Selasa, 14 Jun 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

TV time tied to diabetes, death

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 09:57 PM PDT

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - People who spend more hours in front of the television are at greater risk of dying, or developing diabetes and heart disease, with even two hours of television a day having a marked effect, according to a U.S. study.

Every day, U.S. residents spend an average of 5 hours watching television, while Australians and some Europeans log 3.5 to 4 hours a day, said researchers led by Frank Hu, at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Oner Baduna, (L) his mother Nilgun (C) and his father Ismil watch television in their subsidised apartment in London August 17, 2010. People who spend more hours in front of the television are at greater risk of dying, or developing diabetes and heart disease, according to a U.S. study. (REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett/Files)

"The message is simple. Cutting back on TV watching is an important way to reduce sedentary behaviors and decrease risk of diabetes and heart disease," Hu said.

People who sit in front of the television are not only exercising less, they are likely eating unhealthy foods, he added.

"The combination of a sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy diet and obesity creates a 'perfect breeding ground' for type 2 diabetes and heart disease."

This is not the first study to associate TV time with ill effects. Many studies have found a strong link to obesity, and one 2007 report found that more TV time was associated with higher blood pressure in obese children.

Another study that same year found that overweight children who watch food advertisements tend to double their food intake.

For the new study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Hu and his team reviewed 8 studies examining the link between television time and diseases, that in total followed more than 200,000 people, for an average of 7 to 10 years.

Hu and his colleagues found that for every two hours of daily television that people watched, their risk of diabetes increased by 20 percent, while their risk of heart disease rose by 15 percent.

Each two hours of television per day increased the risk of dying by 13 percent.

Based on those results, Hu and his team estimated that, among a group of 100,000 people, reducing daily television time by 2 hours could prevent 176 new cases of diabetes, 38 cases of fatal cardiovascular disease, and 104 premature deaths -- every year.

All of the studies in the analysis made sure that participants didn't have a chronic disease, because people who were generally less well might be more likely both to watch many hours of TV and to experience diabetes, heart disease or premature death.

But Hu and his team cautioned that it's possible some people had undetected forms of disease at the start of the studies, influencing the findings.

The study cannot prove that TV watching alone raises the disease risk, nor can it identify what about TV watching might have an impact.

"It's true that people who watch a lot of TV differ from those who watch less, especially in terms of diet and physical activity levels," Hu said.

He added that people who watch a lot of television are more likely to eat junk food. But unhealthy diet and inactivity are also consequences of prolonged television watching, so they explain some of the adverse effects of the sedentary behavior. SOURCE:

(Reporting by Alison McCook at Reuters Health, editing by Elaine Lies)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Body found at home of acting PNG Prime Minister

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 09:57 PM PDT

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Papua New Guinea police are investigating the murder of woman at the home of the country's acting prime minister, compounding an uncertain future for the Pacific nation under an ailing leader.

Sam Abal, acting leader while Prime Minister Michael Somare recovers from heart surgery in Singapore, said he was not at the home in the capital Port Moresby when the body was found.

Police Commissioner Anthony Wagambie said on Wednesday police were searching for Abal's son Teo to question him. Police have described their inquiries as a murder investigation.

Papua New Guinea, which shares the island of New Guinea with Indonesia, is rich in resources and site of a $15 billion LNG project, led by Exxon Mobil which is due to produce 6.6 million tonnes a year from 2014.

Somare, its founding leader in 1975, has led the country for half of its time as an independent nation.

His prolonged illness has prompted jostling for his position and local media say his family has urged Somare, 75, to retire.

Last week Abal sacked leadership rival, Foreign Minister Don Poyle, and Resources Minister William Duma from the cabinet.

In a statement reported by PNG media, Abal said he had contacted police about the woman's death at his home.

"All family members living with me are immediate suspects and are subject to investigation and questioning by police," he said, pledging to cooperate with the investigation.

Wagambie said a witness had seen Teo Abal and the woman walking in the garden of the Port Moresby home, and then heard a woman's scream from the garden. Wagambie confirmed the acting prime minister was not at home at the time of the incident.

"The acting prime minister was away for the long weekend when the incident occurred," Wagambie said in a statement obtained by Reuters.

(Reporting by James Grubel; Editing by Ron Popeski)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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FACTBOX - The world's most dangerous countries for women

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 09:27 PM PDT

LONDON (TrustLaw) - Afghanistan, Congo and Pakistan are the world's most dangerous countries for women due to a barrage of threats ranging from violence and rape to dismal healthcare and "honour killngs", a Thomson Reuters Foundation expert poll showed on Wednesday.

India and Somalia ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, in the global perceptions survey by TrustLaw (, the Foundation's legal news service.

A migrant woman and her daughter make breakfast in a park during the early hours in Srinagar June 13, 2011. India is ranked fourth in the world's most dangerous countries for women due to a barrage of threats ranging from violence and rape to dismal healthcare and "honour killngs", a Thomson Reuters Foundation poll shows. (REUTERS/Fayaz Kabli)

TrustLaw asked 213 gender experts from five continents to rank countries by overall perceptions of danger as well as by six risks: health threats, sexual violence, non-sexual violence, cultural or religious factors, lack of access to resources and trafficking.

For info-graphics, slideshows, more stories and analysis visit

For more on women's rights worldwide visit

For news on humanitarian issues visit

Following are key facts on each of the five countries, ranked in order of danger.


Beleaguered by insurgency, corruption and dire poverty, Afghanistan ranked as most dangerous to women overall and came out worst in three of the poll's key risk categories: health, non-sexual violence and economic discrimination.

* Women in Afghanistan have a one in 11 chance of dying in childbirth.

* Some 87 pct of women are illiterate.

* 70-80 pct of girls and women face forced marriages.


