In addition, as a measure to boost profits, some hospitals, MCOs and other third parties in healthcare have resorted to extracting mandatory discounts from doctors' professional fees in their contracts.

The FPMPAM calls this "fee-splitting", an exercise which is in contravention of the PHFSA and Regulations. "FPMPAM is committed to initiate all action necessary against any party trying to extract such discounts from our doctors."

In the past, Dr Chow said, the FPMPAM had highlighted to the MOH the difficulties doctors were facing with contracts. "We hoped that the MOH would act swiftly and decisively.

"In 2006, we also proposed important regulations to the PHFSA and Regulations so that all the business components of healthcare are regulated synchronously to protect the public from over-exuberant commercialisation."

This article is courtesy of the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners' Association, Malaysia.

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Breakthrough for prostate cancer

Posted: 11 Jun 2011 05:38 PM PDT

Two new therapies for advanced prostate cancer reflect the enthusiasm that doctors hold for the future treatment of this disease.

CANCER of the prostate (CaP) is the most common cancer (other than skin cancer) in males in Western countries. In the US, it has been estimated that about 200,000 men were diagnosed with CaP in 2009, with more than 27,000 dying from the disease.

The prevalence of CaP in Asian countries is rapidly increasing as a result of the increased consumption of Western-style meals (diet has been strongly implicated as a risk factor for CaP).

In Taiwan, currently, CaP is the third most common cancer in men, and the numbers affected are still on the rise.

A question of castration

Cancer of the prostate is an androgen-receptor dependent disease, and the treatment for advanced prostate cancer is androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), or in layman's term, depriving the cancer of testosterone.

For decades, ADT has been the most effective and successful treatment for prostate cancer. However, in nearly all cases, the cancer eventually progresses after 12 to 48 months despite ADT, depending on how extensive the disease, host factors, and inherent tumour characteristics or biology.

The cancer invariably develops new tumour characteristics and clinical behaviours after treatment with ADT. This newly evolved cancer is known as castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC), which is inevitably fatal. The transformed and fiercer cancer thrives and spreads rapidly despite the body having very low testosterone levels.

The current treatment for CRPC is chemotherapy, using a standard docetoxel-based regime. However, the prognosis remains poor, and median survival with chemotherapy is less than two years.

There is currently no standard of care for patients who fail chemotherapy, and the results of all existing therapies are very poor.

This pathetic and pessimistic scene is going to change within the next few years. Over the past few months, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved three new drugs for terminal stage CRPC, and two have already demonstrated the potential of extending patients' lives.

Further, a whole host of revolutionary therapies, mainly oral medications, will come soon. Many of these new targeted or boutique drugs, which include denosumab, cabozantinib, MDV 3100, ARN-509, and TAIC-700, are in the late stages of development, and are near to final regulatory approvals.

We are certainly living in very exciting times where the bleak future of advanced castration-resistant prostate cancer patients are showered with optimistic rays of hope.

Becoming hormone refractory

How do prostate cancer cells evolve, grow, and spread rapidly despite very low testosterone levels in the body? Several things can result in this change:

· Genetic changes in the prostate cancer cells, or mutation resulting in more or different androgen receptors, result in the tumour thriving on very low levels of testosterone.

· The prostate cancer cells acquire the ability to produce their own testosterone from cholesterol molecules. This was certainly an unexpected discovery by medical researchers.

· The cancer cells develop mechanisms to evade detection by the body's immune system, thus the body's immune system is unable to recognise the tumour. The cancer cells can do this by creating changes that keep the immune killer cells in an immature state, allowing the tumour cells to spread throughout the body with impunity.

The recent launch of two innovative therapies for CRPC has brought about tremendous interest and excitement to urologists and oncologists worldwide. This is truly the beginning of many new effective therapies for end-stage prostate cancer patients, bringing realistic hope to these terminally-ill patients.

Two new drugs

Below are the two therapies recently approved by the FDA that have proven to increase patients' survival:

· Provenge is the first FDA-approved immune-boosting treatment that prolongs the life of advanced prostate cancer patients. In pivotal clinical trials, the Provenge-treated patients lived significantly longer than men treated in the control group. A 22.5% reduction in the risk of death was recorded.

Treatment with Provenge, also known as Sipuleucel-T, involves removing a small quantity of patient immune cells in a specialised centre. These cells are sent to the company's manufacturing facility. After about three days, the patient returns to the centre to receive an infusion of the boosted immune cells, which aim to kill off prostate cancer cells.