Still reeling from a 1998-2003 war and accompanying humanitarian disaster that killed 5.4 million, Democratic Republic of Congo ranked second due mainly to staggering levels of sexual violence.

* About 1,150 women are raped every day, or some 420,000 a year, according to a recent report in the American Journal of Public Health.

* The Congolese Women's Campaign Against Sexual Violence puts the number of rapes at 40 women a day.

* 57 pct of pregnant women are anaemic.


Those polled cited cultural, tribal and religious practices harmful to women, including acid attacks, child and forced marriage and punishment or retribution by stoning or other physical abuse.

* More than 1,000 women and girls are victims of "honour killings" every year, according to Pakistan's Human Rights Commission.

* 90 pct of women in Pakistan face domestic violence.


Female foeticide, child marriage and high levels of trafficking and domestic servitude make the world's largest democracy the fourth most dangerous place for women, the poll showed.

* 100 million people, mostly women and girls, are involved in trafficking in one way or another, according to former Indian Home Secretay Madhukar Gupta.

* Up to 50 million girls are "missing" over the past century due to female infanticide and foeticide.

* 44.5 pct of girls are married before the age of 18.


One of the poorest, most violent and lawless countries, Somalia ranked fifth due to a catalogue of dangers including high maternal mortality, rape, female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage.

* 95 pct of women face FGM, mostly between the ages of 4 and 11.

* Only 9 pct of women give birth at a health facility.

* Only 7.5 pct of parliament seats are held by women.

Sources: AlertNet (, U.N. agencies, IRIN News, American Journal of Public Health, World Bank, Gender Index, Human Rights Watch, International Center for Research on Women.

(Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

(For more on the poll, including info-graphics, pictures and analysis, visit

(For more news on women's legal rights visit TrustLaw Women

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

War in the heavenlies

Posted: 15 Jun 2011 02:37 AM PDT

The sixth season of Supernatural is as epic and emotionally engaging as its previous season.

TRUTH be told, I wasn't looking forward to the sixth season of Supernatural.

The little show that defied critics' expectations has come a long way since its debut in 2005. I had thought that the story of the Winchester brothers, who hunt demons and other creepy crawlies that haunt the night, had come to a neat and fitting conclusion at the end of the fifth season.

Sam (Jared Padalecki), who is possessed by Satan, dies a heroic death, throwing himself into Hell (and thus trapping Lucifer there) for the sake of all humanity.

His brother Dean (Jensen Ackles) is left devastated and grieving, but ready to start a new life with a woman he loves, and without the fate of the world on his shoulders.

Many had debated that season five was Supernatural's last as show creator Eric Kripke said that he wouldn't do another season. But the option for renewal was still there, so at the end of the last episode of that season, we saw Sam watching his brother settling in with his new family from the shadows.

The drama could have ended there and I'd be satisfied – Dean gets a new start, and so does Sam. The story that began with their mother's mysterious and violent death, which shattered their innocent childhood and ended their normal lives, is finally explained and solved. The brothers have fulfilled their destinies and would now have the "retirement" they so richly deserve.

But Supernatural was renewed for a sixth season.

Would the story become stale if it is continued after such a nice ending? And would Supernatural still be as epic and emotionally engaging with Kripke gone?

Concerns about the show sliding in quality were banished from the first episode.

The Kripke-less writers have managed to retain Supernatural's unique spirit and tone, and have also respected its complex, mythic arc, so it is almost as if Kripke had not left. (Actually, he makes a funny guest appearance in one of the episodes in the sixth season.)

In season six, the world may have continued to spin after the monumental battle at the end of season five, but it is no longer the same. With God missing in action, the angels are fighting for supremacy in Heaven. Meanwhile, on Earth, the creatures of the dark are behaving in odd ways that leave the Winchesters puzzled.

What's more surprising is that people from their past who are supposed to be dead have been resurrected. As Dean tries to choose between returning to the life of a hunter or having an "apple pie" life with his girlfriend, he has to deal with Sam who is behaving oddly. Is his brother just traumatised by the events of last season, or is this something more sinister?

Fun with the shadows

Supernatural may revolve around vampires, demons, angels and other otherworldly cretins, but the show's real heart is the relationship between the brothers, and season six retains this.

In season one, Dean and Sam had been estranged for a couple of years before they were forced to reunite to save their father. Since then, the boys have literally been to hell and back. The once-frayed brotherly bond has been tested, strained and almost annihilated by the trials that came along the way, especially after Dean died in season three and then returned from hell in season four.

In season six, we get a retread of season four as Dean begins to suspect Sam's true intentions again. Still, Sam and Dean's relationship continues to evolve as the brothers not only have to wrestle with trust issues, but with other family betrayals as well.

And while Supernatural may excel with the angst, what with the end-of-the-world issues and major family problems that the Winchesters have to deal with, it also has great comedic episodes and is also extremely good at making fun of itself. Season five may be the heaviest season in terms of tone, but it also has its funniest episode – Changing Channels – where Sam and Dean end up as characters in TV shows; the writers certainly used the chance to spoof shows like Grey's Anatomy and CSI.

I was concerned that with Kripke gone, this endearing trait would be gone as well. Thankfully, this has not happened.

In season six, we even get a "meta" episode, The French Mistake, where Sam and Dean are transported into an alternate dimension where they are actors Jared Padelecki and Jensen Ackles!

Angel to the rescue

However, this season's "War in Heaven" plot feels drawn out and stretched thin, and the Winchesters do not have a significant role to play in the events though I'm glad that it gives our favourite crusading angel Castiel (Mischa Collins) something to do.

But because the Winchesters are not directly involved with the war, Castiel only pops by once in a while when the brothers need help or land in some angel trouble.

The Winchesters being reduced to Castiel's sidekicks and mere side participants in season six's major plot is a negative point in an otherwise stellar season.

With all these elements in place, Supernatu­ral manages to retain its brilliance, even if the the main story arc may not have the same urgency or emotional resonance before. What remains is that the bond between the Winchesters remains the heart of the show.

The sixth season of Supernatural airs on AXN Beyond HD (Astro Channel 720) from Mondays to Fridays at 9.50pm.

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Jessica Simpson joins NBC's 'Fashion Star'

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 02:14 AM PDT

LOS ANGELES (AP): Jessica Simpson is taking on the role of mentor to aspiring designers for a new NBC reality series.

The network said Monday that Simpson will help guide contestants in the series "Fashion Star" as they compete for a multimillion-dollar contract to launch their own brand.

Elle McPherson will host the show, which NBC promises to be a "true spectacle" taped in front of a studio audience and featuring music, dancers and models along with weekly challenges for the contestants.

Simpson, 30, ("The Dukes of Hazzard," TV's "The Price of Beauty") is a fashion mogul as well as entertainer, with a line that carries her name and includes 22 product categories.

"NBC is delighted to work with singer, designer, actress and pop culture icon Jessica Simpson," said Paul Telegdy, NBC and Universal Media Studios executive vice president. "With an almost billion-dollar lifestyle brand under her belt she is sure to be an excellent mentor to our up-and-coming designers."

The contestant who best combines fashion and business gets a contract to launch a line with three major retailers, which are yet to be announced. Buyers from each chain will serve as judges, keeping contestants in the competition by buying their designs.

Viewers won't have to wait to shop for what they see: Each week's winning design in categories ranging from suits to lingerie to accessories will be available for immediate online purchase.

Producers of "Fashion Star" include former NBC executive Ben Silverman, and Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz of Magical Elves, original producers of "Project Runway."

"Project Runway," hosted by Heidi Klum, was a hit for NBC Universal's Bravo channel before a legal clash ended with the series moving to Lifetime.

The debut date for "Fashion Star" was not announced.

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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

JC Penney names Apple retail exec as new CEO

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 06:01 PM PDT

NEW YORK (AP) - J.C. Penney Co., the department store chain, has named Ron Johnson, who pioneered Apple Inc.'s retail stores, its next CEO. He will succeed Myron Ullman III in November, the retailer said Tuesday.

During his 11 years at Apple, Johnson led Apple's retail stores and has been credited with developing the popular Genius Bar, where customers can get hands-on technical support for their Mac, iPad or other devices.

Johnson, 52, will report to Ullman, who will become executive chairman. Johnson will also join J.C. Penney's board of directors in August.

Ullman has been CEO and chairman since December 2004.

Apple's retail chain has grown to 300 stores in the U.S. and abroad and has become the gold standard for other retailers looking to make their stores modern and exciting. Johnson joined Apple after 15 years at Target Corp., where he was a merchandising executive who led the team that brought designer Michael Graves' products to the "cheap chic" retailer.

Penney's shares rose $4.04, or 13.4 percent, to $34.15 after the announcement.

Ullman turns 65 in November. Under his stewardship, Penney has moved from offering mainly store brands to filling its floors with trendy Sephora cosmetics shops and affordable lines like Cindy Crawford Style. Last year, it became the only U.S. retailer to sell Liz Claiborne and Claiborne women's wear. It's also the only department store selling MNG by Mango, a European clothing chain.

Penney, which generated revenue of $17.7 billion in its latest fiscal year, has also created a unit devoted to finding new revenue streams. As part of this initiative, the company opened the first 10 Foundry Big & Tall Supply co. stores, six in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and four in Kansas City.

Johnson's appointment is a sign that J.C. Penney is positioning itself for a new era in which shoppers increasingly use mobile phones to check prices or shop.

In clothing, J.C. Penney has been squeezed by competition from Macy's on the high end and Target and H&M on the cheaper end. Its competitors are also expanding exclusive items to make them stand out.

Johnson brings expertise in both "soft goods" like clothing and "hard goods" like gadgets, said Gilbert Harrison, CEO of Financo, an investment banking boutique that specializes in retailing.

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Oil rises on economy news

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 06:00 PM PDT

NEW YORK (AP) - Oil climbed above $99 per barrel Tuesday following a better-than-expected retail sales report, a decline in the dollar and a broad rally on Wall Street.

The U.S. government reported that retail sales slipped 0.2 percent last month, the first decline in nearly a year. Lower cars sales brought down the reading. The report still beat analysts' expectations. Excluding car sales, retail sales rose 0.3 percent. The Labor Department also added some upbeat news, saying that food costs were falling.

Stocks and oil rallied after the reports came out. Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for July delivery gained $2.07, or 2.1 percent, to settle at $99.37 per barrel, rebounding from Monday's decline on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In London, Brent crude added 93 cents to settle at $119.35 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, the Standard and Poor's 500 and the Nasdaq were more than 1 percent higher in late afternoon trading, the best gain for stocks in two weeks.

Oil rose against a weaker dollar. Oil is priced in U.S. currency and tends to rise as the greenback falls and makes crude cheaper for investors holding foreign currency.

Analyst and trader Stephen Schork noted that despite waning demand in the U.S., oil continues to look like a relatively safe investment when compared with the dollar. The world still needs fuel, and supplies are expected to get tighter this year as China and other emerging nations consume more. "There's some momentum there," Schork said. And crude prices will continue to be supported by production problems in the North Sea, a shutdown in Libyan exports and supply issues in Nigeria.

Goldman Sachs said Tuesday that "it is only a matter of time" before excess production from Saudi Arabia and other OPEC countries will become "effectively exhausted." That means the market will need "higher oil prices to restrain demand, keeping it in line with available supplies," Goldman analyst David Greely said.