These newly boosted cells are also able to recruit other immune fighters or killer cells in eradicating prostate cancer cells. The entire Provenge treatment is repeated three times over a period of about four weeks.

The most common side effects that occur with Provenge treatment occurs one day after the infusion of the boosted immune cells. These side-effects include chills (7% of the patients), fever (23%), fatigue (16%), nausea (14%) and headache (11%). Most of these flu-like symptoms are temporary. In the clinical trials, less than 1% of the patients stopped treatment because of side effects.

The median survival benefit of Provenge therapy is about 4.1 months. About a third of the men in the pivotal trials were still alive three years after the treatment.

· The other breakthrough treatment for CRPC approved by the FDA about a month ago is Abiraterone. This is a pill with a low rate of side effects and has been shown to improve the life of CRPC patients who have failed all other treatments, including chemotherapies.

The oral medication is able to suppress androgen production in the adrenal gland, the testes, as well as in the prostate cancer cells. It is otherwise known as a true "de novo" androgen synthesis inhibitor, which practically wipes out all androgen manufacturing processes in the entire body of cancer prostate patients.

In clinical trials, patients were given 1,000mg (four pills) per day for a 28-day cycle in combination with prednisone 5mg. This regime has proven to be safe and effective in prolonging the life of CRPC patients.

There was a 35% reduction in the risk of death as compared with placebo plus prednisone, with a median survival of 14.8 months among patients who received abiraterone acetate plus prednisone, versus 10.9 months among patients who received placebo and prednisone.

The Abiraterone group of patients also show significant improvement in x-ray findings, a longer time to disease progression, and longer progression-free period. Side effects include hypertension, low potassium levels, and lower-limb swellings, are generally tolerable, and can be controlled with low dose prednisolone.

The Abiraterone research has enable medical scientists to understand in detail the biology involved in the progression of metastatic CRPC and this augurs well for researchers to develop more effective targeted approaches to further improve the outcome of treatment for CRPC patients.

Bright future

With the advent of truly effective therapies which can prolong survival of CRPC patients, the light at the end of the tunnel is ever brighter. The knowledge leading to the development of these two totally different therapies for CRPC has certainly opened up new pathways for the development of many more new targeted therapies.

There is every hope that the future management of CRPC or prostate cancer will follow the developmental paths of treating advanced testicular cancer, which was a fatal disease before the development of an effective chemotherapy regime. The early chemotherapy trials for advanced testicular cancer prolonged life by about four months, (like Provenge and Abiraterone). But today, more than 90% of all advanced testicular cancer cases are curable.

Testicular cancer is one of the few cancers that is considered totally curable and the patients go on to live a normal, full healthy life. In the coming decade, we will definitely see many more targeted therapies which could prolong lives. Using a combination of these therapies, which are proven to prolong survival, there is every hope that nearly all cases of prostate cancer at any stage may be totally curable.

The hope is even brighter when these innovative therapies are non-invasive and may just require taking a few pills per day.

These recent spectacular breakthroughs in treatment of CRPC have brought back memories of a dear friend and colleague who battled CRPC for a couple of years. We had tried practically every therapy available, including current hormonal and chemotherapies. He succumbed to the battle just weeks before the availability of these two FDA approved revolutionary therapies.

The battle against many cancers has taken centre stage. We are certainly racing against time to bring hope to the lives of patients who are unfortunate to have incurable cancer at this point in time.

This article is contributed by The Star Health & Ageing Panel, which comprises a group of panellists who are not just opinion leaders in their respective fields of medical expertise, but have wide experience in medical health education for the public. The members of the panel include: Datuk Prof Dr Tan Hui Meng, consultant urologist; Dr Yap Piang Kian, consultant endocrinologist; Datuk Dr Azhari Rosman, consultant cardiologist; A/Prof Dr Philip Poi, consultant geriatrician; Dr Hew Fen Lee, consultant endocrinologist; Prof Dr Low Wah Yun, psychologist; Datuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist; Dr Lee Moon Keen, consultant neurologist; Dr Ting Hoon Chin, consultant dermatologist; Prof Khoo Ee Ming, primary care physician; Dr Ng Soo Chin, consultant haematologist. For more information, e-mail starhealth@thestar.com.my. The Star Health & Ageing Advisory Panel provides this information for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader's own medical care. The Star Health & Ageing Advisory Panel disclaims any and all liability for injury or other damages that could result from use of the information obtained from this article.

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