In the U.S., motorists have cut back on gasoline purchases for 12 weeks in a row, according to the latest survey by MasterCard SpendingPulse. SpendingPulse, which tracks purchases at thousands of pumps around the country, estimated that Americans bought 389.8 million gallons per day of gasoline last week. That's down 1 percent from the same week a year ago.

Gasoline pump prices dropped to $3.696 per gallon (97 cents a liter) on Tuesday, according to AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. The U.S. average is still almost a dollar more than a year ago. Analysts expect the national average to fall as low as $3.50 per gallon this month.

In other Nymex trading for July contracts, heating oil added 2 cents to settle at $3.1258 per gallon, while gasoline futures gained 6.78 cents to settle at $3.0646 per gallon. Natural gas lost 6.5 cents to settle at $4.581 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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Reports point to lower food prices, more hiring in US

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 05:58 PM PDT

WASHINGTON (AP) - Some relief from high gas and food prices could be on the way.

Wholesale food prices fell last month by the most in nearly a year, and gas prices keep dropping after peaking in May. A separate survey suggests America's CEOs are feeling more optimistic and will hire more in the second half of this year.

It amounted to welcome news Tuesday after a rough patch that has stoked worries the U.S. economic recovery is slowing. More jobs and lower prices would both give Americans more money to spend on other things and rejuvenate economic growth.

Food prices at the wholesale level fell 1.4 percent, the Labor Department said. It was the largest drop since last June. About 40 percent of that decline resulted from steep declines in vegetable and fruit prices.

The drop in food prices followed harsh winter freezes, which had driven up prices of tomatoes and other vegetables in February. Even if prices don't fall further, economists say they probably won't go much higher, at least.

"That's a good thing for consumers, and it's even better that it comes in parallel with lower energy prices," said Gregory Daco, U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight.

Overall, the producer price index, which measures price changes before they reach the consumer, rose 0.2 percent in May. That's much lower than April's 0.8 percent gain and signals that inflation is in check.

Gas prices at the wholesale level rose in May by the smallest amount in eight months. At the pump, they're coming down. On Tuesday, the national average was $3.70 a gallon (97 cents a liter), according to AAA. Gas has fallen steadily since the national average almost hit $4 a gallon ($1.05 a liter) in early May. It's still about a dollar more expensive than a year ago.

For now, Americans remain cautious about spending. Another report Tuesday showed that retail sales fell 0.2 percent in May. It was the first decline in 11 months and came mostly because Americans bought fewer cars.

Auto sales fell 2.9 percent, the sharpest drop in 15 months. The decline was attributed to temporary factors, including fewer incentives offered by dealerships and a shortage of popular fuel-efficient cars because of disrupted shipments after the Japan earthquake.

Excluding the drop in car sales, retail sales rose 0.3 percent. That gain seemed to please investors, who were expecting broad declines because of high gas prices. The Dow Jones industrial average, which has fallen six weeks in a row, closed up 123 points, or 1 percent.

Mark Vitner, an economist at Wells Fargo Securities, said the retail-sales report shows that household budgets are still tight, forcing people to put off buying expensive items. Sales at electronics and furniture stores dropped in May.

Some of the biggest sales gains were reported by thrift shops and other stores that sell used goods, Vitner said, and by online retailers, which many shoppers use to find the best deals.

Lower food and gas prices "should provide some near-term relief," Vitner said, "but a sustainable pickup in spending will not likely occur until job growth picks up and the unemployment rate falls."

There were some encouraging signs that hiring could pick up in the second half of the year. The Business Roundtable, which represents CEOs for the 200 biggest U.S. companies, said 51 percent of chief executives plan to step up hiring in the second half of the year.

Last quarter, the figure was 52 percent said they planned to hire more over the following six months, the highest since the trade group began polling its members in 2002.

The survey began in mid-May and ended June 3, the day the government released a report that showed a steep pullback in hiring in May. The unemployment rate rose to 9.1 percent in May from 9 percent in April.

ManpowerGroup, one of the nation's largest staffing companies, said the proportion of businesses that plan to hire in the next three months is higher than at any time since the end of 2008, during the recession.

Melanie Holmes, vice president at ManpowerGroup, said the company's employment outlook is still at only about half the level associated with a healthy economy.

The Commerce Department said businesses added to their inventories for the 16th straight month in April, another sign that companies are confident people will spend more in the second half of the year.

The pace at which businesses sold those goods was the slowest in 10 months, but economists said it wasn't a concern because inventories are still historically small compared with sales. Companies are unlikely to get stuck with huge stockpiles of goods.

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The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Southpaw Alex crowned ‘King of the Fruits’ in Penang

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 06:03 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Guangzhou Asian Games double gold medallist Alex Liew was crowned "King of the Fruits" as he dominated the field of 24 finalists in the Penang Durians Masters bowling championship at the Premium Lanes in Sunshine Square over the weekend.

Alex was awesome as he scorched the lanes with strings of strikes up to the 10th frame. But in the 11th frame, the seventh pin stood.

Alex finished the final step-ladder match on 288 against a 267 by Afizal Azizan to wrest the title and a cheque for RM8,000.

In the earlier step-ladder match, Afizal edged Zaid Izlan 235-211 in the battle of youngsters to get a shot at the title.

In Round 2, southpaw Alex made it to the step-ladder final as the top seed with a six-game total of 1,481.

Former national youth bowler Afizal, armed with a 48-pin handicap, had a perfect game in his total of 1,471 for second. And former back-up bowler Zaid made the cut with a total of 1,424.

Penang Tenpin Bowling Association secretary Cheah Ban Cheng said that in addition to the cash prize totalling RM25,500, the organisers also awarded Alex with a "ang hae" durian, which is reputed to be the most expensive of its kind.

"We also had a perfect game winner (Afizal) this time and he was rewarded with 300kg of durian, worth about RM10,000 and it was later shared out," he said.

"The objective of the tournament was to foster and promote goodwill, friendship and sportmanship among the local and foreign bowling fraternity.


Round 2: 1. Alex Liew 1481, 2. Afizal Azizan 1471, 3. Zaid Izlan 1424, 4. Azidi Ameran 1415, 5. Kang Bo Long 1403, 6. Syafiq Ridhwan 1399, 7. Daniel Lim 1398, 8. Issac Russel Paul 1391, 9. Adrian Ang 1377, 10. Andrew Lee 1377.

First step-ladder: Afizal bt Zaid 235-211.

Final step-ladder: Alex bt Afizal 288-267.

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Queen’s victory puts Murray in the mood for Wimbledon glory

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 06:02 PM PDT

LONDON: Andy Murray has set his sights on Wimbledon glory after winning his second Queen's title with a 3-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Murray became the first Briton for 97 years to win the Wimbledon warm-up event twice thanks to a gutsy comeback against Tsonga and the world number four will be among the favourites when the All England Club tournament gets underway next week.

The 24-year-old has endured three painful defeats in Grand Slam finals, including the Australian Open this year, but he believes he is in the perfect form to finally end his long wait to win a major.

"I'm going to Wimbledon with the feeling I'm going to win the tournament. I don't think you can go in with any other attitude," Murray said.

"I feel like I am playing good tennis but I will need to improve in the next week because I have to play my best throughout the tournament to win it.

"I will be switched on from my first match. I'll really look forward to the challenge because Wimbledon is one of the most important tournaments of the year, if not the most important."

Murray underlined his sky-high confidence in the third set of the final against Tsonga when he hit a remarkable between-the-legs forehand winner from an acute angle near the net.

The British number one admitted it was the kind of spectacular shot he loves to play and he refused to apologise for a piece of show-boating some saw as a sign of arrogance.

"I enjoyed hitting them, it was good fun," Murray said. "You don't get a chance to do that very often and it just came off.

"I was up 40-0 in the game, I probably wouldn't have gone for it at 30-30.

"If it works I will try it anywhere. It is not something I will think about too much.

"I don't know if he was annoyed but it was frustrating for me when he was hitting dive volleys and getting net cords in the first set."

It has been a perfect week for Murray, but the Scot revealed he nearly pulled out of the tournament after his first match against Xavier Malisse.

Murray had arrived nursing serious concerns about the ankle ligament injury he suffered at the French Open and he felt it was still painful enough after the Malisse match to consider withdrawing.

He eventually opted to keep playing and it proved a wise move.

The ankle has responded well to treatment and Murray was able to play some of the best tennis of his life to demolish three-time Wimbledon finalist Andy Roddick in the semi-finals.

"I was very close to pulling out after the first match," he said. "I was feeling my ankle and didn't feel comfortable on the court.

"The best thing would have been to rest it, but I ended getting four matches on grass and winning the tournament.

"The last two tournaments have been very difficult with things I've had to go through, but you get rewarded for that if you go on court and fight through it.

"This was great preparation. When you look at the names of the people on the trophy, it's not an easy tournament to win.

"It's always been great preparation for guys going into Wimbledon and it shows you are playing well on the grass."

While Murray's between-the-legs winner drew gasps of admiration from the capacity crowd, Tsonga was initially angry that the Scot had been so cheeky.

But the Frenchman – who put out world number one Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals – is no stranger to a flamboyant stroke or two himself and even he had to admire Murray's skill.

"I don't remember anyone doing it against me before. Of course it is a bit frustrating," Tsonga said.

"First I was pissed off, then I said 'good play' and finally I know it's good to watch on the television!"

Tsonga was impressed with the way Murray handled everything he threw at him and he believes the Scot is capable of winning Wimbledon this year.

"Of course he can beat everybody. Why not? You can see how well he reads the serve," Tsonga said. — AFP

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Westwood optimistic he will win elusive first major golf title

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 06:01 PM PDT

Britain's Lee Westwood enters the US Open optimistic he has what it takes to finally snag an elusive first major golf crown.

"My confidence is pretty high. I'm looking forward to this week," Westwood said on Monday. "I'm driving it pretty long and straight. My iron shots are fairly crisp, which is good coming into a US Open. My preparation has gone well."

The World No. 2 starts tomorrow morning off the 10th tee alongside fellow Englishman Luke Donald, the reigning World No. 1, and Germany's third-ranked Martin Kaymer in the feature group at Congressional Country Club.

"Amazing freak of nature how that came out in the draw, wasn't it?" Westwood joked. "I like it. I think it's a good idea. I get on well with Luke and Martin as well, so it will be a nice way to start off the tournament."

Westwood was last year's Masters and British Open runner-up, shared third in the 2009 PGA Championship and British Open and was third in the 2008 US Open, one stroke out of an 18-hole playoff at Torrey Pines.

"It's a challenge that I've got to try and overcome and just do a little bit better at the right times," Westwood said. "There's no secret ingredient or recipe to it. I keep getting myself in position and it's just a case of finishing it off."

After so many near misses in quest of his first major, Westwood could be forgiven for some gloom over missed opportunities. But the 38-year-old from Worksop has proven resilient.

"If you're a good player, you're going to have disappointments because you're going to be in contention a lot," he said. "You're going to have lots of chances to win major championships, so that's all part and parcel of it.

"If you have a successful year, we maybe win three times a year. So you get used to not winning and being disappointed. You learn to try and take positives out of anything, even when you maybe finish second and you thought you should have won one of these.

"You try and look at it on the bright side and I think I've probably managed to do that over the last few years. I seem to be responding well and coming out of it positively, even though obviously I would love to win one."

Westwood has faith that if he puts himself in the hunt on Sunday often enough, the breaks will one day come his way.

"It's a fine balancing act and a fine line between when you do get really close to becoming frustrated but still seeing the positives in the fact that you are getting close," Westwood said.

"I feel like my game is good enough and if I just do a few things differently at the right times, then it'll be the difference between a second and a win. It's a tricky balancing act, going in with expectations but playing with a freedom as well."

Westwood played his first US Open at Congressional in 1997, when he shared 19th.

"Really doesn't seem like five minutes, those 14 years," Westwood said. "It's a pretty similar course. They have done a good job of modifying it and lengthening it and changing the greens in certain areas.

"It's very fair. There's no tricks to this golf course. You could almost turn up Thursday and just play it because it's such a good, honest test."

However, Westwood calls the US Open the toughest test of the majors because of the lightning-fast greens and dense rough.

"You have to be very patient and not give any shots away unnecessarily," he said.

"If you can make double (bogey) instead of making triple, that's great.

"It's almost like one less birdie you need if you can make that three or four-footer when you need it." — AFP

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Radiopharmaceutical company's premises sealed due to radiation

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 06:54 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: A radiopharmaceutical company in Selangor has been ordered to stop operations and its premises have been sealed by the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) for further investigation, after radioactive materials were detected on four of its workers.

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili said the radioactive contamination was detected by AELB through a Radiation Portal Monitor (RPM) system at 11.30am on June 2, after the four workers went to the AELB office.

"The radiation reading on one of the workers exceeded more than 400 times the normal reading (the normal reading is 0.5 micro Sievert/hour)," he said in press statement here Tuesday.

He said the four workers had gone through the decontamination process, with three of them at the National Radiological Emergency Centre at the AELB head office in Dengkil.

The other worker, who was directly involved with the radiopharmaceutical leakage, was decontaminated at the Malaysian Nuclear Agency, he added.

Ongkili said an AELB team also monitored the company premises the same day and found the contamination there at more than 100 times the normal reading.

"The contaminated area has been cordoned off to ensure the radiation does not spread or any radioactive particles leave the place," he added.

The company was also ordered to review its work procedure and to submit remedial action to prevent the incident from happening again. - Bernama

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Volunteers needed at dialysis centres, says Dr Siti Hasmah

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 05:30 AM PDT

SUNGAI PETANI: Malaysia is facing a shortage of volunteers to help at dialysis centres in the country, said Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali.

The wife of former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said dialysis centres were in dire need of the support of the people, especially those who were willing to do volunteer work, to meet the shortage of trained personnel.

Medical experts should help change the thinking of the people and create an awareness of social responsibility, and help ease the burden of kidney patients, she told reporters after opening a dialysis centre here Tuesday.

Earlier, in her speech, Dr Siti Hasmah said 4,000 new kidney patients were recorded every year, and about 400 dialysis centres were required to meet their needs. - Bernama

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Khir Toyo trial: Property valued at RM5.55mil, court told (Updated)

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 04:49 AM PDT

SHAH ALAM: The properties in Section 7 here bought by former Selangor Mentri Besar Dr Mohd Khir Toyo for RM3.5mil four years ago has a market value of RM5.55mil, the High Court here heard Tuesday.

Henry Butcher Malaysia Sdn Bhd senior property valuer Long Tian Chek, 54, testified that he valued the property as at May 14,2007.

"I was instructed by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) on July 31, 2009, to evaluate two plots of land as at 2007," he said during an examination-in-chief by deputy public prosecutor Mohd Dusuki Mokhtar.

He added that the land, owned by Dr Mohd Khir and his wife Zahrah Kechik, came with a two-storey detached house, a pool, gazebo and carporch.

Long said the market value for the land was RM2.35mil and the building was worth RM3.2mil, making the entire property stand at a handsome RM5.55mil.

He was the eigth prosecution witness taking the stand in the trial of Dr Mohd Khir, 45, who is accused of knowingly obtaining for himself and his wife, two plots of land and a house located in Lots 8 and 10, Jalan Suasa 7/1L here, from Ditamas Sdn Bhd through its director Shamsuddin Hayroni, for RM3.5mil, which was much lower than the original price.

Ditamas had bought the lots on Dec 23, 2004, for RM6.5mil.

The Sungai Panjang assemblyman allegedly committed the offence at the Mentri Besar's official residence in Jalan Permata 7/1, Section 7 here, on May 29,2007.

Long said the property valuation was based on the existing evaluation report, site visits, comparables and surroundings.

Meanwhile, Selangor Valuation and Property Services Department assistant valuation officer Noor Faiza Zainuddin, 48, said she had valued the properties for RM4.8mil.

She also said the vacant land plot on Lot 10 was valued at RM918,000 while the other plot with the bungalow was valued at RM3.9mil.

Noor Faiza said she was involved in the valuation when the department received an order from the Inland Revenue Board in July 2007 to evaluate the properties for the purpose of stamp duty, when Shamsuddin wanted to sell the properties at a price RM1.3mil below the price she evaluated.

Noor Faiza added that during a site visit on Aug 3, 2007, Shamsuddin told her that he was forced to sell below the valuation price due to "problems".

"When I went there, I saw that the bungalow was going through a renovation.

"It was standard practice in my office to ask why a property was being sold at a lower price.

"Shamsuddin told me he was going through some problems and had to let go of the properties," said Noor Faiza, adding that the properties were then ownedby Ditamas.

She, however, did not query further about the problems mentioned by Shamsuddin.

Hearing continues Wednesday.

Related Stories:
Khir Toyo trial: Businessman says forced to buy properties
Khir Toyo spent RM6mil to renovate mansion, court told (Updated)

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Tradition trumps Twitter

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 02:49 AM PDT

At a writers' workshop, love of the printed page wins out over the virtual world.

INSIDE the 154-year-old Victorian home that houses the Iowa Writers' Workshop, you will see few Amazon Kindles. Twitter is viewed as a potentially disastrous distraction. You can even anger an instructor for mentioning Google in your writing.

At a time when so much has changed in the publishing industry, America's oldest and most prestigious creative writing programme embraces tradition. And why not? For more than seven decades, the nation's best young fiction writers and poets have escaped from life to spend two years in Iowa City writing, reading, hearing criticism of their work and meeting lifelong trusted readers. And that formula continues to have success helping top-notch writers develop their craft.

The programme, which has helped train everyone from Flannery O'Connor to Michael Cunningham and T.C. Boyle, remains a powerhouse in American literature as it turned 75 last week. To mark the milestone, hundreds of alumni came back to campus in what amounted to an all-star gathering of writers who have breathed the air in Iowa City and that of its once-smoky bars.

Even in a town where it is not uncommon to bump into award-winning writers at the grocery store, the reunion is creating tremendous buzz. Pulitzer Prize winners, US National Book Award recipients and MacArthur Foundation "geniuses" were among the hundreds of workshop alumni in attendance.

"It's been great to see all these legends of the programme," Arna Hemenway, 23, who just completed his first year in the workshop, said last week during a break from working on a novel in a library filled with thousands of books written by alumni.

Hemenway says he feels a bond with those who have gone through before him: "You're toiling under the same sort of magical, strange, impossible thing."

Returnees are finding a programme quite similar to the one they knew. Admission remains extremely competitive: The workshop received 1,600 applications last year for just 25 fiction writing and 25 poetry slots. Students take literature seminars from award-winning authors and poets who comprise the faculty.

In workshops, they take turns handing in stories and poems to be intensely critiqued by classmates and instructors.

Students continue writing and discussing the word at all hours of the day in some of the same bookstores, bars and coffee shops that have long populated this college town.

Even the quirky, decades-old tradition of having fiction writers play the poets in a softball game at the end of the spring semester continues (and a similar game was scheduled for Sunday).

"I would say that in some ways our programme has not changed," says Lan Samantha Chang, the author who has directed the programme since 2006. "It's true that we've gone from way back when, when people would stand up and read their stories out loud to an auditorium to share their work, to mimeographs to photocopies, but basically the emphasis on writing remains the same here. The focus on writing, apart from the industry and apart from whatever kinds of media are used to carry away the product of what we do here, remains."

At the same time, the programme has changed in many ways. Chang, the first woman and Asian-American to lead it, shattered its image as an old boy's club after succeeding the late Frank Conroy.

Chang is praised for raising more money for financial aid so students are not competing as much over limited funding as in the sometimes cutthroat past.

Chang, who spends every January and February poring over boxes and boxes of manuscripts, says she also has worked to enhance the diversity of the types of writers who are admitted.

Benjamin Nugent, who recently graduated from the programme and already has a deal to get his first novel published next year, recalls that he was accepted in 2009 after sending in a manuscript of a comedy about fraternity brothers who accidentally turned their mascot into a demon that sexually assaults them.

"I don't think that's what they were writing at Iowa 75 years ago," says Nugent, who wrote, American Nerd: The Story Of My People, before he was admitted. "I think it is a different place."

At the same time, Nugent says he will hand-write the first drafts of his stories or even use a typewriter. Like most of his classmates, he does not own an e-reader and prefers paper books. He says he was scolded by a tradition-minded instructor when he turned in his first workshop story for writing about a character who used Google. And although he is as quick-witted as they come, Nugent does not use Twitter.

"Lack of distraction is so important when you are writing a novel that using Twitter seems like putting my head on a guillotine," he says.

Nonetheless, a university spokesman, Winston Barclay, says he expects "a steady stream of blogs and tweets" to come from writers at reunion events.

Joe Fassler, a 27-year-old recent graduate, says to avoid the distraction of a fast Internet connection he often writes at an old, dark bar called the Deadwood, a popular haunt during the 1960s workshop days of writer Raymond Carver.

In an interview in one of its booths, Fassler says he is inspired to write fiction as an alternative to the constant drumbeat of traditional and social media.

"The reason it's modern and the reason it's so radical now is it's such a slow-burning, heavy-attention medium that really demands someone who is mentally present and not just giving you superficial attention. I really love that aspect of it," Fassler says. "I want to convince people that, in this world of beeps and tweets, spending meditative time with an analog paper book is a worthy pursuit. I want to write so well that I can convince others of that."

At the reunion, he set up a room where alumni can record their memories about the programme.

"I wonder to what extent things have changed over time, or has it been kind of a timeless experience?" he says. "From the time of Flannery O'Connor to today, how has writing changed? How has publishing changed? How has Iowa City changed? I hope I get some insight into those questions." – AP

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Fierce novels from first-timers

Posted: 13 Jun 2011 07:17 PM PDT

FIXI'S first three novels – Kougar (Couger) by Shaz Johar, Pecah (Broken) by Khairulnizam Bakeri and Cekik (Choke) by Ridhwan Saidi – are written by first-time writers, says publisher Amir Muhammad.

None is a full-time writer: Shaz works in a bank, Khairulnizam is pursuing a Masters in accounting and Ridhwan makes short films and actively blogs at

The writers took about three months to complete the novels, and each novel has a first print run of 3,000.

Amir has just rolled out the fourth book, Dendam (Revenge) by Datuk Dr Affifudin Omar. "The writer used to be former deputy finance minister (from 1995-1999). And now he writes steamy books," Amir says with a smile. "So, it's not just for young writers. We shouldn't feel like (novels) are something foreign or alienating, which is what a lot of literature is, literature with a capital L, I mean."

Amir wanted the books to look really different. He was inspired by the late 1980s Vintage Black Lizard series of crime novels that he used to collect.

"I like the fact that when you line up the spines they were so consistent and colourful, so I wanted this kind of spine (for Fixi books)."

So, Fixi novels sport photographs instead of illustrations, and have "fierce" colours to ensure that they stand out.

He's also determined to keep each book at or under RM20 to keep them affordable.

Fixi's novels have been greatly helped by social media, with Twitter and Facebook playing a big part in the books' promotion. Some readers have even reviewed the books on their blogs. "Some of these were written by people who have not read a Malay book since school," Amir says proudly.

Meanwhile, there are about half a dozen more Fixi novels in the pipeline, and Amir has received over two dozen two-chapter treatments.

To meet the cut, the stories have to be entertaining and "make my pulse race".

"I don't think in terms of markets. If I don't like to read them, I won't publish them. If I like to read them, it's not impossible that others will like them," he says.

Those interested in submitting works, find Matahari on Facebook for details on how to do so.

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Amir Muhammad makes foray into Malay fiction

Posted: 13 Jun 2011 07:16 PM PDT

The local publishing industry welcomes a new name, one that aims to entertain and excite.

KUALA LUMPUR-based writer and independent filmmaker Amir Muhammad is stepping into the large, intimidating land of Bahasa Malaysia publishing, and he's frankly excited.

"We're going into a crowded field but we're trying something different," he said when I met him during the Kuala Lumpur International Book Fair 2011 in April.

Amir already has a publishing company called Matahari, which he had established in 2007. Matahari publishes English and Bahasa Malaysia non-fiction books, or, says Amir, "some book idea which amuses me". Several Matahari-published books have been very popular, such as Malaysian Politicians Say the Darndest Things Vol.1 and Vol.2, and Yasmin Ahmad's Films.

Then, in March this year, Amir created Fixi, a company which publishes Bahasa Malaysia fiction.

The idea for Fixi came to him in August last year during a book event honouring the most popular books of the year. Amir realised that the majority of the 10 best Bahasa Malaysia novels for that year were romance novels. In fact, he was told that most Bahasa Malaysia readers are women, and that the market leaders are romance novels.

"I am not going to be quoted as saying that they're bad or anything, but I just want something slightly different. Because a lot of these books seem to be targeted at young, Malay women – but what about the rest of the population?" asks Amir.

"It can't be true that all young Malay women have all the same taste either," he adds.

He knows of some women writers who told him that they'd tried to pitch a certain idea to a publishing company only to be told that they want only love stories.

"Some even have strict guidelines like 'the bad guy must not win' – it's a market caution thing," says Amir.

As he had previously read local author Brian Gomez's thriller Devil Space (he calls it the "best Malaysian novel I've ever read"), he wondered, "Wouldn't it be exciting if we had more books like this, but in Malay where it can reach more people?"

Thus, last September he sent out a call for "urban pulp fiction" in Bahasa Malaysia on Matahari's Facebook page.

"It's pulp so it can't be ruminative. It has to move, be sensational," he says.

Fourteen people replied to his call, but only three authors managed to complete their novels by deadline.

"On hindsight, I think three is quite a sane strategy to start with. I had this insane idea of launching six books at the same time, which I think to the consumer is a bit bewildering: 'How do you choose among six?'."

In fact, many people came to Fixi's booth at the KL International Book Fair to buy all three books. "If it had been six books I don't think people will buy all six," he said.

Initially, Amir thought of publishing the pulp novels under Matahari. However, after speaking to distributors and bookstore representatives he thought that it was worthwhile to create a separate brand that operates differently.

However, it took him quite a while to come up with the name for the company. He thought about including the Indonesian word "Fiksi" (fiction) in the name.

"I had some really horrible ideas, but just two days before I had to register the company I suddenly thought of 'Fixi' with an "x". It's the only company in Malaysia that is a four letter word starting with F," he jokes.

Fixi is a very different brand from Matahari, says Amir. For one, the firm has to be more disciplined and systematic in the way it publishes books.

"In order to fulfil distribution criteria we have to publish one novel a month – or else (people) won't take you seriously," he says.

The company has to be more structured or else it would get drowned out there as there are so many Malay novels out there, Amir says.

"If you come out (with a novel) once in a while, you won't make much of an impact," he points out.

This momentum is also needed to sustain readers and inspire confidence in writers to devote months in writing their novels.

In terms of sales, the Malay publishing industry is booming and is populated by publishing heavyweights such as Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, which publishes large numbers of books. And one of the market leaders is probably Alaf 21, which publishes about a dozen new novels a month. Their Facebook page has over 60,000 fans.

"A bestselling Malay romance novel can sell up to 50,000 copies," says Amir. "I'm not looking at those kinds of numbers, though, they're not my yardstick – that's why I need to diversify," he said.

One of the ways he is doing so is by giving out translation rights, and Amir is currently in contact with publishers in Singapore and Italy.

Another is by turning Fixi novels into films.

Fixi recently signed an MOU with local production company Prime Works; each book – even before they're published – will be considered for a movie adaptation.

"Every month they'll have a new book to consider. So far, out of the first six books (Fixi has published or will publish) they're interested in two or three. We are going into the film treatment stage ... I will be involved as co-producer," he says.

"One of the problems of the Malaysian film industry is that people assume that directors can write. That isn't necessarily the case, as a director directs. Usually in other countries, the stories come from somewhere else – it's adapted from a play or a novel," he points out.

The writers didn't expect the movie deal, which makes it more exciting to them, he adds.

Amir does think about movie suitability when it comes to selecting his novels, but doesn't allow that to be the only arbiter of his choice.

"I will publish something even if I think bookstores won't take it. We'll just have to sell it online, or at events," he says.

Speaking of which, the online shop has been doing well.

Being in the publishing business may not be easy, but Amir is happy to be doing this.

"I wouldn't be in this if this wasn't fun," he says, smiling.

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Fierce novels

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